Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lights Out Has Some Bright Ideas When It Comes To Its Scares And Themes

I've been afraid of the dark my whole life and I doubt I'm alone in that feeling. A darkened room is full of uncertainty, an element human beings in general don't handle very well. What could be lurking around in the dark void? Imagining what kind of horrifying creations could be existing out there in the murky abyss that we can't see has consumed the imaginations of people for generations. And, Lights Out proposes that a monster may be out there in the darkness, one that will destroy any given person provided that the lights off.

MY GOD! It's Jason Bourne! He's Just Taken Over The Box Office! And Bad Moms Did Great Business Too!

After nine years off the grid, Jason Bourne returned to movie theaters with great results, grossing $60.2 million in its opening weekend. That's about 12% below the opening weekend of The Bourne Ultimatum, but above the bows of all four of the other Bourne films. It's also the second-biggest opening weekend ever for Matt Damon and third biggest live-action opening weekend for a movie thus summer just behind Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jason Bourne Lacks Thrills Or A Purpose

I am more than aware that Matt Damon has made more money in his career than I could ever dream of. The guy's rich and even a hefty multi-million dollar paycheck likely would only be a drop in the bucket for him. That having been said, his participation in Jason Bourne feels like the ultimate "paycheck" role, since there's really nothing in the script that I could imagine garnering his interest. But tt least Mr. Damon got a hefty check out of this project that he could put to use buying up another zoo. All I got out of watching Jason Bourne was intense boredom.

Friday, July 29, 2016

For A Movie Centered On Dares, Nerve Is Shockingly By-The-Numbers

Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sure do love to contemplate the way technology informs the identity of modern day teenagers. Just as Akira Kurosawa frequently utilizes samurai in his tales or how Kathryn Bigelow examines the complex nature of modern-day warfare, Schulman and Joost seem to have a fixation on the way teens love their iPhone and internet judging by their past work like the 2010 documentary Catfish (which I haven't seen as of this writing) or the teaser trailer for their feature film Paranormal Activity 4, which centered on creepy things happening during a teenage girl's Skype call.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's Matt Damon v. Monster: Dawn Of Great Wall Of China In The First Trailer For Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall

There's been a dearth of original blockbuster fare this summer, with multiplexes being jam packed with so many sequels to the point that original indie fare that could have worked as counter-programming (like Swiss Army Man or The Lobster) struggled to get a notable amount of screens to play on. For those looking for some originality, prepare yourselves for The Great Wall, a Chinese-American movie from Zhang Yimou that's...well, watch the trailer and see for yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Raising Arizona Was An Early Hilarious Coen Brothers Effort

Sometimes, diving into the early parts of a well-known filmmakers catalog reveals movies far different from later efforts. Perhaps themes explored in a director's early work contrast with ideas presented in said director's newer pieces of cinema. For the Coen Brothers, Raising Arizona (their second feature film effort ever) certainly fits snuggly into their body of work. Oh sure, the duo would certainly go on to investigate heftier themes and concepts in far darker modern-day classics like No Country For Old Men and A Serious Man.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Very Fabric Of One's Identity Is Pondered Within The Truman Show

Like fellow late 20th century movie star Mel Gibson, Jim Carrey is basically a no-show in the modern day world of pop culture. For a while there, Carrey was unstoppable at the box office and even at the dawn of a new millennium, he managed to crank out hits like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Bruce Almighty that dwarfed the work of any other comedic actor on the scene financially. And just stopped. I'd personally chalk that up to his public support of the anti-vaxxer movement, which made headlines in 2008 and cast a dark shadow over any future attempts (like his 2008 movie Yes Man) to mine that everyman personality that was at the center of many of his biggest 1990's hits. There was an element naivete to those characters that could be cute and charming at times, whereas his real life naivete was dangerous and ignorant.

Marvel Studios Brought A New Doctor Strange Trailer, Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Footage And Captain Marvel Casting To Comic-Con!

Well now, this past Saturday certainly was a fun one for geeks everywhere, huh?

Ranking This Year's Comic-Con Trailers

1. Doctor Strange: Yeah, I'm gonna go with this one as the best (narrowly). The trippy visuals seems like something we haven't seen too much in American cinema as a whole, let alone in a major superhero blockbuster. Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch does look pretty damn awesome in the titular role, not gonna lie. And Mads Mikkelsen as a bad guy? Oh my God, this whole trailer was just two and a half minutes of me thinking "This is real and it looks so beautiful."

2. Wonder Woman: Speaking of things that are finally real and look amazing, how about that Wonder Woman trailer? There was far more color, interesting visual language and personality in this trailer than Man Of Steel and Batman v. Superman combined and Gal Godot looks like she's a perfect choice to play the part of Wonder Woman. The action looks quite great and World War One is a unique environment to set the film in. Really excited for this one, totally has the potential to be something special.

3. The LEGO Batman Movie: This movie looks like so much fun and boy howdy is it nice to have a more light-hearted Batman after a decade plus of various dark and brooding versions of the character. Despite being a kids movie that's also a ninety minute long commercial for LEGO's, it's also got a legitimately interesting thematic conceit for Batman; can he be an effective father-figure to Robin despite his own parental related hang-ups? Really excited for this one and Michael Cera looks to be the Robin of our dreams.

4. Kong: Skull Island: This may have been the biggest surprise of Comic-Con, mainly because nobody really knew what to expect from this new take on King Kong. Turns out, the idea behind this project is to take a 1970's war movie and toss in more fantastical creatures into the mix. Sounds good to me and the trailer made sure to highlight an ominous tones, an all-star cast and a ton of lovely looking visuals. Very interesting stuff and one I'm curious to see more of in the future.

5. Justice League: A whopping 16 months prior to its release, Justice League showed off some footage that emphasized a lighter tone compared to the last two Zack Snyder superhero movies. The more comedic beats were pretty fun, especially Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne bouncing off each other in a moment that delivered both laughs AND character information! Unfortunately, The Flash and Cyborg have some really clunky looking costumes and it's hard to really get excited for this one considering Zack Snyder's absolutely dismal track record with Man Of Steel and especially Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

6. King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword: I honestly forgot all about this one until I started writing up this piece. It's a generic looking fantasy movie to a tee, aside from some fast-paced editing at the start that does seem like vintage Guy Ritchie. While the best trailers released at this year's Comic-Con emphasized uniqueness and boldness, the trailer for this new King Arthur adaptation just seemed too derivative of past fantasy adventures to stand out.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Has Decent Launch While Lights Out Surprises And The Ice Age Franchise Goes Extinct

This weekend saw the thirteenth Star Trek movie in 37 years, Star Trek Beyond, debut, an occasion that coincided with the overall 50th anniversary of the franchise. To wit, Star Trek Beyond launched with $59.6 million, a bow well below its two most recent predecessors (and that's not even taking inflation into account) but still a solid start given the more divisive reputation of the last Star Trek movie as well as the more skeptical responses early marketing materials (like the teaser trailer that I personally had no problem with but many took as nothing short of sacrilege).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The First Trailer For Wonder Woman Is Online (Plus, Other News And Trailers From Warner Bros. 2016 Comic-Con Panel!)

The amount of movie themed panels may have diminished at this year's Comic-Con compared to years past, but today brings two major panels in the esteemed location of Hall H that will surely rock the geek world. Those panels in question are the Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios panels, with both planning to divulge information about their upcoming movies. WB is going up first, with trailers for upcoming movies King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, Kong: Skull Island and Wonder Woman planning to debut at the convention and will be appearing online shortly afterwards directly from the Warner Bros. YouTube page!

I'll be updating this post as news begins to pour in. The panel starts at 1:30 PM central time, so stick around and refresh this page for updates!

OK, so, panel moderator Conan O'Brien (whose talk show, Conan, is aired on TBS, a Cable TV station owned by Time Warner which also owns Warner Bros. Synergy in action folks!) kicked off the panel with an extended look at...


The DC films got a big push today, as the directors of the next three films in the DC Extended Universe (David Ayer for Suicide Squad, Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman, Zack Snyder for Justice League, Rick Fumuyiwa for The Flash and James Wan for Aquaman) came out to chat about their individual projects with the swarm of people in Hall H. Speaking of directors, after months of speculation, Ben Affleck was officially confirmed to be directing and starring in a solo Batman movie and the film was confirmed to be released in between The Flash and Aquaman movies.

And then, we got our first trailer for....


After years of development, Wonder Woman's first live-action movie is hitting the big screen next year and director Patty Jenkins, Gal Godot, Chris Pine and Connie Nielsen showed up to talk about the movie and introduced attendees at Warner Bros. panel to the world premiere of the first footage from the motion picture! Luckily, the studio was kind enough to upload the trailer for Wonder Woman onto the interwebs so you can watch it below!

So, aside from the blue color grading in the battle scenes (an odd choice that I wonder if will make sense in the movie itself), wowza, what a trailer! There's humor and color in it! And the action is coherent! And Wonder Woman looks as confident and awesome as can be! Honestly, the entire last minute of this trailer had me just fist-pumping constantly, it looks that awesome! To say the least, Wonder Woman looks like it has some serious potential!

Then, it was time for...

This awesome promo image (seen above) of Justice Leauge got released that not only shows the full team assembled, but shows them in (GASP!) sunlight!! The visual language of this shot indicates a tone of hopefulness! What madness is this??

Ya know what else got released? Some Justice League footage. Yeah, you read that right. Check it out. It actually looks pretty good to me, the guy who considers Batman v. Superman one of the worst movies of the year. Jason Mamoa as Aquaman is particularly a highlight of this trailer and Ezra Miller already looks like he could be lots of fun, even if his costume seems a little too visually reminiscent of Iron Man for my taste.

David Ayer and the cast of Suicide Squad then came out to talk about their forthcoming movie, which entailed KING a Hall H exclusive trailer that you can watch below!
Not as big of a fan of the second song in this trailer and the more melancholy opening doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the trailer, but I like a bunch of the visuals here and it's so good to see Will Smith back at being the charming cocky guy we all knew and loved back in the day after his performances in movies like After Earth. And woah, did Jai Courtney just make me laugh his fire joke? Also cute how the "Thank Squad" title cards at the end got all meta about how long the marketing campaign for this one's been running.

After that, it was time to move on to a different side of DC Comics movies, The LEGO Batman Movie! Direct Chris McKay and Will Arnett were on hand to show off footage from the movie and (you guessed it!) an all-new trailer!

And then it was time for something not DC Comics related...

You want a Kong: Skull Island trailer? Here ya go!

Very much a teaser trailer, but it's an eye-catching one no doubt. John Goodman monologues about humans insignifcant place in the world as some gorgeous shots build up to a kind of reveal of King Kong himself, or at least his head. I'm very curious to see more from this one, since it seems like they're smartly embracing it as a full-on "war movie" and that could lead to some interesting story possibilities. Oh, and the cast for this one is insanely stacked too.

And now for another non-DC Comics tentpole...


The fast-paced editing of Arthur telling his tale at the start of this trailer is very much classic Guy Ritchie, but the rest of this trailer looks like Peak Generic Fantasy Movie: The Movie. Washed out grey colors abound as does generic action that the trailer doesn't give much context or depth to. Hopefully the movie itself is far better than this generic trailer and that Jude Law as the bad guy of the piece finds plenty of time to chew up the scenery.

Not sure why Warner Bros. is releasing the trailer for this one today considering all the attention the Kong, Wonder Woman and Justice League trailers are gonna get. Looks like this will be the second year in a row where Warner Bros. debuts a trailer for a new Guy Ritchie movie (last year it was The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) at Comic-Con that gets drowned out by the DC movie that also debut trailers at the event.

After King Arthur, it was time for more fantasy as the director and cast of...

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
As everyone came out to talk about their movie, a surprise was revealed that the panel would be giving away wands to everyone attending the panel! How cool! And then, wouldn't ya know it, they also had a new trailer to show off!

OK, that's the Warner Bros. panel for 2016! I'll be back tonight to cover the Marvel panel!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Krall, The Villain Of Star Trek Beyond, Is A Terrifyingly Timely Creation

We all know what fear is. Nary a day can go by where the sensation doesn't penetrate our entire bodies. It's not a new feeling of course, but it's easy to see why many would feel particularly terrified in the wake of recent events. In the past month, the largest single massacre in American history occurred at a Florida nightclub, multiple police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas, a disturbing amount of incidents involving police officers killed unarmed African-Americans have occurred, a man drove through Black Lives Matter protesters, countless more individuals were slaughtered on Bastille Day in France. How could one not be gripped by feelings of fear at such events occurring?

The Purge: Election Year Is A Majorly Forgettable Piece Of Action/Horror Satire

The first Purge movie back in 2013 was a blah movie that was heavy on trite storytelling and low on genuine scares while 2014's The Purge: Anarchy, was a so-so voyage into a Purge night that expanded the narrative scope from its predecessor with some lackluster characters and one or two truly inventive sequences. I wish The Purge: Election Year managed to even hit the moderate hits of that previous entry in this series, when it is instead a major step down in form that's surprisingly low on memorable action or scares.

Set Phasers To Awesomeness For Star Trek Beyond

Each of the Star Trek movies that have emerged since 2009 seem to have taken direct inspiration from different noteworthy motion picture. That first feature in this rebooted franchise was very much inspired by the success of then recent reboots like Batman Begins and Casino Royale while Star Trek Into Darkness was an obvious attempt to mimic how most second films in major blockbuster franchises (think The Empire Strikes Back) are the "darker" story. Now Star Trek Beyond arrives very much as a post-Guardians Of The Galaxy Star Trek adventure. Colorful looking aliens have a greater presence than they did in the last two Star Trek movies, tunes from the 80's surface at critical moments, there's a greater emphasis on the dynamic of the main group of characters and new character Jayllah (Sofia Boutella) and her trait of not quite understanding certain aspects of the English language bear a notable similarity to Drax The Destroyer.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Badlands Proves Terrence Malick Making Inferior Movies Is Nothing New

The 1950's are widely seen as the era where the archetype of American teenager came into its own. And with that archetype came various stereotypes of teenagers that would emerge in media depictions of this age group, namely that of the "bad boy/good girl" dichotomy. Badlands stems from one single idea that is inspired by a true story, which seems to be to take that specific "bad boy/good girl" idea and take it to its most graphic extreme as a way to contrast with the seemingly idyllic vision many carry about the 1950's. White picket fences and automobiles from this era are set against a backdrop of violence and deceit.

Everybody Wants Some!! Is A Joyride Through The 80's Steered By Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater is absolutely in the zone with Everybody Wants Some!!, his newest directorial effort that has him setting his sights on the culture of the 1980's in the same way he thoroughly examined the 1970's in his landmark motion picture Dazed & Confused. And just like that 1993 film, human beings bouncing off each other in an academic environment is the name of the game, though in Everybody Wants Some!! the environment has shifted from the high school domicile of Dazed & Confused to college, specifically the weekend before one freshman's first college classes (and by default, a new chapter of his life) begins.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Four Helpful Tips For That Han Solo Movie

With Alden Ehrenreich confirmed this weekend at Star Wars Celebration to be playing the role of Han Solo in Phil Lord and Chris Millers spin-off Han Solo motion picture, one big piece of the massive puzzle that is this Han Solo movie has fallen into place. Plenty of names in the cast will be announced prior to the movies January 2017 start date (can we get Nate Parker or Michael B. Jordan as Lando Calrissian please?) as will big filming locations, but for now, the movie is shrouded in secrecy. But because this is the internet, an aimless land filled with speculation and Star Wars related content, I've decided to compile four helpful tips that writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller should keep in mind as they make the Han Solo movie. I'm sure this extremely accomplished writer/director duo that has experienced endless success in the past decade would love to hear advice on filmmaking from a nerdy 20-year-old Texan.

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

Sex-based humor can be funny. Swear words can be funny. Plenty of films have made both of those elements hilarious. But context, timing and grounding such things in engaging characters are just a few of the crucial elements that can differentiate a "funny" joke from a painfully unfunny one. For Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, there's surprisingly little to be found in the gross-out gags beyond just the gross-out content. This is the sort of movie that thinks the very sight of a vagina is inherently uproarious stuff, just to give you more context into what kind of humor this movie traffics in.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Swiss Army Man Review

In case you haven't heard, Swiss Army Man is quite a strange movie. If the goal of directing duo Daniels (which consists of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) was to ensure that their first feature-length directorial effort had a premise was so singularly odd it was practically guaranteed to slot them some form of fame, it wouldn't be a shocking development. Thankfully, the two individuals are not just here to show off brazen weirdness for weirdness sake (though Lord knows there's plenty of that to be found in Swiss Army Man), instead managing to show off a real sense of identity in their initial foray into the world of longer-form storytelling.

Swiss Army Man Review

In case you haven't heard, Swiss Army Man is quite a strange movie. If the goal of directing duo Daniels (which consists of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) was to ensure that their first feature-length directorial effort had a premise was so singularly odd it was practically guaranteed to slot them some form of fame, it wouldn't be a shocking development. Thankfully, the two individuals are not just here to show off brazen weirdness for weirdness sake (though Lord knows there's plenty of that to be found in Swiss Army Man), instead managing to show off a real sense of identity in their initial foray into the world of longer-form storytelling.

NnerdInTheBasement And Riley Sailer Discuss Ghostbusters Jokes, Ghost, Scares And Who Should Be In The Sequel

In this piece, NerdInTheBasement and Riley Sailer have a back-and-forth on their thoughts on Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.

NerdInTheBasement: To get things started, let’s each say our thoughts on the movie in a brief concise manner. As my hyperbole laden review clearly states, I was a big fan of the movie. It’s not without its flaws (namely in editing that’s frequently distractingly subpar and some cameos that don’t add much to the overall movie) of course, but I honestly had a blast with it. The four leads especially were firing on all cylinders and I loved how they each brought a different flavor to the movie. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have a dynamic that really does convey the idea that they’ve been friends for ages, Leslie Jones makes for a great audience surrogate in the midst of all this supernatural chaos and Kate McKinnon is extraordinary as the off-kilter weapons expert. They’re all awesome to watch and so is the movie they’re headling.

Your thoughts on the movie Riley?

Riley: Well I thought Zach Woods was dead for a few minutes after the opening so I immediately hated it but then he turned up just fine so I had to go back to being fair. It’s interesting, I’ve stated elsewhere that I have found myself in an awkward position in regards to Paul Feig’s movies, because as a female writer looking for female representation on film I certainly appreciate his movies more than I actually like any of them. That being said, this Ghostbusters reboot has actually managed to sustain the notion that I do believe each of his movies are better than the last one, even if it is on a scale of sliding mediocrity. I did not hate this movie, but I certainly didn’t love it, and considering the ridiculous amount of controversy surrounding this movie, it’s been a whole lotta hoopla for a movie that was pretty average in my book. However, by the climax, the foursome did win me over as a team and I would actually watch another movie with these new Ghostbusters so long as Paul Feig stays far, far, far away from the script because his comedy is just terrible.

I see most people singling out Kate McKinnon, but you know what? I’m gonna hand it to Melissa McCarthy, her enthusiasm was infectious and really carried the movie for me (and we all know how I feel about most of her movies).

But can we talk about Chris Hemsworth and the climax? It felt like a lot of non-starters were going on there. Particularly with the villain himself.

NerdInTheBasement: See, I’d heard a lot of complaints about Rowan prior to me seeing the movie and I was surprised by how much I liked him, y’know? He isn’t an “all-time great baddie”, but he serves his role in the plot well enough, I like the design of his final ghost form (particularly how the texture of his skin looks like a bedsheet), and fellow Solute writer Anthony Pizzo pointed out to me that he’s kinda like Kylo Ren in that he’s a more modern day interpretation of how dangerous white guys who feel the world has been too “overly unfair” to them and want revenge can be.

Yeah, there’s one or two elements of the climax that do feel like they come out of nowhere (why are the Army guys and the two FBI agents suck in a disco dance move namely as well as the abrupt appearance of the ghost parade floats). What are some elements you’re talking about specifically?

Riley: The way Rowan spoke reminded me of the Key and Peele sketch about the continental breakfast, which was rather amusing. But I’m more talking about the entire possession sequences and the ultimate uselessness of them. He possesses Kevin and Abby, but just as quickly disposes of them. I understand he needed to get his machine working again, but there didn’t seem to be any comedic payoff. Which I suppose underlines the major problem I had with the script: it’s rather wonky with the comedy and horror elements. The parade floats in theory are a great idea, and the design reminded me of the second live-action Scooby Doo movie of all things, but to what end? I liked the design of the ghosts and the mayhem they were causing, I guess I could have used more of that. At the risk of comparing this movie with the original I’d have to say that I appreciated the unexplained supernatural element of the first movie and the presence of Zuul over some angry dude in a basement.

Speaking of which let’s talk about those cameos. They sure happened.

NerdInTheBasement:As a sidenote, I took Rowan possessing Kevin as a way to hurt Abby and her fellow Ghostbusters on a personal level (that’s the same reason he possessed Abby a few minutes prior) while also getting to enjoy living in a more muscular and physically imposing human frame.

The cameos were a mixed bag for sure. Sigourney Weaver’s bit in the credits? Awesome. Ernie Hudson even had a clever bit at the end. But Bill Murray’s second appearence (after a solid enough cameo as a Ghost skeptic on a news program) was super extraneous, Dan Aykroyd’s went on too long and why was Ozzy Osburne in this again? Why did his bit seem like it came from another movie entirely? I appreciate the crew wanting to nod to the past, but the cameos (along with the sometimes weird editing) were the weakest part of the movie for me.

Riley: You know, I think I’m gonna chalk a lot of this up to the script being poorly written. On the one hand, the main four characters are solid, it’s everything around them that doesn’t work. So by using Kevin as a means to “take things personally” fell flat for me because while I heard them saying that they liked him and cared about him, nothing in the movie really supplied the connection that would make me think that Kevin was worth something to them. The bit when he shows up with his Ghostbusters costume is adorable, but it’s immediately interrupted by the possession. Structurally the movie’s a mess, it’s very floaty with the pacing and it felt like the entire film took place over the course of four days when in actuality it had to have been several weeks. (How on earth could Holtzman make all those inventions in what felt like a period of two minutes from scene to scene?)

NerdInTheBasement: To be fair on your point about them caring about Kevin, there is a really funny bit during the climax where Abbey mentions how they like Kevin “despite his many, many, many  flaws”, which honestly worked perfectly fine for me in terms of establishing their emotional connection to Kevin. They do like him well enough (he is the one who came to apply for the secretary job when their business was in its infancy), despite, y’know, him not being the shaprest knife in the drawer. Plus, I’m sure they’d be trying to protect anyone, whether they knew that person or not, who just got possessed by a ghost.

And you are doubting the power of Kate McKinnon?? She could build a horde of weapons in mere minutes if she wanted to, so great is the strength of McKinnon!

Riley: I do believe the Internet will be filled with gifs of her licking her ghost guns for the remainder of time, and rightfully so. Because that moment was awesome.

NerdInTheBasement: Oh yeah, her solo action scene? Sooooo awesome.

Riley: The more the group pulled out their proton packs with confidence, the more I felt confident about them being able to pull this whole thing off. Which is great, that’s some natural progression that works really well for the movie. And like I said I understand the reasoning behind everything and the explanations, it’s just a matter of me not liking the script very much but not so much that I was offended by it. I will admit the over-explaining of a lot of the jokes did in fact ruin the jokes for me. It’s a matter of subtly. I think when the movie is subtle it works, the “Ghost Girl” nickname for example wasn’t dwelled on which made it an effective backstory, but hearing Kristen Wiig continuously drool over Chris Hemsworth because he’s hot and her telling us that he’s hot, eh not so much.

But obviously comedy is subjective. Now I know you’re a novice on the horror genre, but one thing that I love about the original Ghostbusters is that while being a comedy the aesthetics lie in the horror genre. What did you think of the ghosts and spooks? What’d you think of Slimer? I actually thought that bit was really funny.

NerdInTheBasement: I really liked the ghosts in this movie! They had super fun designs, full of bright colors and the level of variety among them (some were executed prisoners, others pilgrims, still others are dragons) added a nice level of unpredictability to the proceedings. And the scares were well-handled too, I was surprised by how well-balanced they were with the comedic elements. I have a hunch that, for the youngsters in this generation that see this movie when they’re under 8 or so, this movie and it’s couple of scary moments will be looked back on in the same vein that The Never-Ending Story and the like were for past generations.

As for Slimer, his brief appearance was fun, I loved him driving around with Mrs. Slimer (I guess that’s her name) and Melissa McCarthy observing that “that thing is having the time of his life”.

Now, one last question to close out the proceedings; which actor would you want to see join the Ghostbusters in a prospective sequel? Me, I’d love to see Jessica Chastain and Rachel Bloom strap on proton-packs and join in the fun.

Riley: I'll admit it took me until sitting down in the theater to watch the movie to convince me that the cast here was going to work for me. There are just so many fantastic actresses who could play Ghostbusters that no matter who they chose I would want someone else to put on the proton packs. However, if I had to pick I think I would love to see Sandra Bullock come back because she and McCarthy were great together in The Heat. And Kristen Schaal. Because why was she not in this movie to begin with?

On a final note I would just like to say, the anger and "controversy" surrounding the new Ghostbusters is completely unwarranted. This movie, flaws and positives combined is fine. These women were great. But I can't even somewhat muster any reason as to why this movie would receive such vitriol. Everyone came away from Jurassic World with an awful taste in their mouth, and I confess that I didn't care enough to really get riled up about it but at least I understand why everyone hated it. Ghostbusters though? No. Nothing to hate here. Just some ladies having fun and catching ghosts.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pets Rule As Ghostbusters Get Off To Decent Start And Bryan Cranstons Drug Bust Movie, The Infiltrator, Is...Well, A Box Office Bust

Who ya gonna call? For audiences across the country, the answer was their pets, as The Secret Life Of Pets continued to rule at the box office, dropping 52% from its massive opening weekend for a $50.5 million cume bringing its domestic total to $203 million in just ten days. That's a harsher second-weekend decline than past summer animated movie hits like Despicable Me (which lost 42%), Inside Out (which also lost 42%) and even last month's Finding Dory (which lost 46%) which grossed $33 million more on its opening weekend. That's really only a minor point to make considering the gigantic numbers Pets is putting up and it should have no trouble crossing $300 million domestically in no time. Prepare for at least twenty more Pets movies folks.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ghostbusters Review

After a summer full of so many big budget clunkers, the incredibly entertaining Ghostbusters arrives like a bucket of cool water to a man stranded in the Sahara for months on end. Seriously, where was this level of fun, sincerity and care been in the likes of Independence Day: Resurgence and X-Men: Apocalypse? Leave it to Paul Feig and co. to follow up the directors exceptional Spy from last summer with a remake that's not relentlessly beholden to what's come before. There's a vibrant sensation of the new pulsating through Ghostbusters and it's a vibe that's impossible to resist.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Oscar Isaac To Star In A New Steven Spielberg Movie!

Oscar Isaac has a most busy 2017 coming up! He's got supporting turns in new films from Alex Garland and George Clooney as well as lead turns in a little movie called Star Wars: Episode VIII and will likely play the main part in the new movie from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Add another movie to his busy slate, as Variety brings word that Isaac has entered talks to play the lead in Steven Spielberg's forthcoming movie The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara (which will likely be retitled to a one-word title like Kidnapped).

The Infiltrator Review

Is Bryan Cranston just choosing his roles now depending on how much deceit his characters must exude? After playing Walter White for five excellent seasons on Breaking Bad, he's played Dalton Trumbo, a man who wrote screenplays in secret, and now, in his newest motion picture The Infiltrator, Cranston plays Robert Mazur, a man who regularly does undercover work (see where the deceit comes into play in this past?) for the U.S. Government. After a mission leaves him with a particularly nasty injury, he has the chance to retire...but he can't give up the chance to partake in a new mission that could take down tons of high-profile figures in the world of drug trafficking.

Ghostbusters Spooks Up $3.4 Million At Thursday Night Screenings

I'll be seeing Ghostbusters tonight but it looks like quite a few moviegoers decided to catch it last night at Thursday night showings that started at 7 PM. The Paul Feig remake/reboot of the classic 1984 Ivan Reitman motion picture took in $3.4 million last night. It's hard to find comparisons for the film, mainly because it's hard to tell if it'll play more like a conventional summer blockbuster (which would make it more frontloaded) or a conventional comedy since its been marketed as kind of both. In terms of summer blockbusters, this $3.4 million haul is bigger than the $2.55 million taken in by The Legend Of Tarzan, the $2.5 million take of The Martian (which debut outside of the summer) and slightly behind the hauls of Summer 2015 titles like the $3.7 million gross of Mad Max: Fury Road and the $4 million haul of Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. It also made 70% more than the Thursday night gross of Sony/Columbia's mid-July tentpole action/comedy from last year, Pixels.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Secret Life Of Pets Review

In order to save some time, cut out the middle man and all that, Illumination Entertainment should just pass out flyers containing toys and ancillary products related to their newest motion picture just before the movie starts. After all, if Despicable Me 2, Minions and now The Secret Life Of Pets proves anything, the studio is more of a factory to shovel out movies that can spin out cuddly Funko Pops! bobbleheads and beanie babies than a place where noteworthy pieces of cinema can be crafted. It's not an inherently bad thing to embrace the world of commerce, but rote nature of The Secret Life Of Pets is pretty blatantly just an excuse to craft toys prime and ready to be turned into toys rather than a chance to explore a potentially interesting, funny or heartwarming story.

As the title suggest, The Secret Life Of Pets focuses on your pets and their shenanigans that go on while you're away. Some party, others wait for their owners to come back.And then there's Max (Louie C.K.), a pooch who loves his owner very much and adores their close bond. But then she gets a new dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a big o'l canine who begins to intrude on Max's previously serene life. The moment Duke enters the story super early, the sloppy script (penned by Brian Lynch) already begins to go off the rails. Duke is not so much a character as he is a liquid, constantly changing himself to fit the scripts needs. He lacks discernable personality and that becomes a massive problem for the film as a whole.

Think about all the great duos in cinematic history, ranging from recent highlights like Mellissa McCarthy and Jason Stahtam's characters in Spy or classic examples like Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert's characters in It Happened One Night. These duos had contrasts in their demeanors that created plenty of humor, conflict, the whole deal. Since Duke doesn't really have a concrete persona to speak of, yeah, it's hard to get attached to him as a singular individual, much less buy him and Duke as at first rivals and then friends. It doesn't help at all that their growing kinship is handled rather poorly, they just sorta become best pals by the end not because of coalescing character arcs but rather because the credits are about to roll.

The issues with the script go way deeper than just one flubbed character though. Take a scene later on in the movie where Duke decides to return home to his old owner. It's fairly apparent this is supposed to be the films equivalent to the opening sequences of Up or Finding Nemo, an emotional gutpunch that truly sticks with the audience. But it's bungled in its execution in practically every way imaginable. It's introduced one scene prior in an abrupt manner, so there's no real build-up to it and its impact on the overall narrative is minimal. It doesn't really drive Max and Duke apart or bring them closer, it's just killing more time so this movie can barely inch its running time across the 90-minute mark.

That's the kind of lackluster effort that's gone into everything in the movie, from its humor (which relies heavily on bathroom jokes including plenty of on-screen defecation and urination) to even the  supporting cast, which consists of individuals who range from either being just one-note gags stretched out too far or various critters who don't have a purpose in the movie beyond just ensuring that every household pet imaginable is in the feature at some point. One notable exception is Tiberius, a carnivorous but lonely hawk voiced by Albert Brooks who has to constantly resist the urge to eat his cuddly co-stars. Brooks knows good comic timing like the back of his hand and he totally delivers in his underwritten but surprisingly amusing role that I wish got substantially more to do in the script.

On that positive note, I will say the animation in The Secret Life Of Pets is fine, even if the cost-cuttimg measures of Illumination Entertainment's animation department do seep through (notice how empty certain parts of New York City are that should be hustling and bustling with human extras for instance). Alexandre Desplat also has a great score that really evoked old timey New York City for me in a number of its music cues. Really, The Secret Life Of Pets isn't "dismal" or whatever, it's not even the worst animated family movie I've seen this year (never forget Norm Of The North). But its inability to do anything really innovative, interesting or fun really does get to you after awhile, as it becomes pretty apparent that The Secret Life Of Pets is just going through the motions and has no greater ambitions on its mind than hawking merchandise to younger viewers. Audiences of all ages deserve better cinema than that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Saw Is Back And Its Eighth Movie Is Stealing Its Title From The Second Tron Movie. That Bastard.

In this day and age of franchises, where even Snow White & The Huntsman can get a high-profile theatrical sequel, it's interesting how long-standing horror movie franchises seem to be the one place Hollywood decides to show some frugality. Interestingly, 2009 and 2010 are the two years where Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees were last seen slicing up teenagers. Oh sure, sequels are in development, but Michel Myers and Jason Vorhees have been stuck in development hell for ages. Pinhead? MIA at the box office for years now. Chucky? Aside from one direct-to-video sequel back in 2013, he's also been missing for the past decade. At least Leatherface will be back to terrify audiences in his own prequel depicting a younger Leatherface in High School.

The First Trailer For La La Land Is Packed With Gorgeous Visuals And Ryan Gosling Harmonizing

Look, I love Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. And I love musicals. And I loved Whiplash, Damien Chazelle's feature film debut from 2014 that changed how the world saw J.K. Simmons and drums forever. So the concept of seeing those three elements merge in La La Land? Yeah, that's a tantalizing prospect, especially given how scarce original live-action musicals are in a post-1950's world. Today, the world got its first look at the highly anticipated project in the form of a teaser trailer that you can watch below!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The BFG Review

At this point, Steven Spielberg knows the name of the blockbuster game. Hell, he pioneered it with Jaws, which was far from the first movie to bring spectacle to the big screen, but it was the first movie to utilize release patterns and box office grosses that are all too familiar today. And while his newest The BFG isn't technically a "summer blockbuster", instead being a family movie, it's still got oodles of visual effects and a prime 4th of July summer release date, both elements that are familiar terrain for one of cinema's rightfully most celebrated auteurs. Returning to the realm of family fare for the first time since Hook (not counting his 2011 effort The Adventures Of Tintin), one might understandably query if the man's absence from this avenue of storytelling might leave him rusty, perhaps out of touch with the times.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Secret Life Of Pets Is the Cats Meow At The Box Office While Mike & Dave Don't Save The Date

Looks like Minions aren't the only thing Illumination Entertainment can spin into gold, as evidenced by the opening weekend of The Secret Life Of Pets, which grossed a massive $103 million this weekend. That's the biggest opening weekend ever for an original film (i.e. one that's neither a sequel nor an adaptation of a previously existing property) as well as the first time an original film has ever grossed $100 million in its opening weekend. It's also only the sixth animated movie ever to gross over $100 million in its opening weekend. On a $75 million budget, it's pretty clear that this is a runaway hit for Universal and Illumination.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Dissolve (2013-2015): One Year Later

"Life is brief,
Fall in love maidens
Before the raven tresses begin to fade
Before the flame in your hearts
Flicker and die
For those to whom today
Will never return" - a passage from Life Is Brief, a 1915 song prominently featured in the 1952 Akira Kurosawa film, Ikiru

A lot can change in a year.

Think about it. That's 365 or 366 days, a notable portion of one's life that can feel like a contradiction in terms of how quickly it can pass. Sometimes, time slows down to a crawl, to the point where each moment one is living can feel like an eternity. Then there are the times where looking back on past events that have transpired leaves one in awe of how quickly time has flown by. That is an emotion, I'm sure, felt by so many film-loving individuals today as we mark the one year anniversary since the film criticism website The Dissolve closed its doors. It's webpage still remains 366 days later, a bittersweet reminder of a tremendously impactful site that was not long for this world.

Let us go a little bit farther back in time now to two years prior to The Dissolve shutting down, specifically to the date of July 8, 2013. Here is the day The Dissolve launched, a brand new sparkling domain filled with potential. The staff producing content for said site was stacked as hell, basically making it The Avengers of film journalists. Nathan Rabin, Genevieve Kosiki, Scott Tobias, Noel Murray and Tasha Robinson were among the first of these writers, with numerous individuals like Rachel Handler and Charles Bramesco eventually joining their ranks in the two years ahead. From the get-go, there was a welcome amount of diversity in the type of content produced by the site. This was not a website content to limiting itself solely to conventional definitions of "low-brow" and "high-brow" art.

A weekly column, appropriately entitled Movie Of The Week, which had various staffers examine a certain motion picture, serves as a perfect example of the level of variety found in the sites cinematic coverage. Everything from MacGruber to Chungking Express to Zelig to The Muppet Movie was covered here and all given the same level of exceptional and introspective writing. Covering such a wide spectrum of motion pictures in this column and on the entire site allowed for the expansive nature of cinema to be fully explored. There are so many types of films to be watched in this world, why should the writing about the very art of cinema not be as diverse? The extremely talented writers at The Dissolve seemed to fully agree.

And then there was the community that grew out of the comment section. Internet comment sections have a reputation for being a cesspool of racism, misogyny and cruelty and one glance at the comment sections over at sites like YouTube or SlashFilm prove such an assumption to not be unfounded. The Dissolve comment section proved to be the antithesis to the conventional traits of internet comment sections, an area where avid moviegoers from across the planet united in their pursuit to appreciate every facet of the world of film. We became a tight-knit group that managed to create lasting friendships that I honestly cannot imagine my life without. As someone who struggled socially to fit in at school and other similar environments, to have an entire community of individuals as dedicated to the world of cinema as me was a revelation and I doubt I'm alone in that feeling.

As the two years went on, the discussions in the comment section grew and grew, to the point where a feature called LoveFest, where commentors would pick a movie they enjoyed that recieved universally negative reviews and talk about what they liked about it, was started. The various essays, comments and ramblings between the denizens of this comment section only further cemented the bond between the various individuals on the site and it also allowed for interaction between the writers and readers of The Dissolve. The various authors on this site frequently engaged in lengthy conversations with readers in the comment section, lending a unique form of personal connection for the readers of the site quite unlike anywhere else on the internet.

As the two years of the sites existence wore on, the friendships between the readers of this site continued to flourish (in-jokes surrounding taco breaks, Deadpool and Clockstoppers soon flooded the comment section) and the exceptional writing began to stack up. But as Taylor Swift once said, "nothing lasts forever". On the date of July 7th 2015, things came to an abrupt halt. A newspiece about the film Northern Limit Line that arrived in the early afternoon proved to be the last piece published by the site aside from a final farewell essay penned by Tasha Robinson. Considering The Dissolve normally didn't stop putting up news pieces until later in the day, the lack of content after that slice of writing was extremely concerning. When that Northern Limit Line piece first went up in the early afternoon, it only had one or two comments. After only a few hours, the comment section was overflowing with concern and fear.

Had something gone haywire? Was this the end of the line? What had happened to The Dissolve? The uncertainty surrounding that afternoon will forever be seared in my memory. While many tried to keep their hopes up, the following morning the worst was confirmed in an essay penned by Tasha Robinson simply titled ". The credits began to roll on The Dissolve's existence all too soon. Looking at the comment section of that day, a cavalcade of emotions unfurled from countless individuals. the pain of that felt by myself and so many others felt like it would never fade away.

The sorrow felt on that specific day has never vanished my mind. But not only did that day pass, but so many other days also managed to pass by. Here we are, one year later and the unity that made The Dissolve such an amazing website still stands. Many members of The Dissolve still mingle and discuss the pleasures of cinema in a Facebook group while The-Solute (which started nearly a year prior to The Dissolve closing) has had several readers of The Dissolve try their hand at the world film writing. Meanwhile, the various writers of The Dissolve, an incredibly stacked group of talent if there ever was any, have managed to find their own niches that utilize their talents, including Nathan Rabin reviving his My World Of Flops column over at The A.V. Club and Charles Bramesco now writing for Rolling Stone.

July 8, 2015 was a heavy day for both the writers and readers of The Dissolve emotionally, that goes without saying. But with the benefit of that o'l trick hindsight, I now regard that day less as the credits rolling on a wonderful website and rather a scene transition for its writers and readers. That's not to downplay the emotion felt the day we lost that great site, rather, it's simply a reminder that time does end up marching on, for better or for worse. But that doesn't erase the emotions felt by us all on this very day last year and so I wanna say to the writers, editors and personnel over at The Dissolve today what I felt the very day the site closed up shop: thank you. Thank you for inspiring us with your words, your work and your dedication to the artform of cinema. Your dedication and work will endure and I cannot thank you enough for offering it to devotees of cinema like myself and those in generations yet to come.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Blow Out Review (Classic Write-Up)

Sound is a key component for any non-silent movie. The tiniest creak of a door opening or a car starting up can add multitudes of personality to the world of any given individual motion picture. Of course, the best sound work can be best summed up by an old axiom (which I’m paraphrasing) referring to the equally important world of visual effects; your work is truly successful when nobody even notices it. In other words, the phrase refers to how the best visual effects seamlessly incorporate themselves into the story and don’t call attention to their own virtues. The same can be said for exceptional sound work, which can be easy for even a cinema devotee like myself to take for granted.

Finding Dory Rules The Box Office Again While The Purge Rampages, Tarzan Does Better Than Expected And The BFG Has Small Debut

All of the numbers discussed in this column are for the three-day weekend.

And so, yet again, Finding Dory ruled while big-budget fare faltered at the domestic box office.  This weekend’s blockbuster casualties were a new take on Tarzan as well as Steven Spielberg’s newest motion picture. But first, Finding Dory, which continued to rake up big bucks at the box office. Dory and her underwater pals grossed another $41.9 million in their frame of release, a 42% decline that’s smaller than third weekend dips of past PIXAR follow-ups Toy Story 3 and Monsters University. Finding Dory has grossed $372.2 million in 17 days and should cross $400 million by next weekend. Next up: overtaking Shrek 2 as the biggest animated film ever domestically (not adjusted for inflation).

Expectations were basically in the cellar for The Legend Of Tarzan. Hell, I didn’t expect it to gross more than $20 million over its opening weekend. Yet, the film did surprise by opening to a much bigger than expected $38.1 million. Unfortunately, with a $180 million budget looming over its head, this debut is still nowhere near enough to make the film a hit. This bow looks to put The Legend Of Tarzan in the same financial range as recent Warner Bros. summer blockbusters Edge Of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim, two other non-sequels carrying budgets in the $178-190 million range. Neither one really fired up the box office, though they weren’t excessive money-losers, which looks to be where Tarzan is heading.

The Legend Of Tarzan likely got a boost by the dire lack of compelling summer blockbusters in the marketplace as well as the fact that everyone knows who Tarzan is; he’s a dude who swings around in the jungle and is friendly to apes. With a marketing campaign that emphasized a more unique plotline and with better reviews, perhaps Tarzan could have really gone the distance at the box office. As it stands, at least Tarzan will cross $100 million domestically, a mark movies in already established franchises like Ninja Turtles and Alice couldn’t hit.

In third place was The Purge: Election Year, the newest installment in this horror franchise that’s showing remarkable financial stamina. Grossing $30.8 million, that’s only 10% below the opening weekend of the first movie and is also above the debut of the second film. The positive word-of-mouth on the second film obviously gave this third entry a boost, as did timely marketing (like that “Keep America Great” tagline) that tied it into this years political landscape. This one was super front-loaded, as is the nature of horror sequels, though the more front-loaded nature of all films this weekend indicates that could also partially be chalked up to the holiday weekend.

In the back of the pack of this weekend's three new wide releases was The BFG, which debuted to only $19.5 million, a dismal bow that puts more in the realm of the $15 million opening of notorious box office bomb Pan rather than the box office heights hit by director Steven Spielberg’s biggest movies. This opening weekend is on par with the debut of The Huntsman: Winter’s War from a few months ago, $500,000 above the debut of The Spiderwick Chronicles  and only 11% ahead of the opening weekend of notable summertime Disney fantasy family movie box office dud The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The feature got solid marks from critics across the board, but the reviews weren’t strong enough to compensate for weaker TV ads, posters and even a jumbled title (couldn’t they just call it The Big Friendly Giant instead of that acronym that most people are unfamiliar with?) that turned off audiences. I’d also say that opening it directly in-between Finding Dory and The Secret Life Of Pets wasn’t exactly a brilliant move. With direct competition coming next week from guaranteed box office smash The Secret Life Of Pets, it’s likely The BFG will vanish quite quickly and could even struggle to get past $60 million domestically. Who’da thunk Steven Spielberg’s smaller-scale drama Bridge Of Spies from last fall would end up making more domestically than his second most expensive movie in history?

Bill Pullman and crew were unable to save face in the second weekend of Independence Day: Resurgence’s release, losing 60% for a second weekend gross of $16.5 million, taking its 10 day cume to $72.6 million. While ID4: Resurgence will squeak past $100 million domestically, that’s a nearly 70% drop from the first movies domestic gross and that’s before taking inflation into account! On a happier financial note, Central Intelligence held well in its third frame, losing 32% to gross another $12.3 million, bringing its 17 day domestic gross to $91.7 million. This one could end up grossing over $120 million domestically, which could be enough to make it one of the ten biggest movies of this summer.

The Shallows lost 46% in its second weekend, taking in $9 million for a 10 day total of $35.2 million, already doubling its $17 million budget domestically. Looks like this shark themed movie will gross well over $50 million domestically, a great haul for the micro-budgeted film.  Coming in at eighth place was another movie that debuted last weekend, Free State Of Jones, which lost 45% to gross another $4.1 million. Matthew McConaughey’s newest drama has grossed $15.1 million in its 10 days of release and will end its domestic run somewhere in between $20 and $25 million, meaning its final gross will be in the same neighborhood as the far lower-profile Matthew McConaughey drama Mud.

Right outside the top ten in eleventh place was Swiss Amy Man, which expanded into wide release, specifically 636 theaters. It grossed a decent $1.44 million for a per-theater-average of $2,276. Another small-scale drama from an indie movie studio, Our Kind Of Traitor, debuted to $1 million at 373 locations for a per-theater-average of $2,685.

Losing 598 of the 783 theaters it was playing in last weekend, The Neon Demon plummeted 77% to gross another $134,558. It has now grossed $1.09 million domestically, interestingly making it only the second Nicolas Winding Refn movie ever to gross over $1 million domestically. Meanwhile, The Innocents debuted in 3 theaters to $31,500 for a per-theater average of $10,500. Also bowing this weekend in limited release was Life, Animated, a documentary that opened to $26,547 in 3 locations for a per-theater average of $8,849.

The Top 12 movies this weekend grossed $181 million, the fourth biggest three-day frame ever for a first weekend in July. It’s also up 42% from this same weekend last year when Inside Out topped the box office in its third weekend while Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL had underwhelming bows.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Legend Of Tarzan Review

At this point, I'm as tired as big-budget blockbusters this summer sucking as much as anything else in my life. Sizzling hot Texas weather always make this time of the year one that I wish could just speed right along, but with dismal movies like Warcraft, Alice Through The Looking Glass and Independence Day: Resurgence roaming around theaters, well, it's making my yearly endurance of summer all the more difficult to manage. The Legend Of Tarzan, despite the notable pedigrees of the cast (seriously, Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou and Christoph Waltz are incredibly talented individuals) and crew it's working with, is yet another dismal motion picture that has me begging for Labor Day to get here sooner rather than later.