Monday, July 31, 2017

Do The Right Thing And Watch Spike Lee's 1989 Masterpiece

One of the biggest takeaways I have about Do The Right Thing is that its entire climax (which hinges on an unarmed African-American man being killed by a police officer via a chokehold) feels chillingly relevant today. My other big takeaway is that Spike Lee's 1989 film Do The Right Thing is an extraordinary piece of cinema, a motion picture that fleshes out the array of inhabitants in one neighborhood and makes the location feel like an entire world. This wasn't the first Spike Lee directed movie to really take off (the guy had even hosted SNL prior to this), but it's so easy to see why Do The Right Thing took Lee to the next level of stardom.

An Inability To Lend Depth To Its Hefty Themes Hurts Courage Under Fire

Given how hesitant American moviegoers seem to be in terms of embracing foreign cinema, I'm thoroughly pleased with the notable ways Akira Kurosawa has impacted mainstream American cinema. Seven Samurai has been remade in an American context multiple times while his motion picture Rashamon has become the default example for a piece of storytelling involving multiple people offering different versions of how a certain chain of events occurred. It looks like Rashamon was a primary source of inspiration for the 1996 Edward Zwick directed Denzel Washington vehicle Courage Under Fire just by taking a gaze at its basic story.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk Is Box Office Victor Again As Emoji Movie And Atomic Blonde Have OK Debuts

It was thought this weekend was gonna be a close race for the top spot between three releases, and even as late as yesterday, going off of Friday's box office, it was thought it was gonna be a tight race for the top spot between Dunkirk and The Emoji Movie. But this morning the victor was quite clear as Dunkirk took the top spot at the box office with $28.1 million, a 44% drop from last weekend. That's a bigger second-weekend decline than the last two non-Batman Christopher Nolan movies, Inception, and Interstellar, but that's the harshest thing you can say about this great drop. Plus, it was only 4% bigger than Interstellar's 40% second-weekend dip. With $102.8 million in just ten days, Dunkirk is doing great business and has already become the sixth biggest World War II movie of all-time domestically. I'm gonna wager this one will end up with about $170-175 million domestically at least.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up (Entry #5): Blue by Joni Mitchell

ENTRY #5: Blue by Joni Mitchell

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up is a new weekly series wherein Douglas Laman listens to an album of music he's never fully listened to before (though he may have heard one or two songs from it) and writes up his brief thoughts on it.

Tonal versatility is a great tool for any musician to have, but sometimes, it's good to just have an album where an artist indulges a singular particular mood. After all, some singers are just so exceedingly good at capturing intensity, happiness, sadness or any sort of emotions that it feels like a dream come true to have them create music revolving around that particular emotion for the entirety of an album. Joni Mitchell was a woman known for her more somber tunes and the 1971 album Blue allows her to deliver ten tracks that predominately (though not exclusively) around a more melancholy atmosphere that prove why she became so well-known for more restrained and solemn pieces of music.

And Now I Become The Emoji Movie, Destroyer of Worlds

I go into every movie I watch hoping it's awesome. Why would I want to spend over ninety minutes of my life watching something that's bad when I can spend that time watching something that's enjoyable and stimulating? Sure, many times I end up watching a movie that strikes me as mediocre, lackluster or even outright bad but it's always good to give every single movie you see a fair shake and hope for the best. That's what I did for The Emoji Movie, a feature film that's received plenty of derision leading up to its release, and while the trailers looked, well, awful to me, I still went in here hoping for the best.

I came out very tired and very aghast at what I just witnessed.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Phenomenal A Ghost Story Is Hauntingly Ambitious And Beautiful

Let it be said right up front; A Ghost Story will not be for everyone. It's a blatantly unconventional borderline experimental movie with little in the way of actual dialogue and even less in the way of onscreen explanations for how various parts of its story function. I honestly can't believe it's playing at my local Cinemark a venue where I'm sure it'll be received with plenty of audiences going "What the hell was that?" once the lights go up. But for me personally, A Ghost Story almost feels like it was tailor made for me and my sensibilities, particularly my mind and the way it constantly obsesses over wistfulness for locations and memories of the past. I'm fascinated by those elements of yesteryear and how they impact me and those are the kind of ideas A Ghost Story, as a film, is fixated on too.

Handily The Best Fantastic Four Movie Can Be Found In An Unreleased 1994 B-Movie

For a movie that never even got a proper release, the backstory behind the 1994 movie The Fantastic Four has become borderline legendary. With famous producer Roger Corman executive producing the movie on a budget of only $1 million, the film was produced as a low-budget excuse for the producers to hold onto the film rights to the characters, something the cast and the rest of the crew was apparently unaware of. That means this take on Marvel Comics first family has languished in obscurity for twenty-three years while the trio of attempts at live-action Fantastic Four movies have come and gone to universally dismal reviews.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Forgettable Despicable Me 3 Lacks Creativity And Laughs

As if it wasn't already clear with the last two follow-ups in this franchise, the Despicable Me movies can now stand alongside 21st century animated entities like the Shrek and Ice Age movies as franchises that started out with a great movie before descending into repetitive mediocrity. All the humor and even heart of the first Despicable Me has long since evaporated prior to this newest entry in the ongoing Gru saga, Despicable Me 3, entering theaters. Now, all we've got is references to past movies, a poorly handled plot and unfunny Minion antics. I'd say the franchise is on autopilot but that would indicate it's still moving. It's more like the Despicable Me movies have just been parked in a grimy parking spot for a few years now, not even doing the slightest bit of movement.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When It Comes To Creating A Top-Notch Crime Thriller, Collateral Is A Real Beauty

Tom Cruise, like fellow late 20th-century movie star Will Smith, seems to be stuck in a rut in the current stages of his career that see's him just trying to do one type of role in one type of movie (lead heroes in blockbusters) as a way to keep his career going when in fact his fame used to come from doing all sorts of different types of roles in a wide variety of genres. In fact, looking over his pre-2005 meltdown, starred in non-action films by filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Oliver Stone and Stanley freaking Kubrick while his three best 21st-century action blockbuster movies (Minority Report, War Of The Worlds and Edge Of Tomorrow) have him inhabiting more interesting and complicated individuals rather than the generic leads in recent fare like Jack Reacher, Oblivion, and The Mummy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Insomnia Has A Great Robin Williams Performance And Some Overly Predictable Elements

Compared to other entries in Christopher Nolan's filmography, Insomnia can't help but feel a bit routine in execution. Now, the film overall is actually pretty entertaining, a well-done cat-and-mouse crime thriller with one particularly strong performance I'll talk about later, but compared to the narrative audaciousness of fellow Nolan movies Dunkirk or Memento and even just considered on its own merits, Insomnia feels more paint-by-numbers in concept and execution of said concept. But even paint-by-numbers can be plenty fine when the paint looks pretty and Insomnia most certainly has some super colorful elements that help stand out.

Dunkirk Is An Incredible War Movie That Goes All-In On Uniqueness

Dunkirk very much does not rest on the laurels of convention in many key aspects of how it chooses to tell the real life story of the World War II rescue mission called the Dunkirk Evacuation. One expects ambition from Christopher Nolan's work at this point, with it mostly paying off for him as a filmmaker while his weaker movies (the still really good The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar) being remarkably admirable in their audaciousness, but kinda like how Edgar Wright demonstrated he could do gangster movies with the same sense of brilliant energy and creativity that he had with his comedy with last month's Baby Driver, Nolan uses his sense of ambition on Dunkirk to chart new territory for himself as a filmmaker. Both in the pantheon of his filmography and as a movie in its own right, Dunkirk really does cement itself as something special.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Excellent Night Of The Living Dead Redefined Zombies Forever

Though the concept of zombies had existed in pop culture for ages, and even certain movies like Plan 9 For Outer Space had used zombies in their storylines, it was really George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night Of The Living Dead that not only brought the creatures to a greater level of fame in pop culture but also established a number of trademark traits of zombies. Just as the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween would completely upend what moviegoers thought American horror cinema was capable of in the subsequent decade, this particular late 1960's film was a game-changer for both horror fare and how we all think of zombies in general.

Dunkirk Goes To War With Tremendous Opening Weekend, Girls Trip Hits The Road With Major Box Office And Valerian Stumbles

Well well well, this was quite the big weekend at the domestic box office! We got a lot of movies to talk about, so let's get right into the nitty-gritty!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Here's All The News Announced At The 2017 Marvel Studios Comic-Con Panel

Well, to quote Harold Hutchins from Captain Underpants, "Here we go again!" Yes folks, it's once again time for Marvel Studios to put on its dog-and-pony show at the San Diego Comic-Con. If there's one thing the companies known for beyond taking shamefully long to get either a person of color or a woman to headline one of its movies, it's for putting on one h*ck of a show at Comic-Con. I'll be live-blogging the festivities which will start at 7:30 PM central time! A Thor: Ragnarok trailer is all but guaranteed to show up but may we also see some new casting announcements for Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man And The Wasp and Captain Marvel? Considering this is going to be the longest Comic-Con panel the companies ever put on, anything's possible!

Few Sequels Are As Amazing As The Captivating The Godfather: Part II

Sight & Sound Voyage Entry #38
Placement On Sight & Sound Top 50 Movies List: #31 (Tied witb Taxi Driver)   

For years, I've heard the usual picks of when people say best sequels; The Empire Strikes Back, Spider-Man 2, and of course, The Godfather: Part II. That 1974 Francis Ford Coppola has been held up as the paragon of sequel filmmaking for decades now and getting to actually watch it for the first time totally made me realize why The Godfather: Part II is held up in such high stature in discussions of cinema. This thing not only manages to surpass the quality of its already incredible predecessor but it also does a remarkable job of enhancing the world established by the first movie by lending a sweeping mythic quality to the Corleone crime syndicate.

Here's All The News Announced At The 2017 Warner Bros. Comic-Con Panel

Warner Bros. is back at Comic-Con this year and come 1 PM Central time, I'll be live-blogging their Comic-Con panel. No, I'm not cool enough to actually attend the panel but I'll be keeping tabs on all the big announcements and reveals that go down and post them here for you to enjoy. Plus, WB has been, starting with the first Mad Max: Fury Road trailer three years ago, putting their Comic-Con trailers online too, so expect a bunch of new trailers today, particularly the first trailer for Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One and the new Justice League trailer. Maybe we'll even get some footage from Aquaman's movie, who knows...

Before we get to all the Comic-Con craziness, WB held a panel for The LEGO Ninjago Movie yesterday and premiered a new trailer for that film. It actually looks better than the last film and the way they pay homage to classic Kaiju movies with a live-action "monster" is clever. Check the trailer out below!

OK, the panel began with Chris Hardwick doing the moderating (shocker, I know), and the first thing WB stepped up to the plate with was....


Steven Spielberg returns to his summer blockbuster roots for the first time (discounting Indiana Jones 4) since War Of The Worlds and Spielberg himself showed up to promote this new science-fiction feature! Before the trailer even started, Hall H (the location where this panel took place) had massive screens popping up showing off all kinds of pieces of 1980's pop culture. Looks like they're totally going all in on the 1980's pop culture references that the book it's based on was apparently drowning in. The cast of the film also showed up once they got done showing off an extended trailer for the movie, which, in true WB Comic-Con fashion, the studio has released and you can watch below!

This looks neat! I wish some of it was brighter so I could see all of the video game coolness better but this feels total go-for-broke fun and I love that in one trailer Spielberg's action sequences have so much personality in life to them. Really good teaser too in terms of clearly establishing the world of the protagonist and what he does for escapism while also leaving plenty for us to discover. Not sure about calling the source material a "holy grail of pop culture" (I haven't read the book for the record) but if anyone's earned the right to be called a cinematic game-changer, it's Spielberg!

Next up is...

We already got a new trailer for this earlier in the week (I'll embed it below since I haven't linked to it anywhere), so no new publically released footage here, but lots of new plot details showed up and plenty of footage was shown to attendees of the panel. Here's that new trailer that went up earlier in the week, it's a truly spectacular trailer!

After Blade Runner, it was time for...


After three movies that got receptions ranging from mixed to vehemently negative, the DCEU finally got itself a critical and financial smash hit with Wonder Woman, a movie that's well on its way being a bigger domestic grosser than all but two of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Today, gave us a peek at the future of their cinematic universe. To wit, they confirmed the following movies are happening in the DCEU:

Suicide Squad 2
The Batman
Justice League Dark
The Flash: Flashpoint
Wonder Woman 2
Green Lantern Corps.

Loooots of movies on that slate, no release dates for any of 'em as of yet. I guess Flashpoint is what that solo Flash movie has become. Interesting that Gotham City Sirens (which has a director, writer and lead actor) and a new solo Superman movie (which has a script and was in talks with Matthew Vaughn to direct) are nowhere to be found on that slate as far as I know. Anywho, after that opening salvo showing off the future of the DCEU, they showed off some brief footage from Aquaman and then had the Justice League cast (sans Henry Cavill) come out to chat it up before showing off a new trailer that you can watch below.

I like some of what I see here and also remain apprehensive about what's to come. Smart move heavily emphasizing Wonder Woman and her mythology (looks like her home island is the one that inadvertently brings Steppenwolf to Earth) into the trailer given how popular her movie is, more Wonder Woman can't be a bad thing! Cute Batman Returns reference, Jeremy Irons looks fun and more color showing up here is also good to see, particualrly in the big superhero vs. Parademon showdowns which now take place against a red sky instead of the nighttime backgrounds of the initial teaser that made scuffles visually incoherent.

Some of the stuff still isn't quite gelling for me, namely in how they keep telling the audience how Superman stood as a beacon of hope without offering the slightest bit of evidence to that in the last two movies. Classic case of "telling instead of showing" there. Steppenwolf I'm worried about too, not only have they gone and altered actor Ciaran Hinds voice digitally for the role (I've always said you should always keep the voice of actors doing motion-capture roles so the audience has something clearly human to relate to instead of adding more digital trickery to the proceedings) but the brief glimpses we get of him in the trailer make him look indistinguishable from the likes of Ares and Ronan The Accuser. Some clunky looking sets, over-use of slow-motion and a bungled final trailer tag teasing the return of Superman (Though good luck on general audiences knowing that's him) and I must say this trailer is very much a mixed bag for me, though it's a notable improvement on that dumpster fire of a teaser we got a few months back. If nothing else, Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa look like a lot of fun as The Flash and Aquaman respectively.

Alright folks, that's it for WB at Comic-Con this year! Tune in tonight when I live-blog the Marvel Studios panel!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Maudie Is As Sweet And Lovely As A Well-Done Painting

Art can be such a wonderful escape from the real world. This is by no means a novel concept in the world of storytelling but there's a reason it keeps cropping up so frequently, it really just resonates with people and helps get at the very crux of why we, as a species, have been creating art for so many years now. Since the dawn of time, we've used art as a way to momentarily escape our own surroundings in a healthy and enriching way. I know that's been true for myself personally and a bunch of other people in my life, so why shouldn't it be a recurring template for storytelling, including as a plot point in the new drama Maudie?

The Visuals In Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets Are Glorious But Why Did They Have To Be In Service Of Such A Clunky Story?

Twenty years after The Fifth Element premiered to initially mixed reviews and then a massive cult following, Luc Besson has returned to the world of gonzo science-fiction, this time adapting the late 1960's French comic by Jean-Claude Mezieres that Besson loved as a kid and managed to serve as an inspiration for his own The Fifth Element as well as plenty of other high-profile science-fiction projects. Fifty years after that comic originally premiered, it's gotten its own big-budget French movie (though the dialogue is entirely English save for extra-terrestrial languages), one that attempts to replicate the artistic success of The Fifth Element.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Memento Is An Early And High-Quality Ambitious Effort From Christopher Nolan

In March of 2001, Christopher Nolan's second movie (following his low-budget 1999 effort Following which received barely a theatrical release domestically), Memento, made its way to movie theaters. We all know his name today, making him one of the few modern day filmmakers to have real cache as a name, but back then he was just another unknown indie filmmaker looking to get people to give his small-scale thriller with an unorthodox narrative structure a look-see. Though he'd grow in scope in the years to come, numerous traits that would be heavily associated with this auteur can be found in Memento while the high level of quality found in many of his subsequent works is also very much here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tommy Wiseau, Sea Monsters, Chilly Murderers And Madea Abound In A Bunch Of New Movie Trailers

OK, so, the last 53-ish hours have unleashed a deluge of new movie trailers that have each generated a lot of individual thoughts from yours truly. How about we take a gander at some of these various movie trailers, many of which give us our very first glimpses at highly anticipated titles, on this fine afternoon, shall we?

First up, the movie that became a sensation at SXSW this past March that finally has a movie trailer...
I haven't seen The Room yet (I know, the prospect of me not having seen a culturally impactful movie is shocking) but that didn't stop me from loving this teaser trailer for this raved about James Franco directorial effort. Franco seems to be acing the tiniest bit of physical behavior of Tommy Wiseau here and the scene itself is actually quite funny and well-timed. Not giving too much away while letting one get a clear idea for the tone and atmosphere of what's to come, that's the very idea of a great teaser trailer and that's very much an accurate description of this awesome first look at The Disaster Artist.
Michael Fassbender's been on a rough patch lately with X-Men: Apocalypse, Assassin's Creed and Alien Covenant but at least his next movie, The Snowman, looks incredibly promising. This is one eerie trailer using a nicely chosen song and effectively done wide shots to convey the sense of dread that this snow-fixated killer is creating for the lead characters of this movie. The brief snippet of J.K. Simmons European accent was unexpected for me at least and the entire trailers effective sense of creeping terror took me by surprise as a matter of fact.
Now where did this one come from? I'd barely heard anything about this one before its trailer premiered yesterday morning but it totally got put on my radar with a well-made trailer like this one. The trailers heavy use of voice-over and title cards suggests they're trying to cover up the fact that it's likely heavily free of dialogue, which is fine by me since the bits of non-speaking action (like the main character trying to give his wolf companion some water) come off really well. It also looks great too and it's no wonder Alpha is immediately on my radar when its trailer has so much epic imagery.

We finally got ourselves a live-action Wonder Woman movie this summer but how about now we do a movie all about the three folks behind Wonder Woman? The unconventional in its era (and even still unorthodox today) polygamous relationship Professor Marston, Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne looks like it's being set up as the crux for an intriguing looking forbidden romance thriller, one that offers Rebecca Hall a woefully rare chance to headline a major motion picture while Luke Evans also looks promising in the lead role, so yes, I'm very much interested in seeing this one.
Lots of macho masculinity in here (I've seen repeated comparisons between this trailer and Peter Berg's work and that feels super accurate), but overall, this first trailer for Only The Brave makes the movie itself look kind of generic but there could be some excitement to be found in this premise in feature-length form, especially with the super talented cast they've assembled. Nice to see Miles Teller is headlining multiple dramas this Fall while more Jeff Bridges is always good (as long as it doesn't involve R.I.P.D.). The trailer for Only The Brave came off as so-so to me but here's to hoping the actual movie turns out better.
The first Boo! A Madea Halloween was my first Madea movie and it was bland and poorly made enough to not make me want to check out further entries in the series. This teaser for further Halloween-tinged Madea antics just looks like more unfunny and forgettable cinema, especially with a weird explicit reference to Get Out that closes the trailer. This October, I think I'll just stay home and munch on some Milky Ways instead of giving this one a watch.

I got to see the trailer for The Shape Of Water on my theatrical screening of War For The Planet Of The Apes last Thursday and found it to be an outstanding trailer then. Rewatching it this morning, I was even more moved by this particular viewing of the trailer, to the point that the moment the French music kicked in I began to get misty-eyed. God, this is an amazing trailer, showing off the kind of glorious sets and camerawork we've all come to expect from Guillermo Del Toro's work, but the way it lays out the relationship between Sally Hawkins and the sea beast she discovers  really is incredible. In the span of two-and-a-half minutes, both of these individuals are painted with tender humanity that left me emotionally moved. Outstanding trailer, likely one of the best movie trailers we'll see all year and I can't wait to see the super promising looking movie itself this December.

In Laman's Terms: It's Time For MGM To Get Back Into The Musical Game

In Laman's Terms is a new 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!

After spending the 1980's and 1990's as an infrequent presence, the American musical came roaring back to life with the early 2000's double-whammy of Moulin Rouge! and Chicago. Since then, it's been common to get a new live-action musical adapting a famous Broadway musical (see: Nine, Les Miserables, Dreamgirls, Into The Woods, etc.) dropping around the holiday season in order to be a heavy presence around awards season. Though the American musical feature film has been far more common in the past 15 years compared to decades prior, the vast majority of them (save for Enchanted and Across The Universe) have been based on previously existing Broadway musicals or remakes of already existing musical movies.

The Prestige Is Magic, You Knoooooow....Never Believe It's Not So!

In between creating two different Batman movies that revolutionized how we would forever see the character, director Christopher Nolan managed to also churn out a thriller entirely centered on magicians entitled The Prestige. A Fall 2006 drama starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, it did not receive the massive box office intakes Nolan's directorial efforts now make without even blinking, instead ranking as the 61st biggest movie of 2006, winding up narrowly behind Final Destination 3 and the 2006 remake of The Omen. Of course, people have been talking about and enjoying The Prestige long after those horror films have faded from the public's memory and now upon seeing The Prestige for myself, it's easy to see why it's garnered such acclaim over the past decade.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wish Upon Is Thoroughly Forgettable And Anemic Horror Fare

Wishes always lead to trouble, whether you're wishing to be a prince to impress a princess or you're wishing for a turkey sandwich on rye bread or you're wishing for whatever the characters in that Wes Craven produced Wishmaster movie were wishing for. Taking this mystical shortcut always generates all sorts of unintended consequences which is likely why it's become a horror movie plot mainstay over the years. The newest usage of this recurring storyline comes in the form of the horror movie Wish Upon, an anemic horror film direly lacking in the way of scares and one you'd want to wish away from your memory except it's highly likely you'll forget about mere seconds after it's done.

The Brilliant Satire Network Has Become Tragically All Too Relevant In 2017

"What's old is new again" as they say, and while it's not a perfectly equal comparison, it must be said that the world of America in 1976 (the year in which Sidney Lumet's Network was released) does bear a great resemblance to America in 2017. A historically catastrophic President? A recent grisly war that has not produced the sort of triumphant victories America is accustomed to in its foreign affairs? People looking for answers in their entertainment? Some variations of all those ideas always exist in human society but they're particularly potent in both 1976 and in the modern era, making Network one of those amazing movies that's both a perfect time capsule of the era in which it was released and also something that feels incredibly relevant multiple decades after its initial release.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Assignment Shoots Its Viewers Full Of Boredom

Sometimes seemingly boring events turn out to be lots of fun, which is always a nice surprise. But there's also a chance you're gonna get the reverse situation, wherein something that sounds at least off-the-wall and bizarre turns out to be as tedious as an extended lecture on the various types of paints available at your local Home Depot. I'm afraid to report that The Assignment is very much a clear-cut example of the latter scenario, with a film that drew (understandable) criticism when it was first announced from the LGBTQA community turning out to be such a dull film that it isn't even worth dragging it through the coals on its shortcomings in depicting (in an obviously stylized) gender-reassignment surgery, though I freely admit I say that as cis-gendered man so I should not be the defenitive word on that matter.

The Wrestler Is A Harrowing And Brutal Tale Of A Man Unable To Function In Reality

It's a pity that, in the decade since The Wrestler was initially released, Mickey Rourke seems to have vanished almost as quickly as his comeback arrived. After having major supporting roles in two 2010 movies that cracked $100 million domestically (Iron Man 2 and The Expendables), he did Immortals and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and has otherwise been relegated to B-movie fare that, at best, will end up in the direct-to-video bargain bin. Finally seeing The Wrestler for the first time makes such a turn of events feel truly tragic given the massive amount of talent the guy exhibits in the lead role of this Darren Aronofsky directed motion picture.

Wild Wild West? More Like Mild Mild West, Amirite?

Wild Wild West wants to be Men In Black so badly. It's coming two years after those galaxy defenders showed up on multiplex screens across the world and broke tons of box office records and tried to replicate that movies financial success by reuniting the star and director of that film (Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld, respectively) in another heavily stylized action/comedy romp. This time, though, they were going to be working in the Western genre adapting the classic TV show Wild Wild West into a major motion picture and Smith would be paired off against Kevin Kline. The results were less akin to Men In Black and instead more along the lines of Men In Black II.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

THAR BE GOLD IN THEM STARS: Treasure Planet (Lovefest Entry #2)

Lovefest is an annual tradition done by the Dissolve community wherein people do extensive reviews and defenses of movies they love that have garnered a more negative public reception. This year, Douglas Laman decided to take a look at the 2002 Ron Clement and John Musker movie Treasure Planet.

At this point, the canon of films made by Walt Disney Animation Studios is so dense (it contain 56 films as of this writing) that you’ve got all kinds of different types of movies in regards to how much success they had. You’ve got your out-and-out hits (Frozen, The Lion King, The Jungle Book), you’ve got your bombs that got reappraised as classics (Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty) and then you’ve got your features that bombed but developed a cult following over the years. Hercules and The Emperor’s New Groove most certainly belong in this category as does (to a far lesser degree) the subject of this Lovefest review, Treasure Planet.

War For The Planet Of The Apes Has Lackluster Debut While Spider-Man Falls, The Big Sick Underwhelms And Wish Upon Falters

Those damn dirty apes got to lead the box office again with their newest movie War For The Planet Of The Apes, which didn't manage to break out as many had hoped it would. It did still gross $56.5 million, a small improvement on the debut of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes which bowed to $54.8 million but also noticeably down from the $72.6 million bow of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. War is now the sixth biggest opening weekend for a movie Woody Harrelson appeared in, behind the bows of all four Hunger Games movies and 2012. Why didn't this one manage to beat out Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes in terms of opening weekend grosses? I'm not sure. The marketing seemed fine to me, reviews were strong, maybe just opening it in such close proximity to Spidey hurt it since it couldn't stand out as an event? Plus, people have gotten burned on sequels lately, we can't discount that. If War plays like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes from here, it'll make $161 million domestically exactly, the lowest domestic cume of any 21st-century Planet Of The Apes movie.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lawrence Of Arabia Seeks To Examine The Humanity Within Figures Of Legend

It may have taken me awhile to finally getting around and watching Lawrence Of Arabia, but I'm actually glad I did it on this particular weekend because it seems like the perfect companion piece to this weekends new summer blockbuster, War For The Planet Of The Apes. There's no hyper-intelligent monkeys or malicious Woody Harrelson in Lawrence Of Arabia, true, but both do have plots revolving around the psyches and inner workings of normal individuals who are propped up to mythic status by those around them. The humanity of a figure of legend is the primary source of concentration in both movies, so it's interesting to watch both of them in such close proximity to one another, though, of course, Lawrence Of Arabia provides plenty to talk about even when separated from those damn dirty apes.

47 Meters Down Attracts Some Sharks But Not Nearly Enough Fun

I'm starting to feel sorry for poor sharks at this point. They're always being paraded around in pop culture as ruthless killers when they're not even close to being the most deadly animal on the planet! Hippos kill more people per year than sharks and we're all getting awestruck by the cuteness of videos of baby hippos (don't get me wrong, baby hippos are incredibly adorable). Sharks, meanwhile, still get a reputation for being merciless senseless killers. That doesn't seem fair to me just like it also doesn't strike me as fair that sharks get their image further sullied by appearing in the disposable thriller 47 Meters Down.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Here's All The News Announced At The Walt Disney Animation Studios/PIXAR Panel At D23 2017

The bi-annual Disney centered convention D23 is going on this weekend and today they held their panel centered exclusively on their two animation studios, PIXAR and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Expect some news on the next two PIXAR movies, Coco and The Incredibles 2 and also the 2018 Disney Animation movie Wreck-It Raph 2. What else will be there? Expect some news from the single features each studio expects to put out in 2019; Toy Story 4 for PIXAR (I guess we'll find out if that film is even still happening given how much it's been delayed since it was announced four years ago) and Frozen 2 for Disney Animation. I'm personally hoping to get some plot details on the two completely original movies PIXAR has planned for 2020.

War For The Planet Of The Apes Is A Captivating & Grim Work Of Art

Third movies in big franchises or trilogies have a tendency to be regarded as frequently lackluster compared to their predecessors. I don't think that's entirely fair since we've had a number of great third entries in big series of movies in recent years (Lord of The Rings, Captain America, Iron Man and Toy Story all delivered strong third entries in their respective franchises), yet such a thought process in pop culture. Want some further concrete evidence that third movies can be something special? Check out War For The Planet Of The Apes, the newest entry in the film series that, when first announced, sound like the ultimate cash-grab and now has morphed into something that feels groundbreaking for the very medium of summer blockbuster fare.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An Aggravatingly Generic Execution Of An Equally Generic Story Leaves The Devil Wears Prada Stumbling

Looking back on The Devil Wears Prada, it feels like some kind of scrapbook chronicling the pivotal career turning points for the many actors who starred in it. For Anne Hathaway, it cemented her as a person who could headline a financially lucrative movie that didn't have Princess Diaries in the title, something she's been able to prove again and again over the years. Meanwhile, Emily Blunt got put on the radar with her work here while veteran character actor Stanley Tucci got easily his biggest gig yet that was followed by an Oscar nomination and memorable performances in movies ranging from Best Picture winner Spotlight to Captain America: The First Avenger. And a little-known figure Meryl Streep achieved her biggest movie ever at the domestic box office at the time.

Good Actors Get Saddled With Bizarre Tonal Shifts In Trespass Against Us

You would think combining Michael Fassbender with Brendan Gleeson would result in pure cinematic bliss, right? These two are great actors, surely pairing them up could only end up making something awesome! Oh, I would have thought that too about a year ago, but last December brought these two European actors together for the first time in that utterly forgettable Assassin's Creed movie. Their second collaboration, the crime thriller Trespass Against Us, is better than that video game movie dud but it's still a mixed bag of a film that still can't quite live up to the sort of quality a Fassbender/Gleeson movie really should obtain given the two's track record.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Failed Attempts At Comedy Were Coming From Inside The House!!!

Poet Mark Strand once wrote how "Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing; When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end." It is true that the end of our lives is full of uncertainty, but even I could have never predicted that my end of always expecting the best from a Will Ferrell movie would come from such a listless movie like The House. As someone who considers The Other Guys, Elf and Anchorman to be among the best 21st century comedies (heck, I even enjoyed Land Of The Lost!), seeing Ferrell follow up abysmal torturous comedies like Get Hard and Daddy's Home with yet another terrible comedy that pairs him up with Amy Poehler and a whole bunch of funny people (including Nick Kroll and Jason Mantzoukas) to such dismal results is...painful, it's just painful to watch really.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Big Sick Has A Severe Case Of "Excellent-Comedy-Itis". Hope It's Contagious!


2017 has not been kind to the American comedy. Talented actors like Charlie Day, Will Ferrell and Dwayne Johnson have headlined comedies that have ended up being some of the worst movies of 2017 thus far and more often than not these comedies have ended up producing far more boredom than giggles. Heck, I'm saying that without having seen two of the worst reviewed comedies of 2017 so far, CHiPS and Sandy Wexler. But for those like myself that were thinking there was no hope for laugh-oriented cinema this year, here comes The Big Sick, a Judd Apatow-produced feature that actually does bring a whole bunch of yuks as well as thoughtful character work and terrific performances. A 2017 comedy with all of those elements in spades? To quote Smash Mouth, "What a concept!"

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spawn Is A Terrifying Movie But Not In Any Of The Ways It Wants To Be Terrifying

Us comic book fans may have had to wait until the 21st century for proper live-action movie adaptations of The Avengers, Spider-Man, Hellboy, Wonder Woman and all kinds of other superheroes but a few comic book characters did manage to get their own theatrical American movies prior to Y2K coming around. Superman and Batman, of course, got incredibly famous movies while the likes of The Punisher, Captain America and Howard The Duck also got their own feature films. You know who else got one? Spawn, the Image Comics character who was reasonably popular in the 1990's but has since faded away into obscurity. This terrible movie he got in 1997 suggests that may not be a bad thing.

Moviegoers Love For In The Heart Of The Sea Pays Off As Spider-Man: Homecoming Wins Box Office With Massive Opening Weekend

It seems like each blockbuster after Wonder Woman at the start of June 2017 just kept on underperforming, Spider-Man: Homecoming proved to be the one that reversed such a trend, grossing a massive $117 million this weekend. That's the third biggest opening weekend of 2017 (two of the three biggest opening weekends of 2017 now belong to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies), the second biggest opening weekend ever for a Sony/Columbia movie and the second biggest opening weekend ever for a Spider-Man movie without adjusting for inflation. It's also already the fifth biggest movie Maria Tomei has ever appeared in.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Before Tom Holland, Andre Garfield And Tobey Maguire, There Was The 1977 Spider-Man Movie. It Was Bad.

We all know about the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, we all know about the Andrew Garfield abominations and the box office from this weekend indicates we're all already super familiar and in love with Tom Holland's take on the web-crawler. But did you know those aren't the only theatrically released Spider-Man movies?? Yes, there was actually a TV movie that served as a pilot for the late 70's live-action Spider-Man TV show that ran on CBS. Though it only aired on television here in the U.S., it garnered a notable international theatrical release and even spawned two sequels (both of which were comprised of two episodes of the TV show packed together) that also garnered international theatrical engagements.

Mo' Thrills Lead To Mo' Problems In Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious

There's a reason Alfred Hitchcock's become known as "The Master of Suspense" but it'd be disingenuous to believe that he only worked on horror fare like Psycho and The Birds in his career. Just as John Ford didn't just do Westerns or Martin Scorsese hasn't done solely gangster movies, Hitchcock also had more variety in terms of the genres he explored than one might expect. For instance, he was very well-versed in the world of spy thrillers, most notably in his movies like North By Northwest and the subject of this review, Notorious, a 1946 feature film that paired the director with a trio of legendary 1940's actors; Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Come Grab A Bite With Beatriz At Dinner

Big social dinners have a tendency to always dive into awkwardness, especially when you don't know the people involved. Luckily, the presence of free food (one of the best things to ever exist on planet Earth) can help make any sort of dinnertime awkwardness more bearable but sometimes ya get caught up in conversations or social interactions so thorny to navigate even free food can't mitigate the suffocating amount of awkwardness. That's the kind of social situation the titular lead character of Beatriz At Dinner finds herself in, one which leads to plenty of drama for herself and the other members of the dinner she finds herself attending but, on the bright side, it does result in loads of riveting drama for the viewer.

The Spectacularly Fun And Endearing Spider-Man: Homecoming, Like A Beauty School Drop-Out, Goes Back To High School

"And so a legend is born and a new name is added to the roster of those who make the world of fantasy the most exciting realm of all!" - closing line of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first ever appearance of Spider-Man

Prior to 2017, we've been through six different Spider-Man movies, ranging from the cheap-o days of the 1977 movie joint that never even got a U.S. theatrical release to the Sam Raimi classics of the early days of the 21st century to the two Marc Webb movies that proved to be the nadir of the Spider-Man on the silver screen (even that 1977 movie was better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 since it didn't feature Spider-Stalking). What on Earth could a new iteration of the character possibly bring to the table? Shockingly, quite a bit actually. Spider-Man: Homecoming turns out to have a lot it brings to the table that ends up making it a thoroughly unique take on the Spidey mythos, one with a lot of fun and zest to its name as well.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Please Give Some More Love To The Thrilling And Endearing White House Down

Back in 2013, Roland Emmerich returned to the White House, the location that served him quite well when he blew it to pieces in the first Independence Day movie. But just like returning to the world of Independence Day itself didn't yield any box office results comparable to that 1996 movie, Emmerich's 2013 return to the White House was similarly DOA financially. That's a shame because White House Down might just be the best movie Roland Emmerich's done, one that leans heavily on charismatic actors, over-the-top characters and constantly escalating in absurdity action to deliver the right kind of bombastic blockbuster filmmaking.

Monday, July 3, 2017

I Do Declare That The Beguiled Is a Mighty Fine New Effort From Sofia Coppola!

We've had a lot of movies over the past century or so that have dealt with the dramatically potent theme of normal people being forced to do ghastly things in order to survive in a wartime setting. The concept being revisited so many times is understandable given what a thought-provoking idea it is and how constantly relevant it is given the permanent presence of war in every society in the world. Such an idea gets re-contextualized again for Sofia Coppola's newest motion picture The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 film that starred Clint Eastwood, which looks to the Civil War as a backdrop for what happens when seven ordinary women are faced with the prospect of having to do the unspeakable to survive.

Insightful Writing And Audacious Filmmaking Combine For Wong Kar-Wai's Excellent Chungking Express

That old turn of phrase "There's more than one way to skin a cat" is...a really disturbing colloquialism if one stops to think about it for even a second. Why were people skinning cats back in the era in which that saying was conceived?? Those poor kitties! Anywho, while that expression is certainly creepy, it does get a larger truth, which is that there's more than one way to accomplish a certain task. For instance, in the world of small-scale dialogue-oriented character dramas, you can execute such a type of story in a number of ways. You could go about it in a fully naturalistic approach, which has served the likes of Richard Linklater and Yasujiro Ozu immensely well with a number of their best works.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Despicable Me 3 Wins The Weekend While Baby Driver Speeds Over Expectations And The House Collapses

So even Despicable Me succumbed to the franchise fatigue striking a bunch of sequels this year....kind of. The $75 million bow of Despicable Me 3 is actually decent as far as computer animated sequels go and it's the first time a computer-animated movie has opened to over $60 million in two weeks shy of a year (the last entry in this subgenre to do that was fellow Illumination Entertainment title The Secret Life of Pets) and is just behind the $75.06 million bow of Zootopia for the eleventh biggest opening weekend ever for a computer animated movie. Considering this one was, like all Illumination movies, cheap to make too means Universal's basically printing money over here, though this one still provided a major step down from the two Despicable Me sequels.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Take A Ride With The Gloriously Energetic And Meticulously Crafted Baby Driver

Considering how Edgar Wright's first four movies had such heavy doses of high-quality action, stylish editing, and rapid-fire dialogue, it dawned on me midway through Baby Driver that Wright's basically been toying with the key ingredients of gangster movies for his entire career. It's like he's been fine tuning his instruments in various ways across his four previous classics until he was finally offered the chance to make an out and out gangster film. Well, now he gets to do just that with Baby Driver, a new crime movie he's directed that's been generating insane amounts of praise for months now ever since it premiered at the South by Southwest festival back in March.

Okja Is A Monster Of A Movie Capable Of Great Absurdity And Equally Great Emotions

Okja is not director Bong Joon-Ho's first time around the science-fiction track, but each time he comes into the genre, he tackles a new corner of science-fiction. For The Host, he was making a film in the style of classic monster movies while Snowpiercer is like any number of super-violent and allegorical high concept movies John Carpenter made in the 1980's. What kind of storytelling terrain does his newest science-fiction venture, Okja, occupy? Interestingly, it seems like its storytelling sensibilities hew closer to both ecologically aware science-fiction movies and heartwarming tales that filter the "a boy and their dog" stories through science-fiction means i.e. The Iron Giant and Big Hero 6.