Thursday, November 30, 2017

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up (Entry #8): Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division

You may have thought this series was dead after a nearly three month long absence, but nope! Folks, it's high time for another edition of....

ENTRY #8:  Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division

Douglas Laman Gets A Tune-Up is a series of essays 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.

I've had an incredible run of highly enjoyable albums on my Douglas Laman Gets A Tune Up column, to the point that the various albums I've consumed for this feature have become regular fixtures of my go-to music rotation (especially The Dead Kennedy's, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground). There was bound to be a misfire in here somewhere and alas, such an entity has come in Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, a collection of music that has generated widespread acclaim, often being called one of the best albums of all-time in the genre of rock music, but Unknown Pleasures just couldn't quite resonate with me, though there are elements here worth praising.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Consider Giving Olaf's Frozen Adventure The Cold Shoulder

The reaction my audience at my screening of Coco had to the pre-movie holiday special Olaf's Frozen Adventure, a 21-ish minute long short originally intended for release solely on ABC, was intriguing to me, as quiet confusion slowly morphed into people, who were realizing this thing was going on much longer than the typical five-minute PIXAR or Disney Animation short, leaving in hordes to go to the concession stand. Those who left the auditorium didn't miss much as Olaf's Frozen Adventure is a middling creation and I say that as someone who actually enjoyed both the original Frozen and the character of Olaf The Snowman.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Coco Is Alive On Arrival

In terms of comparing it to past PIXAR productions, Coco is most evocative to me of Ratatouille and not just because both are PIXAR films taking place in non-U.S. territories in the modern era and both are the only features in the studio's canon to depict characters drinking alcohol on-screen.  Both are animated family movies heavily reliant on dialogue, with little in the way of big chase scenes or explosions (which, of course, are not inherently bad elements to have around) and both explore the concept of chasing your dream in a nuanced realistic fashion while still utilizing heavily fantastical elements. Plus, Coco, like Ratatouille, is a pretty great movie and is easily one of the studios strongest creations from this decade.

Thanksgiving 2017 Chows Down On Big Box Office From Coco, Justice League And Wonder, Plus Strong Wide Release Grosses From Lady Bird And Three Billboards

Disney's long used the Thanksgiving holiday to launch a family movie box office hit and now they've got another jewel in that financial crown. Coco was the victor of the Thanksgiving holiday with a $49 million bow, the fourth biggest opening weekend ever for a movie opening over Thanksgiving weekend, behind only fellow Disney cartoons Moana ($56.6 million), Toy Story 2 ($57.3 million) and Frozen ($67.3 million) and it's the eleventh biggest weekend gross ever seen by a film playing over the Thanksgiving frame. Coco is also only the third movie to debut over the Thanksgiving frame at the number one spot at the box office in the last ten years, only Four Christmases and Moana were also able to do that.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Good Luck Chuck, With A Movie Like This One, You're Gonna Need It

We've all heard of the movie Rocky, but do you know about the real-life boxer who helped inspire that famous film character? Despite the title leading you to think it was a film adaptation of a Zachary Levi NBC sitcom or perhaps a biopic of Chuck Berry, Chuck is all about the life and times of Chuck Wepner (portrayed here by Liev Schreiber), a boxer who got to fight Muhammad Ali (Pooch Hall) in a high profile fight that Wepner ended up losing. You might think that might have been shattering to Wepner, but he took the loss in stride and ended up becoming a minor celebrity due to him managing to briefly knock Ali off his feet during the fight.

Pardon The Obvious Pun, But Lady Bird Absolutely Soars

I love it when an opening scene of a movie just perfectly encapsulates what kind of movie you're about to watch. You only get one shot at a first impression after all and when a feature film is able to come out of the gate swinging with a few minutes of footage that sums up the identity of what's to come so concisely, well, it's a real treat to experience. Lady Bird has this kind of opening sequence, one that depicts our lead character, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mom Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) driving home from a visit to a nearby college. We get a chance to see these two united in being captivated by an audiobook recording of John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes of Wrath but once that's done, it isn't long before friction emerges between the two of them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mudbound Is Compelling Character-Driven Fare That Knows The Power of Well-Written Dialogue

The individual characters in Mudbound have their own stories to tell and their own personalities to convey but there are threads that do tie certain characters together. Some of these individuals find themselves connected by the fact that they're a family while a pair of characters find themselves intertwined to one another due to both of them being soldiers returning home from World War II with intense trauma impacting their psyches. But what unites them all, whether they realize it or not, is the soil, the mud on the land they all share. In this harsh environment of rural 1940's Mississippi, you're at the mercy of the very land you live on, a land that entails all kinds of fascinating human beings that populate the new Dee Rees motion picture Mudbound.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Justice League Disappoints With $96 Million Bow While Wonder Performs Wonderfully And The Star Isn't So Bright

And so, a live-action Justice League movie arrived this weekend and it landed with....all around subpar box office. Actually, Justice League is off to an all-around poor start with only $96 million in its opening weekend. That makes this the first movie in the DC Extended Universe (which, in addition to JL, consists of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) to open below $100 million and puts it about 42% behind the opening weekend of Batman v. Superman from just twenty months ago. The news only gets grimmer from here; the film dropped 15% from Friday to Saturday, a day-to-day drop common for superhero movies released in June, July and August when younger audiences have more chances of seeing these films on Friday, but outside of that timeframe, smaller Friday-to-Saturday drops are the norm (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in early May had a 52% bigger opening weekend than Justice League but only went down 8% from Friday to Saturday).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Loving Vincent Paints An Intriguing Portrait of An Iconic Painter

Hand-drawn animations woefully low presence on the American film scene has seen a mild form of a reprieve this year thanks to The Red Turtle, Your Name. and now the Vincent Van Gogh tribute Loving Vincent, which is brought to life entirely by watercolor paintings that have been created by around 115 painters. Yep, the entire film is rendered through the distinctive art style that Van Gogh was famous for. Interestingly, Vincent Van Gogh is already dead when Loving Vincent gets its story started which takes place shortly after the iconic painters demise and has Van Gogh's mailman, Postman Roulin (Chris O'Dowd) entrusting his son Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) to return the letter to Vincent's brother.

Get In Tune With The Captivating Humanistic Beat Of BPM (Beats Per Minute)

What do you do when your government has abandoned you? What do you do when the pharmaceutical companies meant to create cures for what's killing you instead lollygag around? For those suffering from AIDS at the dawn of the 1990's, this could not be tolerated. Millions of lives had already been lost to this disease that was ravaging the worldwide population and yet those in power seemed to have made little to no progress in trying to help the sick and weary. Thus, the ACT UP group was started to champion the rights of AIDS-suffering individuals across the globe. BPM (Beats Per Minute) is all about following an ACT UP group located in Paris, France comprised of an eclectic coterie of people.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Hip To Be Square In Ruben Ostlund's Successfully Uncomfortable Dark Comedy The Square

The modern-day idea of art being created solely for the sake of pushing people's buttons has taken on a negative connotation and that's really not unwarranted. You've got countless animated and live-action TV shows trying to ape the bawdy humor of the likes of South Park and Family Guy whose only concept of comedy is just saying stuff that they think will make people made but just makes them look tired and ignorant (this also applies to Family Guy) and numerous further attempts by modern-day art to hit back at a non-existent "politically correct boogeyman" come off as similarly having nothing to say beyond "I M EDGY BROOOOOOO".

The Justice League Movie That Almost Was (In Laman's Terms)

What if I told you this almsot wasn't the first live-action movie iteration of the Justice League?
 In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Come this Friday, we're finally getting a live-action Justice League film adaptation. It seems crazy that superheroes like Spawn, Howard The Duck, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Tank Girl, Steel, Ghost Rider, The Green Hornet and Big Hero 6 all got movies prior to the Justice League, but it's not like Warner Bros. hasn't been trying to get a live-action Jutice League movie off the ground. In fact, a decade ago, it seemed like a Justice League movie was gonna finally get off the ground, one that has now joined the likes of Tim Burton's Superman Lives or Edgar Wright's Ant-Man movie as among the most tantilizing "What Could Have Been?" unmade superhero movies.

Prepare To Take A Snooze With Sleepless

 Is this really the best Hollywood can do by way of Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan, sticking them in some already long forgotten January action/thriller? C'mon, both of these actors are so much more talented than this! Oh well, here's hoping both of them get better projects in the future, which should be (in theory) be easy cuz the 2017 movie that brings them together, Sleepless, is a thoroughly forgettable endeavor. In this feature, Foxx plays an undercover cop named Vincent Downs whose devotion to trying to go on the inside and take out Las Vegas drug crimelords has made him distant from his wife and son.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Things We Lost In The Fire Burns Brightest When Handling Drug Addiction

For her first foray into English language American feature film directing, Susanne Bier was not gonna take things slow, she was gonna hit the ground running with a film concentrated on a bleak topic. Specifically, this film in question, Things We Lost In The Fire, would kick off with the death of Brian Burke (David Duchovny) and chronicle how his demise affected two very important people in his life. These two people are his now widowed wife, Audrey Burke (Halle Berry), and his lifelong best friend, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), who has also been struggling with a crippling drug addiction.

Monday, November 13, 2017

There's Some Fun And Clunky Storytelling To Be Found In Murder On The Orient Express

Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) just wanted a little rest and relaxation. The guy spends so much of his time using those deductive skills that have made him the world's greatest detective to solve all sorts of crimes that he's understandably just wanting some time to read his Charles Dickens books and get away from the world. But when he hops aboard his friend's classy train The Orient Express, well, it isn't long before some foul crime rears its head, those kinds of events tend to follow Poirot like a hungry dog. There's been a murder aboard this train and after some convincing, Poirot puts his vacation on hold in order to solve this crime.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Rules Box Office Again As Daddy's Home 2 And Murder On The Orient Express Have Good Opening Weekends

Well, looks like last week was no fluke and the 2017 holiday season box office is off to a great start as Thor: Ragnarok and two new releases fared quite well in this frame. Thor's newest adventure topped the box office again with a $57 million haul, a 54% drop from its opening weekend. That's a smaller second-weekend drop than any of the 2013-2015 MCU movies and the third smallest second-weekend drop for an MCU title since Thor, only behind Doctor Strange and The Avengers. It's also on par with the 53% second-weekend decline of early November blockbuster Skyfall. In ten days, Ragnarok has grossed $211.5 million, already putting it ahead of the $206.3 million lifetime domestic cume of Thor: The Dark World.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Set Sail With Ten Canoes And Its Ode To Humanizing Native Populations

One of the most exciting things about diving deeper into world cinema is getting a chance to learn about foreign events, individuals and even entire cultures I may not have been aware of. So it is with Ten Canoes that I was able to discover a part of Australia that I had no knowledge of in prior exposures to Australia in both pop culture and real life. This 2007 directorial effort hailing from Rolf De Heer and Peter Djigirr (the latter individual also plays a character in the film) aims to tell its viewers a story chronicling the various goings-on of a tribe of ancient natives residing in Arnhem Land, a Northern region of Australia, with the language of Yolŋu Matha being spoken by all the on-screen characters.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Boy is Taika Waitit's Best And Most Emotionally Resonant Feature

Back in the 1984, a child known only as Boy (James Rolleston), who is the figure this 2010 feature is named after, lives out a pretty normal life for an adolescent on the cusp of being a teenager. He loves Michael Jackson, has a small but close group of friends and also yearns for his father to come back into his life. For years, Boy has been telling anyone who would listen these tales about his father's great deeds from the past and that's helped build up his father to be some kind of mythic figure in the mind of Boy. So when his dad, Alamein (Taika Waititi) shows up again out of the blue, well, Boy is as happy as can be, he's just so excited to have his father back into his life and it seems like his dad is happy to see him too.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Holiday 2017 Box Office Gets Off To A Great Start Thanks To A Massive Thor: Ragnarok Opening Weekend While Lady Bird Soars

And with that, the Fall box office doldrums were thundered away by the arrival of Thor: Ragnarok, which gave the Marvel Cinematic Universe its third movie to open above $115 million in the span of six months. Specifically, Thor: Ragnarok opened to $121 million, which opened to 43% more than the last Thor adventure from four Novembers ago and scored the seventh biggest MCU opening of all-time as well as the seventh biggest opening weekend ever in November. It's also worth noting that this opening weekend has well surpassed the domestic cume of any past Taika Waititi directorial effort and has also surpassed the lifetime domestic cume of Green Lantern, a recent superhero movie Waititi also appeared in.

You Can't Erase The Imagery Of Eraserhead From Your Brain

David Lynch's debut effort as the director of a motion picture, Eraserhead, has your typical cookie-cutter plot, the kind we've all seen in dozens of Hollywood movies before. Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is living in some sort of hellscape where he toils away his hours by either working at the factory or catching some sleep in his tiny apartment. While visiting his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) and her family, he's hit with a bombshell revelation: Mary is pregnant. Like anyone whose presented the news of being a father-to-be, this news rocks Henry's world and he can barely comprehend the prospect of being a dad.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Is Here To Have Giddy Cosmic Fun And It's Impossible Not To Join In

For his newest motion picture, Thor has embraced the Skuxx life by taking on New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi to direct Thor: Ragnarok, an exciting directorial pick that pays off in dividends with one a movie that's just true blue fun through and through. Similar to how Waititi was able to wring humor out of merging realism with romantic-comedy tropes in his debut movie Eagle vs. Shark and smashing together the world of vampires with everyday normalcy in his 2015 comedy What We Do In The Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok offers the filmmaker the chance to juxtapose Marvel superheroes with loads of offbeat comedy that proves to be supremely entertaining.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ranking The Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies (Part Two) (In Laman's Terms)

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

Last week, I started up a two-part editorial piece wherein I'd rank the 16 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from worst to best. With the the first part, covering eight films in this franchise, out of the way, now it's time for the second half wherein I'll look at the eight best movies in the MCU. Without further ado, let's go forth into this voyage...

Thank You For Your Service Has Some Meaningful And Well-Realized Things To Say On Post-War Trauma

Soldiers face all kinds of struggles when they return home from war. Adjusting to the calmer intricacies of civilian life after being stuck in combat mode 24/7 is a primary one as are the lingering mental health problems many in wartime situations develop. These are the kind of issues the lead characters, a group of young soldiers returning home from a tour of duty in Iraq circa. 2007, of the Jason Hall-directed motion picture Thank You For Your Service. The soldier that serves as our protagonist of this project is Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), a staff sergeant who now has to come home to his wife, Saskia Schumann (Haley Bennett) a more tranquil family life that he internally struggles to adapt to.

Ash Goes Medieval On The Undead In The Most Fun Evil Dead Movie, Army of Darkness

If you thought Ash (Bruce Campbell) was done getting into demon-enhanced trouble, well, you don't know the guy very well because his adventures related to those nefarious Candarian Demons have only begun. Following directly from the ending of Evil Dead II, Ash has been time-warped to the Middle Ages where he's taken prisoner by a local kingdom and sentenced to death along with the ruler of a rival kingdom. How will they be killed? Why, by being fed to one of the Candarian Demons that the kingdom has trapped in a giant pit. Everyone else that's been tossed into this pit has been immediately killed but Ash uses his wits and his trusty chainsaw to kill the demon and earn the admiration of the local populace.