Sunday, April 29, 2018

You Were Never Really Here Will Haunt You With Its Incredible Filmmaking (SPOILERS)


The Philadelphia Story Is A Total Delight, Especially In Its Excellent Ending

I'm officially head over heels for Katharine Hepburn as an actor. There's so much to love about Hepburn as a performer, but perhaps best of all about her is her assured nature. Whether she's depicting her character in a sorrowful mood or making it clear that her character feels radiant, Hepburn conveys a self-possessed quality in her performances that's truly thrilling to watch. Getting to watch her excel in a screwball comedy like Bringing Up Baby was already such a treat and her work in The Philadelphia Story is similarly top-notch stuff. Her work here is truly exceptional on its own merits while watching her rub shoulders with the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant adds another layer of delightfulness to the proceedings.

Hail, Caesar! Fanboys Come Out In Droves For New Josh Brolin Movie That Scores Biggest Opening Weekend Of All-Time

The Avengers assembled for the third time this weekend and just like in their first outing, they managed to break some opening weekend box office records with Infinity War. Grossing $250 million over the weekend, Infinity War eked ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to nab the biggest domestic opening weekend of all-time. Interestingly, things get even more impressive for Infinity War once Thursday night grosses are taken out of the equation; Infinity War grossed $39 million on Friday so it technically grossed $211 million over the weekend proper. That's still the biggest Friday-to-Sunday gross in history, beating out the $193.3 million Friday-to-Sunday haul of Jurassic World (yes, Jurassic World had a narrowly bigger Friday-to-Sunday cume than The Force Awakens) for such an honor and making it the first time in history a movie has grossed over $200 million from Friday-to-Sunday.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Come Sunday Isn't An Enlightening As It Could Have Been

Going against the norm is always a risk in typical societies and that's especially true when one is trying to buck traditional theological norms. As a practicing Christian in Texas, I can tell you first hand that religious communities can be heavily wary, at best, to the prospect of new practices that upend traditional customs. Even recognizing how daunting the process is, it can be important for us as individuals to challenge the status quo, something preacher Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the main character of the new Joshua Marston directed drama Come Sunday, is very much reminded of after he causes quite the stir in declaring that Hell does not exist in one of his Sunday morning sermons.

Blockers Mixes Vulgarity And Sweetness To Remarkably Successful Results

Blockers is many things and one of those things is being the umpteenth piece of proof that movie trailers can be incredibly misleading. The trailers and marketing for Blockers never registered as outright bad to me but they did make the movie look like a run-of-the-mill comedy with nothing all that special to offer. So color me shocked and delighted that Blockers as a film isn't just better than it's trailers, it's a terrific motion picture full stop! This film, which serves as the directorial debut for Kay Cannon, is a riot when it comes to providing a steady stream of memorable laughs, but best of all it's got a touching heart as big as John Cena's muscles.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War Goes Big, Very Big, To Highly Enjoyable Success

Note: No spoilers are detailed in this review, but a barebones outline for the first third-ish of the plot is contained within. Due to the overwhelming secrecy surrounding this film, this may be considered spoiler territory for some so caution is advised if that's the case for you.

Avengers: Infinity War is a lot to take in. I don't mean that in a hyperbolic sense, I mean, objectively, this is a whole heck of a lot of cinema to process. Numerous storylines spanning everywhere from Scotland to the deepest far reaches of Space crop up with various corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting explored, each with their distinct tones intact. Holding everything together as connective tissue is the constant presence of the villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin), but this is still an expansive story in scope. In handling such a vast story, Avengers: Infinity War comes up short compared to other recent MCU movies (it's no Black Panther, that's for sure) but it manages to juggle all these plates in the air remarkably well. The fact that a movie with this much on its agenda manages to be far more exhilarating than exhausting does feel like a total victory.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Super Troopers Isn't Highly Exceptional But It Has Its Share of Solid Laughs

So now that Super Troopers 2 didn't work out, let's go back in time and look at how exactly the first Super Troopers holds up. Despite being a widely beloved comedy, I had not seen this debut motion picture from the Broken Lizard comedy troop until this past Friday. Having now seen it, I'm afraid I can't count myself as one of the devotees of this specific movie, but more happily, I also cannot count myself as one who has disdain for this original Super Troopers. This original Super Troopers is a decently humorous movie with some memorable gags even if it can't quite sustain itself for its 100-minute runtime.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington Can Be Overly Heavy-Handed But It Can Also Be Quite Stirring

In the nearly 80 years since Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was released, the landscape of American politics has drastically been overhauled, to the point that the overall political stances of the countries two primary political parties, the Republicans the Democrats, have now got completely opposite political aspirations compared to where they were in 1939. But one thing was true then as it is today, the general public does not like politicians, they seem them as crude, conniving and not to be trusted. Some things never change and the core ideas of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, namely standing firm to your morals in the face of corruption, still very much ring true to this day.

In Laman's Terms: Why Do We Love Superheroes?

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!

Like many superhero obsessed adults, my love for superheroes was instilled at a young age. But unlike many superhero obsessed adults, the source of my love for superheroes came from an unexpected place. Whereas the source of one's adoration of captured crusaders may conventionally be a specific comic book or movie, mine came from a 2002 children's book entitled I Am Spider-Man. This book was my first ever, and for a long time only, exposure to both Spider-Man and superheroes in general. It was a simple tome, outlining the origin story for how Peter Parker became Spider-Man and what he does on a regular basis as a neighborhood-friendly wall-crawler. The book itself was a formative one for me, but two pages, in particular, in this book stuck out to me then and still lingers in my mind today.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Like Anchorman 2 And Zoolander 2 Before It, Super Troopers 2 Is An Unfunny Retread of A Superior Comedy

Toss Super Troopers 2 onto the tragically large pile of long-in-the-works comedy sequels that failed to bring the laughs, following in the footsteps of Anchorman 2, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Zoolander 2. An extended length of time between installments didn't help that trio of comedy sequels and it certainly hasn't helped the lackluster Super Troopers 2. The majority of the film consists of either references to its predecessor's most memorable gags or just a handful of new unfunny jokes constantly being rehashed. Oh, and lots of screaming, there's an incessant amount of shouting in this movie that ended up making me feel like an old man asking his next-door neighbors to turn their dadgum loud music down.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Quiet Place Not-So-Quietly Returns To The Number One Spot At The Box Office While I Feel Pretty Does OK And Super Troopers 2 Gets Much Higher Than Expected

A Quiet Place made some more noise at the box office this past weekend as it grossed another $22 million in its third weekend of release, a big enough haul to make it the number one movie in America for the second time in its domestic run. With $132.3 million in 17 days of release, A Quiet Place has done absolutely phenomenally at the domestic box office and should end its phenomenal domestic run with at least $170 million, making it one of the biggest horror movies in history. In second place this weekend was fellow holdover Rampage, which dropped a great 41% this frame to gross another $21 million. The fact that this one went up a whopping 93% from Friday to Saturday cements the fact that this one is playing more like a family movie than a typical PG-13 blockbuster. In ten days of domestic release, Rampage has grossed $66.6 million and if it can avoid being totally decimated by Avengers: Infinity War next weekend, it should end up becoming only the third video game movie in history to cross $100 million domestically.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

We Need To Talk About How Harrowing And Excellent Lynne Ramsay's We Need To Talk About Kevin Is

How does one go in in the face of tragedy? When our conventional world is so shattered by unexpected events, it seems impossible to just keep on going with our normal lives. Tragedy has a way of just sticking around in our lives and there's no surefire way to cope with that. Over the years, we've had a large number of movies covering the process of trying to going on with our lives in the wake of tragedy, some of them rising to the level of greatness in their level of overall quality (for instance, Manchester By The Sea is one of the most realistic portraits of this process). But hands down, one of the best films covering this specific experience is Lynne Ramsey's 2011 motion picture We Need To Talk About Kevin. 

La Pointe Courte Was A Subtly Ambitious And High-Quality Inaugural Directorial Effort For Agnes Varda

While many films detailing a couple going through turmoil in their relationship may depict such upheaval in grandiose ways, like things being flung across the room or large speeches, acclaimed director Agnes Varda went in a different direction. For her very first time directing a feature film, Varda filmed a portrait of quiet romantic agony, one where two people engage in intimate conversations that have them forced to confront where their relationship now stands. The Honeymoon is over, as they say, and it's time for the two lead characters of La Pointe Courte to figure out where exactly they go from here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Summer 2018 Box Office Predictions (Part Two)

An image from Won't You Be My Neighbor
Now that we've looked at my predictions for the ten biggest movies of Summer 2018, it's time to look at all of the other wide releases of Summer 2018 and what kind of box office I currently think they'll drum up. As in years past, these remaining wide release titles will be split into three categories: Likely Hits, a categorization that should be self-explanatory, Wild Cards, films that could easily become either hits or flops, and Potential Box Office Misfires, films that currently seem like they'll miss the mark at the domestic box office.

Whose ready to dive into a whole bunch of movies? Let's get right into it, shall we?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Isle of Dogs Is A Very Very Good Boy And Deserves A Belly Rub

One of the many pieces of connective tissue between the assorted directorial efforts of Wes Anderson is the element of families, Wes Anderson loves to explore complex, typically fractured, family dynamics. Whether it's the two brothers who lead Bottle Rocket, the expansive Tenenbaum clan or Mr. Fox and his kin, Anderson is fascinated by the storytelling possibilities offered up by complicated families. It's a recurring narrative pattern of his that has served him well in the past, but he's been eschewing it in his most recent works, first in The Grand Budapest Hotel and again in his newest feature Isle of Dogs. Both of these movies are superb works that indicate Anderson works just fine as a filmmaker without the aid of family dynamics in the stories he tells.

Remember That 1994 Movie Adaptation of The Flintstones? Probably Not And There's A Good Reason For That

The fifth biggest movie of 1994 was The Flinstones, a live-action adaptation of the animated TV show of the same name. Only four movies (Forrest Gump, The Lion King, True Lies and The Santa Clause) managed to make more cash than this Brian Levant directed project, yet today, The Flintstones has basically faded away from the pop culture landscape. Some of that can be attributed to how its cartoon source material has not been as heavily utilized as a source for merchandise and direct-to-video follow-up's as fellow Hanna-Barbera toons Scooby-Doo or Tom & Jerry, but it can also be chalked up to the fact that The Flintstones is just thoroughly forgettable fare.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Summer 2018 Box Office Predictions (Part One)

Here we are again folks. For the fourth year in a row, your o'l pal Douglas Laman is looking to size up every single wide release scheduled for the forthcoming summer and evaluate their box office prospects. The time has come for the Summer 2018 Box Office Predictions. We've got a lot of particularly big sequels this summer, with Avengers, Star Wars, Incredibles and Jurassic Park all debuting new installments that should generate heaps of dough, but we've also got a bunch of oddball releases (most of which we'll discuss in part two of this piece) looking to make a dent in the summertime marketplace. Like in years past, this summer box office prediction column will be split into two parts, the first of which covers my predictions for the top ten biggest movies of the summer, while the second details my thoughts on all the other forthcoming movies currently scheduled for wide release between April 27th and Labor Day weekend.

OK folks, I've got my thoughts ready to jot down and AC/DC's Moneytalks blaring as I type this, let's get going.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Rampage Is Totally Bananas And More Often Than Not, That's A Good Thing

Yes, as you've heard ad nauseum at this point, Rampage is indeed the best video game movie of all-time. That's akin to saying something is the best post-1991 Terminator sequel in that the bar of quality to clear is so low it's comical, but yes, Rampage is indeed the new champion among video game movies. Unfortunately, it doesn't achieve this distinction by proving that video game movies can be great cinema like Spider-Man did for comic book movies back in 2002, but it does manage to be far better than the rest of its brethren by simply being goofy fun and good Lord is this movie ever goofy, sometimes to an utterly bizarre degree.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rampage Goes Mildly Wild At Top of The Box Office While A Quiet Place And Truth or Dare Drum Up Scary Good Business

April 2018 continued to be a bustling place at the box office as the newest Dwayne Johnson blockbuster managed to secure the number one spot. That blockbuster was Rampage, which grossed $34.5 million over the weekend, about 38% below the opening weekend of San Andreas, the movie it was most clearly aping (no pun intended) in its marketing and the cast & crew assembled to bring it to life. Though that's on par with pre-release tracking, when you've got a movie costing $120 million, you want it to open to at least $40 or so million, though the fact that Rampage secured the third biggest opening weekend ever for a video game movie is a testament to Dwayne Johnson's appeal to audiences in family-friendly fare. Families came out in droves for this title, explaining why it held so well over the weekend. If Rampage holds like past April blockbusters that opened two weeks before a big Marvel movie like The Huntsman: Winter's War or Oblivion, it'll end it's domestic run with about $80 million. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

6 Balloons Carries The Viewer Away With A Stark Look At Addiction

Comedic actors crossing over to the world of dramatic acting is a process that typically yields quite successful and frequently fascinating results. The likes of Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Adam Sandler have all managed in the past to show off their chops as actors without even attempting to make jokes. Typically these performances occur years into a comedic actors career, but Abbi Jacobson and Dave Franco have both have decided to buck tradition and wade into such waters early on in their careers (hell, this is only the fourth live-action film appearance from Abbi Jacobson) by headlining the drama 6 Balloons, a bold move that results in a pair of memorably bleak performances.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Zany Premise Goes To Waste In The Aimless Feature The Polka King

The Polka King is one of many movies that comes off as being heavily confused about what it wants to be. Basing itself off a true story that sounds too ludicrous to actually be true, it never seems 110% certain how it wants to handle telling this tale. Is it a ludicrous farce with a heavy emphasis on comedy? Is it a complex examination of the man who called himself The Polka King? Is it a full-on sympathy piece of that same man? What is The Polka King trying to do? I saw the whole movie several days ago and I still don't know, the whole project just feels so confused about what it's trying to do that it ends up doing not much of anything.

First Match Engagingly Wrestles With A Fractured Father/Daughter Relationship

The world of wrestling hasn't been anywhere near as prominent in cinema as it's sports cousin boxing, but it's still a common sight to see in pieces of cinema. Olivia Newman leaps to the world of feature films by helming the recent Netflix feature First Match, the newest entry in the wrestling movie subgenre. For her first time behind the camera on a feature film, she expands on a 2010 short film also entitled First Match and tells the tale of a troubled High Schooler named Monique (Elvire Emanuelle) whose constantly shifting between different foster families to live with and getting into trouble at school on a similarly regular basis.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Death of Stalin Finds Humor In Real-Life Horrors

"How can you run and plot at the same time?"

After eight years, writer/director Armando Iannucci has returned to the world of feature films (he's been busy the last few years working on the highly acclaimed HBO TV show Veep) with The Death of Stalin. Like his 2009 film In The Loop, The Death of Stalin is a dark farce comedy depicting people in positions of noteworthy political power acting scummy in the name of personal gain. Instead of coming off as merely reheated leftovers of In The Loop though, The Death of Stalin takes this basic concept and clearly charts its own terrain. This is a film with its own distinct personality to its name, one that aids greatly in making The Death of Stalin as highly humorous as it is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Glimpse of Potential In Chappaquiddick Fail To Be Fully Realized

It's borderline impressive that someone made a politically tinged piece of media like Chappaquiddick in the year of 2018 and have it say so little, even inadvertently. I'm not saying this because this new John Curran directed movie doesn't reinforce my already held political beliefs, rather, because it struck me as strange how this movie could spend so much time on a real-life event like the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick disaster and not come away with something to say, even just in an esoteric sense instead of commentating on specific modern issues. Chappaquiddick as a film isn't bad, at it's worst moments it's just "meh", but it's lack of substantive themes do speak to the more paint-by-numbers nature of the production that ends up leaving it feeling more underwhelming than engaging.

The Royal Tenenbaums Makes A Melancholy Interior With An Eccentric Exterior

As said in my review of Rushmore, there's a fascinating undercurrent of melancholy to the works of Wes Anderson that sharply contrasts with the quirky visual aesthetic found throughout his work. Externally, Anderson's stories occupy realms populated by whimsical architecture and stylized characters, but such elements are typically in the service of stories very much in touch with reality. The themes of Anderson's works tap into universal human experiences just as potently as his visuals dazzle the eyes. His 2001 effort, The Royal Tenenbaums, is one of his most overtly despondent projects in tone as it explores the Tenenbaum family and the various problems its individual members are grappling with.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, A Quiet Place Is Exquisitely Realized Horror Fare

There's plenty about A Quiet Place worth pondering but one of the aspects of this film that I really can't stop thinking about is how much it feels like a deviation from John Krasinski's career up to this point. Nothing in his past acting or directorial credits indicate he had any interest in the horror genre (heck, Krasinski has been open in interviews about not growing up as an ardent fan of horror movies), up to this point Krasinski has been known as Jim Halpert from The Office first and also as comedic actor who starred or appeared in light-hearted feature-length dramedies. But here is, directing, writing and acting in an intense horror film with nary a joke in sight, an audacious move worth applauding on its own.

A Quiet Place Makes Some Noise At The Box Office While Blockers Has Strong Debut And Chappaquiddick Has So-So Bow

The April 2018 box office kicked off in a glorious fashion as two new titles and holdovers alike all found box office success. Of course, top of the class was A Quiet Place, which led the box office with a mighty $50 million. Nearly tripling it's $17 million budget in just three days, this project had one of the biggest opening weekends in history for a horror film and is the biggest opening weekend for Paramount Pictures in nearly two years since Star Trek Beyond and it's $59.2 million bow. It's also already the fourth biggest movie ever for John Krasinski (discounting films he either cameoed in or did voicework for) while it's the biggest opening weekend ever for Emily Blunt.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Political Farce In The Loop Doesn't Feel All Too Divorced From Reality

When you do topical comedy, there's always the chance that it may become dated years down the line and end up reading as incoherent to viewers years later. From 2009 specifically, I'm sure there are numerous sketches related to "balloon boy" and Jon And Kate Plus Eight that read like gibberish to 2018 viewers, hell, I'm still trying to figure out why we were all so obsessed with Jon And Kate Plus Eight! But then there's In The Loop, a political comedy from 2009 that was a critique of the war-driven politics of the 2000's but registers as plenty humorous in the modern age because it doesn't just rely on elements ripped from 2009 newspaper headlines. Peter Capaldi swearing profusely will always be funny, it's as timeless as anything in this universe!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Rushmore Is A Phenomenal Examination of A Teenager Coming To Terms With Reality

Allow me to cut to the chase here and say, upfront and outright, that I absolutely loved Rushmore. This is a movie that just captured my attention from the moment it began and even long after its credits stopped rolling it's still occupying a space in my mind. The reasons for this are numerous, but before I detail those reasons, allow me to establish what exactly this motion picture is about. Rushmore begins by introducing our lead character, fifteen-year-old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), in a math class where the teacher has put up a math problem that nobody he's ever known has been able to solve for extra credit. Putting down the newspaper he's reading in class, Fischer goes up to the board to solve it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

High School Musical 2 Hits Too Many Sour Notes To Live Up To It's Potential

It was always gonna be difficult to pull off a High School Musical sequel. The whole point of the first movie was that it embraced corny storytelling so heavily that it might as well have swept up that type of storytelling in a big old bear hug. Adhering to this sort of storytelling means you've wrapped up all the characters stories in tidy little bows at the end so that the viewer believes they go on to live happily ever after. How exactly do you create further adventures for Troy Bolton and his fellow wildcats then, especially when you have further issues like trying to create a premise that still feels like it's a High School Musical production without just coming off as a weak retread of its predecessor?

His Girl Friday Is A Charming Screwball Comedy Up Until Its Crummy Ending

Though there are a large amount of comedy sequels out there, especially in the modern-day cinematic landscape, for much of history, when a comedy has ended up being successful, Hollywood's de riguer was to simply assemble the leading actor of that comedy and possibly also it's direct and have them pair off again for another separate adventure that was similar in tone and style to what had come before it. Thus, Howard Hawks & Cary Grant re-teamed for another screwball comedy called His Girl Friday in 1940 after their 1938 effort Bringing Up Baby, which didn't perform as well at the box office as producers wanted but it had definitely proved that Hawks & Grant were a combo that worked well together.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

There Be Gold Them Thar Movies Like The Treasure of The Sierra Madre

On its surface, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre would seem to have an overly simple theme driving its story, specifically the idea that greed can change a man for the worse. But in executing this idea within this specific story with this group of actors, writers, directors and assorted crew members, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre instead ends up being something quite exceptional and thoughtful. Just as there be gold in that there mountains, there's also depth to be excavated from this storyline that reveals itself to have greater complexity stemming from a gradually occuring character arc for its protagonist that's fascinating to watch unfold. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Real-Life Murders Are Used As A Starting Point For The Assassination of Gianni Versace To Explore The Humanity of The Downtrodden

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace AHEAD

Making a follow-up to anything that garners a high level of acclaim is a daunting prospect, especially when the project you're following up is the first season of American Crime Story, The People v. O.J. Simpson. A recreation of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, this was a ten-episode long season that took a trial everyone across the planet knew about and made it feel fresh & new, especially when it explored elements like the pressure put on Marcia Clark during the trial and examining the systemic racism against African-Americans that was affecting the proceedings. Thoughtful, compelling, packed with tremendous performances, this was top-notch television. The only problem for the creators of the show was figuring out where they could go in a subsequent season of American Crime Story that wouldn't feel like a letdown in quality to the average viewer.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Moviegoers Level Up For Ready Player One Over Easter Weekend While Acrimony Has Decent Bow And God's Not Dead Is DOA At The Box Office

After eight months of marketing (which kicked off at the San Diego Comic-Con last July), Ready Player One bowed this weekend and managed to secure some solid box office numbers. Early tracking made it look like Ready Player One may be headed for financial trouble, but the Steven Spielberg directed film managed to beat out it's tracking and secure the biggest opening weekend for a 2018 film that isn't titled Black Panther. Grossing $41.3 million over this three-day weekend, that gives Ready Player One the fifth biggest opening weekend ever for a Steven Spielberg directed motion picture. This action blockbuster has managed to gross $53.3 million since it opened on Thursday.