Wednesday, August 29, 2018

In Laman's Terms: How Harold And Maude And Ali: Fear Eats The Soul Find Beauty In The Hardships Of Love

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!

Harold and Maude and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul are not two movies you'd normally put together. Certainly, their tones are vastly different, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude relies heavily on over-the-top instances of dark humor frequently accompanied with Cat Stevens song whereas Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a feature all about quiet realism that uses silence to convey various moods. Neither approach is inherently better than the other, with each movies atmosphere working beautifully for the stories they want to tell. It is in these stories, which are admittedly heavily different from one another in many ways, that we find some similarities between these two 1970's classics.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Throwing It Back To The 30's Serves The Rocketeer Well

Nowadays, the prospect of Disney releasing a superhero movie inevitably means big box office thanks to them purchasing Marvel Comics in 2009, thus allowing the studio to release the various features in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But there was a time when Disney and live-action superhero films actually didn't get along so well in terms of box office glory, with their first foray into this domain, Condorman, being a big enough money-loser that it'd be an entire decade until Disney tried their hand at superhero fare again in an attempt to cash in on the massive success of 1989's Batman. This feature was called The Rocketeer and unfortunately for Disney, it would end up being another box office bust.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Terminal Is All Weirdness All The Time And The Results Are Yawn-Inducing

Watching a piece of art prance around under the assumption that it's as strange as can be while actually being incredibly mundane and even boring is such an uncomfortable experience. It's like the cinematic version of listening to a guy at a party ramble on and on about his conspiracy theories about the Illuminati like he's cracked the code on how the world works when he's just regurgitating the same o'l nutty codswallop people with tinfoil hats have been saying for years. So it is with Terminal, a motion picture that fancies itself as something like a provocative slice of abnormality but it's really just predictable more often than not and ends up being the last thing any of these type of movies want to be called: lame.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

One Of The Most Chilling Robin Williams Performances Is Showcased In The Unnerving Feature One Hour Photo

In the age of YouTube and Vevo (though aren't they both technically one and the same now?), music videos have seen a modern-day resurgence now that the modern-day music video typically takes cues from the best examples of the artform in decades past as famous artists star in short films that expand upon the themes found in the lyrics of a specific song. In this resurgence, director Mark Romanek, who helmed, has returned to helming music videos after a nearly decade-long absence after directing some of the most famous music videos of the 1990's and early 2000's. Romanek may be most famous for his music video work, but he's also dabbled in directing feature films and his 2002 motion picture One Hour Photo shows he also has skill in this arena of filmmaking as well.

Crazy Rich Asians Tops The Box Office Again With Phenomenal Second-Weekend Hold While Happytime Murders Gets Slayed

Crazy Rich Asians was already off to a great start last weekend, but its second-weekend performance indicates we're dealing with the king of word-of-mouth phenomenon that comes around so rarely at the domestic box office. This Jon M. Chu-directed title took in another $25 million this weekend, down just 6% from its opening weekend. That's the fifth smallest second-weekend decline in history for a movie opening in over 3,000 theaters that didn't also debut around Thanksgiving or Christmas! Crazy Rich Asians has now grossed $76.8 million after twelve days of release and it does not look like it's going to be slowing down any time soon, especially wth Labor Day weekend coming up next week.  The sky is currently the limit for just how high this one will end up at the domestic box office.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Alpha's Doggone Best Elements Are Also Its Most Original Tendencies

Stories about a boy and his dog (or some kind of other creature standing in for the dog) are a dime-a-dozen in the wide world of cinema, but Alpha looks to set itself apart from the pack by telling the story that explores the very first time man and canine bonded. Such a tale occurs during the ice age thousands of years ago as Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travels with various members of his tribe, including his father, chief Tau (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), to hunt buffalo. It's an important mission for a number of reasons, including the fact that Keda see's this as a potential rite of passage of sorts that can prove to his father that he has what it takes to be a proper chief.

Hey, A Movie! Hopefully One That's Better Than The Happytime Murders!

Taking children's entertainment icons The Muppets and filtering them through an R-rated perspective is the central conceit of The Happytime Murders, a new raunchy comedy from director Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson. If that sounds like a slightly familiar premise, it's because Happytime Murders is one in a surprisingly long line of projects that have tackled this idea. Most notably, Peter Jackson provided a gruesome peek behind the curtain of a Muppet Show pastiche in 1989's Meet The Feebles while Broadway musical Avenue Q sent up Sesame Street with its depressingly realistic take on how unfulfilling adulthood can be. Both of these projects, especially Avenue Q, were of a level of quality that Happytime Murders only wishes it could rise to.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Harold And Maude Uses Dark Comedy In Service Of A Soulful Exploration Of Its Lead Characters

In the vein of Bringing Up Baby and Citizen Kane, Harold and Maude was not well-liked upon its initial theatrical release. Critics and audiences alike were puzzled by this movie and it's easy to see why, this is certainly a strange movie, one with an unorthodox sense of humor that may not be for everyone. But just like those two aforementioned classics, Harold and Maude has managed to endure throughout the decades and hasn't just become an acclaimed classic but also a motion picture that holds a special place in the hearts of countless people. Count me in as one of those people because Hal Ashby's 1971 directorial effort is an outstanding piece of work with a macabre sense of humor and a thoughtful heart.

In Laman's Terms: Ranking The Muppet Movies From Worst To Best

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!

This weekend see's the release of The Happytime Murders, an R-rated take on the concept of puppet characters like The Muppets whose ads always make me wonder why its characters aren't singing about what the internet is really for. Before we see the newest take on doing a raunchy version of The Muppets, why don't we take a look back at The Muppets themselves by ranking their eight theatrical movies from worst to best. For clarification, this list only includes theatrically released Muppet movies, no TV movies like the dreadful The Muppets Wizard of Oz to be found here. With that little bit of clarification out of the way, let's play the music and light the lights and look at the assorted theatrically released Muppet movies that have been released over the past 40 years.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Journey To The Center of The Earth Is Utterly Disposable Save For Its Historical Context Among Modern-Day 3D Cinema

You know how certain spectacle-driven movies take forever to get to the spectacle, usually because the entire overlong first act is devoted to solely boring dialogue? Journey To The Center of The Earth does not have that issue, no sir. From the moment it begins, it feels somebody's pressed the fast-forward button and will not let go as we rapidly go through what's going on in the life of Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser). Turns out the campus he works at is about to go under thanks to a smarmy character played by Seth Meyers (wow is it a shock seeing him acting in a movie) and he's stuck with taking care of his nephew, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), whose dad, Max, vanished on a scientific expedition years ago.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul Is An Impressively Powerful Portrait Of A Romance Attacked By Prejudice

And so my complete unfamiliarity with the works of iconic West German writer/director Rainer Werner Fassbinder ended this past week with my first-time viewing of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, a feature film that became the de facto answer whenever I inquired to my friends about which of Fassbinder's movies I should watch first. Having now watched it, it's no surprise this was seen by so many in such high regard to the point that it was widely felt that this absolutely had to be my entry point into Fassbinder's work as a filmmaker! Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is an excellent romantic drama that provides a captivating humanizing portrait of two romantically entangled outsiders in West Germany.

Crazy Rich Asians Has Crazy Good Opening Weekend As Mile 22 And Alpha Have Underwhelming Debuts

The mid-August box office was busier than usual thanks to the arrival of buzzy newcomer Crazy Rich Asians, which debuted to a fantastic $25 million this weekend. That's the 23rd best opening weekend ever for a romantic-comedy and the fact that the film held so well throughout the weekend indicates Crazy Rich Asians is working with some strong word-of-mouth. Being a movie based on a best-selling book like Crazy Rich Asians was never hurts, but Warner Bros. put together a great marketing campaign for this movie that emphasized it being a super fun time at the movies while it being the first American feature film to star an Asian-American character in 25 years gave it an event movie status.  Having made $34 million in its first five days of release, look for Crazy Rich Asians to make a run at $100 million domestically before its box office run is done.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Just Try Not To Be Beaming Throughout Happy-Go-Lucky


Happy-Go-Lucky feels like an interesting precursor to the pair of Paddington films that its leading lady, Sally Hawkins, would go on to appear in, in that both the Paddington films and Happy-Go-Lucky are British features centered on protagonists who are upbeat and kind to everyone in the far harsher world around them. Hawkins, unlike in the Paddington movies, get to be that chipper lead character in Happy-Go-Lucky, which is entirely focused on a schoolteacher named Poppy and if you've seen Hawkins in any movie besides Godzilla (where she was bizarrely relegated to an almost dialogue-free part as Ken Watanabe's generic assistant), you know she's got more than enough talent to pull off such a role with finesse.

A Fascinating Script And A Detached Driver Are All Locke Needs To Be Transfixing

One of Tom Hardy's most prominent trait as an actor up to this point has been his tendency to do these highly exaggerated voices for some of his characters, such as his heavy Southern drawl in The Revenant, that deep frequently incoherent Venom voice or his iconic Bane voice. Many actors use different voices across different performances but what makes Hardy special is that he goes all-in on some really unique and odd vocal choices. Sure, numerous actors do both American and British accents in their careers, but how many have decided that a Bugs Bunny impression was just what the doctor ordered for a portrayal of Al Capone?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Thoughtful Romantic-Comedy Crazy Rich Asians Is Entertaining As Heck

There's a scene a little over halfway into Crazy Rich Asians that seems like a great barometer for determining if this movie will be in your wheelhouse or not. The film's protagonist, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), is about to go to a splashy wedding and needs to get the proper outfit for the occasion. With her former college roommate Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and her boyfriend's cousin Oliver (Nico Santos) in tow, she proceeds to try on a variety of different dresses while her two companions offer critiques on her choices as a cover of Material Girl blasts in the background. Yep, this is a Clothes Shopping Montage, a staple of romantic-comedies that's been lampooned in all sorts of tv shows like Family Guy or 30 Rock over the years.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Meg Is A Shark Tale With Too Many Boring Humans And Not Enough Shark Carnage

There's a big o'l shark in the water in The Meg and not just any shark, oh no. This is a megalodon, a gigantic type of shark with a powerful bite that was thought to be extinct for millions of years. Now a surviving megalodon has been discovered at previously uncharted depths of the ocean by a Chinese research facility and it's attacking a stranded vessel containing three still alive scientists. Who could possibly go so deep into the ocean and save them from this massive shark? Jason Statham of course! Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a diver who has spent years in hiding in Thailand after a mission went sideways thanks to this very same megalodon. He's got a score to settle and rescuing this trio of scientists might just be the way to do that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

In Laman's Terms: What Exactly Is Studio 8?

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!

It takes a lot to get a movie studio going. Trying to get an annual pipeline of movies going on its own is a daunting prospect, let alone making those individual films successful. To boot, once you get this brand new studio going, keeping it alive for a prolonged period of time is incredibly rare. Even when just looking at attempts to do so in the past two decades, numerous attempts to create a new major player in the American film industry have fizzled out despite ample amounts of talent involved. Remember Relativity Media, once a co-financier of countless movies in Hollywood that tried to become a self-distributing movie studio and ended up going down in all kinds of legal trouble? As chronicled in Nicole Laporte's excellent book The Men Who Would Be King (the book that first got me so captivated by movie studio drama), DreamWorks SKG started out its life with sprawling ambitions to be a rival to Disney only to end up, starting in the Fall 2016, as a division of Universal Pictures.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Predator Uses Sharp Writing To Make It Such An Absorbing Feature

Predator and Alien have been intertwined for decades now, with a handful of Alien vs. Predator comics released through 1989 and 1990 introducing the concept to the world and the appearance of a Xenomorph skull in Predator 2 solidifying this connection forevermore. Interestingly though, there's something pretty important that connects these two science-fiction franchises beyond just them sharing two cross-over movies together. Both Alien and Predator kicked off their individual sagas with small-scale adventures that heavily kept the titular alien organisms off-screen for much of the runtime. This decision led to Alien being one of the all-time best horror movies while it led to Predator being a smarter than expected action film.

Great Performances And Amazing Writing Abound In The Excellent All About Eve

Just like last month's excellent Boots Riley directed feature Sorry To Bother You, the 1950 motion picture All About Eve is all about the price one pays when ascending the ladder of American success, with both examining how disenfranchised members of American society tend to have to sacrifice their own individual personalities in order to fit a narrow definition of what constitutes "successful" as defined by powerful white men. For All About Eve specifically, screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz, adapting a short story by Mary Orr, examines this phenomenon by looking at how all sorts of gender-related double standards for fame impact a trio of women, one of whom is the titular Eve, an acclaimed actor getting a prestigious award as the movie begins.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Bo Burnham Makes A Strong Directorial Debut With The Harrowingly Awkward Eighth Grade

Imagine going back in time five years ago and telling someone "By 2018, one-half of Key & Peele, the lead vocalist of The Coup and Bo Burnham will all have directed acclaimed indie movies." It would sound beyond nuts, but then again, so are the majority of things in 2018 America, at least this is a more pleasant variety of nuts. Yes, Bo Burnham has made a smooth transition from music-heavy stand-up comedy over into directing motion pictures with Eighth Grade, which is the rare motion picture to dare to center a story around those legendarily bad years in one's life when you're trapped in the tail end of your Middle School career.

Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman Is A Triumphant Examination Of Past & Present Racism

Far too many American movies dealing with racism in America's past do so, usually with a Caucasian white savior protagonist in tow, with the purpose of reassuring white moviegoers that "Everything is fine now, look how much better things are now compared to the past!" Horrors of the past and the lives of the disenfranchised who had to endure the brunt of such horrors are reduced to being simply a way to reassure privileged members of present-day society that everything related to race in the modern world is cool, everything is fine. That's certainly not the case with Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, which is all about using a story about a black cop infiltrating a KKK charter to explore how racist horrors of the past still heavily influence a modern-day world where bigotry runs rampant.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Audiences Go Out To Sea The Meg In Surprisingly High Numbers As BlacKkKlansman Gets Off To A Strong Start

Ten years after The Rocker flopped, Rainn Wilson finally got to star in a box office smash hit.

Prior to this weekend, I was convinced The Meg would be a big-budget dud and would struggle to clear $20 million. After all, Jason Statham had only starred in one movie (Spy) that managed to clear $20 million domestically on opening weekend without the aid of the Expendables or Fast & Furious brand name, the book it was based on wasn't hugely well-known, no live-action shark movie had opened to over $20 million domestically, the odds were stacked against this one. But The Meg proved me wrong by chomping on a great $44.5 million this weekend, about double people's expectations for its opening weekend. Seems like The Meg is going through what fellow Warner Bros. tentpole The Legend of Tarzan went through two years ago in that it's a big-budget movie that was widely expected to flop before notably surpassing expectations (The Meg cost significantly less than that Tarzan movie too).

Friday, August 10, 2018

Like Father Is A Sappy Extended Advertisement For Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Watching a movie that can't seem to quite figure out what it is is a fascinating experience. Every movie, from Mad Max: Fury Road to A Bulldog Christmas, is such a massive undertaking requiring the help of countless human beings that it feels tragic to watch all that effort be put into the service of a movie like Like Father that's so confused about its own identity. Is this supposed to be a light-hearted comedy about a father and a daughter reuniting after many years apart? Is this supposed to be a darker drama examining the struggles of the two interacting with one another for the first time in decades? Or is Like Father simple hawking the services you can find on a Royal Caribbean cruise line? Perhaps it is all of them in addition to being underwhelming as all heck.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies And Score Some Hyperactive Laughs

There isn't a frame of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies that isn't marked by manic energy, the whole thing is just rambunctious as all heck, it's the cinematic manifestation of a six-year-old who just gobbled up all the sugary treats they could stomach. If that sounds like a grating experience that would leave you more tired than entertained, somehow, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies manages to upend expectations and make such high levels of hyperactivity actually pretty humorous. Kids movies that want to be just about all the laughs are a dime-a-dozen, but unlike, say the recent Illumination Entertainment efforts, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is one such kids movie that's actually (*GASP*) funny enough to justify it concentrating solely on the yuks.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot Is Erratic And Messy But Also Frequently Affecting

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, the newest motion picture from director Gus Van Sant, looks to separate itself from conventional biopic dramas in a number of ways, most notably in its adoption of a non-linear form of storytelling to tell the tale of John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix), a man dealing with alcoholism who loses the ability to walk after a horrific car accident. We flash forward and backward throughout Callahan's adult life as the feature covers numerous events in the man's adult life, most notably him adapting to the process of regularly attending an AA group led by Donnie Green (Jonah Hill) as well as Callahan discovering his talent for drawing humorous though frequently controversial cartoons.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Blindspotting Is A Beautifully-Realized And Richly-Detailed Achievement

Collin Hoskins (Daveed Diggs) is, like any human being, complex and full of layers, but to society at large, he's a felon first and foremost, he's always having to work overtime to prove his humanity to people that don't even know him. As he muddles through the last three days of his probation, during which he must adhere to strict rules including an 11:00 PM curfew he struggles with managing to re-establish his own identity beyond just being a guy who spent time in jail. This becomes especially challenging since the story of the fight that led to his felony charge in the first place has become something of a local legend and being a black man in Oakland, California means local police officers tend to think of you as only a criminal.

Extinction Is Dreadful Science-Fiction Fare That Puts Dumb Twists Before Everything Else (SPOILERS)


I assume Extinction is the result of two people having very different ideas for science-fiction thrillers, with one idea being about a guy who sees's visions of an impending disaster and the other concerning a family trying to survive an alien attack. So taken away with both of these ideas, the two people decided to merge them into one movie without figuring out first if the two separate ideas would actually work together properly as a singular property. Turns out, mushing these two concepts into one movie, along with shoving in a nonsensical climax overstuffed with big twists, results in a total dud of a movie, one that just gets worse the longer it drags on.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Three Identical Strangers Is Full of Twists And Humanity

We all know the phrase "Truth is stranger than fiction", it's one that's been used to death in describing real-life events that are so strange you can't believe they didn't just happen in a fictional piece of media. That turn of phrase feels especially appropriate in describing Three Identical Strangers, a new documentary from director Tim Wardle that covers the true story of three men, David Kellman, Bobby Shafran and Eddy Galland, realizing as young adults that they are, in fact, identical triplets separated at birth. These three men had no clue they had any blood-related siblings and now this incredible discovery has turned their whole worlds upside down just as they become the subject of widespread fascination by the American public.

Christopher Robin Is Effectively Morose And Heartfelt

Between my life-long love for Winnie The Pooh, my adoration for Ewan McGregor as an actor and me constantly being drawn to melancholy pieces of art, on paper it appears Christopher Robin was made exactly for my sensibilities. There's a world of difference between what's on paper and how those concepts are handled in an actual film, Lord knows there's loads of pop culture that, conceptually, should have been right up my alley that ended up just falling flat due to lackluster execution. Thankfully, Christopher Robin, directed by Machine Gun Preacher helmer Marc Forster and based on a story by Alex Ross Perry, has been executed in a thoughtful manner with a deftly wistful touch that serves the story it wishes to tell quite well.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August 2018 Box Office Kicks Off With Another Mission: Impossible - Fallout Victory And A So-So Christopher Robin Bow

As the eighth month of 2018 got underway, Mission: Impossible- Fallout continued to rule the box office with an impressive 42% second-weekend decline, giving it a $35 million second-weekend drop. Considering most summer blockbusters lose somewhere between 50 and 60% in their second weekends, this kind of drop is incredible for Fallout, especially since it's better than the 48% second-weekend drop of the last Mission: Impossible movie, Rogue Nation. With $124.4 million in ten days and zero big blockbuster movies opening between now and Labor Day weekend, the future looks bright for Fallout and it should have no trouble becoming the biggest Mission: Impossible adventure of all-time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Breach Starts Out Rough Before Finding A More Comfortable Suspenseful Groove

Eventually, the 2007 thriller Breach gets pretty darn good, but you gotta wade through a pretty weak first act to get there. But once it actually gets into a groove that writer/director Billy Ray (the guy behind last years better than expected military drama Thank You For Your Service) seems more comfortable with, Breach finally becomes something more akin to (though not as wholly successful as) the suspenseful political thrillers of the 1970's it's clearly mimicking. Like that subgenre of American cinema, Breach is based on a true story of corrupt American politics, specifically the saga of Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), an intellegence officer at the FBI that is being secretly spied on by Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe).

In Laman's Terms: There Is No One Way To Love Movies

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!

Despite watching and writing about movies for a living, there are so many widely beloved movies that I haven't seen. Yep, there are films the guy who saw The Only Living Boy In New York in its theatrical run hasn't seen, tons of them in fact! Midnight Cowboy, The Sound of Music, All About Eve, that's just to name a few American classics I haven't seen and lemme tell you, when I told a couple of people in my age range recently that I had never seen The Sandlot, their eyes just about bugged out of their head, they couldn't believe it! Hell, I had never even heard of prolific West German filmmaker Ranier Werner Fassbinder until this past weekend (he sounds like such a fascinating fellow!)