Sunday, September 30, 2018

Quiet Dread Informs The Gruesome Violence In Lizzie

All these years later, we still don't know what exactly happened with the murder of Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother. That was perhaps the most surprising thing I learned while doing research on this topic after watching Lizzie, a feature film take on a segment of the life of Lizzie Borden, these murders are still shrouded in so much mystery, with many suspecting that Borden is the one responsible for them. The interpretation of how these events went down in Lizzie seem to be taking an inspiration from theories posited by Ed McBain that Borden killed these two in retaliation for, among other cruelties, Borden's father discovering that she's engaging in a romantic relationship with the families female housemaid.

Night School Takes Moviegoers To Class As Smallfoot Gets Off To Average Start And Hellfest Burns Down

A new Kevin Hart comedy, Night School, premiered over the weekend and like much of Hart's comedies over the last nearly five years since Ride Along cemented him as a leading man (man, where does time go?), it fared well at the domestic box office with a $28 million opening weekend. That's 4% behind the opening weekend of Kevin Hart comedy Think Like A Man Too and 16% behind the opening weekend of fellow Hart comedy Get Hard, but was solid given the $29 million budget of the project and was ahead of every other opening weekend for a comedy this year, dethroning the $20.5 million opening weekend of Blockers for biggest opening weekend for a 2018 comedy. Also worth noting that this was the fourth movie in a row for director Malcolm D. Lee to open to over $20 million on opening weekend.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Even This James Bond Novice Was Floored By Casino Royale

Come 2006, it was time for James Bond to get an upgrade. The Pierce Brosnan era of the character had come to an end four years prior and MGM/EON were eager to address audience complaints that had emerged in response to the last Brosnan Bond movie, Die Another Day. Just like how the prior year's Batman Begins had approached Batman, this new take on James Bond, which would be called Casino Royale, was looking to go back to the very beginning of a cinema icons career and see what informed their personality. Also like Batman Begins, Casino Royale ended up being a big moneymaker that not only revitalized an aging franchise but also stands up as just a great film even when separated from the larger franchise it exists in.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Hold the Dark Is A Shallow And Tedious Journey Into The Cold Wilderness


I kept waiting and waiting for Hold the Dark to suddenly click into place for me, but that moment never came. Writer Macon Blair and director Jeremy Saulnier (the latter being the director behind one of 2016's best movies, Green Room) have delivered a feature that only gets more and more inert as it goes on as one gradually realizes that the slow-burn restrained atmosphere of the whole movie isn't going nowhere. Oh to go back to the start of the movie, when I still had hopes for this one realizing its potential. The beginning of Hold the Dark is easily the strongest part of the whole feature, as we're introduced to Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), an author who is contacted by Alaska resident Medora (Riley Keough) to help her find her son who was recently taken by wolves.

Good Will Hunting's Best Moments Come From How It Drums Up Pathos And Robin Williams

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are regular fixtures of American cinema now, but twenty-one years ago, they were lesser-known individuals who first leaped onto people's radars with the highly acclaimed Good Will Hunting, easily the most financially successful movie Gus Van Sant has ever had in his nearly thirty years of directing feature films. The two got to write and star in this project which ended up scoring them both a Best Original Screenplay Oscar when they were just in their mid-20's. That's all mighty impressive, but massive box office and major Oscar wins do not a great movie make (right A Beautiful Mind?), but thankfully, Good Will Hunting is still a fine motion picture even when separated from all those pieces of hype.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Assassination Nation Is An Imperfect But Admirably Ambitious Middle Finger To The Patriarchy

If nothing else, Assassination Nation has its finger very much on the pulse of all corners of internet culture and how it impacts people, particularly my generation. It was borderline strange to hear a major theatrically released motion picture actually reference internet slang like #NotAllMen or see teenage characters engage in conversations rife with meme references or have a story that recognizes how much bigotry can be found on social media websites like Twitter. Writer and director Sam Levinson has clearly decided to make an ambitious treatise on how internet culture can amplify already existing toxic societal behaviors towards women that's fascinating to watch but sometimes stumbles in execution.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Wife Is Aided By A Strong Glenn Close Performance But Dragged Down By Gratuitous Flashbacks

As the old saying goes "Behind every man is a good woman, well, I think that's a lie/cause when it comes to you I'd rather have you by my side". Wait, sorry, those are actually the lyrics to a Keith Urban song. Anywho, the ancient adage of a woman influencing a man's creative work certainly must have been on the minds of those creating the new drama The Wife. Based on a book by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife is all about a woman who plays a very big part in the creative process of her famous author husband. Just how extensive of a role she plays in this man's work and what kind of identity she's forged for herself during the course of their marriage are the primary concerns of this motion picture.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls Tick Tocks On The Clock, The Party Don't Stop With Its Great Opening Weekend As Three Other New Releases Bomb

The third weekend of September was led by a newcomer that got off to a strong start while the other three new wide releases did business ranging from underwhelming to outright dismal. Starting things off on a positive note was The House With A Clock In Its Walls, which kicked off its domestic box office run with $26.8 million, ahead of pre-release expectations and ahead of the opening weekends of comparable titles like the $23.8 million bow of Goosebumps and the $24.1 million debut of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. It was also only 8% behind the debut of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children despite Clock In Its Walls not having the Tim Burton brand name and cost less than half of that September 2016 feature. This $42 million budgeted project also had an opening comparable to the $28.4 million debut of Jack Black's Nacho Libre 12 years ago and had the biggest opening weekend ever for an Eli Roth directorial effort. All in all, this was a really good bow for The House With A Clock In Its Walls that puts it on track for a final domestic haul just under or over $80 million domestically.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

White Dog Is an Unflinching And Powerful Look At Racist Violent Behavior

Back in the early 1980's, Paramount Pictures financed a fully completed $7 million budgeted feature film that they proceeded to tuck on a shelf and not release. Such a bold move rarely ever occurs to major movies in Hollywood but then again, White Dog was not a typical motion picture. Hailing from writer/director Samuel Fuller, White Dog was a movie entirely focused on a dog who had been trained by a racist human being to specifically attack black people and such a premise had executives worried about reactions from all kinds of groups ranging from members of the NAACP to charters of the Klu Klux Klan. Thus, the studio behind Monster Trucks canceled its original 1982 theatrical release and the film would not see the light of day (save for a handful of TV airings) until 1991.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

White Boy Rick Is Frequently Scattered But Also Frequently Engaging

For better and for worse, there's a whole lot that the crime drama White Boy Rick wants to explore in depicting the life of non-fictional individual Richard Wershe Jr. A.K.A. White Boy Rick (played by newcomer Richie Merritt), a 15-year-old from Detroit, Michigan who was hired by the FBI and the local law enforcement to become a supplier for local drug dealers as a way of gaining information needed to bring these people into justice. Despite being a teenager, Wershe is basically just dragged into being an informant under the threat of his father of the same name (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey), who sells guns, if he doesn't cooperate. Wershe is basically trapped between a rock and a hard place and he decides to get out of it by agreeing to serve as an FBI informant.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Land of Steady Habits Thoughtfully Probes The Long-Term Consequences Of A Persons Actions

Watching Ben Mendelsohn get interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this past Thursday allowed me the chance to become even more impressed with Mendelsohn as an actor than I already was and I already was pretty impressed with him! Ben Mendelsohn exuded a self-deprecating yet quietly confident charm in his interactions with Kimmel, a sharp contrast to the scummy morally duplicitous characters he usually plays in films and television programs. The whole process of acting is about immersing oneself in a role drastically different from their own everyday persona but one can take for granted just how wide the gulf between a person's performance and their actual personality can be until you see the guy who helped create the Death Star being a total charmer on late night TV.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mandy Is The Best Kind of Cinematic Madness


I feel like Scrat from Ice Age would love Mandy because this movie is absolutely nuts. The newest directorial effort from filmmaker Panos Cosmatos, Mandy can be best summed up as being the demented spawn of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives and John Wick. Though it may echo two other recent features, and its editing and atmosphere certainly evoke past auteurs of dream-like motion pictures like David Lynch, make no mistake about it, Mandy is very much a one-of-a-kind creation that constantly had me either questioning what the hell I was even watching or cheering on the mayhem transpiring on-screen. It's two hours of the most excellent kind of madness, the kind that was tailor-made for Nicolas Cage's gifts as an actor.

Broadcast News Isn't Quite The Sum of Its Entertaining Parts

You ever finish watching a beloved movie for the first time and suddenly find yourself stuck with the feeling of recognizing you enjoyed it but also wished you had liked it more? I encountered such a sensation after finishing Broadcast News for the first time, a classic James L. Brooks romantic-comedy from 1987 that numerous people claim to be the apex of Brooks' entire career. It's certainly leagues ahead of his 2010 dud How Do You Know and a highly charming feature overall with some exceptional performances, but I walked away from Broadcast News feeling satisfied but not truly enamored with what I had just seen.

The Predator Finds Time To Bleed During Weak Opening Weekend As A Simple Favor Fares Decently And White Boy Rick Doesn't Bring In The Dough

In the wake of Deadpool becoming such a massive success and redefining what R-rated films could do at the box office, I'm sure 20th Century Fox was chomping at the bit to relaunch The Predator and see if they could get this iconic franchise to the box office heights reached with ease by the Merc With A Mouth. Such expectations were not met this weekend, not even close, as the $88 million budgeted The Predator scored only $24 million over its opening weekend, a 3% dip from the opening weekend of the far cheaper to produce Predators from 2010. That's also the worst ever opening weekend for a live-action movie opening in over 4,000 locations (The Predator was playing in 4,037 theaters this weekend) and the first in history a live-action movie opening in over 4,000 locations opened to less than $30 million.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Predator Is A Staggeringly And Tragically Inept Feature

The Predator is a movie that feels like it's been put through a meat grinder and then put through numerous cycles in a blender. Good luck keeping track of where characters are or why crucial plot points are even happening amidst the ramshackle editing that renders the whole movie choppy & frequently incoherent. The disastrous editing isn't all that goes wrong here though in this motion picture whose extremely low level of quality is tragic to see. You'd think pairing up Shane Black, the mind behind Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, with a new Predator movie (Black had previously appeared in the first Predator film in a support role) would be the easiest recipe ever for surefire entertainment, but The Predator is instead a total waste of potential that rarely feels like a Shane Black movie, and I'm not just saying that because it doesn't take place at Christmastime!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Predators Has Creativity To Spare But Struggles To Use Said Creativity Properly

Nearly twenty years after Predator 2, the Predator franchise came back to life (though these aliens had appeared in the two Alien vs. Predator movies) in 2010 under the eye of producer Robert Rodriguez for a movie whose tone couldn't have been farther away from the cornball nature of Predator 2 unless it had maybe been Cabaret But With Predators. Predators was intended to be a grim n' gritty tale that took the Predator series into outer space and followed a wholly new cast (though, like Predator 2, there's a brief verbal reference to the events of the very first Predator movie) of characters trying to survive being hunted by these extra-terrestrial creatures.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Fewer Songs, More Explosions": When American Animation Got Briefly Action-Packed (Part Two)

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!

Turns out, audiences were indeed looking for a reprieve from animated fairy tale musicals that had dominated the 1990's. But they weren't looking for such a reprieve from the likes of Titan A.E., no, they were looking towards a farting Scottish ogre to lampoon the type of stories that had made Disney Animation famous. The massive box office success of Shrek (at the time the second biggest animated movie of all-time, only behind The Lion King) had too many ripple effects on the film industry to count, but perhaps it's most noteworthy piece of influence was in how Shrek was suddenly the movie to imitate. Though Shrek didn't invent the idea that pop culture references and bathroom humor could inhabit animated family movies, it did make them required elements in any new animated films looking to score big box office bucks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Shane Black's Directorial Career Kicked Off In Amusing Style With Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Robert Downey Jr. has so cemented himself as a modern-day box office titan that it can be difficult to remember that, as Robert Downey Jr. himself would be the first to admit, there was a time in the 21st century where he could star in a movie that barely even got a theatrical release. Such was the case with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the directorial debut of prolific action movie writer Shane Black A.K.A. the guy who hires sex offenders on his film without alerting his cast & crew. This comedic noir got a tiny theatrical run in the Fall of 2005 (its highest theater count was a mere 226 locations) before it became an acclaimed cult classic and ended up helping Robert secure the Marvel superhero role that would totally transform his career.

Monday, September 10, 2018

I Cannot Forgive The Nun For Its Sins Against Good Horror Filmmaking

The only thing that's gonna really scare you while watching The Nun is realizing how little effort has been put into this shockingly empty film. Considering not just how good the prior entries in the Conjuring saga have been but also the level of quality and creativity seen in recent horror films like Hereditary and A Quiet Place, The Nun's shallow attempts at horror filmmaking feel all the more egregious. Probably the highest compliment I can offer to it is that it at least gives the immensely talented Demian Bichir his first opportunity to headline a high-profile American film. Oh, and it's also better than The Bye-Bye Man, I suppose that's a plus.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Predator 2 Is A Downgrade From Its Predecessor With Brief Bursts Of Delightful Goofiness

Each of the three Predator movies has been firmly set in the universe of the original Predator feature from 1986, but they've also all tried to go in their own different direction with brand new aesthetics and none of them retain characters from prior movies. That makes Predator an odd outlier in the world of Hollywood franchises that typically either constantly reboot things or cling onto mythology like there's no tomorrow. The film that established this as the go-to pattern for Predator sequels was 1990's Predator 2, which traded in Arnold Schwarzenegger for Danny Glover and moved the action from a remote jungle to the city of Los Angeles in the then-future year of 1997. 

The Nun Has Holy Opening Weekend As Peppermint Has Decent Bow And God Bless The Broken Road Isn't So Blessed

This weekend, audiences were high on loving you, you being the new Conjuring spin-off The Nun, which had the second biggest opening weekend ever for a September release. With a $53.5 million bow, that puts The Nun ahead of all past September opening weekends sans the gargantuan opening of It in this same weekend last year. It's also noticeably ahead of every other opening weekend in the Conjuring franchise, surpassing the franchises previous peak opening (the $41.8 million bow of the very first Conjuring movie) by 28%. Such impressive figures are what happen when you have the excellent marketing campaign The Nun had, which included a fantastic teaser trailer, and when you're the first major horror movie in two months. Audiences were hungry for something spooky and The Nun satisfied that demand big time.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Outstanding Sets And Visuals Are The Real Heroes of Dick Tracy

In the wake of 1989's Batman becoming such a massive box office success, Hollywood suddenly turned to film adaptations of comic books (though technically Dick Tracy was originally a comic strip) in hopes of replicating the box office success of that Tim Burton directed feature. One of the first post-Batman comic book movies was Dick Tracy, which had actually already been greenlit by Disney a year prior to Batman being released. Starring and directed by Warren Beatty, the project carried a $47 million budget and, despite becoming only the sixth film released by Disney at the time to score over $100 million domestically, ended up performing below Disney's box office expectations.

Before Sunrise Kicked Off A Sprawling Intimate Story Excellently

I believe I have to turn in my Film Critic Badge for saying this, but I saw Before Midnight in its summer 2013 theatrical run without having seen either of its two predecessors. I know, I'm a heathen for doing so, but even without knowledge of the prior films, I still loved Before Midnight, it was easily one of my favorite movies of 2013 and it got me hooked on Richard Linklater, one of my all-time favorite directors, as a filmmaker. Five years after watching Before Midnight, I felt it was high time to finally watch the two movies that preceded Linklater's 2013 gem, because I'm timely like that, a mission I would kick off with an inaugural viewing of the 1995 motion picture Before Sunrise.

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Look Back At The Summer 2018 Box Office (Part Two)

Summer 2018 has come and gone, yes, but the immense box office haul of Summer 2018 leaves a box office junkie like myself with plenty to talk about. With the top ten biggest movies of the summer out of the way, let's take a look at the rest of the summer's high's and low's and what lessons can be taken away from this summer's hits and misses.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Kin Is Part Laserblast, Part Good Time And All Mess

What exactly is Kin trying to be? Even after watching it all, I'm not really sure what directors Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker were going for in adapting their 2014 short film Bag Man into a feature-length motion picture. Kin as a movie is a jumbled mess that's trying to do a whole lot of stuff but mostly comes off as just an awkward hybrid of Laserblast and Good Time, two movies I'm pretty sure nobody would ever think to put together in any other context. Sometimes pairing up two widely disparate elements works like a charm and other times it just results in a mess and the latter end result is what's happened with Kin.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"Fewer Songs, More Explosions": When American Animation Got Briefly Action-Packed (Part One)

Let's go back to the 1990's.

It is a time of Mom jeans, grunge, and Bo Jackson. It is also a time when Disney animation is seeing an artistic renaissance, leading to the studio's movies dominating the box office around the world. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, the big hits just kept on coming and, inevitably, that meant imitators were bound to crop up. 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and newcomers DreamWorks were especially keen on mimicking the success of Disney with their own animated fairy tale musicals which meant, by the end of the 1990's, the American animation scene was almost entirely populated by movies about fantasy characters engaging in musical numbers. With worries about repetition in the air as well as the dwindling box office of even Disney animated features (to say nothing about the middling box office numbers put up by their competitors), something was bound to change in what kind of movies the various American animation studio made.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Look Back At The Summer 2018 Box Office (PART ONE)

Another Summer has come and gone folks, though if you're like me and live in Texas then the never-ending wave of 95+ degree weather outside will make you think it's still the middle of July! After a few years of underwhelming summertime box office, Summer 2018 delivered the goods with a number of overperforming blockbusters and sequels that improved on the domestic hauls of their predecessors. Best of all, it wasn't just the superhero movies that scored big bucks at the box office, smaller titles like a number of documentaries, Sundance darlings and a sensational romantic-comedy all also managed to score hefty box office sums.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Searching Is As Technologically Savvy As It Is Thrilling

As its marketing has made clear, Searching is a movie that takes place on a computer screen. This format of storytelling is introduced in a brilliant opening sequence that feels akin to that iconic Up opening where we see the married lives of Carl and Ellie go by in the span of a montage. Similarly, Searching opens with a montage that follows the life of 16-year-old Margot Kim (Michelle La) and her family, which also contains her parents David (John Cho) and Pamela (Sara Sohn), from her birth to the present day via various internet functions like home videos and social media posts performed on a computer outfitted with Windows 2001 software (oh God, just seeing the default Windows 2001 background took me back!).

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians Conquers Labor Day Frame As Searching Finds Success And Other New Releases Flounder

Note: All figures discussed in this article are for the three-day weekend.

Summer 2018 closed this weekend with a hustling and bustling Labor Day weekend that left us with a lot of movies to talk about, especially since this was the first Labor Day weekend in years to deliver multiple new wide releases! To start things off, there was box office sensation Crazy Rich Asians, which took in another $22.2 million, a tiny 10% dip from last weekend. This movies weekend-to-weekend dips are nothing short of phenomenal, they're like something out of the 1992 box office! Having grossed now $110.9 million after 19 days of release, it's anyone's guess just how high this one will end up at the domestic box office. At the very least, it's gonna get to $175 million domestically, no question.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Camerawork In The French Connection Is Outstanding, The Characters Less So

Praise must be given to The French Connection for its boldly bleak ending. This 1971 feature from director William Friedkin has a gangbuster conclusion that dares to allow key plot points to go unresolved, for good to not triumph over evil and for our lead character to be sucked into his own mental abyss.  It's a daring way to close out the proceedings and its mighty well-executed, however, such a capper does not remove all the shortcomings previously seen in The French Connection, which ends up being a movie that's more successful in terms of camerawork than it is at character work.