Tag Archives: tv reviews

THIRD BLOODY TIME’S THE CHARM!

6 Mar

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1. Logan/Fox                                       Wknd/$ 85.3    Total/$ 85.3
2. Get Out/Universal                         Wknd/$ 26.1    Total/$ 76.0
3. The Shack/LG                                Wknd/$ 16.1     Total/$ 16.1
4. The LEGO Batman Movie/WB   Wknd/$ 11.7     Total/$ 148.6
5. Before I Fall/ORF                          Wknd/$ 4.9      Total/$ 4.9
6. John Wick: Chapter Two/LG      Wknd/$ 4.7      Total/$ 82.9
7. Hidden Figures/Fox                      Wknd/$ 3.8      Total/$ 158.8
8. The Great Wall/Universal           Wknd/$ 3.5       Total/$ 41.3
9. Fifty Shades Darker/Universal   Wknd/$ 3.5       Total/$ 109.9
10. La La Land/LG                             Wknd/$ 3.0      Total/$ 145.7

A BLOODY GOOD FINISH
Logan opens at number one and third time’s the charm apparently. In their third outing they finally made a good solo Wolverine movie. No, it’s not the best superhero movie ever made (that still belongs to Iron Man for me) and it’s not even the best X-Men film (that still belongs to X2 for me), but it’s pretty damn good. Wisely dumping pretty much every goddamn thing about the Old Man Logan story from the comics (imagine if Wolverine were made only for angry, sexless, 15-year-old boys and you’ll have an idea of how bad that nonetheless successful series was) they’ve finally learned to follow the Marvel/Disney example and not make a “superhero” movie, but just a movie and plop a superhero into it. Iron Man, Thor and Doctor Strange were all the same movie about the narcissist who discovers the world around him aka, the best movies Tom Cruise and Richard Gere ever made. Captain America is a WWII movie and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a 70’s spy movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is every movie about a ragtag group of misfits coming together. And Logan is a road movie about two people at the end their days a meager shadow of their former selves who find themselves called to get it together one more time for the sake of a younger person. You’ve seen it a dozen times before only this time you see it with superpowers. Professor X is now a danger to all those around him because his mental powers have been short-circuited by ALS and Alzheimer’s. Wolverine no longer heals the way he use to and is slowly dying for reasons that seem mysterious, but are obvious when you think about it. Into their laps falls a little girl with all Wolverine’s powers and abilities and hot on her heels is an evil corporation (redundant) willing to kill anyone and everyone to get her back. I feel bad for Hugh Jackman in that only in his last outing as Wolverine does he get the film his commitment deserves (he stayed in Wolverine shape for a year waiting for director Darren Aronofsky to get his shit together for what would have been the second Wolverine movie). He’s never been bad in the role, but didn’t always get the material to support him, least of all the god-awful The Wolverine, which ironically had the same creative team. What’s the difference? Deadpool. Deadpool proved you could make the R-rated film Wolverine deserved and make a dollar. I mean, it’s about a guy with razor sharp claws who is prone to homicidal rages. How can you do this honestly without blood and body parts on the ground? You can’t and the comics never shied away from it and in fact his learning not slaughter people was part of the character’s evolution, but what you can do in an all-ages comics oddly becomes an R-rated movie. Blood and darkness isn’t the reason why Logan is good but let’s not kid ourselves in that this will be the only takeaways for future superhero movies, so get ready for a lot of awful superhero crap filled with boobs, blood and cursing.

HOW ABOUT I JUST STAY OUT?
Get Out is down to number two and sorry, I don’t care how universally great the reviews are, I. Will. Never. See. This. I got anxiety just watching the trailer. I don’t do the scary to begin with, so do you really think I’m going to do the scary in a way that relates to me directly!?! The fucker is even a photographer in New York. Oh, hell no! But I’ll glad for everyone involved. Sorry I can’t help.

JESUS-Y IS TOO A WORD!
The Shack is opens at number three and this is some kind of Jesus-y thing and while I understand Sam Worthington has no choice but to be in shit like this—having been replaced as the Charisma-Free-Australian in movies by Jai Courtney—it’s sad Octavia Spencer found herself in this post-Oscar, pre-Hidden Figures.

NOW WHEN I SAY “I LOVE DICK” WHAT I MEAN IS…
The Lego Batman Movie is down to number four and the mixed blessing for this has come down in director Chris McKay doing a Nightwing movie. For those of you with actual lives and social skills, Nightwing is the identity Dick Grayson adopts after growing up and leaving Batman behind. There’s even a joking reference to it in this movie. It’s good because it’s Chris McKay who is a talented director. It’s bad because DC Comics and Warner Brothers have yet to make a superhero movie that doesn’t suck salty sweaty balls (Chris Nolan made his Batman movies before the official DC/WB unit was created to oversee these films) and the small blessing of no Dick Grayson or Robin in these movies is that they can’t fuck up Dick Grayson or Robin in these movies. It seems that time is over. Sigh.

BY THE WAY: YOU’RE OLD!
Before I Fall opens at number five and this is the latest Young Adult Novel Science Fiction/Fantasy adaptation. This time a teenager has to deal with the “stuck in a repeating day” situation endured by everyone from Bill Murray in Groundhog Day to David Duchovny on the X-Files. The only notable thing about it for an “old” like me is that it stars Zoey Deutch aka daughter of Lea Thompson aka Michael J. Fox’s mom in Back To The Future and also one of the stars of Some Kind of Wonderful (which was directed by dad, Howard Deutch). Like her mom in the latter film she plays a girl who’s a member of the beautiful people clique and there’s even a jerk boyfriend and shy guy who crushes on her. Some sf/fantasy elements would have helped Some Kind of Wonderful, honestly.

TESTING THE KINSEY SCALE WITH EVERY APPEARANCE
John Wick Chapter Two is down to number six and also in this is Ruby Rose who may or may not be playing a dude. The character is mute and no gender is specified, which lends to my theory that she’s here to make everyone question their sexuality. If you’re a straight dude or gay woman you’re wondering why you’re attracted to this boy. If you’re a straight woman or gay dude you’re wondering why you’re attracted to this girl. She’s fucking with all of us! And this is her second action movie this year. She was a sniper in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. So it’s one step back and one step forward in ’17 for her.

A GOOD INTENTION THAT DOESN’T HELP PAVE THE ROAD TO HELL
Hidden Figures is down to number seven and I finally did my duty as a Black person and saw it! It’s good, not great. Very much a high production TV movie, because in the end all the bigoted White people come around to respect and admire the hard-working capable Black people. And the director even admitted it was to give the White audience something. Now it will go on forever, required viewing for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month in classrooms all over the country.

YUAN GON’ GET NO MONEY FROM THIS
The Great Wall is down to number eight and honestly I have no issue with the idea of an outsider coming in to help with a fight so long as he isn’t the “savior” of the people who’ve been fighting it all this time. At least not without good reason, you know like some advanced technology or strategy, but the Chinese invented fucking gunpowder and The Art of War so what the fuck could Matt Damon really do for them!?! And this isn’t the first big budget movie that throws Western actors (aka White actors) into a period piece in an attempt to get both Chinese and American audiences. Nicholas Cage has been in one (no surprise) and so has John Cusack (and his had Jackie Chan in it)! This is their first attempt with an A-list star, but it fared no better. File under “Great Mistakes Made In The Naked Pursuit of International Money.”

HIS PERSONAL HELL CONTINUES
Fifty Shades Darker is down to number nine and this doubled its budget domestically and made 6x worldwide, so if you think they’re not going to finish out the trilogy, keep dreaming, Jamie Dornan.

THE NOT WINNER OF BEST PICTURE
Finally, La La Land closes out the Top Ten at number ten so it can continue onto home video and maybe, just maybe I’ll catch it on cable one day. And have you noticed the way to succeed in Hollywood is not to be in a successful comic book movie franchise, but in a disappointing one? Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were in the Spider-Man reboot and now she’s got an Oscar while he got a nomination. Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller were in the Fantastic Four reboot and were also in critically praised Oscar-nominated movies. Meanwhile, The Chrises Hemsworth and Evans keep trying big and small for respect and come up empty. If it makes you feel better, boys, you’re taller and prettier than they are. Including Emma Stone.

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FORMER BOY WONDER PHOTO

ANOTHER BLOODY SEQUEL

10 Jan

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1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story/Disney         Wknd/$ 22.0   Total/$ 477.3
2. Hidden Figures/Fox                                         Wknd/$ 21. 8   Total/$ 24.8
3. Sing/Universal                                                   Wknd/$ 19.6   Total/$ 213.4
4. Underworld: Blood Wars/SGem                    Wknd/$ 13.1    Total/$ 13.1
5. La La Land/LG                                                   Wknd/$ 10.0   Total/$ 51.7
6. Passengers/Sony                                                Wknd/$ 8.8     Total/$ 80.9
7. Why Him/Fox                                                     Wknd/$ 6.5     Total/$ 48.6
8. Moana/Disney                                                   Wknd/$ 6.4      Total/$ 225.4
9. Fences/Paramount                                            Wknd/$ 4.7      Total/$ 40.7
10. Assassin’s Creed/Fox                                      Wknd/$ 3.8      Total/$ 49.5

THE SAD TRUTH IS NOSTALGIA PAYS…AND PAYS WELL
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story holds at number one and I’m sorry, but I cannot drink the Kool Aid on this one. It ain’t all that. It’s taking for granted your affection for this universe and so not bothering to build actual characters for you to know or care about. And on top of that throwing in useless fan shout-outs that briefly stop the momentum of a film desperately lacking it. As you know this is the story of how the plans to The Death Star came to be in the hands of Princess Leia. It’s through the use of a kinda of “Magnificent Seven in Space” which was honestly done better in Battle Beyond The Stars. What you don’t know is that it also feels the need to answer unasked questions like “Who was Red Five before Luke Skywalker?” And don’t get me started on the computer-reanimated corpse of Peter Cushing in the form of a total CGI Grand Moff Tarkin. Hella creepy and distracting. I’ve got no problem with the initial concept of the film, but it suffers from one of the same flaws as the horrible prequels: the need to set up everything that follows rather than simply tell its own story. How disappointing is it? Think of the two most inconsequential characters from Star Wars and know they show up here in a “funny” cameo.

FAILURE OF THE BLACK MAN PT 1
Hidden Figures is up to number two and this completes the hat trick of critically acclaimed film with Black actors as leads that I’ve failed to see while somehow finding time to see shit like Christmas Office Party. The other two are Moonlight and Loving. But I still say I’m going to see them. I am. Stop laughing.

PLUS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY SUCKY NEW SONGS
Sing is down to number three and on one hand this looks like a lot of fun. On the other it’s almost two fucking hours long and this is simply not a two-hour concept. The songs do not need to be played to completion to get the joke and I have the funny feeling that’s exactly the mistake they’ve made here. But I’m sure on cable it will be nothing but fun.

HOT CHICK + ACCENT + GUNS = MY MONEY
Underworld: Blood Wars opens at number four and yes, this I found time for. Sorry, but it’s been a 14-year commitment for me. Well, that and the neverending delight of Kate Beckinsale in skintight rubber. When we last left her the nocturnal family (vampire, half-vampire-half-werewolf and their daughter) had been reunited despite the lack of Scott Speedman. If you think CGI Tarkin was distracting at least he looked like Peter Cushing. The budget of Underworld simply couldn’t handle recreating Speedman and did some sad shit to a poor actor thinking maybe porn would have been less humiliating. Also, Kate Beckinsale’s character been in suspended animation for 15 years and in that time had not given birth to to the afforementioned daughter but humans had learned of both vampires and werewolves and were trying to wipe them all out. As it turned out werewolves were behind all that getting their revenge on almost being wiped out by vampires in the previous films. Well, all that’s gone. No, seriously. They don’t mention anything about the change in the status quo or how werewolves infiltrated the mainstream. All that remains is Kate Beckinsale’s half-vampire-quarter werewolf daughter and the fact the vampires are now on the ropes. But that’s not the problem. The problem is big, emotional moments in the film that tie characters back to the first Underworld and threaten to provide actual character development are rushed through. Imagine if Darth Vader had reveal himself to be Luke’s father and there wasn’t even a beat of drama then he followed it up with “And Leia is your sister.” And even that was followed up by something else as if they had to get it all in before the movie ended. This movie is only 91 minutes so easily could have spared the characters another eight or nine minutes so they could react to things and at least feign giving their characters depth. Being almost two hours long didn’t hurt the first film and why it still remains the best is due to the wide variety of individual characters who are in fact given those little “beats.” There’s the potential for that here as we are introduced at least five new characters who seem interesting, but again, none are really given the time to be fleshed out. We never even learn the bad guy’s plan, which is kind of important because he actually says he’s trying to end the war between vampires and werewolves. And he’s got a vampire lover trying to help him for the same reason. That’s kind of an important plot point given Kate Beckinsale repeatedly expresses how she’s tired of the killing. Finally, at $35M you don’t have the loot for elaborate CGI, so again look to the original and see how many of the werewolf effects were practical, not computer animated. Being the 4th best out of a five movie series is not exactly impressive (in order of best to worst they are Underworld, Underworld Rise of the Lycans, Underworld Evolution, Underworld Blood Wars and Underworld Awakening).

CAN’T GET FROM UNDER THAT “BURDEN” CAN YOU?
LaLa Land is down to number five and I have zero desire to see this, but it’s an Awards favorite now so I guess I have to. Sorry, but they lost me at “White Guy Who Will Be The Savior of Jazz” character and nothing I’ve read about it is really changing my mind.

SUBMITTED FOR YOUR APPROVAL SOMETHING THAT’S BETTER IN SHORTER FORM
Passengers is down to number six and this is yet another Outer Limits/Twilight Zone episode that escaped into theaters. Chris Pratt is an engineer on a spaceship that puts passengers into suspended animation for its 120-year travel time. Unfortunately a meteor storm damages the ship and wakes him up and he cannot go back, so after a year of isolation he wakes up 20-something hottie, Jennifer Lawrence. I like Chris Pratt, but his acting skills aren’t really up to par showing a man who basically goes nuts from loneliness and dooms another person rather than be alone. Jennifer Lawrence can’t do anything with it either and she’s someone whose performance reflects the quality of her material. The biggest problem is the script won’t commit to its dark premise. They want Chris Pratt to stay a likable sane guy but a likable sane guy wouldn’t do what he does, so he has to either be an asshole or nuts and they won’t allow him either. And don’t get me started on the cop-out ending… The Twilight Zone wouldn’t have wussed out like that.

I MEAN…LOOK AT HIM!
Why Him is down to number seven and one of biggest problems in Hollywood is how long they try to hold onto a “younger” male actor. James Franco is not the young male lead any longer. He’s pushing 40 and this role is clearly supposed to be someone in their 20’s. Notice they didn’t cast his love interest older. Nope. She’s actually in her 20’s while he’s “playing” that role. And it looks like ass to boot.

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!
Moana is down to number eight and Disney needs to stop pushing the ballad for Oscar consideration. The best song is “You’re Welcome.” Not to mention, if nominated it means we’ll see Dwayne Johnson singing it at the Oscars (with help from writer Lin Manuel Miranda). Now who doesn’t want that!?!

FAILURE OF THE BLACK MAN PT 2
Fences is down to nine and my Guilt Trilogy has become a Guilt Quadrilogy because I haven’t seen this fucking thing either. Sigh. I’m failing at being Black in 2017…clearly holding over from 2016.

SAVED FROM MYSELF
Finally, Assassins Creed closes out the top ten at number ten and if I had the time I so would have saw this. I’m sad.

ALSO VISIT:

FORMER BOY WONDER PHOTOGRAPHY

LIKE MOST THINGS IT’S HARDER THAN IT LOOKS…ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU SUCK

12 Dec

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Dwayne Johnson (L) and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda perform onstage at The World Premiere of Disney’s "MOANA" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, November 14, 2016 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

1. Moana/Disney                                         Wknd/$ 55.5    Total/$ 81.1
2. Office Christmas Party/Paramount    Wknd/$ 17.5    Total/$ 17.5
3. Fantastic Beasts & Where…/WB         Wknd/$ 10.8   Total/$ 199.3
4. Arrival/Paramount                                 Wknd/$ 5.6     Total/$ 81.5
5. Doctor Strange/Disney                          Wknd/$ 4.6     Total/$ 222.4
6. Allied/Paramount                                  Wknd/$ 4.0      Total/$ 35.6
7. Nocturnal Animals/Focus                     Wknd/$ 3.2     Total/$ 6.2
8. Manchester By the Sea/RAtt                Wknd/$ 3.2     Total/$ 8.3
9. Trolls/Fox                                                 Wknd/$ 3.1     Total/$ 145.5
10. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF                           Wknd/$ 2.3      Total/$ 60.2

BETTER TO SERVE IN FAMILY FILM HEAVEN THAN RULE IN ACTION MOVIE HELL
Moana holds the top spot and as the voice of the supporting character is Dwayne Johnson as the demi god Maui. This is perfect for him. Dwayne Johnson and Hugh Jackman have both had spectacularly spotty careers for tall, handsome, charismatic men. One out of every five films is a success and if you’re Jackman the letter “X” is probably in the title. The difference being Johnson finally realized he was better as part of a team than a lead, thus he joined GI Joe and The Fast & The Furious it’s been easy street ever since. Even in comedies, he’s working with someone else and here he’s supporting the title character and honestly doesn’t show up until almost of a third of the way through. The result is that this basically the best movie he’s ever made. And it’s also not out of the question that his character’s “theme song” just might put him on the Oscar stage for Best Song. Hell, I bought the damn thing and I hate, hate, hate musical animated movies. I know what the damn story is. You don’t have to sing it to me!

UNCOOKED COMEDY STEW
Office Christmas Party opens at number two and one sign of people who are good at what they do is that they make it seem easy. So easy it seems like anyone can do it. Athletes, musicians, porn stars…they do what we’d all like to do and make it seem like it’s not work at all. Well, it is and some of the people who do work that looks easy are the creators of the various raunchy “R-rated” slob comedies, who can trace their origins back to Mel Brooks and Animal House in the 70’s and have been reborn over the last decade or so with the comedies of Judd Apatow and the stable of actors he uses. It definitely seems easy. Take some lovable losers, let them curse, do things we’d all love to do without fear of repercussion, defeat nasty uptight assholes and show some boobs along the way. What we forget is for every one of these that succeeds there are half a dozen other that fail creatively and financially. Office Christmas Part is one such failure of the former. It has all the elements of a perfect raunchy movie: an office of kooky characters headed by the biggest character of them all is about to be shut down by his uptight bitter sister unless they land a big account and they decide to do so by throwing a big office party that gets totally out of control. Add to this a cast of talented comedic actors some of whom have had success in the recent R-comedies (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Anniston, TJ Miller, Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry, Jillian Bell and Randall Park) and this should have been an easy win. But it doesn’t gel. Even moments that should have been funny fail because there’s no energy or heat to the proceedings and that failure starts at the basic level: the writing. No less than six of the most untalented comedy writers working were part of this. Sorry, but the guy who wrote Pixels, Just Go With It and This Means War shouldn’t be allow to do anything but serve you fries. I know they thought one of the guys who wrote The Hangover would help, but that anti-talented asshat also cranked out the mediocrity that was Bad Moms, 21 & Over and The Change Up (a few of those R-rated failures we mentioned earlier). Did you think one of the writers for Sacha Baron Cohen would help? Why!?! Add to this one newbie writer and another whose biggest credit is was an episode of the odious Trophy Wife TV show and why this fails is abundantly clear, but hey let’s top it off with two directors who brought you Blades of Glory and The Switch. One failure and one moderate success (which can be credited to Will Ferrell more than anything). And the real, cruelest irony is that it’s not bad because it’s not interesting enough to be bad. When they run this on TV it can pretty much go uncut except for brief nudity and a little cursing. That’s how bland it is. Such a waste of both talent and a concept.

IT HELPS REDMAYNE ISN’T A DRUNK
Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them is down to number three and how do you think Colin Farrell felt about seeing Eddie Redmayne every day? Once Farrell was the new hot young thing destined for greatness and now he’s the bad guy in a big CGI franchise movie that stars a hot young thing, who not only fulfilled his promise but did so almost immediately. I’m thinking it either stung a little or he’s achieved a level of zen about it all and it just happy to be able to still get a paycheck in a big CGI franchise.

YOU KNOW THERE ARE OTHER MINORITIES IN THE MILITARY TOO
Arrival is down to number six and also in this is Forrest Whittaker who you may remember has an Oscar. Nonetheless I think he’s here only because they couldn’t get either Samuel L. Jackson or Lawrence Fishburne as Black Guy of Significant Rank To Show We’re Not Racist because no way was a person of color going to be the lead.

THE NEW FACIAL HAIR STAR
Doctor Strange is down to number five and is now the 9th highest grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beating out both Thors (big surprise) Ant-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the First Captain America Movie. In other words almost everything that didn’t have Robert Downey Jr in it. Read into that what you will, but if you’re Benedict Cumberbatch’s agent you’re very happy right now.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS
Allied is down to number six followed by Nocturnal Animals at seven and I’m interested in both these grown up, totally adult films which have gotten decent reviews, but yet I saw the universally Office Christmas Party instead. I’m part of the problem. But so are you.

I KNOW ME. I MAY NEVER SEE IT.
Oscar bait Manchester by the Sea enters the top ten at number eight and I tell myself I’ll see this but again, I saw Office Christmas Party this weekend. Heavy sigh.

IT GOES WITH THE JUST DESSERTS
Trolls is down to number nine and know it’s killing these people that their film with is based a firm piece of pop culture, had superstar Justin Timberlake doing not just the voice but wrote a hit song for it and still didn’t do as well as The Secret Life of Pets whose main voice was Louis CK. Seriously, it literally hasn’t made half as much and has made in six weeks what Moana made in three. I drink their confusion and disappointment like the sweetest wine.

JUST DON’T LET US SEE YOU
Finally, Hacksaw Ridge closes out the top ten at number ten and this was not the disappointment you may think it is. It only cost $40M and has made $60M domestically. Not a home run, but not a strike out either and if it gets any Oscar nods (probably for sound design like war movies usually do) Mel Gibson’s career as a director will continue (though his acting career will remain as dead as Dickens).

ONE OF THOSE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECIES
I know it’s late for TV, but I’ve really been enjoying No Tomorrow, which will probably be cancelled tomorrow, thus living up to its name. Truth be told I don’t know how this got the greenlight to begin with. A romantic comedy about a woman who plays it safe who meets a guy who thinks the world will end in 8 months and so is trying to live life as much as possible and gets her out of her shell to start living the same way is a movie, not an open ended series. After all, the world won’t end in 8 months and how long can you put that off? After that you just have to accept he’s nuts. But for now it’s light and fun and they do develop the supporting cast which helps make it interesting. They don’t stay in one place, which is almost unheard of for TV as the Slutty Best Friend has to always be the Slutty Best Friend but here she gets her own subplot, which allows her to develop. And they have shown consequences for his lifestyle. Since he thinks the world will end he spends money like, well, there’s no tomorrow, but the bill is coming due today and a few episodes in he loses his home and most of his possessions. Again, that’s development you don’t expect in such a lighthearted premise and honestly cannot stretch out for five years. But I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts because like the beliefs of its male lead, it doesn’t have a future.

REVIVAL OF 1776 IN THREE, TWO, ONE…
So I got me some culture of a different sort thanks to my musical theater-loving cousin who occasionally comes into the city on business (she’s an attorney for the Justice Department) and always tries to catch a show. Well, she couldn’t make it this time and so sent me her ticket to none other than Hamilton. No, I’m not kidding. Sorry I this hurts you, but fortune tends to smile on lowly creatures. Now, I never would have seen this on my own. Ever. I simply do not care for musical theater. In fact, if Gene Kelly isn’t dancing you can actually keep musicals, period. The closet I’ve come was a date with a woman who was a sound engineer for the documentary about the making of the show. So when she cleared me to sell it if I couldn’t make it that was my thought first and foremost. Get the money, dolla-dolla bills y’all. But as we all know guilt rules my life so if I sold it had to be for an extravagant amount so when I told my cousin she’d understand. This is how it wound up on Stub Hub for $1200. Now, if that seems a lot, know that it was a) mezzanine center and front and b) seats around it were going for $1500 so I was actually undercutting the competition. But by 7:30 the night of the show no one had bought it and since it was a physical ticket that needed to be picked up it was clear no one would, so I begrudgingly let the dreams of serious Christmas shopping with that extra loot fade away (they were such nice boots…). Fortunately it was very good. I mean, I don’t know musical theater so I’ve got little to compare it to. I saw Wicked (again because of her), which was also a huge Broadway show but don’t remember much about it and only remember one song from it, while Hamilton held my attention for the 2+ hours it ran and I’ve honestly been listening to the soundtrack ever since. My favorite song is “The Schuyler Sisters” but a close second is everything from the King of England, which is done delightfully in Brit-pop style in contrast to the R&B feel of the rest of it. As you may know it’s famous for incorporating rap and hip-hop into this story of one of America’s founding fathers (created our initial financial system, the Coast Guard, The New York Post and is on the $10 bill), but when all is said and done it’s still 50% straight-up Broadway “I’m gonna sing you the plot and my character” which normally I hate. It makes sense that the same person who wrote the song from Moana that I love wrote and starred in this as well: Lin-Manuel Miranda. Now, I didn’t see him. He’s long gone from the show as are a lot of the original stars. In fact, I saw the understudy to the guy who’s taken over the lead, but again, I’ve nothing to compare it to so I thought they were all great. In fact, in listening to the original cast soundtrack I prefer the Understudy-to-the-Replacement because he has a better voice. He had to. He got the role by earning it whereas Lin-Manuel was the star because he wrote it and didn’t have to compete for it. The show is taken from a modern warts-and-all bio of Alexander Hamilton and watching it I was reminded I was actually a bit obsessed with that type of history and that time in American history for awhile in high school thanks to Gore Vidal who wrote the historical novel Burr, about the man who kills Hamilton in a duel (though it can be argued what killed most men of duels in that time was infection from the wound) and is a major part of the show. Vidal is notoriously iconoclastic and I loved his work. The show is similar as it doesn’t shy away from Hamilton’s flaws, most notably his voracious need to climb in society due to his humble beginnings, but decides to keep its lead somewhat sympathetic in omitting one of the rumored reasons for the duel that ended him: Hamilton was telling people Burr had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Yeah, you deserve to get shot for that shit. I was also all about Thomas Jefferson who was the perfect founding father to me as writer of The Declaration of Independence, the bill establishing religious freedom, executed the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the country, created the University of Virginia and died on the muthafucking 4th of July. Of course my continued reading killed this hero worship, starting with his inability to oppose slavery and hammered home by his slave-mistress/sister-in-law Sally Hemmings. Yes, she was the daughter of his father-in-law making her technically his wife’s sister and his sister-in-law. He also raped her regularly enough to bear him some kids (it’s rape because a slave cannot give consent). Also, the land he bought from France really wasn’t theirs to sell and contributed to the genocide of the its Native America populace. Nonetheless, when he makes his appearance in the show as a significant character, I was delighted and loved every little aside about his accomplishments (there’s even a Sally Hemmings mention). Hero worship dies hard it seems. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to be frequenting any more Broadway shows, but for something I got utterly for free and making no effort it was a pretty good time. And it was needed because good art has a way of inspiring you and improving your view of the world. After seeing this I was optimistic about the future no matter how what the news tells me. After all, do you really think this is the first time we’ve had racists running the country who’d sell us all out for a dollar and wipe their asses with The Constitution? Hardly and we made it through. Then I saw Office Christmas Party and left convinced of our doom and I still haven’t shaken it. So the lesson here is good art will help you make it through, like a good-hearted negro friend in the movie of your life. But don’t pay hundreds of dollars for it. That’s just stupid.

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LIKE MOESHA, BUT WITH “ANA”

27 Nov

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1. Moana/Disney                                                             Wknd/$ 55.5   Total/$ 81.1
2. Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them/WB     Wknd/$ 45.1   Total/$ 156.2
3. Doctor Strange/Disney                                              Wknd/$ 13.4   Total/$ 205.1
4. Allied/Paramount                                                      Wknd/$ 13.0   Total/$ 18.0
6. Trolls/Fox                                                                     Wknd/$ 10.3  Total/$ 135.1
5. Arrival/Paramount                                                     Wknd/$ 11.3   Total/$ 62.4
7. Almost Christmas/Universal                                    Wknd/$ 7.6     Total/$ 36.7
8. Bad Santa 2/BG                                                          Wknd/$ 6.1      Total/$ 6.1
9. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF                                                  Wknd/$ 5.5     Total/$ 52.2
10. The Edge of Seventeen/STX                                   Wknd/$ 3.0     Total/$ 10.3

LIKE MOESHA, BUT “ANA”
Moana opens at number one to the surprise of no one and at the end of the previous decade Pixar took over running the Disney animated department, which had fallen on hard times. How hard? Let’s run down this list from that 10 years: Bolt, The Princess & The Frog, Meet the Robinsons, Chicken Little, Lilo & Stitch, A Christmas Carol, Dinosaur and Brother Bear. Yeah, exactly. Now, this is what Pixar did in that same time: Wall-E, Up, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Cars. Basically the inverse of one another. One produced mostly classics (Cars and the cooking rat movie are the rare Pixar misses) and the other produced mostly duds (and I loves me some Lilo & Stitch). Since Pixar took over it’s been Tangled (which they almost totally revamped), Wreck It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and of course Frozen. And now with Moana they’ve raised Disney’s animated department to their level. This is as good as a Pixar film. I am not kidding. It’s a fucking musical—which I despise—and it’s still amazing. I will be buying this fucker the second it’s available. This is not to say it’s reached the emotional depths of movies like Up or Inside Out but it’s as much fun as the first Toy Story or A Bug’s Life (the underrated gem) and damn sure better than Cars (everything is better than Cars). Basically, it’s the movie Brave should have been. It’s even aware of itself enough to make jokes about the other Disney movies. Again, so good I didn’t mind the musical numbers (I know what the goddamn story is and don’t need it sung to me).

THE QUEEN BASICALLY ORDERS YOU
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them is down to number two, still printing money for the JK Rowling factory. I never read a single Harry Potter book and was forced to see but one film so this is meaningless to me. Meaning. Less. I’m just happy to see an indie boy like Eddie Redmayne get a way to pay the bills. It’s the traditional route. Nicholas Cage didn’t become a ginormous whore until after he got his Oscar, Halle Berry did Catwoman right after her Oscar and Charlize Theron did Aeon Flux after hers. Gotta get that paper. I think being English, being in a Harry Potter movie is like an obligation. Like a period piece about the monarchy, they all have to do it at least once.

HIS BLAND AMERICAN ACCENT DIDN’T HELP
Doctor Strange is down to number three and also in this in the grand Marvel tradition of wasting good to great actors as dull, one-note villains is Mads Mikkelsen who, like all the other actors in this film would have been a better Doctor Strange than Benedict Cumberbatch. In their scenes together he just basically wipes the bland Brit off the screen….like Chiwetel Ejiofor or Bendict Wong or Tilda Swinton… But he does this a lot in his movies and even on TV. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing the remake of Clash of the Titans, he’s the best thing about it. Walking sheet of blank paper Sam Worthington didn’t stand a chance against him. That he ruled Hannibal as the titular character over Hugh Dancy goes without saying.

ANGELINA JOLIE SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT COMING THEN
Allied opens at number four in yet another attempt at “counter programming” against the other escapist fare, apparently not realizing adults have to take their kids to all the above movies. I honestly want to see this. It looks like Mr. & Mrs. Smith: 1942 and I don’t have a problem with that at all.

OTHER ALIENS I MEAN
Arrival is down to number five and given that everyone is in a comic book movie these days, this will now be known as “That Time Hawkeye Teamed Up With Lois Lane to Speak To Aliens.”

SHUT UP AND RELEASE ANOTHER ALBUM
Trolls is down to number six and add it to the list of Justin Timberlake failures. Seriously. $135M from $125M budget is not a raging success and now that something worthwhile has been released with actual memorable music, kiss it goodbye.

THIS TIME THE AUDIENCE FUCKED SANTA BY NOT GOING
Almost Christmas is down to number seven, followed by Bad Santa 2 opening at number eight and who the hell asked for this? Seriously. The highlight of the first was Gilmore mom (oh, you go look up her fucking name if you care so much) humping Billy Bob while repeating “Fuck me, Santa. Fuck me, Santa.” Similarly, the highlight of this one seems to be the big-titty redhead from Mad Men (oh, you go look up her fucking name if you care so much) wanting to be done doggystyle behind a dumpster and thanks to the Red Band trailer I’ve seen it. Billy says doing the Fargo series convinced him good work could be done on TV. I’d say it was more the shit he was being offered for theatrical releases that did it.

ONLY THROUGH BART SIMPSON CAN WE EVEN THE SCORE
Hacksaw Ridge is down to number nine and also in this is Theresa Palmer and I don’t know why, but I’m always glad to see her working. I just feel she got a raw deal as the “New Pretty Blonde.” What’s funny is she’s one of three Australians in this movie. Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths are also here trotting out their regional American accents. I see them all sharing a giant Foster’s after work and laughing their asses off about how they do it better than actual Americans.

IF THE SONG ISN’T IN THIS I’M NOT WATCHING IT
Finally, The Edge of Seventeen is down to number ten and I actually wanted to see this, but didn’t know it was out. Oh, well. Thankfully, Netflix is fulfilling my indie film needs in my old age. The title obviously comes from the Stevie Nicks song which comes from her meeting Tom Petty’s first wife who in her regional accent told Nicks that she and Petty had met at the “age” of seventeen, but sounded like “edge.” And no, it’s not about an older woman boning a younger man. Sorry to kill that for you.

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THE CRISIS OF UNFORTUNATE TITLING

14 Nov

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1. Doctor Strange/Disney Wknd/$ 43.0 Total/$ 153.0
2. Trolls/Fox Wknd/$ 35.1 Total/$ 94.0
3. Arrival/Paramount Wknd/$ 24.0 Total/$ 24.0
4. Almost Christmas/Universal Wknd/$ 15.6 Total/$ 15.6
5. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF Wknd/$ 10.8 Total/$ 32.3
6. The Accountant/WB Wknd/$ 4.6 Total/$ 77.7
7. Shut In/EC Wknd/$ 3.7 Total/$ 3.7
8. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF Wknd/$ 3.6 Total/$ 70.4
9. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/ Wknd/$ 3.3 Total/$ 54.6
10. Inferno/Sony Wknd/$ 3.3 Total/$ 31.6

WHEN YOUR WORST CHOICE IS STILL GOOD, YOUR CASTING DIRECTOR DESERVES A RAISE
Doctor Strange holds at number one making sure any doubts of Marvel’s dominance were laid squarely to rest. Yet another comic book hero 90% of the populace has never heard of has been a ridiculous success (it’s almost made budget in a week and made more than twice this overseas). It also validates the casting choice of Benedict Cumberbatch, whom they delayed this movie to get. What’s funny and a little sad is that he’s the least interesting actor in this cast. I like him well enough, but pretty much everyone else cast would have been better than him. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton would have been more entertaining as Doctor Strange. Especially the latter two. There’s nothing about the character Doctor Strange that dictates it be a white male. Only that the character be a brilliant surgeon who is humbled and becomes a sorcerer. That’s any race, any gender (unlike say, Batman whose family has been prominent in Gotham since the pilgrim days which rules out anyone of color). Even costar Rachel McAdams would have been a welcome change from the so-safe-it’s-generic path they chose. There’s controversy about the casting because while they changed the Sorcerer Supreme from being Asian (Tibetan to be specific) to being White to avoid “stereotypes” (and offending the Chinese government so they could get those Chinese moviegoers). Yeah, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that was another quarter mile laid down because while the “mystic Asian master” may be a stereotype it’s one that gives an Asian actor who might not otherwise have found work a job. Also crucial is the world “master.” He may be a stereotype, but the one who is the baddest muthafucka in the room. Simply put: the most powerful character in the story went from being a minority to being white. Yes, you can argue the most powerful character went from being a man to a woman (which is what Marvel tried to do) but it’s still a White woman as opposed an Asian one. Faced with this, Marvel again tried to wash over their sin by changing Wong from being Doctor Strange’s manservant to being another sorcerer equal to Strange, but one step forward plus one step back means you’re just standing still. That being said, Tilda Swinton is always a joy to watch, but she’d have been better as the doctor. She’s also more age-appropriate as the character not supposed to be young either, but someone older than Cumberbatch.

MAYBE SOME SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK EPISODES WOULD HAVE HELPED
Trolls holds at number two, followed by Arrival at number three and this is “grown up” science fiction, meaning it’s not about space battles and sexy robots, but about thoughts and concepts, in this case the science of communication, language in particular. How would you teach or learn an alien language? And do it before the world destroys itself in fear? My normal complaint about this type of movie is that it could have been told in 45 minutes on an old episode of The Outer Limits, but this actually needs its time to delve into what makes a language? How to communicate with no common basis, no Rosetta Stone? Amy Adams is basically the best linguist in America who is recruited by the government when one of 12 giant spaceships on Earth lands in Montana. Every 18 hours they open the door and try to communicate us, but until Amy Adams shows up apparently it never occurred to none of the hundreds of people on Earth trying to communicate (every country with a ship has team ) to a) use written symbols or b) not show up dressed like you’re landing on the moon when it’s clear they’ve made an effort to give you a breathable atmosphere. Seriously, they bring a bird in to make sure the air is safe and given nothing happens to the bird not one single scientist of the hundreds around the world thinks they can take that damn hazmat suit off!?! There’s a bit of a twist which is old hat if you’re a science fiction fan (seriously, this is basically a combination of a Deep Space Nine episode and a Next Generation episode) so once you’ve figured it out it drags a bit and honestly I’d have given that up for more delving into how they figured out the language of the aliens, but all in all it’s some solid thinkin’ man’s science fiction.

ALMOST ROLLING IN MONEY
Almost Christmas opens at number four and whoever decided on a pre-Thanksgiving release date needs to be fired. Seriously. In one more week you’d have a four-fucking-day weekend to bring in the bucks. I mean, it only cost $17M and already made $15M, but it could have, should have been so much more. Pretty sure no one going to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was going to have to decide between the two films.

THOUGH HE DID DATE HIS LEADING LADY AND BREAK UP WITH HER…JUST LIKE TOBEY
Hacksaw Ridge is down to number five and the star of this is former Spider-Man himself, Andrew Garfield trying to show life beyond the tights. Yeah, Tobey Maguire should have been a cautionary tale. But Garfield is a better actor and his defacto look isn’t “creepy loner” so hopefully he’ll do better.

SHE CAN’T PITCH PERFECT FOREVER
The Accountant is still around and color me shocked. This also works for Anna Kendrick as it’s a successful film out of her wheelhouse. Granted she’s “the girl who needs to be saved” but there’s no such thing as a bad hit.

ANOTHER JOB THAT SHOULD BE OPEN
Shut In opens at number seven and just as Almost Christmas opens a week too soon, this comes over a week too late. Returning to the genre that was the source of her only starring role success (The Ring) this should have been an easy win with at $10M budget for Naomi Watts. Seriously, somebody should lose a job over this as it was money just left on the table. Especially if that idiot used the term “counter-programming.”

WE ONLY HAVE OURSELVES TO BLAME
Boo! A Madea Halloween has made $70M off a $20M budget. See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

STARS OF THE LATE 20TH CENTURY FINALLY BEGIN TO FADE…
Finally the Toms close out the top ten with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back at number nine and Inferno at number ten.

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WHOA, HO, HO IT’S MAGIC!

7 Nov

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1. Doctor Strange/Disney Wknd/$ 85.0 Total/$ 85.0
2. Trolls/Fox Wknd/$ 45.6 Total/$ 45.6
3. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF Wknd/$ 14.8 Total/$ 14.8
4. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF Wknd/$ 7.8 Total/$ 65.0
5. Inferno/Sony Wknd/$ 6.3 Total/$ 26.0
6. The Accountant/WB Wknd/$ 6.0 Total/$ 70.9
7. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/ Wknd/$ 5.6 Total/$ 49.2
8. Ouija: Origin of Evil/Universal Wknd/$ 4.0 Total/$ 31.4
9. The Girl on the Train/Universal Wknd/$ 2.8 Total/$ 70.7
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home…/Fox Wknd/$ 2.1 Total/$ 83.3

TRY TO UNDERSTAND HE’S A MAGIC MAN
Doctor Strange opens unsurprisingly at number one as the latest installment of the Marvel films. And while it’s enjoyable I find myself oddly disappointed in just how hard Marvel is sticking to this formula. Granted, they’ve got literally a billion rea$on$ as to why, but I find myself saddened just how much like all the others this is because Doctor Strange has always been a character that I’ve liked and he’s not like other comic book heroes. Yes, the plot device is one of the oldest in the history of creation—the humbled prince who becomes a better person as a result and we’ve seen it twice here alone with Thor and Iron Man—but they do absolutely nothing to put a new spin on it. In fact they watered it down. In the comics Stephen Strange starts as a flat out callous asshole of a surgeon who just might let you die if you can’t meet his fees, but here he’s just a bit of an arrogant prick and doing what is basically a Robert Downey Jr-lite take on the character as he was also not a joke cracking wiseass like he is here. In fact, you really only know he’s an arrogant jerk because people keep telling you he is, not really because of any arrogant jerk things that he does. When it happens it’s a big moment, not like the genuine arrogance of Tony Stark in the first half hour of Iron Man as he casually rumbles over everyone, friend and stranger alike because he only cares about himself. Also missing is Strange’s growth from this minor asshole to almost painfully benevolent. It’s a near two-hour movie. You should have the time to show the passage of time but apparently it wasn’t worth sacrificing a gigantic psychedelic action sequence. You don’t go from callous asshole to caring for an entire plane of existence in a few days or weeks, but it feels like it’s barely a month of so for the character here when it should have been years. There’s no definitive “humbling moment” where enlightenment occurs. This goes hand-in-hand with his “instant magic skills” something a depiction of an extended period of time would have helped with immensely. There’s an 80 minute animated version from a few years ago that actually does better at showing this, which should embarrass everyone here. The quality of the acting goes without saying, but literally every major actor present would have made a better Doctor Strange than Benedict Cumberbatch. Every. Single. One.

IT’S A BAD MOVIE HOUSEHOLD
Trolls opens at number two and you can garner the quality of a children’s movie by whether or not kids shut up when the trailer comes up. Over the last few months, this trailer didn’t shut up any kids. ‘Nuff said. Besides, has Justin Timberlake ever starred in a good movie? He’s been a supporting actor in exactly one. Again, ‘nuff said.

I GUESS YOU COULD SAY HE HAD A BRAVE HEART
Hacksaw Ridge opens at number two and Mel Gibson finally realized no one was going to see a movie of his if they had to see his face so here he’s just directing. This feels like the kind of war movie they would have made in the 40’s when they weren’t borderline propaganda: they were flat-out propaganda. Except Gibson takes great pains to show war as horrifically bloody as humanly possible which isn’t really going to inspire anyone to take up arms. I know this is based on a true story about a pacifist soldier who refused to take lives and would only save them, but honestly that doesn’t make it any more interesting to me. It takes something truly exceptional to make me want to sit through a war movie and this ain’t it.

TAKING A STAND
Boo! A Madea Halloween is down to number for and the answer is still “No.”

NETFLIX. THE NEXT ONE WILL BE ON NETFLIX. STARRING HIS SON.
Inferno is down to number five and so much for this franchise. At least as big budget superstar movies. They could very well make a nice living doing them as TV movies like Tom Selleck did for that one character, but this is clearly going to tie up in a nice little trilogy for you to buy for your parents at future Christmases because they read the books.

SEX AND THE SINGLE SUPER SOLDIER
The Accountant is down to number six, followed by Jack Reacher: Never Go Back at number seven and while one franchise may have just been born, another may be seeing its premature end. Yes, this means that Ben Affleck just had more success as an action hero this year (remember Batman v Superman: Mad Stupid Cash Grab) than Tom Cruise. You can bet pre-production on the next Mission Impossible just kicked into high gear. What’s funny is that neither character gets to have sex with their female lead, which are Anna Kendrick and Cobie Smulders respectively. Not that we wanted to see it (ew!), but Ben Affleck’s character basically cannot with Kendrick because his autism leaves him socially impaired. And we don’t necessarily want to see it with Tom Cruise either (serious ew!), but there’s an odd kind of sexual tension that is present because Cobie Smulders and Cruise spend time half-undressed together in a very casual way that is oddly appealing. Honestly, it’s very adult that two people on the run from killers would have other things to worry about than whether or not someone sees them naked. And at the same time, knowing this night could be your last night on earth why the hell wouldn’t you hook up? Especially in the case of Jack Reacher, given his character has come to DC for the specific purpose of possibly sleeping with Cobie Smulders. I’m not kidding. They even discuss it in one of the oddly appealing scenes. It’s actually odd that they do not. Odd for the characters. For Tom Cruise, not so much.

STUDIO ACCOUNTANTS SAYS “OUCH! THAT’S SOME SHARP CHEDDAR!”
Ouija: Origin of Evil is down to number nine and you know who’s in this!?! Eliot himself, Henry Thomas. Good for him. Get that work, son! Yeah, it’s a low-budget horror movie, but it’s made 3x its cost, unlike the movie of the Toms (Hanks and Cruise) in this top ten. It also means you’ve had one more hit this year than Spielberg. Yeah, I said it!

BET YOU THOUGHT BEING PRETTY WAS GONNA CARRY YOU…MORE THAN IT ALREADY HAS I MEAN
The Girl on the Train is down to number nine at $70M off a $45M budget ($140M total worldwide) this is a minor success. Good for you, Glenn Cocco! I want Emily Blunt to do well (she had Sicario last year). I like The Devil Wears Prada that much. I want almost everyone who was in it or associated with it to do well. Yeah, that stops at you, Adrian Grenier. Entourage has tainted you forever. Being a pretty muthafucka don’t help.

A LONG OVERDUE DEATH
Finally, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children aka, Tim Burton’s X-Men closes out the top ten at number ten and mercifully I think we’re nearing the twilight of studios giving Burton millions of dollars for these CGI fests. It didn’t even make budget domestically and while it doubled its domestic take overseas that’s not the money that matters most. You can tell stories of eccentric characters without a lot of CGI, Timmy, but the operative word there is “stories” and you aren’t big on those, much less characters.

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EVERYBODY GETS A BUTT-KICKING FRANCHISE

24 Oct

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1. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF          Wknd/$ 27.6     Total/$ 27.6

2. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/          Wknd/$ 23.0    Total/$ 23.0

3. Ouija: Origin of Evil/Universal           Wknd/$ 14.1    Total/$ 14.1

4. The Accountant/WB                             Wknd/$ 14.0    Total/$ 47.9

5. The Girl on the Train/Universal        Wknd/$ 6.0       Total/$ 58.9

6. Miss Peregrine’s Home…/Fox            Wknd/$ 6.0      Total/$ 74.4

7. Keeping Up With The Joneses/Fox   Wknd/$ 5.6      Total/$ 5.6

8. Kevin Hart: What Now?                      Wknd/$ 4.1       Total/$ 18.9

9. Storks/WB                                              Wknd/$ 4.1       Total/$ 64.7

10. Deepwater Horizon/Lions Gate       Wknd/$ 3.6      Total/$ 55.3

YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS SHIT

Boo! A Madea Halloween opens at number one and…no. Just…no.

NEVER GO BACK…UNLESS IT’S FOR MORE MONEY

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opens at number two and I actually enjoyed the first film. Granted, I’m not one of the fans of the books where Jack Reacher is 6’3” so I don’t have a problem with Tom Cruise intimidating people and whooping ass all over the place like a man twice his size. I accept it for the cheap thrills sheer vanity production it is (one of the first things you see onscreen is “A Tom Cruise Production”). It exists to show you that the star is just the bestest thing ever! And while Cruise was never a great actor he is however a great movie star so this works. It’d work better for a young Clint Eastwood, but it works for Cruise too. This is a bit of an improvement on the the first because that one was centered around a horrific loss of innocent life along with horrible moments of the sheer “crap we do to our fellow human beings” variety. The only way it was better was that it had one of funniest fight scenes ever and we got to watch Jai Courtney get beaten to death. Hell, the latter alone is worth the entire film’s production. This one is a simple “wrongly accused heroes fight to clear their names” and we get to watch Tom Cruise get his Jason Bourne on. And don’t kid yourself: this was his attempt to have a Jason Bourne franchise the way every actor from Liam Neeson to Kevin Costner to Sean Penn has seemingly tried to get his own with varying degrees of success over the last 14 years (Cruise was originally supposed to be Salt which was obviously gender swapped to Angelina). Yeah, he’s got Mission Impossible, but a) you can never have too many franchises, especially when you’re officially an aging actor and b) that was actually famous before he was and has expanded to include other known actors. This is about him and him alone beating the shit out of people in that military martial arts style that even James Bond had to adapt as the result of Bourne’s success. It’s not an intellectual exercise by any stretch of the imagination, but for so cheap and easy fun (these movies cost about $60M each and literally a third of that probably went to Cruise alone) they are not a bad way to spend two hours and will be great on cable in the coming years where you can just tune out the improbable plot and just look up from what you’re doing to watch Cruise beat the shit out of people. Hey, I think Jai Courtney is about to die right now. Be back in a minute…

IT’S A SUCCESSFUL PLAN, STAN

Quija: Origin of Evil opens at number three and this is how you make money. Take a low budget horror movie and open it close to Halloween, the second most profitable holiday in America. The first Ouija came out on October 24th last year and made $50M from a $5M budget so they knew what they’d be doing the following year. This is basically the new “Saw” which milked this same marketing plan for years. The producers put a little more money into this one (it’s a whopping $9M this time), but have probably already started pre-production on the third given it’s already made that back and then some in one weekend. I think it goes without saying that I have not, nor will I ever see any of these.

DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

The Accountant is down to number four and also in this is Anna Kendrick, expanding her audience to dudebros who’d never see Pitch Perfect but bringing her trademark humor along with her which honestly is one of the reasons this succeeds: it knows when to be funny. After all, you can’t have a killing machine accountant and expect people to keep a straight face. You cannot. Granted, Kendrick is basically “the girl” who needs to be saved and doesn’t even have a moment where she contributes to beating the bad guys, but small steps. At least when they come for her she manages to put a hurt on them and doesn’t just scream and run.

AN ALL ALMOST-STAR CAST

The Girl on the Train is down to number five and this movie is filled with actors you know but none with enough star power to overcome Emily Blunt, which is shrewd if planned, but probably because a movie with a female lead didn’t have the budget to hire other A-list actors (you know it’s true!). You’ve got the would-be girl-of-the-moment Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux aka Mr. Jennifer Anniston, Luke Evans aka That Guy That Looks Like If Orlando Bloom Was A Man, Laura Prepon aka The Redhead From That 70’s Show, Allison Janney aka Always A Solid Supporting Actor But Never A Lead and Lisa Kudrow aka That Friends Money Means You Should Never Feel Sorry For Me.

THEY BELIEVE IN FLYING MEN AND GHOSTS…SO LONG AS THEY’RE WHITE

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is down to number six and there was some small amount of controversy about the lack of diversity in the movie, and while it would have been nice I honestly I don’t expect a lot in a movie set in Europe during WWII. But there’s something to be said that the only people of color in a Burton film before this were covered by make up as monkeys and the only one here is the freaking villain. If you doubted Burton’s geek cred this should back it up. They tend to like their fantasy worlds monochromatic.

SUCH A HANDSOME MAN

Keeping Up With the Joneses opens at number seven and Zach Galifinakis is running out of chances to prove he can sell a comedy. His last flop before this was only a few weeks ago with Masterminds. What that has in common with this movie is that they share a name with a previous movie that failed, which usually drives the people in suits crazy prompting an instant change. It’s nothing against Jon Hamm given this clearly isn’t his movie, but it’s not helping either. It’s great he doesn’t have an ego and needs to be the star, but you’re not a kid, dude and need to have something successful post-Mad Men under your belt. It’s ironic he’s here with the new Wonder Woman given he looks more like a superhero than basically everyone currently playing one. Hamm is a perfect Superman. Hamm is a perfect Batman. Hamm is a perfect Iron Man. Hamm would have been a perfect Doctor Strange as well. He’s been approached but balked at the decade long contracts they have to sign. Don’t expect to see him in a wannabe Jason Bourne movie either.

THE REST

Kevin Hart: What Now is down to number eight, followed by Storks at number nine with Deepwater Horizon closing out the top ten at number ten.

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THE AFFLECK IDENTITY

17 Oct

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1. The Accountant/WB Wknd/$ 24.7 Total/$ 24.7
2. Kevin Hart: What Now? Wknd/$ 12.0 Total/$ 12.0
3. The Girl on the Train/Universal Wknd/$ 12.0 Total/$ 46.6
4. Miss Peregrine’s Home…/Fox Wknd/$ 8.9 Total/$ 65.8
5. Deepwater Horizon/Lions Gate Wknd/$ 6.4 Total/$ 49.3
6. Storks/WB Wknd/$ 5.6 Total/$ 59.1
7. The Magnificent Seven/Sony Wknd/$ 5.2 Total/$ 84.8
8. Middle School/LGF Wknd/$ 4.3 Total/$ 13.8
9. Sully/WB Wknd/$ 3.0 Total/$ 118.4
10. The Birth of a Nation/FoxSearch Wknd/$ 2.7 Total/$ 12.2

NEXT UP: THE TAX ATTORNEY
The Accountant opens at number one and Ben Affleck needed this like he needs air. It’s clear that despite universal praise and an Academy Awards, he still wants to be a superstar in front of the camera like Matt Damon and will do most anything to get there. In case Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t made clear this attempt to create a Jason Bourne like franchise for himself will remove all doubt. As The Accountant of the title, Affleck is playing the go-to moneyman for the richest bad guys in the world and somehow in this world of near constant surveillance, not a single person has noticed or gotten a picture of him until a treasury agent is put on his tail. You know that’s kinda impossible but you let it go. Then the treasury agent investigating him is the only person who’s notices the similarity between his faux names and that’s when you realize it’s time to turn off your brain and just enjoy the violence. And we haven’t even gotten to him being a merciless trained killer from childhood…as a way to deal with his autism. No, I’m not kidding. And unlike the Bourne films it does take the time to throw a little humor into the mix. But the dumber this movie gets (and it gets dumb) the more fun it becomes. It was enjoyable enough on the big screen, but it’s going to be a choice late-night, rainy afternoon piece of cable viewing in the future. Probably back-to-back with a Bourne movie.

HOW CAN WE MISS YOU IF YOU WON’T GO AWAY? PT 89
Kevin Hart knew you missed the few weeks he wasn’t in the movie theaters so he sent you this concert film, Kevin Hart: What Now? to tide you over until his next mainstream movie where he’s partnered with yet another star that has come to realize they also cannot carry a movie on their own. You’re welcome.

IN CASE LIKE ME YOU WERE WONDERING WHY SHE WAS HOSTING SNL
The Girl on the Train is down to number three and this is one of those books that “everyone” has read and has been cautiously looking forward to which is how it opened at number one last week.. This year’s Gone Girl for lack of a better term. Unfortunately, it’s not in the hands of a craftsman like David Fincher who was wise enough to employ the book’s actual writer to aid in the screen translation keeping it as substantive as it was stylish. Not that Tate Taylor is without a solid history, but aside from his debut film, Winter’s Bone which proved Jennifer Lawrence could act, he’s made generic safe films like The Help and the James Brown bio, Get On Up. I never read the book so my interest in this film could only be generated by what it looked like and it never rose above mild and there’s been no word-of-mouth to help it get above that. Honestly, the most appealing thing about it for me is Emily Blunt. Shame her post The Devil Wears Prada career hasn’t gone as well as hoped. If only she’d been able to be The Black Widow in the Marvel movies as rumored. I’d soooo much prefer her to ScarJo.

APPARENTLY WEIRD PEOPLE DON’T LIKE SOLID STORIES EITHER
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children aka Tim Burton’s X-Men is down to number four and this seems tailor made for Tim Burton whose entire career has been based upon him making movies about “odd people” since he considered himself one of them. Well, he may have been but his habit of dating actresses and models pretty much secures him in “Just Another Dude” territory for me I don’t care how much black he wears or how much he listens to The Cure. And honestly, how much of an outsider can someone who only makes big-budget special effects films for major studios truly be? Both he and his frequent collaborator, Johnny Depp need to let this go or try and find a new take on it. While this looked interesting, the mere fact Tim Burton’s name was on it meant that whatever the story may have been it was going to be an afterthought for him and I just can’t waste anymore if my time on his visually stunning yet ultimately boring and uninteresting films.

OUR GUILT OUTWEIGHS OUR CONCERN
Deepwater Horizon is down to number five and watching Kate Hudson be slowly confined to playing wives and girlfriends of older leading men is just becoming sad. And no one was more annoyed than I when she was omnipresent in generic mainstream films as the lead. Here she’s the waiting wife to Mark Walberg as he fights to survive and save his crew on the offshore oil rig that created the worst oil spill in US History. It’s probably the latter that has contributed to this film’s lack of success despite mostly positive reviews. People really don’t feel sympathetic to a disaster that poisoned the Gulf of Mexico. It probably should have stressed more the culpability of BP in the disaster, but instead chose to ignore that and go straight for the human drama and is paying the price. We like our disaster movies global and leaning more towards science fiction more those that are all too real with real life consequences.

ONLY ONE AT THE TOP OF THIS MOUNTAIN
Storks is down to number six followed by The Magnificent Seven at number seven and playing that woman you’re understandably confused to learn was not Bryce Dallas Howard is Haley Bennett, who is also in The Girl on the Train making her a would-be “It Girl” of the moment, meaning she would be if these films did a little better. This hasn’t even made budget yet after a month, which is odd given Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are supposed to be big stars. This is more Pratt’s problem than Denzel’s as Pratt hasn’t had much success after his one-two punch of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World two years ago, whereas Denzel launched his own franchise last year with The Equalizer…which also costarred Haley Bennett, thus bringing us full circle.

PROBABLY TALKS ABOUT HOW TEST PAPERS SMELLED FRESHLY MIMEOGRAPHED
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is down to number eight and exactly who thinks actually seeing authors in ads will increase sales of anything. Especially when they look like James Patterson. I don’t see this working for his adult mystery novels, much less when it’s an old man talking about a book set in grade school.

HE DIDN’T POLLUTE THE HUDSON FOR ONE
Sully is down to number nine and this is a success both Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks sorely needed. Unlike Deepwater Horizon, there’s no conflict here because the ending was straight up happy.

THOUGH I’M SURE SCORSESE DOESN’T CARE
The Birth of a Nation is down to number ten and I want to see this and will probably eventually see it, but I’m honestly not going to do anything that will contribute to Nate Parker’s career. Sometimes you just can’t separate the dancer from the dance.

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MAGNIFICENT DIVERSITY

26 Sep

m7
1. The Magnificent Seven/Sony         Wknd/$ 35.0     Total/$ 35.0
2. Storks/WB                                         Wknd/$ 21.8     Total/$ 21.8
3. Sully/WB                                            Wknd/$ 13.8     Total/$ 92.4
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary/Universal   Wknd/$ 4.5       Total/$ 16.5
5. Snowden/ORF                                  Wknd/$ 4.1        Total/$ 15.1
6. Blair Witch/LGF                               Wknd/$ 4.0       Total/$ 16.1
7. Don’t Breathe/SGems                      Wknd/$ 3.8       Total/$ 81.1
8. Suicide Squad/WB                           Wknd/$ 3.1        Total/$ 318.1
9. When The Bough Breaks/SGem    Wknd/$ 2.5       Total/$ 26.6
10. Kubo & The Two Strings/Focus   Wknd/$ 1.1        Total/$ 46.0

MAYBE THE NEXT TIME THERE’LL BE WOMEN OF COLOR
The Magnificent Seven opens at number one and do you know what every single remake of The Seven Samurai has in common? No matter how ridiculously inept they may be (I’m looking at you TV version which became a series), they’re still as entertaining as fuck. This is no exception. It’s not superlative in any way shape or form beyond making minorities the majority of the seven and making the people in need of help white rather than a bunch of Mexicans speaking accented English. In fact, it’s actually staggering in how shallow the characterization is, but if you know anything about Antoine Fuqua action movies that’s not surprising. Then again in the first western remake you really didn’t know anything beyond Yul Brynner or Steve McQueen or Robert Vaughn or James Coburn beyond some surface color (cool gunfighter, fancy dan gun for hire) and this is pretty much the same, so in fact it’s half-assing any attempt to give them depth that’s a problem. Either do it or don’t. There is no try. Honestly, what made them watchable before is the same as now and that’s the charisma that seasoned actors like Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Peter Skarsgaard (and movie stars like Chris Pratt and Byung-Hun Lee) bring to it. So if you want to watch good guy movie stars mow down lots of faceless stuntmen—and every action movie ever says you do—then this isn’t the worst way to spend an afternoon. However, if you think an action movie in 2016 should be a bit more sophisticated than a movie made in 1960 then perhaps it’s not.

SOME BULLSHIT RIGHT HERE
Storks opens at number two and when small children in your audience keep making noise when the trailer for your animated movie comes up, then your movie is probably shit. No child anywhere ever went silent for Storks. It looks as unfunny as shit and only makes you count the days before the next Disney or Pixar movie.

SAVING US ALL
Sully is down to number three and its success returns Tom Hanks safely to his perch as “America’s Dad” after a series of misfires and keeps him away from playing Miles Teller’s dad one more day. Unfortunately its success also allows Clint Eastwood to remain safely in his position as “America’s Slightly Racist Sexist Grandfather Who Doesn’t Think He’s a Sexist Racist.”

YOU’RE LUCKY YOU HAD GRAY’S ANATOMY. SERIOUSLY.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is down to number four and while I loves me some Bridget Jones, I’ve never seen or read anything beyond the first book and movie (which are decidedly different but equally entertaining). Ironically, while there was no reason whatsoever for Hugh Grant to be in a sequel, Patrick Dempsey is such a poor replacement you wish they’d bent over backwards to find a way. There’s absolutely no way he’s competition for Colin Firth in anything, anywhere at any time. He is proof positive some people simply do not have the presence to occupy the big screen. Clooney can, Dempsey cannot. It’s just that simple. See you in your new show with a decade-younger wife in the fall of 2017.

AND SO IT BEGINS…
Snowden is down to number four and this signals the official beginning to Oscar-bait season. In other words, I’ll see it only once it’s been nominated by a body I respect (not you Hollywood Foreign Press). I have a firm rule against Oliver Stone so it has to be exceptional to make me break it.

ONCE AN INNOVATOR NOW JUST ANOTHER FACE IN THE CROWD
Blair Witch is down to number six and the movie that not only kicked off the “found footage” horror genre but “viral marketing” is back for another serving. It cost $5M to make and has so far made $15M. Of course if they were really smart they’d have waited until Halloween, but they’ve been out of the fame awhile. Needless to say I didn’t see it as I did not see the first and have only seen one “found footage” movie (Cloverfield) and regretted the shit out of it.

HAVE SOME GODDAMN STANDARDS FOR YOUR SCARY
Ironically, one of Blair Witch’s low-budget horror stepchildren is showing how it’s done in Don’t Breathe, which is down to number seven, but has made a whopping $91M off a paltry $10M budget. That’s fucking ridiculous. What’s wrong with you people!?!

YET ANOTHER REASON TO HATE THIS MOVIE
Suicide Squad is down to number seven showing ridiculous legs even in a weak movie season. So far it’s out-grossed Man of Steel while costing less and is only $12M away from Batman v. Superman’s domestic gross. To repeat: a superhero concept almost no one knows has outgrossed the most famous superhero ever and is gaining on the first ever screen outing of the three most famous superheroes ever. But the greatest sin is that it’s helping to sustain the career of Jai Courtney, aka Sam Worthington 2.0. Proof positive that no matter what Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth have led you to believe, not all Australians are charismatic.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
When The Bough Breaks is down to number nine, but like the other low-budget films on this list that is not the end of the world because it only cost $10M to make and so far has made almost $27M. Sadly I estimated 2o years ago that if you wanted to make Black films keep the costs $8-10M and you’d be okay and nothing has changed. If you’re not Denzel Washington or Will Smith keep it low. Or better yet, just stick to TV where the checks come every week for years like the lead of this, Morris Chestnut, has learned and the female lead, Regina Hall is hoping to learn with that shitty looking TV adaptation of Uncle Buck. Just ask Keenan on Saturday Night Live who has become the new Tim Meadows who did not become the new Eddie Murphy.

A PRETTY PICTURE OF FAILURE
Finally, Kubo & The Two Strings closes out the top ten at number ten and maybe this will teach these guys to stop trying to write their own stuff.

THE MOST WONDERFULEST TIME OF THE YEAR

The new fall season has started and because I love, love, loves me some TV I try to give every new show a shot. I mean unless it stars someone like Kevin James or Tim Allen or that douchey-looking guy from CSI who should have stuck with a sure thing and not let his agent blow smoke up his ass that he was some kinda lead. Especially in a show inspired by fucking Dr. Phil. But it’s on CBS and people who watch CBS will watch any. fucking. thing.

Atlanta: I was never a fan of Community. A little of that show went a long way and the jokes were always a beat or two off from truly being effective in my opinion. But I am a fan of Donald Glover and his music under Childish Gambino after avoiding it for years because of that stupid name. Also, being from Atlanta I had to give it a shot…and it is some good shit. Aside from the fact it’s getting a total pass on FXX for language (yes, the F bomb drops regularly) it’s wonderfully weird for the sheer sake of being weird and indulges in mercifully needed irreverent wit in black-centric TV shows, especially comedy. In a world where Michael Epps works far too much this is needed like oxygen. And the character of Darius is everything for me. He takes the weird sidekick beyond the one-note level of the average weird sidekick.

Designated Survivor: I have to admit this sounds more like the premise of a movie starring Larry the Cable Guy or Adam Sandler than a dramatic show much less a real thing, but it is very much a real thing and while I was just giving the show a cursory look, it hooked the shit out of me. They stacked the deck hard with Keifer Sutherland’s character as the the bleeding heart Housing Secretary (who was actually being fired by the president the day of the terrorist attack) who has to man up for a nation in chaos, but you know he’s going to and you want to see it happen. Even the improbably pretty and painfully thin Maggie Q as a seasoned anti-terrorist FBI agent doesn’t take away from it.

Lethal Weapon: I can’t help but think this is a way of pushing Mel Gibson out of public consciousness once and for all. After all, the first one came out in the 80’s and unlike the superior Die Hard hasn’t really continued into the new century for the kids to know it. At the same time it’s amazing it took this long for them to do it. Back in the old days a successful movie had a TV series based on it the next year, not 30 years later. But Keenan Wayans isn’t complaining. Last time you saw him he was playing his fully adult son’s father on Happy Endings about three years ago (sigh, has it been that long). At one point in his stand up years ago he joked about how his film career vanished. The show is as silly and disconnected from reality as the movies ever were so if you liked them, you’ll probably like this. I never liked the movies and in fact like this a bit better because it doesn’t ask you to take it all that seriously. It’s Bugs Bunny as an action hero and as stupid as it is, maybe a little less stupid than the movies. Certainly less ham-fisted.

The Good Place: Another show that seems more like a movie concept than a sustaining series turned out to have more to it that meets the eye. Kristen Bell is a pretty awful person who mistakenly gets into a neighborhood in heaven, but we learn heaven is far from perfect which is what saves it from being a dull show about her learning a lesson in sharing & caring each week. Not only is its designer, Ted Danson, enormously flawed, but even the other people there are a tad questionable. Best part: the sins and virtues that got people in and kept them out are hysterical as they’re on a point scale. Commissioner of any Sports Organization is a negative but being a devoted Cleveland Browns Fan is a positive. Being a vegan is a positive, but being a vegan who never reveals this unless prompted is even more points.

Better Things: I like all the tiny brunettes in Hollywood and Pamela Aldon is no exception and that she opens the show with her and another tiny brunette, Constance Zimmer, audition for the same role endeared this show to me instantly. The only way it could have been better would be to have Janeane Garafolo also show up. Granted, the world didn’t need yet another behind-the-scenes of the lives of show business people because they aren’t nearly as interesting to us as they think they are, there’s enough here worth watching as it’s just as much about her raising her three daughters and dealing with an English mother who lives across the street. That it’s yet another show that allows celebrities to play obnoxious versions of themselves is another plus. David Duchovny repays his Californication co-star in the third episode.

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MAKE ‘ER TALK, TUBO

22 Aug

the_monster_squad_l
1. Suicide Squad/WB                                     Wknd/$ 20.7     Total/$ 262.3
2. Sausage Party/Sony                                   Wknd/$ 15.3     Total/$ 65.3
3. War Dogs/WB                                             Wknd/$ 14.3     Total/$ 14.3
4. Kubo & The Two Strings/Focus               Wknd/$ 12.6     Total/$ 12.6
5. Ben Hur/Paramount                                  Wknd/$ 11.4      Total/$ 11.4
6. Pete’s Dragon/Disney                                Wknd/$ 11.3      Total/$ 42.9
7. Bad Moms/STX                                           Wknd/$ 8.1       Total/$ 85.5
8. Jason Bourne/Universal                            Wknd/$ 8.0      Total/$ 140.9
9. The Secret Life of Pets/Universal            Wknd/$ 5.8       Total/$ 346.7
10. Florence Foster Jenkins/Parmount      Wknd/$ 4.0       Total/$ 146.9

HE’S NOT EVEN MAKING SONGS FOR THEM ANYMORE AND NO ONE ASKS HIM TO
Suicide Squad holds at number one and much like Batman v. Superman: Something, Something Justice, being generally reviled by critics and audience alike has not affected its box office take all that much. It’s one of those movies where curiosity seems to drive audiences to see it because they cannot believe it’s as bad as people make it out to be and they think they’ll at least have some fun. Needless to say people are finding out the hard way that this isn’t the case but by then it’s too late. They’ve got your money and you’ve lost two hours of your life you’re not getting back. And it still may not be enough simply because Warner Brothers continues the mistake of high expectations leading to ridiculous promotional budgets. Rather than being cautious, they continue to think they’re going to make Marvel-level money by simply throwing anything up on the screen. They’re wrong and in an attempt to hedge their bet by having reshoots have doomed this barely breaking even when it might have actually turned a profit. Sadly, Will Smith will take breaking even as his days of being the King of Summer ended over a decade ago, his last summer hit being Hitch in ’05. Yeah, it’s been that long. Since then it’s been a slow decline in both big budget films and even smaller dramas, Oscar nominations not withstanding. He’s still huge overseas, where After Earth made 3x as much as it did domestically and where this is also doing better, but studios make their money at home and he ain’t doing that. The last successful summer film helmed by a Smith was The Karate Kid, starring Jaden. This is why Bad Boys 3 is coming soon to a theater near you. No, I’m not kidding. You know things are bad when you need Martin Lawrence.

JUST…NO
Sausage Party holds at number two and this has apparently taken a great deal of the audience from Suicide Squad. Why am I not surprised that anyone who’d like Suicide Squad would be into this? Me, I’m not even remotely curious. The only thing that repels me almost as much as seeing Seth Rogen onscreen is “something from the mind of Seth Rogen.”

CRY HAVOC AND LET LOOSE THE DOUCHEBAGS OF WAR!
Speaking of repellant people onscreen, War Dogs opens at number three and it’s almost brilliance to put Miles Tellar and Jonah Hill together thereby keeping the amount of douche confined to one movie. The greater irony being, while they are seemingly perfect for their based-on-a-true-story roles as two asshole, douchebag arms dealers, I can’t imagine sitting in a theater and looking at the two of them for two hours. Hell, I don’t think I could make twenty minutes!

KUBO & THE UNDEVELOPED SCREENPLAY
Kubo and The Two Strings opens at number four and I was sorely disappointed by this because the trailer looked so amazing and these guys always do good visual work, but seem to stumble when it comes to storytelling. Now, Paranorman wasn’t badly told it’s just what it wound up telling me I didn’t care for. There’s always been darkness in children’s films since Bambi, but they took it too a new level and this isn’t so different as the first time we meet Kubo we find out he’s wearing an eyepatch because his grandfather, the Moon God, took it out and wants the other. Yeah, really. Again, fairy tales have always been dark like that, so that’s not the problem here. The problem is we get no real sense of the world in which Kubo lives. His grandfather is a god and given how he feels about mortals it’s probable his daughters are full gods as well and not demi-gods, which mean that’s is what Kubo is: demi-god. This explains how his guitar has the power to create origami that moves. Only no one seems shocked or surprised by this. It’s not established if they see it merely as a trick or magic is just that common in the world. Like in all fairy tales he story begins when Kubo does what his mother tells him not to, which in this case it hide at night so The Moon God can’t find him. They are subsequently found out and his mother is apparently killed by her evil sisters, but not before spiriting Kubo on away and bringing his Monkey charm to life to guide him on his quest to find invincible armor to prepare for his eventual confrontation with his grandfather. And this is where it comes apart as the monkey tries to warn Kubo about how he uses his power but there is no learning curve and no guidance. He goes from animated origami to building an entire ship out of leaves. Even Luke had to drop the ship. Also there’s a “reveal” about the characters that join Kubo on his quest that comes far too soon (not to mention being fairly obvious) and honestly the story belongs more to one of them than Kubo and might have been better told from their point of view. Ultimately this is just very lovely to watch but not much else. And we’ll discuss a bunch of white dudes using Japanese culture to tell a story and having all of two Asians involved another time.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE! NO, THAT’S TAKEN.
Ben Hur opens at number five and who the hell thought this was a good idea!?! Yes, there’s a whole new Christian film market but they all cost about $25 to make so are guaranteed to make a profit. You don’t spend $100M and think you’re getting your money back from such a narrow audience. The broad majority of people do not want to be preached to and it’s no secret that Ben Hur is more a Christian story than the simple adventure story the way all the ads are desperately trying to convince you. Want to trick people into seeing this? How about not fucking calling it Ben-Hur!?! “Chariot Revenge” would have gotten more people into the theater than fucking “Ben Hur.” Or better yet, set it in space or in a post apocalyptic landscape. But doing the same old shit again…

THEY DO ALL LOOK ALIKE!
Pete’s Dragon is down to number six and like a bad joke I honestly I thought that it was Jessica Chastain in this rather than Bryce Dallas Howard. Not that it matters, but it’s still funny. I was down for seeing this until I realized I’d never had any fucking interest in the seeing the original. Granted, it was a musical, which was mercifully dropped from this remake, but there was a little too much “Disney” stench about it still, especially in the character who wanted to kill the dragon. As if in this day and age, keeping it alive wouldn’t be the option everyone would want either for money or science so it just rang painfully false.

MILF MONEY
Bad Moms is down to number seven and this is officially a success. $85M domestic alone from a $20M budget. It’s fucking amazing, because not only does it look like shit, every review says it’s shit, but there’s clearly an audience of moms who don’t give a fuck. I know. I know one of them who admitted even though it looked like shit, she was going to see it. I feel you, babe. I see so much shit regardless of what anyone thinks simply because it appeals to me on some level and clearly I’m not alone. Still, it’s amazing. And Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are not complaining. Somebody’s gotta make money in their households. God knows Ashton Kutcher and Dax Shepard aren’t gonna do it.

LOOKS LIKE REBOOT TIME
Jason Bourne is down to number eight and this is looking to be the failure it deserves to be and somewhere Jeremy Renner and Joan Allen are drinking in the schadenfreude.

SHOULD’VE TAKEN THAT TWO & A HALF MEN GIG
The Secret Life of Pets is down to number nine and closing out the top ten is the attempted counter-programming of “adult” material in Florence Foster Jenkins. Every year they attempt this shit of trying to put out a movie that clearly has no appeal to anyone but adults in the summer and every year they fail. Even with just a $30M budget this is still a failure. Let. It. Fucking. Go. Nobody wants to be a grown up in the summer! And wasn’t Hugh Grant supposed to quit acting a few years back! Clearly it costs money to try and bang college students all the. Especially when you’re aging like the Englishman you are.

So, some TV…

I LIKE HAPPY COMICS AND I WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR THAT!
I finally finished off the Preacher series on AMC and it was very much what I expected from a series based on the works of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. What that means is it’s darkly funny, profane, sordid and graphically violent usually for the simple point of being profane, sordid and graphically violent. Let me put it there’s a character called “Assface” who is that way because he tried to kill himself by putting a shotgun in his mouth and upon failing was left with a face that basically looks like an asshole. All his dialogue is subtitled. Every character is has some dirty, mean, violent sordid side and Ennis & Dillon revel in it. It’s not to say the show is without interest—a small town preacher with a dark history searching for redemption finds himself imbued with a godlike power— but once the secrets were revealed, I was done. I really don’t want to spend any more time in this world. There’s a reason I read Superman and not these types of books. But if you like this sort of thing and the bulk of violent, graphic, borderline cruel shows that dominate cable basic and pay shows that you do (Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Lords of Anarchy, True Blood, American Horror Story, Real Housewives of What-The-Fuck-Ever) then you’d probably like this.

ONE OF THE FEW TIMES I DON’T MIND REVISITING THE 80’S
Stranger Things on Netflix is an homage to the science fiction, horror and adventure films of the 80’s that involved kids. In this series set in 1983 in a small Indiana town, four kids lose one of their number and in searching for him find a girl with special powers who has escaped from a mysterious nearby government facility…and a monster somehow connected to her. In this you’ll find deliberate homages to e.t.: The Extra Terrestial, Firestarter, Poltergeist, The Goonies, Stand By Me, War Games, Alien etc. Hell, even John Hughes films show up and two of the actors flat out looks like Mia Sara from Ferris Bueller’s Day and Molly Ringwald. They even add specks of dust and damage to the title sequence, which obviously wouldn’t exist in the current digital format. And did I mention that sequence has a total synth score? It’s very, very good, more than transcending the novelty of its non-stop 80’s homage. My only problem is they build a sequel into the end. Honestly in the early 80’s they didn’t do that. That didn’t come until later when Friday The 13th and Halloween took off. I personally would’ve been happy if they’d just made it like there wouldn’t be another. A lot of people keep mentioning the influence of Stephen King (who is flat out referenced in the movie) and Steven Spielberg here, but they weren’t the only people doing these types of movies and honestly they had nothing to do with the very best kids adventure/horror/sci-fi movie of the 80’s: MONSTER SQUAD!

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