Monday, 26 June 2017

Movie Money: Episode 20 (June 26, 2017)

Summer 2017 continues to be an eventful one, in that, most of the event tentpole movies are faring to be quite uneventful. The biggest case of that this week was the number one movie 'Transformers: The Last Knight' gaining a mere $45m on its opening weekend. That's less than the $70m of the first Transformers film, and a severe drop from the film's immediate predecessor 'Transformers: Age of Extinction', which opened to $100m. The film benefited from its Wednesday release date with a cumulative domestic gross of $69m, but it's far from the series best. Still, international markets will grant the movie its success, as the movie grossed $265m worldwide, but with stiff competition in the rest of June, and July, the film is not guaranteed the billion most expected it to make.

A series low shows diminishing returns for the 'Transformers' franchise

The number 2 spot went to both 'Cars 3' and 'Wonder Woman' as both films made out with $25,175,000 precisely. That's an expected, and respectable drop for 'Cars 3', but an astonishing take for 'Wonder Woman', a movie which is enjoying one of the best consistent runs in recent memory. To date, the film has not dropped to more than 50% of its previous gross and has enjoyed a steady decline, which has put the film well on its way to being the highest-grossing DCEU film in domestic markets. 

Continuing with the top 5, small time films like 47 Meters Down and All Eyez on Me made small time money, with both earning under $10m, $7.4m and $5.8m respectively. 'All Eyez on Me' took the #5 spot by just a hair though, as 'The Mummy' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' were both in the $5m range, with 'The Mummy' only being beaten out by a mere $14,000.

For the podcast discussion on the Top 5, here's the episode of Movie Money:

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Take 4 Episode 58: Cinematic Universes, Crossovers and Tie-ins

This week on the Take 4 podcast, we return to a glorious discussion on Cinematic Universes. Simply put, making a straightforward, multi-picture series that tells the same story over the course of multiple movies, isn't enough right now. It's the age of the multi-franchise, crossover heavy, television series in movie form. We talk about the history of shared fictional universes outside of movies, and we discuss cinematic universes in development, or those currently in existence, and talk about if they're worth devoting a seemingly endless amount of time to.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Take 4 Newscast: 23/06/17

This week in movie news had one big story and a few not so big ones. The Star Wars Han Solo solo movie lost its directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Creative differences? Maybe. The rest of the news included an update on the Bumblebee solo film, the Sony Spider-Man universe, and, the release of the new title for the sequel to Jurassic World. Hit play on the podcast below, or download it for later, to hear the Take 4 podcast discuss these news stories and more:

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

'Transformers: The Last Knight' (2017) Review: Exhaustingly Epic.

Catch it on Cable: The only way to watch this film. Seeing it in the cinema is too much for any sane person to handle.

It’s been 10 years since the first Transformers film was released in theaters. Since then we’ve watched the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons wage on, getting grander and grander with each film. With ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ I do believe the series has finally reached its breaking point with its most incoherent entry yet. The war of the Transformers once again threatens planet Earth, except this time, the Autoboots face their greatest enemy yet. Leader of the Autobots gone rogue: Optimus Prime.

That summarization of the plot is extremely lacking, but to include the 1 trillion plot points this film sees fit to hurl at the viewer would be a fool’s errand. Most of them are inconsequential, go nowhere, and contradict the plot as the film goes on. If that wasn’t bad enough, the way the film presents it to you is in a manner consistent with director Michael Bay’s style, with everything in the film shot and edited like it’s the most important moment of the movie. The problem with that is, when everything’s supposed to be special, suddenly nothing is.

2017 and Syndrome still isn't being listened to.
None of this is new to the ‘Transformers’ franchise, but previously, the average movie goer could at least expect a fully finished product. Specifically, there are shots in the movie which fill the entire frame, seemingly taking up most of the screen, and then there are shots which use significantly less space, with black bars appearing at the top and bottom of the screen. The switch between the two is often rapid, forcing the viewer to constantly adjust their focus. It’s menacingly distracting, and not an experience I would wish on my worst enemy.

Perhaps just as distracting is the movie's severe tonal dissonance. The Transformers films have always been full of humour. Some of it is stupid, some of it is racist, most of it is both. At the very least, even when being forced to sit through the worst jokes possible, the film's felt somewhat balanced against the save the world plot of the main story line. Here, there's constant talk of impending Armageddon, with the world at large reacting to the threat of assured destruction, but it's hard to stick with that when the next scene is a tiny robot looking through a car magazine like it's Playboy.

Of course, there's no way to talk about the movie without mentioning its incredibly memorable characters. There's small child with cute robot friend whose go get em attitude and skill with all things mechanical shows just how influential Rey and BB-8 really were. There's old wise British man, played by Anthony Hopkins, who ranges from completely checking out of the movie, to overacting the hell out of it. There's green Australian robot, bearded gun robot, and of course Asian stereotype robot, who has gone through the immense character development of a new paint job, ditching his electric blue for a sweet black and red. All of these characters were engaging and fun to watch and in no way annoying.

Sarcasm aside, the film has 4 characters worth possibly thinking about. The rest pop in and out of the movie at such an infrequent rate you forget they were there when you see them again. Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yaeger drives the plot enough to the point where you don't fall asleep, but there's nothing remarkable about him beyond that. The female lead in this Vivian, played by Laura Haddock, is portrayed as gratuitous eye candy, but also treated like a plot device. If the movie couldn't feel any more overstuffed, the plot is focused on the journey of both these characters, with each of them concerned with their own MacGuffin and end goal. Following either is just as boring and predictable as the other. It's equal opportunity boring. 

The crux of this movie, as pitched to potential audiences everywhere, is the infamous fight between Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. The matchup of the decade. The fight to end all fights. The student must best the master in order to keep the world from falling into despair and chaos. I will admit, the idea is an intriguing one, but in a movie this long, it's an insult to the audience that the fight only lasts for about 5 minutes, isn't particularly impressive, and ends as disappointingly, but not nearly as insulting, as the Martha scene from 'Batman v Superman'.

I really need to let this go.
‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is a technical marvel of the worst kind. It’s the very definition of all over the place. At times the movie is dark and contemplative, but then it will switch to being as goofy as a Saturday morning cartoon. When I ask myself though, did I enjoy watching ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’, the answer is regrettably yes. Much like the way one enjoys watching a series of car wrecks on YouTube. I cannot in good conscience, however, recommend that anyone, man, woman or child pay money to see this film, as being forced to sit in a cinema for the film’s 2 hours and 30-minute runtime was devastatingly exhausting.

Rating: Catch It On Cable

'Transformers: The Last Knight' is not just the start of a new cinematic universe, but it's also the return of audio reviews! Click here to listen to our discussion on Transformers 5:
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Sunday, 18 June 2017

'All Eyez On Me' (2017) Review: Citation Needed

Catch It On Cable: A fitting rating for what feels like a made for tv biopic

When thinking about 'All Eyez On Me', there's almost no way to separate it from 2015's 'Straight Outta Compton'. The two films tell stories of similar conjectures, the rags to riches story of young black men in America with a dream, that became cultural icons. They even make use of the same locales and go so far as having the same characters loitering around the background of the main story. For the uninitiated, it's easy to think 'All Eyez On Me' is a part of the 90's Hip Hop Revolution Cinematic Universe.

Waiting for the Yo! Mtv Raps crossover movie

The comparison, unfortunately, works against the untold story of Tupac Shakur, as 'All Eyez On Me' is a dull portrayal of an otherwise fascinating persona. The film follows the infamous rappers life from his childhood, all the way up to his untimely death in 1996. The movie decides to tell this story, like many biopics, in a series of flashbacks. The flashbacks are prompted by an interview being given by Shakur while in prison. This makes the flashbacks feel like dramatizations one sees in a documentary, rather than scenes in a film with compelling characters. The film also introduces its flashbacks by bafflingly displaying the dates of certain events right down to the day. I understand the film was going for authenticity, but it feels like the narrative version of Tupac Shakur trivia night.

The details of the story are fascinating, but the way they are told is messy. It felt as though someone sat down with Microsoft word opposite Tupac's Wikipedia page, and jotted down the basic highlights. You're told countless times about what a revolutionary Tupac was, but not once do you feel the effect he had. It's a shame. Not just because there was a complex identity to be explored, but Demetrius Shipp Jr. is delivering a performance that would have been great, had there been material to work with.

The moments when you're to be moved by Tupac's sheer force of will, his tenacity, and his poetry, are the moments that are the flattest. There's a far greater presentation to the supporting characters in this story. Jamal Woolard reprises his role as Biggie, and has the best musical moment in the film, quite literally upstaging the main attraction. Watching 'All Eyez On Me' is like hearing a huge Tupac fan tell you how great he is, but that you wouldn't get it cause you just had to be there.

The worst kind of way to tell a story

It's no help that 'All Eyez On Me' is extremely unfocused. It feels the need to tell every single facet of the Tupac story, but with no narrative thread between the scenes. The scenes themselves are good, with actors like Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett giving genuine pathos in every scene. The trouble is they're so disconnected it feels like you're being dragged from one storyline to the next, and then back to the original one, without having a moment to reconcile the moment.

'All Eyez On Me' is saved by two things. The exceptional performances of its actors, and the beautiful way in which it's shot. It's a good looking film, safe for a few inexcusably lazy moments, where newspaper articles fly to the screen like the movie was made in Microsoft Publisher. Much of the movie is like the cliff notes of Tupac's life. I'm sure that means a lot to the die hard Tupac fan, but since they're already familiar with "the untold story", I'm not quite sure who the movie is for.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.