Tuesday, 19 September 2017

29. Movie Money 19/09/2017

The box office numbers this weekend weren't nearly as disparate this week, but there was still a sizeable gap between the #1 movie, and its company in the top 5. Of course the #1 movie was 'It', with $60.1m, a 50% drop from last weeks huge opening. That's a spectacular second weekend, and the movie has made $218.8m domestically and a tremendous $372.3m worldwide. It's easily going to crack $400m within the week, and the weekend will probably see it gaining further beyond that. For context, 'It' is now more successful than the entire run of 'Cars 3', 'The Lego Batman Movie', 'Alien Covenant', in only its second week. Not bad for a $35m budget.

Not everyone could be so fortunate this season.

For the rest of the top 5, #2 on the list is 'American Assassin', with an opening of $14.8m, and a worldwide gross just shy of $21m. The action spy thriller will probably go past its moderate budget of $33m, but it's not likely to make huge amounts of money. #3 is the controversial 'mother!' which opened with $7.5m domestically, and a worldwide gross of $13.5m. The budget of $30m will likely be covered, but the arthouse film doesn't look to be translating with general audiences.

Finally, #4 is Reese Witherspoon's 'Home Again' at $5.1m bringing its domestic gross to $16.9, more than covering its $12m budget. #5 goes to 'Hitman's Bodyguard', the film that just won't go away. $3.5m was its weekend earning, bringing its domestic gross to $70.4m, and its worldwide total to $141.8m. Almost triple its $30m budget.

That's all for this weeks report. Here's the podcast:

Download | RSS

Friday, 15 September 2017

'American Assassin' Is As Dull As It Gets - (2017) Review

Read A Book: You're better off staying home, saving your money.
'American Assassin' is a mess. Not a great way to start a review. You can probably tell where this is going. It's the story of 'Mitch Rapp', played by 'The Maze Runner' himself, Dylan O'Brien. A tragic, superhero-esque origin story sees Rapp lose the love of his life to a mass shooting on the beach. It's told in graphic detail and is likely to evoke some intense reactions from the audience. For anyone looking to escape the all too frequent tragedies on the nightly news, perhaps skip 'American Assassin'.

As hard as it is to watch, for the first half of the film, the violence feels earned. Rapp becomes a vigilante, touring the world to stop evil, one terror cell at a time. You understand his motivations clearly, and Dylan O'Brien gives a good portrayal of a man with Punisher levels of unprocessed grief. It's also in that first half that 'American Assassin' has one of the more interesting training montages I've seen in a while, as Rapp develops his relationship with Michael Keaton's character, Stan Hurley. A man who has the training style of Mr. Miyagi, but the bloodlust of John Rambo.

For a while, it seemed like my worst fears about 'American Assassin' were gone. The film had maintained my interest, given me decent characters, and interesting action. It had defied comparisons to Jason Bourne, and other spy thrillers and become its own animal. Unfortunately, it soon devolved into one of the least interesting movies of this kind I've seen in a long time, with a tepid second half that devours the impression made by the first.

The only people who might suffer more than the audience is the cast. They're flung into a movie that takes itself far too seriously and doesn't have the legitimacy to back it up. The actors are left to give it their all, for a story that ultimately amounts to nothing. It has nothing new, or even compelling to say about the war on terror, and in fact, is even outdated in certain aspects. Had 'American Assassin' come out in 2008, starred Shia LaBeouf, and a Gene Hackman, it would've been exactly the same film.

Eagle Eye 2: The Revenge
The more 'American Assassin' goes on, the worse it gets. It builds up a certain level of goodwill and feels like a spy thriller for the modern day. This generation's international man of mystery, with an axe to grind. It turns out to be quite the opposite, as by the end of the movie, 'American Assassin' revisits tropes from the early 2010s, the mid to late 2000s, and even has an ending that even the action movies of the 90s would call too extreme. For a film that’s based on a book, it’s probably best that you stay home and read one.

Rating: Read A Book.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

28. Movie Money 11/09/2017: It Wins Big

Ladies and gentlemen rejoice, for the box office has been saved! It seems Pennywise the clown used his powers of allurement on the audiences this weekend as the Stephen King adaptation took home $123.4m domestically, and a worldwide opening of $189m. That's gargantuan for a horror movie, an R rated movie, a September release, and just a fall release in general. No one could have predicted that the film would be such a monster at the box office when it was announced that a remake of a cult 1990s miniseries would be hitting theatres.

Seems like everyone wanted to float with the clown this weekend. 

'IT' will no doubt continue to dominate the box office in the weeks to come but it won't be as easy as it was this week. The competition this past weekend was practically nonexistent with its most threatening rival being Reese Witherspoon's 'Home Again' which brought in $8.5m at #2. #3 went to 'Hitman's Bodyguard with $4.8m, and just barely beat out 'Annabelle Creation' by $800k. 'Wind River' took the #5 spot and has made a comfortable $25m gross, which is more than enough for a film that cost $11m to make. 

That means that 75% of the box office went to 'It', with numbers that were more than double the combined total of last weeks top 5, at $42.8m. With a budget of $35m, 'It' is already one of the best successes of the year, and will only grow. Audience reactions and critical reception have all been good, and word of mouth, plus an absolutely stellar marketing campaign, will leave 'It' to float in the top 5 for many weeks to come. 

Here's the podcast discussion where I give my mini review of 'IT'. The full review can be seen here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

'IT' (2017) Review: Float On

After what seemed like the dryest movie period in years, finally, there is something exciting happening at the cinemas. It may be a remake of a miniseries adapted from a novel, but still, it's something. Stephen King's 'It' tells the story of Derry, a town cursed with mysterious disappearances of children. After his brother Georgie meets such a fate, Billy recruits his friends on a mission to find out what happened. On their journey, they come to find the orchestrator of their demise, the ravenous, and infinitely creepy Pennywise, the dancing clown. 

Teaching kids everywhere that clowns, are not to be trusted.

'It' shares much with the recent offerings of horror. It focuses on children as its victims/heroes, and it relies on jump scares to give the thrills the audience demands. There's also the unfortunate instance of characters acting far too calmly in the presence of danger, that renders most horror pictures tepid. 'It' succumbs to these and other horror trappings, but has plenty going on that lets it stand out. 

Chief among those is Pennywise. I can't recall the last time a horror film has seen fit to give its narrative a true antagonist. A face to the terror. While this isn't the first time Pennywise has been given life, I dare say it's a far more chilling one than Tim Curry's best effort. What Bill SkarsgĂ„rd does is give a performance that feels developed. Pennywise is sinister, charming, jovial, and horrifying, sometimes at the turn of a dime. 
Or I suppose some other coin would do.

His counterparts, the kids in the film, are perhaps just as engaging. 'It' is more of an adventure film than a true horror movie, with the children feeling like soldiers being called off to war at times. I appreciated how distinct each of their personalities was. It made it easier to get to know them, their fears, their desires, their identities. Once that was done, you could fear for their lives, and the film achieves the tension it needs. 

But what 'It' giveth, 'It' surely taketh away. As much as you root for Bill and the rest of Mystery Inc, there are times when the movie feels downright imbalanced. Pennywise goes from being an unstoppable demon god, to a very stoppable clown. This is not a new issue. For the clown to be scary, he needs to seem like he can't be stopped. For you to root for the kids, he needs to feel like he can. 'It' doesn't seem to be able to reconcile those two necessities, and feels jarring when it flip flops between them. 

Still, I did get swept up in the narrative of 'It'. The film had a number of unique and interesting design choices that you don't often see in horror. The type of stuff that disturbs and unsettles you while watching it. The movie does a great job of immersing you in the terror and uses the camera well to put you in the moment as a participant, rather than just an observer. Then a jump scare happens and you're taken out of the experience. 

With characters, you care for, and an antagonist you revel in watching, ‘It’ has more than most horror films these days even bother to consider. While it still has many of the failings that plague the genre today, it still manages to be a good time, with some truly impressive visuals you should see on the big screen.

Rating: Big Screen Watch.

Monday, 4 September 2017

27. Movie Money 04/09/2017

Well Labour Day weekend 2017 for the US came, and rather than give the film industry a much-needed assist, it proved to be one of the worst weekends of the year thus far. The holiday did provide something of a push to the films of the weekend, giving #1 movie 'Hitman's Bodyguard' an additional $2.8m for a four day total of $13.3m. The rest of the top 5, however, couldn't even muster $10m, with 'Annabelle Creation' coming the closest with $9.3m.

That means, cumulatively, the top 5 of the US domestic box office, over the course of the 4 day weekend, brought in $42.8m. Less than the budget of the emoji movie. Why did this happen? Well, August has never been a hotbed for film releases. It's the end of the summer, beginning of fall, and not many studios experience a lot of success with the films they put out.

The thing about that is, that's a trend that had been coming to an end as of recent. Guardians of the Galaxy cleaned house in August of 2014, and so did Suicide Squad last year. Reason being, August is typically such a dead period for film, they had nothing to compete against them. Contrast that to this year, when for the last three weeks, the biggest films were a horror movie, and an R rated action comedy, neither of which are known to draw the huge audiences that a PG-13 popcorn flick might've.

Hitman's Bodyguard certainly has made much more than it would've thanks to the dry period.

If only films like 'Alien Covenant' or 'War for the Planet of the Apes' had opened up in August, rather than in the shadow of huge Marvel movies, like 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2' for 'Alien Covenant', and 'Spider-Man Homecoming' for 'War for the Planet of the Apes'. Maybe then you'd be hearing more about the future of those franchises.

That's all for this weeks report. You can listen to the podcast below to hear that, and our breakdown of the summer so far at the box office.

Download | RSS

Sunday, 3 September 2017

'Unlocked' (2017) Review: Unseen, Unremembered

C.I.O.C: This week in films no one will care about or see!
There are movies that stick with you, lingering on for days, weeks, months, even years after you leave the cinema. Movies that will go so far as to influence the way people think or act. Movies that become a part of a culture. Then there are movies like 'Unlocked', which as I write this, I struggle to even recount it, much less review it. The type of movie that, much like the content covered in this spy thriller, will go unseen by most, as if it never even happened.

We hardly knew ye.

While I was watching 'Unlocked' I did find myself enjoying the events as they unfolded. The film opens with a snapshot of the diversity of London life. People from all walks of life interacting with one another. The film's plot involves CIA agent Alice Racine, as she is brought it to interrogate a suspect in a potential terrorist threat. While there seems to be the foundation of a film that could provide a meaningful look at Islamaphobia, racial bias, and other issues surrounding the subject matter, 'Unlocked' has neither the deftness nor the intelligence to provide it.

That can be best explained by its main character. Alice Racine is quite possibly one of the impossibly smartest stupid characters there is. Throughout the film, she will be referred to by others for her incredible skills, skills which she will no doubt demonstrate, only to make a mistake that wouldn't get by a twelve-year-old. The plot more or less follows this line of thinking, having moments of brilliance, but then devolving into convention and cliche at the drop of a hat embedded with classified information. It feels like it's playing dress up as a spy movie

I was almost fooled.
Action in the movie is fine, and it does a good job of moving from point a to point b, but you don't really care about the film as it goes on. Alice has some personal demons that are only dealt with on the surface level, not that I was invested enough to go much deeper than that. 'Unlocked' is not bad enough to be offensive, in fact, I almost wish it were. The worst movies aren't the ones that make your blood boil, they're the ones that leave no impression at all.

The saving grace of the film is it's impossibly stellar cast. Clearly, there seems to have been a mix up of sorts, as the film is filled with extremely heavy hitters. Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Noomi Rapace, so many accomplished and entertaining forces of acting prowess in this film. Orlando Bloom is also there. The script doesn't give them much to do besides carrying out a cartoonish and cliched depiction of international espionage, but even at his worst Michael Douglas can deliver a line. Overall, if I were to see this on television, I wouldn't hate it. It's a short film, only 98-minutes long, that is perfectly fine if you catch it on cable.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' (2017) Review: Genuine Article

Half Price: The antics of the two leads more than make up for the film's shortcomings

When a movie gets too self-aware for its own good, it can go either way. They can be fiendishly clever playing on the tropes of its genre, or it can feel like it reaches for brilliance, but never quite makes the mark. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' might fall into the latter camp, but that's not to say there's no fun to be had with this R Rated action comedy.

Watching Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson play themselves was more rewarding than I expected. It really ought to be, since it's the roles they know best, and to their credit, the duo plays off each other like the dream team 90s buddy comedies they're trying to emulate. They have a hysterical back and forth as they riddle their enemies with bullets, the same way the script is riddled with plot holes and exposition. Then again, anyone who complains about such things is a stuffy film snob who has no business seeing 'The Hitman's Bodyguard'

"Hmph. Ask me I say a woman superhero is a step backwards for cinema"

The roles of the film are in the title. Jackson plays the Hitman, Reynolds the bodyguard. The two are mortal enemies from the start of the film and share a storied history. The bodyguard protects, from the hitman. Their relationship in the movie is marked by constant bickering, and with a clear "you and I couldn't be more different" buddy movie dynamic. All you need is a Jackson munching on a carrot and Ryan Reynolds with a lisp, and I'd mark this a quiet release of an R Rated Looney Tunes cartoon.

Reverse the roles and the resemblance is uncanny.

Yet despite how obvious it would be, I found there was a charm to the film. Sometimes, there's nothing more that I'd like to do than be transported to the world that looks like mine, but without the negatives. There's violence in this film, but you'll never feel your heroes are in any grave danger. For a movie that felt as though it was going to buck the trends of its genre, 'Hitman's Bodyguard' is quite comfortable doing the same old thing. While familiarity usually breeds contempt, I appreciated the film for at least delivering an entertaining ride, even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel.

I mean they pretty much nailed it the first time.

It's not that I'm giving the film a pass for its errors, but for the entire experience, I'd say its issues were minor. The second half of the film especially capitalizes on the film's strengths. It gives you more of what you like, the witty banter, implausible action, and does it in a way that wasn't just a distraction from the film's errors, but genuinely impressive. The movie crafts some truly interesting action scenes that reward the attentive viewer, even if the rest of the movie lacks that level of intelligence.

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, and for the most part, achieves that. The best thing it does is lets its two leads, Jackson and Reynolds, run the show they were meant to run. When the movie's about to overindulge in their performances, it provides a decent ridiculous action movie. Kudos should also be given to Selma Hayek, who was easily my favourite performance in the film. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is not a film for the ages, but what it is, is a harmless, fun, creative, and entertaining film you should see at a discount.

Rating: Half Price

Monday, 21 August 2017

Movie Money Episode 26 (21.08.2017)

I wish there were more to say about this week's box office, but alas, August continues to be a cruel mistress. Hitman's Bodyguard and Logan Lucky were the heavy hitters this week, and those heavy hitters seemed to be films best suited for a DVD release. At #1 we had 'Hitman's Bodyguard' with $21.3m, against a budget of $30m. The action comedy will no doubt make back its modest budget, but it's nothing that will garner sequels and spin-offs until kingdom come. 'Logan Lucky' came in with $7.6m at #3, and no doubt suffered from the incredibly sparse marketing of the film. Perhaps this time Soderbergh will be out for good, considering the film opened with less than a third of its $30m budget.

The rest of the box office had the old familiar faces. 'Dunkirk' made $6.6m at #4 and brought it's domestic and worldwide totals to $165.4m and $395m respectively. To still be in the top five after 5 weeks is remarkable for this film, but entirely expected considering the dry wasteland of August releases. Also benefitting from being the only other film out at the moment, 'Annabelle: Creation' dropped down to #2 with a $15.6m weekend, with a domestic total of $64.1m and a whopping worldwide total of $126m. While I despise the movie, you have to respect getting almost more than 10 times your $15m budget in your second weekend.

Underwhelming for the new releases, but good for the old ones, this weekend was ultimately disappointing as the top spot barely etched over $20m. The box office doesn't seem to be picking up much steam either, as theatres may continue to be empty, as the next big release is all the way on September 8 with 'IT'. Hopefully, this Stephen King adaptation does better than the last, as 'The Dark Tower' went from #4, all the way to #9 this week.

Here's the podcast for your listening pleasure:

Download | RSS

Monday, 14 August 2017

Movie Money: Episode 25 (14.08.2017)

After last week was a earnings low for the summer, things seem to have picked up a bit for the weekend box office. Coming in at number 5 we have the lego movie lite, 'The Emoji Movie' with $6.6m, bringing its domestic total to $63.5m and its worldwide total to $97m. A $100m worldwide cume is inevitable at this point, but that's hardly a success considering the film was expected to make at least that domestically. With a 58.9% drop this week, 'The Dark Tower' came in at number 4, with $7.8m. The film has made under its budget of $60m, with a worldwide total of $53.6m. At the rate it's going, it's safe to say 'The Dark Tower' is a dud.

The promising source material sadly led to a disappointing adaptation.

This week in films no one asked for, 'The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature' brought in under $10m, with an $8.9m weekend, leagues below its $40m budget. Compared to the first film which opened with $19m, and went on to make $120m on top of a $42m budget, the sequel is as successful as the film is entertaining. Hardly.

I'm so surprised by this result. Shocked. Appalled.

Still in the number 2 spot for the 3rd week in a row, 'Dunkirk', brought in $11.4m this weekend, and collectively has brought its worldwide total to $363.7m. It's a phenomenal success, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with no reason to considering the lack of competition it faces this August. One such competition was the number 1 film this week, 'Annabelle: Creation', which brought more than double its $15m budget, to a grand total of $34m. Foreign box office surpassed that number giving the film a $71.7m worldwide gross in just its first week.

That's the box office this week, as always for the podcast discussion, hit the link below.
Download | RSS

Sunday, 13 August 2017

'The Dark Tower' (2017) Review: A Fantastic Sedative

Catch it on cable: A meandering movie that will be remembered as the film you couldn't remember if you watched it or not.
For those that declare cinema dead and Hollywood to be out of ideas, this is another notch in the win column for you. ‘The Dark Tower’ is yet another adaptation of a classic story by Stephen King. This time, instead of killer clowns and rabid dogs, the horrors of this tale lie in the mystical dark tower, a gargantuan structure with the sole function of keeping at bay evils from a different dimension. The evil man in black seeks to destroy the tower, and it’s up to a young man and a gunslinger to stop him.

Like many films, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a perfectly acceptable movie on the surface level. It has characters that embody age old archetypes. The reluctant hero, the chosen one, the all powerful supervillain. The character’s themselves are flat, but the roles are perfectly serviceable. It’s only when you dig a little deeper that the film begins to fall apart. The movie has a lot of ideas, most of them good, but brings them across with all the finesse of a rickety bridge.

Funny thing is, this looks like it could be in the movie.
At the heart of ‘The Dark Tower’ is a simple idea: The innocence of a child is the key to saving the world. With so many films predicated on the idea of innocence being a hindrance, it was refreshing to see something new. The trouble is the movie betrays this idea almost immediately, and insults your intelligence in the process. Instead of providing the deep, complex story it set up, the film would rather show a slick action scene or two.

On that note, if you're rushing to see 'The Dark Tower' on account of the impressive gunplay Idris Elba's character displays in the trailer, you'd best stay home. Most of what's already been seen is all there is. That's because 'The Dark Tower' is not an action film. In fact, it avoids violence when it can, and treats it as a last resort. There's a message about the weight one carries when they decide to put a gun in their hands which is effective when it wants to be, but ultimately falls apart when the depictions of gun violence are so enticing.

"Don't use guns unless you absolutely have to. Now watch how cool it is to use a gun"
With a non-engaging script and characters that are hard to root for, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a certifiable dud. Even its cast, bookended by two of the most charismatic actors working today, can’t save this film from feeling like an opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest. Even the story, which for all its “end of the world” gravitas, feels extremely low stake. ‘The Dark Tower’ feels like the beginning of a tv series, and that’s exactly where it should be seen.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Movie Money: Episode 24 (06.08.2017)

Movie buffs that follow the year's releases are well aware of certain dead spots in the year. January, early October,  and August are notoriously bad release windows for movies. The movies are either poorly received critically, or commercially, or both. With that in mind, let's take a look at the first weekend in August.

Topping out the top 5 with a modest opening of $19.5m is 'The Dark Tower'. The Idris Elba led picture benefited from a lack of competition this week and managed to gain a third of its $60m budget. Worldwide the film has grossed $27.5m. It's likely that the film will eventually earn back its budget, but it's not quite the success it was hoping to be.

Dark Tower gets the top spot, but won't be making any box office records.

At number 2 we have 'Dunkirk' making a whopping $17.6m in its third weekend in a row, bringing its domestic total to $133.5, and its worldwide total to $314.5m, way past its $100m budget. Number 3 is 'The Emoji Movie' which experienced a 50% drop this week, with a take of $12.3m. The movie based off of icons in your smart phone made $49.4m domestically this weekend and $62.1m worldwide. With a budget of only $50m, the film is a success, but not the runaway hit expected by Sony Pictures.

Rounding out the top 5 we have 'Girls Trip' continuing its phenomenal run with $11.4m for its 3rd weekend, bringing its domestic total to $85.4m, and a worldwide total of $90.8m. The movie continues to be a crowd pleaser, as it experienced a mere 41.9% drop this week. It's well on its way to making a $100m. Finally, at #5 we have 'Kidnap', with a weekend gross of $10.2m, about half of its $20m budget. It seems star power won the day for this film which had little to no marketing. The film should make back its budget provided it maintains its luck.

The "'Taken' with Halle Berry" angle seems to have come through for Relativity Studios.

That's all for this week, join us again next Monday for another report. We'll see how the current landscape gets changed with the release of 'Annabelle: Creation' which is sure to draw in more than enough to cover its small budget.

Here's the podcast:

Download | RSS 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

'Girls Trip' (2017) Review: A Movie That Tries To Have It All

Half Price: A movie that should be seen in the cinema with a crowd to back it up. At a discount.

As they get older, most people find it increasingly trying to make time for their social lives. Some have families, some have work, some have both. 'Girls Trip' is a story about 4 women going on a relentless, wild adventure, reliving their glory days, and acting as young as they feel no matter how old they are. A story told a thousand and one times with men but one that's all too uncommon for women.

They made two of these movies. TWO.
Puzzlingly, 'Girls Trip' is a movie that has everything you've seen before, and things you never thought you'd ever see. In terms of its plot, it's entirely predictable. A few moments were surprising twists and turns in the road, that ultimately led to the same tired destination. In terms of spectacle, the movie is an entirely different ball game. 

You might be able to see moments coming, but knowing is only half the battle. You'll still be woefully unprepared for the limits the film will go beyond. In fact, 'Girls Trip' will put you in a state of perpetual denial about its antics. There's a temptation to deny the movie's unlimited raunch. This is pointless. Before you can say "There's no way they'll do that", it's too late. It's already been done.

Shock value trumps all else in 'Girls Trip', with scenes designed to leave you contemplating the reality of the movie itself. In a way, this movie earned my respect. I might not have laughed for first 20 minutes of 'Girls Trip', but that doesn't mean there were no laughs to be had. In fact, the audience I saw the film with was uncontrollable. Never before have I wished a film was subtitled, as the audio just could not compete with the thundering roar of the crowd.

The constant expression of my 'Girls Trip' audience

Personally, I'll admit to being swept up by the movie's energy, but by and large, the jokes in 'Girls Trip' were met with disbelief. Sometimes by their content, other times by just how bad they were. The movie was a mixed bag from start to finish. The same can't be said for the cast, each of which fit a relatable, yet over the top archetype, with their own role to make the group feel balanced.

There's Jada Pinkett-Smith, playing Lisa, the party girl turned strict and uptight mom. Queen Latifah's Sasha, the one who could be doing better, Tiffany Haddish's Dina, the rambunctious wild one, and Regina Hall's Ryan, the main character who has it all. They play off each other mostly well and have an engaging screen presence together. By their nature, some characters get more play than others, but at least the movie wasn't bogged down by multiple sub plots, just a few grating moments.

As if the movie wasn't imbalanced enough, there's a slight tonal dissonance to 'Girls Trip'. One minute your four leading ladies will be zip lining between terraces, and then later, the movie will drop some hard truth bombs about social inequality. Honestly? I would've been thrilled had the movie explored those moments more. The film is well aware of the importance it holds, having an all female cast comprised of women of colour.

The backdrop of the trip is an event for Essence magazine which serves as a celebration of black artists. Countless celebrity cameos can be found throughout the movie, as a reminder that black stars are out there, and they're important. These moments might've been jarring, but they were definitely appreciated. When it wanted to, 'Girls Trip' told its messages well.

'Girls Trip' ropes you in, and makes you enjoy it just a little, even if you didn't want to tag along.

There are some movies that strive to be relatable. Showing us a story that reflects our own lives, through characters we see ourselves in. There are other movies that dabble in fantasy, being completely unrealistic and giving us a form of escapism as we're whisked away into the film's incredible world. 'Girls Trip' does as 'Girls Trip' would, and tries to pull off both. Sometimes successfully, most times not. 'Girls Trip' may not have been the film for me, but it was certainly the film for many.

Rating: Half Price

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

'Atomic Blonde' (2017) Review: Beautifully Brutal

Big Screen Watch: A movie that tries to be more than your average fanfare and succeeds. Mostly.

From one-half of the directing duo that brought 'John Wick' to life comes yet another film about a character with a very particular set of skills. This time, the titular Atomic Blonde is Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, a spy for the British government. Set in 1989, right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'Atomic Blond' follows Lorraine on a mission to secure a list of every working intelligence agent within the Soviet Union. Essentially the pre-internet version of WikiLeaks. Since her failure could mean the continuance of the cold war, it's safe to say Lorraine is under a tad bit of pressure to succeed.

As I was watching the film, it struck me that this was likely the most adult film I have seen in a while. Many films deal with mature themes and show explicit content, but something about the way 'Atomic Blonde' did this made it a cut above your typical R rated film. There's nudity, blood & gore, cursing, and each is handled extremely effectively.

Much like another movie I enjoyed this year.

Fight scenes in the movie are brutal. There's the same incredible choreography that exists in 'John Wick' films, with Lorraine affecting merciless punishment on her opponents. The movie's bleak cinematography gives way to action that was at times more visceral than entertaining. The film immerses you in spectacular fashion, as you go from admiring the way Lorraine dispatches her enemies, to feeling every blow she delivers.

Most of what sells Atomic Blonde's dreary environment is its characters. It was refreshing to see an action movie that didn't feel the need to wink and nod every few moments with a quip or two. Tension doesn't get broken in 'Atomic Blonde' and rather than be exhausting it was simply captivating. The music in the film helps this as well, and is used cleverly for the most part, but completely on the nose for others.

The movie is set in Germany in the 1980s, you can bet your ass they played this song.
While the film has many successes, it is by no means perfect. The first half of the film has pacing issues and the story is filled with so many details it can be hard to follow. Both those issues are minimized by the end of the film, and the film does more right than wrong. Charlize Theron carries it even through its most painstaking moments, and I was always engaged and entertained. It's worth the price of admission.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

'Dunkirk' (2017) Review: The Greatest Story Never Told

Big Screen Watch: A technical marvel, truly excellent filmmaking.

'Dunkirk' is a movie about the 400,000 British and French soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, beset on all sides by German opposition. Any attempt to escape is not treated kindly. Even standing still can be a precarious option, as any given moment could be met with a fatal encounter with the enemy. Trapped in a small location with an enemy that controls the land, sea, and skies. Sounds too incredible to be true, which is why it's the subject of Christopher Nolan's latest picture, 'Dunkirk'.

Although set in World War II, 'Dunkirk' is a war film that doesn't adhere to the cliches and tropes that plague movies of this type. Typically, you expect to follow one character in particular, perhaps with a wife and child waiting at home, and watch as he and his companions struggle for survival. That method is fine and all, but after being done so many times, it feels very old hat. Here, there are characters in the film, but the focus is on the event itself, not their individual stories.

Despite what the internet might tell you.

For doing away with such cliches, I praise the movie. However, there's a reason those cliches exist. It's a shorthand for the audience to have a genuine connection with what happens on screen. 'Dunkirk's biggest flaw is that it can be difficult to connect with the faces that react to the horrors of war. You get the general sense of despair, but there's a disconnect when it comes time to root for a particular character's survival.

Basically, 'Dunkirk' tells its story from 3 different perspectives. The fighter in the sky played by Tom Hardy, the civilian rescuer on the way, played by Mark Rylance, and the soldiers waiting hopelessly, with the most noticeable face being One Direction's Harry Styles. You don't get a sense of their characters. Leaving the cinema, you'll be hard pressed to remember even their names. I suspect though the point of the movie was not to delve into the characters within the story, but rather the story itself. With a story as incredible as this, pulling back from sensationalism was the best option, as it made the impossible story feel as realistic as possible.

It doesn't sound real, but 'Dunkirk' makes it feel that way.

The way that story unfolds is clever in its own right. The different perspectives jump through time. You'll see Tom Hardy's character shoot down a plane, in one scene, and then see it from another character's point of view 5 scenes later. Although it feels slightly gimmicky at first, the technique gave way to some truly flooring moments. It was a spectacular way to showcase how context frames perception.

It helps that there's are tremendous performances all throughout 'Dunkirk'. Everyone from Cillian Murphy as the soldier suffering the beginnings of PTSD, to the young men reconciling their short lives coming to an end. Each role in 'Dunkirk' is demanding, but the actors never lose the sense of drama necessary to make the movie work. Everything has such weight to it, which combined with the superbly executed and tense action scenes, makes 'Dunkirk' an exhausting movie. But in a good way.

The universal reaction of the 'Dunkirk' audience.

Any flaws the movie has are entirely minor. Christopher Nolan is a visionary director as seen in his works 'The Dark Knight', 'Memento' and 'Inception'. With 'Dunkirk', the director pulls away from fantasy and science fiction and makes a truly mesmerizing war film. The film is absolutely captivating from beginning to end and masterfully shot. Nolan's reliance on practical effects gave the movie a sense of authenticity, which is always a plus when dealing with true stories. For the sheer technical prowess alone, 'Dunkirk' deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Monday, 24 July 2017

Movie Money Comic Con Spectacular!

Well, this is quite a weekend! Two huge openings for the new releases this week. 'Dunkirk' the latest from Christopher Nolan came out strong with a $50m opening. The WWII survival story cost $150m to make, but it's already made $100m worldwide. Continuing in the win column, sleeper hit 'Girls Trip' came up to $31m for its opening weekend, way surpassing its budget of $19m. With the phenomenal successes of 'Hidden Figures', 'Get Out' and now this, hopefully, studios realize the importance of diversity in film. People are hungry for stories that give representation to the world we live in. Not just the same narrative time and time again.

Want proof? 'Rough Night' made only $21.8m. In its entirety. 

It wasn't all great this weekend for the newcomers. In fact, for one newcomer, it was a complete disaster. I thought for sure 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' would be the biggest box office bomb of the year, but it seems that title will go to 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'. A $17m opening for a budget of somewhere between $177m-$229m (Conflicting reports as to the budget), is a tremendously bad opening. Luc Besson's return to Sci-Fi was seemingly a failure but hey, 'Fifth Element' was a bomb too and it's now a beloved film.

As for the rest of the top 5, 'Spider-Man Homecoming' dropped down to #3 from the #2 spot last week. The wall crawlers Marvel Cinematic Universe debut is experiencing a nice steady decline, as it's come to a $251m cume domestically, bringing its worldwide gross to $571m. Sadly, the stiff competition this summer is taking a toll on 'War for the Planet of the Apes', as it had a massive drop to #4 in just its second week. $20.8m this weekend brought its domestic total to $98m, and although it's passed its budget worldwide with a worldwide total of $175m, it definitely won't make the same numbers as its predecessor, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes', which ended its run with $710m worldwide.

No wonder he's so damn angry. 

That's all for the top 5 this week. To hear our podcast discussion, here's the episode with me and Shawna Kay Green. We discuss not just the top 5 but give our mini reviews of Apes, Spider-Man and Dunkirk. It was also the show just after Comic Con so best believe we spoke about all the movie news to come out of San Diego.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Take 4 Newscast: (14.07.17)

Well today was D23, the incredible Disney expo which had huge announcements like 'Incredibles 2' in 2018! Taraji P Henson in 'Wreck it Ralph 2'! So many interesting stories that demand commentary and opinions!

Well too bad. The Take 4 Newscast is recorded on Thursday, so we didn't know about any of that. Instead, here's a show that talks about Matt Reeves starting from scratch on Batman, the difficulty in casting Jasmine in the live action Aladdin remake, and what was supposed to be the biggest news story this week, the 2017 Emmy nominations! Thanks for listening

Download | RSS

Thursday, 13 July 2017

'War for the Planet of the Apes': In a League of its Own

Big Screen Watch: The fact that these movies continue to be this good is astounding to me.

Despite being prequels to a well-known movie franchise, the recent Planet of the Apes films have had unprecedented success. Both critically and commercially. The third film chronicling the beginning of the saga 'War for the Planet of the Apes', takes place 5 years after the events of its predecessor, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'. After being forced into conflict, Caesar and his people are struggling. In order to survive, and for the ape revolution to succeed, these smart apes must be smarter than ever, as the war for the planet wages on.

To be frank, 'War for the Planet of the Apes' is exactly what most have come to expect. The visuals throughout the movie are mindblowing. The attention to detail given to the apes & the environment is remarkable. The series continues to be one of the best-looking franchises of its time. The performances by Andy Serkis and company behind each ape are nothing short of breathtaking. Having the technology to capture said performances is extremely gratifying, as 'War for the Planet of the Apes' gives a legitimacy to a season otherwise known for less intelligent films.

Sigh. Yeah, this still hurts.

Having said that, the movie did not entirely thrill me. I spent most of the first half feeling underwhelmed by the film as it went on. I felt as though there were one too many moments that were either entirely predictable or simply uninspired. At certain points, it felt like the movie was taking the easy way out. I would see the film set up something conventional, hope for it to surprise me, only to be treated to a moment that feels cheap, rather than evoking a genuine emotional response.

While it wasn't without its disappointments, the movie did have an overall sense of inventiveness to it. The world continues to have new and interesting things that help it feel fleshed out. Caesar's ape society has a design to it and so many ideas that are not drawn attention to. 'War for the Planet of the Apes' follows in the footsteps of the best post-apocalyptic movies and simply lets the audience come to know the world as it is, rather than being spoonfed the updates.

"And here is where the Apes decided on a banana based economy."

It's also worth mentioning that this is a very dark film. Both in its lighting and its tone. There are images in the movie that are extremely uncomfortable to watch and have a significant amount of edge to them. The series has never shied away from brutality before, but here, the notion of "war" is not handled lightly. Much of the movie is spent showing the immense difficulty Caesar himself has as the leader in a war he never wanted to fight. To that end, there was a solemness to 'War for the Planet of the Apes', that was a reminder of why this series has such a special place in my heart.

Even at it's worst, 'War for the Planet of the Apes' is still leaps and bounds over its competition. Despite my qualms with the first half, the second half of the movie did deliver wholeheartedly. Even those issues I had I suspect will be less disdainful upon rewatching the film. On the whole, the movie is a well made, contemplative, and extraordinarily impressive picture. Although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I wished to, it still very much deserves your attention at the cinema.

Rating: Big Screen Watch.

Here's the audio review for the movie, where we got into some of the movie's characters, and a perspective from Kyle Howard:

Download | RSS

Take 4 Episode 59: Spider-Man Movies.

A new Spider-Man movie is definitely a cause for celebration. It's also a cause for a new episode of the Take 4 podcast. Everyone from jumps in on this episode that chronicles every Spider-Man movie since 2002. Tobey Maguire and his dumb face, Andrew Garfield and his ridiculous hair. We also talked the villains of the franchise and why Kyle doesn't ever remember anything. Thanks for listening!

Download | RSS

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'Losing Patience' (2017) Review: Staying Sane In An Insane World

Some days life just doesn't go your way. Your boss gives you a hard time, you go on a bad date. For Renee Patience, that seems to be the rule, rather than the exception. That's the takeaway from miniseries 'Losing Patience'. A short, yet potent inside look at the life of a young woman, trying to navigate life and it's unnecessary difficulties. Each episode puts Patience at the heart of frustrating situations, each testing her resolve. Sometimes she handles it with tact, letting cooler heads prevail. Other times, 'Losing Patience' allows its audience to see our fantasies fulfilled as Renee decides there are some things she just won't put up with.

Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

Instantly, the thing which stands out about 'Losing Patience' is its stunning cinematography. Nothing about the series feels as though it was made for television. The skill shown is something often only found on a venture to the cinema. The same goes for the story being told. While the content put together is under 25 minutes, I could easily see the potential for more. The grasp on the characters is so strong, that in such a short time, I felt I knew Renee Patience. At least as much as she would allow.

That's entirely due to the director, writer, and editor Teeqs. The driving force behind the production. Watching 'Losing Patience' was only as rewarding an experience because of the focused and well thought out vision of its creator. The vessel of that vision, is none other than music artist Sevana, giving her debut acting performance. You'd be hard pressed to think that though. Sevana makes it seem like she's been acting her entire life, as she effortlessly shows masterful control of her expressions.

The part she was born to play.

Everything in 'Losing Patience' is a celebration of subtlety. The entire cast shines even when they're given little to no dialogue. The scenes are filled with ambient noise, adding to the sense of realism making the stories more relatable. To that point, 'Losing Patience' is only awkward when it wants to be. It's smoothly paced and feels like every scene has a purpose. It's a series that reflects the everyday struggles of so many people, just trying to stay sane. It's thoughtful, while not being too heavy, and it's a laugh riot, without being too ridiculous. 'Losing Patience' is a well-balanced series that definitely deserves your attention.

Rating: Big Screen Watch (Or in this case Catch it on Vimeo Right Away)

'Losing Patience' is out now and available for streaming on Vimeo here.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Spider-Man' Homecoming (2017) Review: Spider-Man Has Finally Arrived

Big Screen Watch: Easily one of the best Marvel films.

Picking up right after his debut in 'Captain America: Civil War', 'Spider-Man Homecoming' opens with a Peter in conflict. He's had a taste of an amazing fantasy, and suddenly, regular old high school life just doesn't do it anymore. Seeing Captain America on an exercise video just doesn't match up to stealing his shield. While he dreams of joining The Avengers in their world-saving quests, he's stuck stopping bike robberies and helping old ladies cross the street.

That personal conflict is an incredibly entertaining part of the film. Peter Parker is reflective of every teenager too rebellious for their own good. Eager to start the next phase of their life. As Peter awkwardly fumbles his way between his double life, it no doubt provides the laughs, but only because it's so relatable. Every situation Peter gets in has about as much tension as the life or death moments.

Sometimes worse than battling a supervillain.

Those moments are thanks to the villain of the picture Adrian Toomes, aka, The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. Keaton is one of the more memorable villains of the superhero genre and is almost as relatable as Peter Parker himself. He plays a disgruntled salvage operator who makes his living building and selling weaponry forged from the superhero battles waged in this universe over the years. Clearly, the movie puts function over fashion, as the Vulture has traded in his traditional feathers for giant winged blades of death.

Spider-Man himself, on the other hand, gets to have his cake and eat it too. His look is very much his classic trademarked style, but he's also been granted with a few bells and whistles not previously seen in a Spider-Man film. For some, this might seem like an unwelcome new addition, but I found it to be an incredibly inventive spin on a character who had become a little old hat at this point. How many more times could we see Peter Parker's spider sense slow down time as he leaps out of the way of danger, only to react with his best Keanu Reeve's "Woah".

Close enough.

There's a logic to much of 'Spider-Man Homecoming' that gives it a sense of realism. That realism though helps the movie stay grounded, following the themes the movie sets for itself. It perfectly allows the action to have more of an impact, no matter how wildly creative it gets. 'Spider-Man Homecoming' is the type of superhero film that has a message, is wildly entertaining, and feels incredibly well thought out.

The film is also a true homage to the John Hughes era of the 80s. Where better to draw inspiration for a film set in high school? That was present mostly in the characters that make up Peter's social circle. The classic drama that you get from high school shenanigans. Little things like the pressure of looking cool, getting good grades, and figuring out what to do with his life are definitely going to cause viewers think back to their own high school days. It's a good thing then that the whole cast, from each of Peter's teachers, to his best friend, to the girl out of his league are always on point.

Throughout my life, there have been quite a few Spider-Man films. Some of them have been bad, most of them have been good. Few have been great. The only superhero who get more chances at the movies is Batman. That's because as much as a Spider-Man film may disappoint, something about the character draws people in. The films may not meet our standards, but we're more than willing to try again the next time. Thankfully, 'Spider-Man Homecoming' is definitely worth a try, and is easily the greatest Spider-Man film to date.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Here's the latest episode of the Take 4 Podcast where we talked about the other Spider-Man movies

Download | RSS

Monday, 3 July 2017

Movie Money: Episode 21 (July 03, 2017)

The 2017 box office is definitely a telling one. Every week another juggernaut of the movies takes a blow domestically, doing numbers that aren't even close to what they used to do on a bad weekend. 'Transformers: The Last Knight' hit the $100m mark this weekend, with a weekend take of $17m. Considering the last 'Transformers' film made that on its opening weekend, it's safe to say US audiences aren't feeling the Cybertron civil war all that much.

Newcomer this week, 'Despicable Me 3' didn't do too bad. A $75m weekend is not the series best. 'The Minions' holds that privilege with $115m, followed by 'Despicable Me 2' at $83.5m. The series still has some legs, since the threequel at least made more than the first film, which opened with $56m. 'Despicable Me 3' took away a lot of the audience for 'Cars 3',  as the Pixar film dropped all the way down to #5 in its 3rd week. 'Cars 3' was beaten by 'Wonder Woman' which continues its incredible run, coming in at #4 this week with $16m, to the $9.5m by 'Cars 3'. 'Cars 3' almost missed the top 5 spot, with 'The House' right on its heels, with a $9m weekend.

Not a lot got made with this one.

Despite the decline of huge franchises like 'Transformers' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean', the lay of the land shows that domestic box office failure means next to nothing these days since international markets play such a large part in a movie's success. 'Transformers: The Last Knight' may have made only $104m in its second weekend, but its global cume is $431m. It's not the billion the franchise is used to, but the film is likely to take in a comfortable $500m. If the thought that even if these franchises fail, they still end up succeeding is depressing to you, then allow me to cheer you up by saying 'Baby Driver' made $36m worldwide this weekend, surpassing its $34m budget. It's far and above Edgar Wright's most successful movie. May it make over a billion dollars.

That's the report for this week and of course, here's the podcast:

Download | RSS

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Take 4 Newscast: 01/07/2017

One day late, but that just gave us more time to get access to more news! Thing is, outside of a few stories, this was a slow news week. 'The Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' trailer was dropped, right along with the 'Marvel's Inhumans' trailer. Along with that, we got some more confusing clarification on the Sony Spider-Man universe, and we talked about the rumoured Fantastic Four reboot. Exciting times? You be the judge. Here's the podcast.

Download | RSS

Friday, 30 June 2017

'Baby Driver' (2017) Review: The Best in the Business

G.O.A.T: Edgar Wright's most recent movie is one of the year's best.

In a world where every weekend the Baby Driver' is perhaps the most unique film to come out this summer. It's a nice respite for those of us sick of the usual mega blockbuster that often defies logic, and wears the viewer down with its exhausting runtime. It follows Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, a getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers, led by the incorrigible Doc, played by Kevin Spacey. Baby is the best in the business, but even though his hands are magic behind the wheel, his heart isn't in it. Baby would like nothing more than to ride off into the sunset, free to drive his own way. Like the cowboys of old.

Using something with a little more horsepower.
'Baby Driver' is a familiar story. We've seen the tale of the criminal with a heart of gold before. Despite that, the movie feels infinitely fresh with every moment that passes. A large part of that is due to the absolutely stellar car stunts on display. 'Baby Driver' makes the Fast and Furious films look like child's play. The stunts themselves are intricately designed and a thrill to watch, as Baby maneuvers a car like it's an extension of himself.

Watching it is one thing, but listening to it is another. Baby suffers tinnitus and is often overburdened by the everyday noises of life. To drown out the confusion, he constantly has a pair of earbuds playing everything from smooth jazz to classic rock. Baby's music is at times the centerpiece of a scene, with a gunfight perfectly synced up to the beat of a drum. Everything in 'Baby Driver' makes it feel like it's constantly moving forward, with an expert level of pacing, as Edgar Wright delivers another gem that's absolutely brimming with creativity.

The last of the long-haired weirdos who made it.

That constant momentum doesn't mean the movie moves at a breakneck speed. Yes, there are times when Baby is traveling that quickly, but 'Baby Driver' knows when to take it slow as well. Meaningful character moments are spliced in to offset the intense action. Most come from Baby's interactions with Lily James' Deborah. James plays a waitress who shares Baby's love of music. The two were at times more engaging than the car chases and gunfights, and the true heart of the movie.

I have much disdain for Ansel Elgort. The first movie I was unfortunate to see him in was 'The Fault in Our Stars'. He's not been in much else, outside of the 'Divergent' series, and a few other young adult novel adaptations. So while I don't have much to go off of, walking out of 'The Fault in Our Stars', I was entirely put off by his constant smug expression and general smarmy demeanour. I knew that a large part of that was his character in that movie was intentionally obnoxious, but I digress.

The most punchable face in Hollywood.

For a long time, I've been unable to disassociate Ansel Elgort from Agustus Waters. That is until Baby Driver, where Elgort comes into his own. He's charming, sympathetic and the type of character you root for. He's haunted but whimsical, and I was invested in his story, mostly based on Elgort's truly human, multi-faceted portrayal of him. It's clear Elgort put a lot into his performance, as he completely embodied who Baby was, right down to how certain songs make him feel.

'Baby Driver is a film that is a master class in many things. It excels in directing, sound editing, sound mixing, even simple story progression. So many of what 'Baby Driver' does well, it does better than most films at their best. There are moments in 'Baby Driver' that elicit genuine awe. Ones that take the viewer by surprise, and defies their expectations. In a perfect world, this film makes all the money possible and is seen by audiences everywhere. Unfortunately, it'll be yet another film that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it truly deserves.

Rating: G.O.A.T

Thanks for reading. We also did an audio review of this movie, where I go into the different characters that pop up in the movie, and how 'Baby Driver' matches up against other heist crews

Download | RSS