Right on schedule, here's the first look at the concluding chapter of The Hobbit trilogy. All I can say about it is that I hope it's better than the first two (I always thought Return of the King was the best entry in the original LOTR series), but I don't have a lot of faith in it. I still think there was way too much filler and fat on this "trilogy" because it never needed to be three films in the first place. Five Armies is coming out Dec. 17th.
Finally, the real first teaser for Mockingjay- Part 1 shows up. It's about time too, because I was just getting fed up with all those stupid fake ads they were doing for it. Not that you can really see much more from this minute long tease- just that Julianne Moore shows up and Philip Seymour Hoffman is still around, having just completed the scenes for this, his final film, before his death. Coming out in November, as always.
I don't know if there was any real interest in another Mad Max movie after all these years, but even if there wasn't, this trailer looks pretty awesome, right? George Miller, director of the original films, is back to helm this new one starring Tom Hardy (presumably as the titular character, although I'm not sure if it's a prequel or what) and Charlize Theron in the apocalyptic future of old. I never thought anything could top that chase scene from The Road Warrior, but it sure looks like they're going to try in this. Fury Road's coming out next summer.
Scarlett Johansson's action vehicle Lucy earned a pretty stunning $44 million at the box office this weekend, stomping over the other new release, Hercules to land at No. 1 and solidify ScarJo as a major box office draw all by herself. The movie shattered all expectations with that amount, but we'll have to see how much it can hang on against Guardians of the Galaxy next weekend, especially with a terrible "C+" Cinemascore. It got mixed reviews and probably confused people with its nutty science fiction angle, but maybe that will help it attract a cult audience. Still, it's a huge success for Johansson after building up her appeal for all these years as a member of The Avengers, and this is the biggest opening for any non-Robert Downey Jr. member of that team outside the Marvel universe.
In second place was Dwayne Johnson's Hercules, which also came in above expectations with $29 million, although with a $100 million budget, it's not nearly as big a success story as Lucy, which already outgrossed its $40 million production costs. It got a better audience rating though (B+), so maybe it will have a better drop next weekend. The rest of the top five were holdovers, with Dawn of the Apes coming in third with $16 million (a nasty 55% drop from last week), and Purge: Anarchy fourth, with $9 million (an even worse 67% drop). in fifth was Planes: Fire & rescue, just behind The Purge.
- Lucy- $44 million
- Hercules- $29 million
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes- $16 million
- The Purge: Anarchy- $9.9 million
- Planes: Fire & Rescue- $9.3 million
In specialty release news, A Most Wanted Man, the last leading role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, was the big success, coming in at No. 10 with $2.7 million from just 360 screens. Reviews were great for that movie, which combined with interest in seeing the late Hoffman to help it score big in limited release. Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight also did well, pulling in $426k from just 17 screens, and the comedy concert film The Fluffy Movie made $1.3 million from 430 theaters. Next week it's Marvel's big Guardians of the Galaxy movie, along with the James Brown biopic Get On Up as counter-programming, taking over the August slot that did so well for The Help and The Butler these last couple of years.
The Batman/Superman panel has revealed the first look at Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. Nothing I have seen or heard about this movie has convinced me it's going to be any good at all, but I will say that this particular still is pretty cool. What do you think?
Since Comic-Con's happening right now, the studios are putting out sneaks and teases for their fanboy related projects coming up, and here's the Batfleck one everyone's talking about.
So there you go. I have literally no reaction to this picture though. They went back to the small ears and a mask where he can't turn his head, but other than that it's pretty boring. We all know what the limited Ben Affleck will be like as Bruce Wayne/Batman, so I can't get excited over whether or not he has a better chin for the mask than the other Batmans did. Sorry.
Kind of amazing that Hot Tub Time Machine got a sequel in the first place, isn't it? The sleeper/cult sci-fi comedy from 2010 got most of the cast back except for arguably, the most important member in John Cusack. Think that'll hurt the movie? Hard to tell. It looks pretty nutty and since it's the same director and writer as the first one, it'll probably be more or less what fans of the first want to see again. It's coming out on Christmas Day.
2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an unlikely success in rebooting the 40-year-old series that had always been cursed with having an inherently ridiculous premise that, after the initial 1968 allegorical sci-fi classic, could never truly be taken seriously. The 2011 prequel tackled that problem by finally having technology advanced enough that we could actually see the apes existing in reality, developing higher intelligence through lab experiments gone haywire. The biggest asset in this suspension of disbelief was the creation of Caesar himself, played through motion capture performance by the great Andy Serkis, who seemed as real as any human on screen, with nuances in facial expressions and thoughts that rendered him nearly sentient.
In this new sequel to a film that was essentially a high tech B-movie with playful energy infused throughout (which is what made it work in the first place), the biggest difference is the tone. Directed by Matt Reeves, this film takes itself very seriously indeed, and within the setup that all makes sense. Ten years have passed since the first movie, the human population having been ravaged by a virus that took out all but the genetically immune, leaving the intelligent apes to rule themselves deep in the wooded enclave where Caesar had them retreat at the end of Rise. They have built a home there in the forest, and Caesar even has a wife and two sons (although I admit I occasionally had trouble telling his son Blue Eyes from his wife at times- I assume that's why they make the effort to distinguish her by having her wear a flowery headband). The visual effects, not surprisingly, are amazing this time around, even more so than last time. Caesar's not the only ape in town now, and some of his pals from the first movie are back (Maurice, Koba) along with many new ones. Many of the new apes with significant roles are also played by motion capture actors, rendering their movements and expressions again, strikingly realistic. But this is where Andy Serkis really does reveal what a talent he is, because Caesar is still the only ape who seems as three-dimensional as any human man (maybe more), and when you see him in close-ups he seems to be thinking and feeling emotions to the point where you can forget he's not a man. That's not so with the others, who remain impressive special effects, but not more than that.
The human survivors this time are a group led by Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman, who live in a huddled colony outside the woods and accidentally come in contact with the apes one day. This leads to the conflict, which is fairly routine, to be honest. We know a war is coming and the humans and apes have to battle it out, so we already know where all this is headed. Clarke is the nice human, along with his wife (Keri Russell) and teenage son, while various others are the bad guys who hate the apes, want to take them out, etc. None of them are particularly interesting or developed, although the up and coming Jason Clarke does a nice job with the role, exhibiting an empathetic screen presence when interacting with what's presumably nothing on the screen beside him. Happily, the plot goes in a slightly different direction, as the twist in this film is that the apes are the ones who start the inevitable war with the humans, because the evil Koba, who was experimented on by lab scientists, hates humans so much that he goes against Caesar's orders and steals their guns, leading a revolt behind the leader's back.
This leads to chaos of course, and even though there's kind of a nice anti-gun message in here somewhere (it may have been unintentional), the beginning of the war that ensues is predictable and ends in what's really a non-ending, because this movie is functioning as a bridge in what's a planned trilogy (or perhaps more) where the apes will have to eventually defeat the humans if things are still headed in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes direction. I'm sort of hoping the next one bypasses the war altogether and skips to the part where all the apes can talk (most of them are still signing in this one) and are wearing clothes, walking around, etc., just so we can see how the CGI handles that aspect of it. The more seriously the movies take this concept, the harder it is to accept as a whole, but if we can just skip to where it feels like a whole other universe (and humans are a non-factor) that might be kind of cool to see. As of now, this is a visually spectacular, satisfying bridge entry in the series, and as long as Andy Serkis remains the star, I'm on board to the finish.
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Expect this to be a huge hit next February, given how insanely popular the books were. I don't know, it looks kinda cheesy to me. I do like Jamie Dornan (he plays the creepy serial killer on The Fall), but here he just looks a million times tamer. You probably think that's a good thing, since he's actually not supposed to be a killer in this one, but he is supposed to have an intimidating, more dangerous look about him. I don't see it in this. Also, the whole touch of having Beyonce's re-mixed version of "Crazy in Love" playing over the trailer makes it seem extra marketed. This is just phony sensuality for a broad audience, not true eroticism (which actually makes it pretty close to the books I guess, given how trashy they were).
Finally, the movie that got the biggest reaction out of Sundance has a trailer out, and is set for release on October 10th. Have to say, it does look pretty great. Whiplash also stirred up Oscar buzz way back in January for J.K. Simmons as the sadistic music teacher you see here. Miles Teller looks good too as the student (his most significant performance so far was in last year's teen drama The Spectacular Now). Can't wait to see this one.
One of the great courtroom drama mysteries is out on blu-ray this week. This is a Billy Wilder essential (one of my all time favorite directors) with an all-star cast consisting of Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. With that much star power on the screen you've got to check it out, right? Based on an Agatha Christie story (usually considered the best ever film adaptation of one of her works) and featuring the great Marlene Dietrich's best ever performance, this is a can't miss classic from the 1950's.
Original 1957 Trailer:
Another Sundance hit, from newcomer Justin Simien, who wrote and directed this satire about racial politics in the present day (which already makes it a refreshing take on the topic, since most movies about racism stay squarely focused on the long ago past). It got great reviews out of the festival and is coming out October 17th, so keep an eye out for this one, which is bound to garner a lot of press in the fall, be it due to controversy or praise.