Friday, October 20, 2017

Geostorm Review

There's five new wide releases opening this weekend and there's no way I'm getting to all of them, especially since I'm also trying to get in as many Halloween movie reviews in as I can. But I needed to get at least one of these new movies in. Perhaps two or three. We'll see what I'm feeling like. "The Snowman" was my most anticipated movie of the weekend and I would've seen that one first had it not been for news of the absolutely disastrous production that apparently destroyed that movie. And I really want to see "Only the Brave." I've never seen a Madea movie or really anything from Tyler Perry, so don't be looking for that one. Yet for some strange reason I ended up settling on "Geostorm." Why? I don't know. I think it's mostly due to curiosity as to how bad this movie could be. Sure, there was a small glimmer of hope that maybe there was entertainment to be had. I rather enjoyed "San Andreas" from the other year, so maybe this movie could be similar? Uh... no. Not so much. If you were like me and you watched the trailers and came away thinking this movie would be an awful piece of trash, you were right. Don't waste your time or money on this one. However, I was surprised that this was bad for different reasons than I was thinking.

You know how this movie was being advertised as an epic disaster movie that seemed like it was made 20 years too late? Yeah, put that on hold. For as much Geostorming as this movie promised, there's not very much Geostorming at all. The movie is a dark, serious, whodunit political thriller for most of the run time with some major storms thrown in as an afterthought, most of which you already saw in all the trailers. Thought you signed up for a self-aware, fun, disaster movie where you could sit back and shove popcorn in your face for two hours? Well, put that popcorn down and take a nap for the first hour of the movie. We get teased for a brief few moments with a frozen Afghanistan city followed by some sort of fiery, volcanic earthquake in Hong Kong. Outside that, we have to wait for the storms and I started to get bored as heck. Most of the movie is I think was trying to make some sort of painfully horrible political statement that you absolutely don't want when you go into a disaster movie and a whole ton of family drama between our two main characters in the movie, who are brothers, that I just didn't care about it. For some reason the writers and directors thought that the world wanted a super serious drama with lots of politics and I found that baffling.

So get this. The movie starts with an opening montage, narrated by the little girl in the movie, in which we learn that the year 2019 there were a whole ton of major natural disasters that destroyed many major cities. Right off the bat I was like, no. Don't do this. Don't make this a huge political drama. But I facepalmed really hard because that's exactly what they did. We all know that 2017 has seen some horrific natural disasters. Is this movie trying to say that these are just going to get worse and we need to do something about it? Most likely. So in this fictional not-to-distant future, they built these major satellites to control all of the natural disasters so that they didn't happen. Jump a few years into the future, somewhere in the early 2020's, and we immediately go back to politics. Because just about every politician in this movie is portrayed as an evil, malicious idiot with no brain in their head. Because they are so corrupt, they take all credit for this space station thing and try to manage it themselves, not listening to a single word that the main architect is saying about what actually needs to be done. Poor Gerard Butler is trying to valiantly fight his cause while his idiot brother is texting him to shut up and roll over dead. Yeah, they decide to fire him after that.

OK, I get it movie. All politicians are evil, crazy idiots who can't be trusted. Can we drop it? No. We're not going to. Instead, after the fiasco where Gerard Butler gets fired, we jump into the future even more, making me completely lose track of what year we're in, and we get a whodunit thriller because apparently someone has inserted some sort of virus into our space station thing that is causing it to malfunction and create these huge storms. If they don't figure out who is doing this and how to stop them, the world is going to experience a Geostorm, a super huge mega storm where natural disasters everywhere combine together and destroy the world. You know, the title of the movie. So three years after this younger brother ruined his older brother's life, they are forced to go back to him to help them stop this thing. In order to save the world, he accepts. So he goes up to outer space while the younger brother handles things down on earth and after much investigation, they have determined that their prime suspect is the President of the United States. Who, get this, is a democrat. Oh, so now we're saying that the democrats specifically are all evil and going to destroy the world? Holy cow. I'm not even a democrat and that infuriates me.

Are we ready for the storms, yet? Because I thought I signed up for a movie where I got to watch the world get destroyed by natural disasters. Not a long, boring, drawn out political thriller where democrats are portrayed as evil human beings. I wanted my storms! Which, in thinking about, seems like insensitive timing anyways. With how much damage various earthquakes, hurricanes and fires have already done to our world, is this really a movie that we needed right now? But whatever. If we ignore that point, we didn't get those storms anyways. Not on the level that I thought I would. Eventually after all this nonsense, the storms started. I'm normally not an advocate of pulling out your phones during a movie, but when these storms started, I just had to know what time it was. My showtime was 1:00. The movie is 1 hour, 49 minutes long. It was 2:25 when the storms started. Granted, we had 15-20 minutes of trailers beforehand, but even with that it means we were at least at the halfway point through the movie before we started to get what we thought we were going to get. But even with the storms starting, we only got like a total of 15 minutes of storms scattered throughout the second half of the movie as we focused more on wrapping up our political thriller.

This baffled me. Granted, the movie wasn't unwatchable like I thought it was going to be, but the fact that they tried to make this a super serious, political thriller/drama was really frustrating. If you go back to the 90's when these types of disaster movies were super popular, half of the reason why people loved them is that they were mostly all self-aware of what type of movie they were. Even if they didn't make sense and were super ridiculous, they were still really fun. Had this movie taken a more lighter, non-serious tone that owned up to what it was, I think it could've been a fun, throwback film, much like "San Andreas" was. Now I do have to give credit where credit is due. All of our cast tried their best to make this work. Thus we can't blame Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish or Alexandra Maria Lara for what went wrong. They owned up to their roles and did their best. The movie is also well shot with visual effects that are serviceable. This won't get any visual effects nominations at the Oscars, but it's not bad. And the score is your typically decent blockbuster score. But the script and the tone of the movie is just so awful and so off, that anything good that these people tried to do is wiped away.

Again, there's a lot of movies in theaters right now. There's holdovers from the last several weeks that deserve to be seen. Five new options this weekend. Oscar-bait films that are starting to surface. There's a lot for you to see. And that's not even mentioning what appears to be a very fun holiday season in November and December with movies such as "Thor: Ragnorok," "Justice League" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" heading our way. There's no reason for you to ever waste your time with "Geostorm." I write movie reviews. That's what I do. And often I'll purposely try to see movies like this so that you can be informed as to what not to see. I consider it taking one for the team so that you don't have to. Had this been a self-aware, lighthearted, fun disaster movie, I may have been able to recommend it as a guilty pleasure like I did "San Andreas," but this movie tries to be so serious and dramatic that it ruins all that potential. No one cares about overdone drama in a disaster movie. It's not fun. And it's certainly not fun watching an in-your-face political thriller about how evil the democratic party is. Due to good acting and serviceable technical aspects to the movie, I'm not going to give this a horrible score, but I'm certainly not going positive. "Geostorm" gets a 5/10. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Classic Movie Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

This review comes via request of a good friend of mine as a part of my series of Halloween reviews this year. I was going to say that this is a more obscure film for me to review, but that actually might not be true as the Library of Congress in 1992 deemed it "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." It's also shown up occasionally on all-time great movie lists and has influenced a lot of different directors. So maybe I just missed the boat when it comes to knowing this movie exists, because I hadn't heard about it until a month or so ago when my friend mentioned it. It also means that I'm at an extreme disadvantage in writing a review because I've only had a week now to think about it as opposed to 62 years for some people. But hey, perhaps a fresh perspective is a good thing on occasion, especially when it comes to the case of nostalgia. It's often seen as blasphemous to say anything bad about a movie deemed a classic. But if I just watched it for the first time a week ago, I can simply treat it as a brand new movie and move forward without having to worry about nostalgia or its designation as a classic. In turn that means that if this has been one of your all-time favorite films for years, then you might be in for an interesting ride with this review.

After having heard of this movie for the first time a month ago and watching it for the first time a week ago, I even more recently learned that "The Night of the Hunter" is based on the book of the same name, which in turn is based on the life of one Harry Powers, a serial killer who was hanged in 1932 for the murder of a woman and her three kids. Powers lured women to him via Lonely Hearts ads (the old-fashioned version of dating sites?), claiming he was looking for love, but instead had a goal to kill them for their money. Thankfully he was caught, convicted and put to death before too many people fell victim to him, because apparently he got 10-20 letters per day based on his ads and had written love letters to many of them with the intention of killing them for their money. This gives you a bit of an idea of what you're in for if you decide to put in "The Night of the Hunter," although not really because, while the movie is based on the life of Powers, "loosely based" might be the proper terminology. The fictional version of this story that is told in this movie is a lot more toned down than the real life version as I'm guessing that director Charles Laughton wanted to make a movie that people of his time would actually watch.

This makes for an interesting conversation. A dark, gruesome, bloody thriller is probably not something that audiences would gravitate towards in 1955. Even Hitchcock had to restrain himself in order to get the rating of approved that was necessary for films back then to actually make money. I'll talk about that more on a later date when I review a certain Hitchcock film. But 2017 is much different than 1955 in terms of content that a director is capable of making. I feel many of Hitchcock's films would be much more intense if he had lived in today's world with his same mind. Perhaps Charles Laughton would've elected to go darker and scarier if he also were around today to make this movie? With that in mind, what if we hired a director today who excels at dark, crime thrillers to return to this material and give it a more realistic, darker feel to it? Put that thought on hold for a bit, because I'm going to come back to it. As far now, we have to talk about this movie, which surrounds the fictional character named, not Harry Powers, but Harry Powell. Guess what he does? Yup. He goes around killing women for their money. At least that's his goal in this movie. And he's learned of $10,000 that he's absolutely dead set on owning.

In the movie, Powell is portrayed by actor Robert Mitchum and is a rather happy, jovial fellow. In fact, he's actually a minister and has convinced himself that God is OK with murder because murder happens in the Bible. I mean, there's moments in the Bible where God commands his people to kill others. That means murder is good, right? Well... uhhh... wrong. But crazy people often need justification like that in order to convince themselves that what they're doing is right. So it makes sense. We learn all this at the beginning of the movie when Powell is alone in a car talking out loud to himself, God, the camera, or all of the above. It's the movie's way of delivering the necessary exposition so they can dive right into this story without wasting any time. Shortly after this, Powell gets arrested for burglary, a crime that the real Harry Powers also served time for 10 years before his conviction and hanging. It's in prison where the fictional Harry Powell happens to come across a man talking in his sleep about $10,000 he stole and gave to his kids, demanding secrecy from them. So when Powell gets out of prison, off to that family he goes. To marry the wife and do his absolute best to get the money from the kids. Which turns out to be harder than he initially planned on due to the praiseworthy stubbornness of the young boy.

The interesting thing that I found about this movie is that the setup of the film is not really dark or scary in terms of the tone and feel. It almost starts off as quite the opposite, that being light and happy. Which then catches you off guard when you hear what this guy is actually saying and the dread sets in without the movie even having to pound that dread in with music, lighting or camera work. If this guy hadn't admitted to being a serial killer, perhaps he would've even been a character worth caring about. The thing is, while we as an audience know his secret right off the bat, no one around him knows the secret, which makes you scream inside your head as this happy, lovable preacher starts introducing himself to everyone and eventually marrying this girl. I was genuinely terrified, yet I fully understood why everyone else made the decision to put their complete faith in this man. I mean, a happy, lovable minister is always someone worth trusting, right? I was on the edge of my seat for most of the first third of the movie as this creep moves his way into this family's life. The horrific anticipation of knowing something awful is about to happen is a rather suspenseful feeling, which is perfect for this time of year. We all love being scared at Halloween.

You'll note, though, that I said I was on the edge of my seat for most of the first third of the movie. I don't want to give too much away in case there are others reading this who, like me last week, haven't actually seen this movie. But the movie is essentially a three act story. I don't know what the time proportions are, but there are definitely three distinct parts. The first part of this film is what I have been describing to you. This is the horror of knowing that something awful is going to happen as this man gets closer and closer to achieving his goal. But for me personally, the movie didn't quite hit the levels of fear that I thought it was building to. There's definitely an overhanging sense of dread in the second and third parts of the movie, but I found myself a lot less interested in what was actually happening. I wanted the movie to unleash all of its terror and dread on me, but I felt like the director either made the choice to purposely hold back or didn't quite have the creative liberty at the time to do so. Thus we are left with a movie that, while still satisfying enough in the end, did come off as a bit cartoonish if you will. Certain aspects of the movie wouldn't have transpired the way they did, I didn't think. And they absolutely didn't when you look at the real story of Harry Powers.

With this in mind, I got to thinking what the movie could've been like had it been made in 2017. Actually, that's a lie. While watching this movie with a group of friends, the comment was posed that there's no other movie like this one. I took that as a challenge and, after much thought, it connected with me that Harry Powell reminded me a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal's character in "Nightcrawler" and Rosamund Pike's character in "Gone Girl." Three very different movies, thus the comment might stand of "The Night of the Hunter" itself being a unique film, but the characters themselves and the motivations behind what they do connected in my mind. And it's that connection that got me to thinking that a modern-day version of "The Night of the Hunter" has the potential to be absolutely insane with the right cast and crew. I know this might sound blasphemous. But if Wikipedia is correct (it never lies!), then this is a movie that inspired a lot of modern-day directors who have gone onto make absolutely terrifying thrillers. If "The Night of the Hunter" was their inspiration, then perhaps this has the proper elements to be remade into a modern film where the director has the liberty to do such things that would've gotten Laughton hanged in 1955.

Maybe it's because "Gone Girl" was the first movie I came up with when seeking comparisons to "The Night of the Hunter," but when I was contemplating the proper director for my remake, David Fincher was the name that seemed perfect. In addition to "Gone Girl," he's also made movies like "Se7en" and "Zodiac" that proves he has the thriller genre down pat. I believe that he would do "The Night of the Hunter" complete justice with his version. He could give it the modern grit and tone to please today's audiences while still being faithful to the original film. I also came up with a cast that I would love to see, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Harry Powell, Armie Hammer and Michelle Williams as our original couple Ben and Willa Harper, with Jaeden Lieberher and McKenna Grace as the two kids. I feel this is a cast that would deliver absolute power to these roles, especially with Fincher directing them. I don't have my exact script hammered out in my head, but it would be dark and intense. Perhaps we could even go back to the original source material by telling the true story of Harry Powers. Or maybe a combination of the real story and the fictional version. I don't know. Maybe you hate me right now for suggesting this, but I think it could work.

The point of all this is, while I honestly did enjoy myself in "The Night of the Hunter," I think the intensity was turned down quite a bit from what it could've been, perhaps due to restrictions based on what 1955 audiences could handle. While it's very true that I'm not an expert on classic cinema from this age, thus making me not the most qualified person to review this movie, thrillers are my thing. It's my favorite genre. When I compare "The Night of the Hunter" to other thrillers that I've seen, I didn't get quite the thrill out of it that I was expecting or hoping for. The first act was solid, but it got a bit cartoonish at times, wandered around through the second act and perhaps went on a little further than it needed to in the third act in terms of the story (not the run time of the movie). Perhaps it's unfair to compare it to modern-day thrillers like "Gone Girl" or "Nightcrawler." But I think a comparison to Hitchcock's films are absolutely on the table. Movies like "Psycho," "Rear Window," "Vertigo" and "The Birds" are a lot more refined, intense, terrifying and boundary-pushing. Even with that said, "The Night of the Hunter" is still a solid film and might even be perfect if you like your thrillers a bit more toned down. My grade for it is still an 8/10 despite what I've said.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Classic Movie Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Not "Frankenstein." Not "Bride of Frankenstein." But "Young Frankenstein." Why? Well, that's a good question. Even though this year's release of "The Mummy" was a dud, Universal's attempt to reboot their monster universe (which "The Mummy" may have killed) gave me the desire to go back and watch some of the actual Universal Monster movies. In fact, I went all out in an Excel file compiling a list of all of them. And there's A LOT of monster movies. Sorting through the wheat and the tares, I also looked up IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores for each one to determine which ones were worth watching. Then I was going to dive in. I haven't actually taken the dive yet, outside "The Mummy" franchise, but I have the list ready and that includes 18 "Frankenstein" movies, of which my sources tell me nine of them are worth seeing. On my own accord, there's probably about eight of them I would've checked out before "Young Frankenstein," but when I asked for requests of Halloween movies to review, this is the one that came up. Yeah, it surprised me, too. But after the second strong recommendation, I decided what the heck. Let's watch and review "Young Frankenstein." And hey, it's on Netflix right now. That makes it easy for you to watch it if you haven't already.

If you're like me from two weeks ago and you haven't been exposed to "Young Frankenstein," allow me to give you a quick taste of what you're in for. This is a movie directed by the great Mel Brooks and stars Willy Wonka himself (Gene Wilder) as Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein from our original "Frankenstein" story. Frederick Frankenstein hates his heritage so much that he gets angry when someone brings it up and he even prefers to pronounce his last name the German way instead of the traditional English way in order to separate himself from his grandfather. He'd prefer to be famous based on his own merits and not because of the cynical and crazy history of his grandfather. Despite this hatred, he ends up being dragged into his grandfather's work, anyways, when he's informed that he has inherited his family's estate in Transylvania. Curiosity gets the better of him and he checks the estate out and, with the help of the hunchback Igor and the beautiful assistant Inga, he discovers his grandfather's secret lab and can't help himself. The three of them work together to create another monster from the remains of others, which leads to practically everything going horribly wrong in perhaps the most hilarious way possible.

There's a reason why Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" is so well known. Outside the fact that both the novel and the 1931 movie were highly influential in the sci-fi, monster and horror genres, in both literature and film, the story of Frankenstein and his monster is so profoundly deep and moving. I'd argue that most people will be able to relate to some angle of the story with the themes of the creator vs. the creation and all that entails. There's a lot of religious symbolism packed in there, too, especially when it comes to the monster's viewpoint of being confused and hurt as to why he's been created and what his purpose on earth is. There can also be a lot said about Victor Frankenstein's point of view with the desire for power and influence by creating life and the dangers that can come your way when you get consumed with such greed without realizing the consequences. This is just me barely scratching the surface. There's a lot more to cover with this story and perhaps it would be fun at some point for me to watch and review the original 1931 movie as well as some of the other movies that followed, such as "Bride of Frankenstein," "Son of Frankenstein," "The Ghost of Frankenstein," "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "The Revenge of Frankenstein."

But now is not the time for that. Now is the time for "Young Frankenstein," the movie that came long after those and does not take itself seriously at all. This is not a movie designed to make you think on all the deep mysteries of life. Even though I don't find the "Frankenstein" movies scary, per se, "Young Frankenstein" isn't even a horror movie. It's a straight-up comedy that's meant as a "Frankenstein" parody movie. Even though I personally prefer my original "Frankenstein" movies, when it comes to a light-hearted comedic telling of a classic story, it doesn't get a whole lot better as alot of this humor is quite on point. Much of this is shouldered by Gene Wilder, who absolutely owns this role as Frederick Frankenstein. I haven't been exposed to Gene Wilder as much as I would like to, but I've always adored him as Willy Wonka in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" from 1971. That exposure alone was enough for me to be sad about his passing last summer. It was fun seeing him in something else as I watched "Young Frankenstein" and I was super impressed as he went all in with this role, embracing both sides of this complex character of Frederick Frankenstein. The other actors in this movie did well, too. But I honestly don't think this movie would've gone anywhere had it not been for the brilliant performance of Gene Wilder.

As far as the comedy itself, I will admit that not all of it worked for me. I think that's the case with comedy in general, which is why it's such a hard genre to pull off. Not everyone is going to laugh at the same jokes, especially in this case if they are less familiar with the source material that this movie is parodying. If you're less familiar with "Frankenstein," I'd suggest you watch that first instead of this, because otherwise the comedy might go right over your head. But even with the knowledge of "Frankenstein," not all of this worked for me. I'd hesitate to use the word "raunchy" to describe this movie, but there is quite a bit of sexual humor scattered throughout that I think would put this movie at a PG-13 in today's standards, thus making it not quite the Halloween movie for the whole family to enjoy. Specifically there's an ongoing gag about the size of the monster's you-know-what that was kinda chuckle-worthy the first time they used it, but completely unfunny every other time, but yet they kept going. I will admit that I did laugh when Gene Wilder exclaimed his amazement at the size of the knockers on the door in which Inga responded with a "thank you." That was a cleverly timed joke, even though it does fit under the same category as the other.

The humor in this movie that I enjoyed most was more of the silly, slapstick humor, like when Frankenstein and Inga were trying to figure out how to work the secret door or when the monster was at the home of the blind man. Those were scenes that made me smile quite a bit and I kinda wish there were more of them. But overall, I couldn't help but be pleased with this movie throughout its run time. I could definitely see how much fun everyone had in the process of making this film, which I think helps it translate well onto the big screen. Comedy is all about chemistry and timing. When everyone involved is on the same page with making it happen, it makes it that much more enjoyable to watch, thus I can definitely see why this movie has made it onto quite a few lists of the greatest comedies ever made. In terms of the parody, I also had quite a bit of respect for how much fun they had with poking fun at the "Frankenstein" franchise while still being respectful towards the franchise as a whole as to not alienate fans of the franchise.  When you can enjoy a movie, then enjoy it being made fun of in a respectful way, that's a sign of a good comedy because there's nothing worse than seeing an attempted comedy where the humor is way off.

I definitely think there is a strong place in this world for Halloween movies like this. Halloween is a fun time of year, but it's understandable that some people are not on board for the scary, horror side of Halloween. As such, it's good to have a wide selection of light-hearted, Halloween humor to enjoy. Even though I prefer the dramatic, serious side of "Frankenstein" more than this, I would still give this my strong recommendation, especially if you are one that prefers the lighter side of Halloween. It's not as deep and powerful as other "Frankenstein" movies. And it does dive more into the sexual humor than it needed to. I think this would've worked best as a movie the whole family can enjoy as opposed to it being targeted more towards the adult audience, but this is still a fun movie to enjoy that is propelled by Gene Wilder owning the role of Frederick Frankenstein, but supporting roles from the likes of Marty Feldman (Igor), Teri Garr (Inga), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blucher) and Peter Boyle (the monster) certainly have to be given credit as well. It was a good team effort all around, thus we also have to give a lot of credit to Mel Brooks for being the director at the helm of the project. I think a fair grade for "Young Frankenstein" from me is a solid 8/10.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Happy Death Day Review

The "Groundhog Day" formula has been quite the popular formula to follow in Hollywood. That, of course, is being stuck in some sort of time loop until you learn a lesson or figure out how to overcome some sort of obstacle. The most recent example of this formula being "Edge of Tomorrow," which was a sci-fi version of "Groundhog Day" where audiences got to watch Tom Cruise die over and over in a D-Day like scenario until he figured out how to win the war against the alien army. And now we have the movie "Happy Death Day" hoping to feed off that success by bringing us a comedic horror version of "Groundhog Day." After seeing this premise done so many times, you would think that I would be sick of it by now. For some reason, I'm not. It's a fun premise that somehow gets me every time. Thus when I saw the trailers for "Happy Death Day," I had a childish grin on my face, crossing my fingers that this would be another fun variation of this premise while keeping in the back of my mind that there's a possibility that this could end up as a disaster, like many modern-day horror movies. Lucky for me, this is a movie that doesn't take itself seriously at all and thus becomes a rather fun sort-of horror film that's worth your time this Halloween season.

In the movie, Jessica Rothe plays a college sorority girl named Tree Gelbman. She wakes up one day in the dorm room of a guy named Carter Davis, played by Isreal Broussard, having not remembered what happened the previous evening. She puts on her shirt, leaves the room, and heads off to class, making sure to be rude and arrogant to everyone in her path, roommates included. Because, you know, that's how we have to have her in this type of movie. We have to watch her learn to be nice to the world. Except she does kind of have an excuse. Today is her birthday, which is not a very happy day for her due to certain family issues. But after living a somewhat normal day for her, she ends up all by herself in a dark part of town where she comes across an individual dressed in black with a baby-face mask, that's apparently the school mascot. That person kills her and then she wakes up back in the dorm room of Carter Davis. And what do you know. It's the same day again. At the end of each ensuing day, the crazy person with the baby face mask is waiting for her to kill her again. Why trap her in a time loop instead of kill her for good? I don't know. The movie doesn't really answer that question. This is the type of movie where certain things you just have to accept.

Because of that, there's a few ways you can look at this movie. You can take it super seriously and complain at all the logical fallacies present in the movie. Why is she in a time loop? I don't know. Why doesn't she use one of her lives to de-mask the killer to figure out who he/she is? I don't know. When the mystery is revealed, does it make sense when you think back on the rest of the movie? Probably not. Is it kinda silly that it follows the "Groundhog Day" formula to a t, with a "Groundhog Day" reference thrown in there? Yeah. But here's the thing I'd say to you if you did take that route with this movie. The movie itself doesn't take itself seriously at all, so it's a bit unfair for you to do so. This is a very self-aware movie that simply decides to have a ton of fun with a silly premise, thus I think it can be enjoyed if you try to sit back, relax and just have fun. That's exactly what I did and it was a very enjoyable ride. I imagine the writers had a lot of fun writing this screenplay. I imagine the director had fun bringing it to life. And I definitely know that the lead actors had a ton of fun in their roles. Jessica Rothe completely owns this role by going all in on whatever she was told to do, thus she ends up carrying this whole movie on her back and you can't help but like her.

It's also worth noting that this isn't really a horror film. If you're whole purpose of going into this movie was to be scared beyond reason, you're going to walk out really confused and disappointed that you were instead treated to a light-hearted comedy. Sure, there were a few creepy moments when the baby-faced killer shows up and quite a bit of attempted jump scares that I never bit at. But this is not a scary movie and I don't think it was trying to be, so I'm not going to fault it for that. If you thought it looked scary based on the trailers, then get mad at the advertising if you want, which I do admit was a bit deceiving. When I first watched this trailer, I thought for sure this was going to be a dark, creepy, hard R-rated film, thus I was surprised when it was given a PG-13 rating. No, this is not a graphic, bloody film. Every time our girl gets stabbed or killed, the camera either cuts away or jumps to her waking up. The one censored f-bomb in the trailer is the only f-bomb in the movie. And the scene where she is walking around naked in the trailer is not any more graphic than it is in the trailer. You see her bare shoulders from the front and bare back from the rear. So yeah, a lot of trailer bait shots to trick teenagers into thinking this is a risque movie, but it's not.

My biggest gripe that I had while watching the movie is that it seemed like it was going to end a specific way and I don't think I would've been happy with that specific ending. I don't want to dive into specifics with this, but right when I started to grumble and complain at how they decided to wrap this up, they turned the corner slightly and went a bit of a different direction and that direction was enough to please me. Is this a movie that I plan on owning and watching every Halloween for the rest of my life. No. When you compare it to "Groundhog Day" and "Edge of Tomorrow," it doesn't get very close to that. I don't know if I even have a huge desire to watch it a second time, but if I have family or friends that are curious enough to check it out, I'll happily sit down and enjoy the movie with them. It's a fun, enjoyable ride as long as you don't take it too seriously. If you are wanting dark, scary and serious, go watch "IT." If you want fun and enjoyable, then check out "Happy Death Day." If you are poor or have no time to head out to the theaters this Halloween, then don't be too upset that you missed this. Find it on Netflix or rent it at Redbox sometime. That's perfectly acceptable. You're not missing "the movie of 2017." My grade for "Happy Death Day" is an 8/10.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 Review

The movie "Blade Runner" has a unique history. It was initially released in 1982 to poor box office results. Before that, though, its early screenings went so bad that the studio decided to throw on some voice over and attach on a happy ending in hopes that general audiences would be happy about the movie. After the aforementioned poor box office results, it eventually caught on after release and became a cult classic. In 1992, a director's cut of the film was released that took away the voice over and the happy ending, but it wasn't a true director's cut as it was put together based on Ridley Scott's notes. Ridley Scott himself wasn't happy with that release either. It wasn't until 2007 when Scott finally got involved and put together a final cut that he was happy about and actually had full say in everything. The movie is seen as a revolutionary sci-fi film that inspired a lot of movies that we all love today. Despite that, I, for some reason, managed to never see it. It was always one of those movies on my list to eventually catch up on, but never got around to until the release of "Blade Runner 2049" gave me an excuse to. No way was I going to go into the sequel without seeing the original. Now that I've seen both, it's time to dive into this interesting franchise.

I don't want to spend too much time on "Blade Runner" itself because I'd rather focus most of this review on the original, but nevertheless I think I am at a bit of a disadvantage at having not seen "Blade Runner" until 2017. It's a bit of a slow, though-provoking film that dives deep into the themes of human vs. technology. I think a lot of humanity is scared of technology getting too advanced, thus in Hollywood we see almost every movie about artificial intelligence going completely awry with the robots we've created overtaking us and ruling the earth. In fact, I can't really think of a movie off the top of my head that portrays artificial intelligence as a positive thing. It's almost always negative. And that's what "Blade Runner" is all about. Humans created these artificial intelligence that this universe has called replicas, but things went so bad that they've become illegal on this planet. Now there are certain people working as blade runners whose job is to hunt down and "retire" the replicas that are on the earth. Harrison Ford is one of said blade runners and the movie is about him hunting down and killing four specific replicas. But he falls in love with one of them while hunting the others down and then there are questions about if he himself is actually a replica.

You see, that was all super interesting and everything, but I finished the movie thinking that I've seen this premise a thousand times, but better. Yet I got to thinking that it's quite possible that the movies I deem better may not have happened had it not been for "Blade Runner" paving the way with this idea. Thus is why I say I'm at a disadvantage by waiting until 2017 to see this. Perhaps if I were alive in 1982 when this was released or had seen this movie when I was younger, maybe I would think differently. But as is, despite it being done very well, it didn't seem that special of a movie to me. Yet I still loved the fantastic visuals and mesmerizing score, and I was excited to return to this universe in "Blade Runner 2049" being that my man Denis Villeneuve was the man in the director's chair for this film. If you don't know Villeneuve by now, you need to. I haven't seen some of his earlier films, but recently he is responsible for "Prisoners," "Sicario" and "Arrival," three very good films. I would go as far as saying he is one of the best directors in the business. All you need to do to get my attention is to let me know that he is directing a film and I will be in the theater watching that film as soon as I can. He has not disappointed me yet and that streak continues with "Blade Runner 2049."

You can tell by watching "Blade Runner 2049" that Villeneuve has mad respect for the original film because he has taken that original film and delivered a proper sequel that does justice to this movie that so many love. They could've taken this franchise and updated it for modern audiences. They could've turned it into a giant action franchise or used this movie to set up a whole bunch of other sequels, but that's not what happened. Villeneuve has made a "Blade Runner" sequel that takes what "Blade Runner" set up and builds on it. While the first movie was set in 2019, this movie is set 30 years after that, in the year 2049, and feels like a natural progression. The technology from the first movie has expanded and progressed while the universe we're in is bigger, better and more beautiful than ever before. Like, seriously, if nothing else, this movie is worth seeing just for the visual effects and cinematography. And just like the original, the soundtrack is quite mesmerizing. The movie is nearly three hours long, but for me I was so caught up in this world that I was totally fine with the length of the film. Yeah, sure, it probably could've been 20 minutes shorter, but I never got bored or restless due to how beautiful and mesmerizing this movie is.

I don't know how much I want to give away about the story itself because I mostly avoided all the trailers. I didn't want to know anything about a sequel to a film that I hadn't yet seen. When I finally saw the first movie, I essentially went straight into this sequel without catching myself up on the trailers. But the basics of this plot center around Ryan Gosling. Because replica technology is advanced, they've seemingly figured out how to work with replicas as Ryan Gosling himself is a replica and a blade runner. And that's not something that's revealed at the end of the movie. That's known from the very beginning. Ryan Gosling's job as a blade runner is to retire some of the older models that were more dysfunctional and less obedient than himself. In the midst of this, he runs into a certain breakthrough that sets up a whole bunch of questions and eventually leads Gosling to Harrison Ford's character of Rick Deckard. But make no mistake, this is Ryan Gosling's movie. Not Harrison Ford's. But when Harrison Ford does turn up about halfway through the movie, he does an excellent job at picking up where he left off. He doesn't act like Harrison Ford or Han Solo. You see him on screen and you know he is Rick Deckard, which I find impressive.

The movie as a whole is truly a marvel to behold and honestly at least as good as the original, if not a few steps above. If you are among the crowd that believes that "Blade Runner" is a masterpiece, then you need to show up for this movie because it might be your favorite movie of the year, or even of the decade. It's being praised as such by many and for dang good reason. But when it comes to my personal opinion, I think the flaws of "2049" are the same as "Blade Runner." We've discussed the topic of artificial intelligence and technology so much in Hollywood that there's almost an over-saturation of the genre. Thus I don't necessarily think there's anything new or groundbreaking presented in this movie. Granted, the movie does a fantastic job and making you think there is. The visual effects, cinematography and score are so top-notch that they combine together to try to trick you into thinking you just watched the greatest movie ever made. I had to actually take a few days to figure out what this movie was actually about. When I did my best to push aside the technical marvel that this movie is and focus solely on what was presented in terms of story, characters and theme, it became a lot easier to pick this movie apart.

Yet for better or for worse, this is definitely a "Blade Runner" sequel. It's a slow-moving, sci-fi, mystery film that takes its time to set everything up so that things feel natural and unforced. If you thought the themes of technology vs. humanity, and the often gray area between the two were phenomenal and thought-provoking in the first movie, just wait until you see what themes this movie has to add to that. It takes that line and blurs it even more. But I don't know, I still think I've seen these themes done much better in other movies. The first half of this movie played out a lot like the movie "Her," the movie starring Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with the advanced version of Siri, voiced by Scarlett Johannson. But I think "Her" is more powerful and resonating than "Blade Runner 2049." In terms of the blurred line between humanity and artificial intelligence, the movie "Ex Machina" dove into that in a fantastically gripping fashion that will stick with me for a lot longer than "Blade Runner 2049" will with its various versions of the replicas. But yet I still have mad respect for this film that Denis Villeneuve has so carefully crafted and put together. It may not be my exact cup of tea, but I will recommend it to anyone who loved the original and I will give the movie a 9/10.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Classic Movie Review: Friday the 13th (1980)

When I made the decision to write some Halloween-themed classic movie reviews this month, I looked at the calendar and knew there was one movie that I absolutely had to do. "Friday the 13th." On Friday the 13th. Which is today. I mean, when else am I going to get the opportunity to review "Friday the 13th" on Friday, October 13th, the famously haunted day? When it comes to horror movie franchises in the 80's, there's three major horror film franchises that propelled the slasher horror genre, "Friday the 13th," "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," with their respective superhuman, serial killer antagonists, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Meyers. I've been very well aware of these three killers since I was young. It was especially fun to dress up as them on Halloween. I remember specifically being Freddy Kruger one year and I also think I put on a hockey mask and acted as Jason. They're fun characters to be on Halloween. I want to review all three of these classic slashers and I was planning on starting with "Halloween," but I had to rework my schedule a bit and so because of the themed date, we are starting with Jason. But look forward to my reviews of the other two because there's a lot I want to discuss with these three movies.

While I have been very well aware of Jason since I was in Elementary School, I had not actually seen his movie before, so last night watching it was my very first time. That makes this perspective quite a bit different than when I review "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," because those two I have had many, many years of reflecting on. But I think it's kinda fun to have a fresh perspective on some classic movies, eliminating every bit of nostalgia that can sometimes cloud our vision of certain movies. On that note, I do think it's interesting that, unlike it's 1978 slasher predecessor "Halloween" of which this movie was definitely inspired by, "Friday the 13th" was not received well initially. It did make plenty of profit, earning $39.7 million on a $550,000 budget, which was pretty decent for a horror movie in the 80's, and justified them making approximately 700,000 sequels. OK, 12 to be exact. But eight of those were in the 80's as we almost had one per year for the entire decade (they missed 1983 and 1987). But no, despite this, critics didn't like this movie and it took some time for this to be seen as a cult classic. Honestly I can see why. Sure, one can have some nostalgia for the popular character's origins, but this is definitely the lesser of the three classic slashers.

If you are like me and you lived your life without seeing this movie and you don't want it spoiled for you, feel free to click away now because this movie requires me talking about spoilers if I'm going to do this movie justice. Go find a way to watch this movie and come back and finish reading. If you want, this is actually back in theaters today in celebration of the festive day. At least it is in my city. So that's an option. If you don't care about spoilers for a 37-year-old movie or you've actually seen it, then proceed reading. In analyzing this movie, I did my best to think about context and perspective. This movie has every single horror cliche in the book. I mean, the whole premise is a group of teenage kids in a cabin in the woods as they are about to begin work as camp councilors for this summer camp that is reopening. Meanwhile, someone really doesn't want this camp to take place and goes around killing these kids one by one. We don't know who that is because the camera perspective takes a first person approach whenever this killer is around, thus giving the movie a mystery spin on it. But yeah, that's it. Teenage kids in a cabin in the woods with a killer going around. If this movie was made today, I don't think anyone would care for it.

But that's where context comes in. I enjoy horror movies, but I'm not expert enough to know where every horror cliche began. Is it possible that "Friday the 13th" helped create these horror cliches? Jason's thing is that he guards or haunts this lake area because of what happened to him as a kid. I thought to myself that maybe people learned to like Jason so much that other horror movies tried to replicate this, turning it into a cliche. Did people walk out of theaters in 1980 complaining that they had seen this premise a thousand times before? I honestly don't know. Even if so, I'd be willing to bet that this popularity of this franchise and this character bolstered that, so I'm willing to give that more of a pass. Then we have to know that this was made in a time period where people loved their slasher films. You didn't need to come up with anything crazy, epic or super unique. If you made an effectively intense slasher film with some sort of serial killer walking around killing people, a lot of people ate that up. If a movie does a good job of pandering to its audience, I think that's something at least worth respecting even if the movie itself doesn't quite hold up to what we may expect from a horror film in 2017. Movies evolve and change over time and that's perfectly OK.

That said, I have to be honest with my personal opinion. This movie has very little depth to it and it has a cast of characters that I really don't care too much for. I think perhaps the most important part of making a successful slasher horror film is having a cast of characters that the audience cares about. If you honestly feel for your characters and you want them to make it out of this experience alive, then it adds to the intensity of the situation if suddenly their life is in jeopardy and you honestly have no idea if they are going to make it to the next scene. I never experienced that in this movie. We had a group of like 6-8 of these camp counselors and I never developed a strong attachment to any of them. We had two of them separate from the group to go make love in the other room and instantly I knew they had about five minutes of movie time left to live. Sure enough, once the girl gets up, boy gets stabbed from beneath the bed, followed shortly by the girl getting an ax to her head in the bathroom. Well that was lovely. Now let's move onto the next deaths. No real emotion. No intensity during the scenes. I wasn't even super scared. It just felt like a movie void of any emotion or plot as we just watched these kids get killed one by one in this cabin in the woods.

I think the most redeeming aspect of this movie came in the last act of it, which is why I say I have to spoil this movie in order to do it justice. If I just said that it was a boring movie until the exciting and intense ending, I don't think that would be good enough. I mean, this is my only chance to talk about this movie, so I'm going to take that. One thing that I did find interesting throughout is that we don't know who this killer is. We take a book from "Halloween" by doing the first person killer camera trick, only seeing the weapons hit the people or the already dead bodies hiding around the corner for other characters to stumble on. Knowing plenty about Jason, but nothing about this movie, I simply assumed it was the perspective of Jason that we were taking. But no. As it turns out, this is not really Jason's movie at all. This is Jason's mother's movie. She's the killer. And she has some pretty solid motivations because in previous years, her son Jason drowned in the lake and she blames everyone around her. That anger and hate turned her into a psychotic killer and now she is killing all of the people there in order to prevent this summer camp from being opened so that no one has to suffer what she suffered by having her young son drown in a lake.

I say that most of the characters in this movie weren't worth caring about and most of that does have to do with bad acting, that could be attributed to bad directing and/or writing. But when Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees shows up, she owns every scene she is in. She is extremely menacing as this psychotic killer mother and when she was trying her hardest to kill this final remaining girl, those sequences were really intense. I even kinda cared about this girl, whose name was Alice, and I did find it rewarding when she overcame and decapitated Mrs. Voorhees. She won. She overcame the challenges presented to her and made it out alive. I think that's something that is important in a horror movie, having a protagonist we care about overcoming the evil placed before them. This also sets up for some revenge plots in the next movie. Jason is upset at Alice for killing his mother, giving him solid motivation instead of being a villain that goes around and kills for no apparent reason. Speaking of Jason, he does show up in this movie for a brief moment. Here we are at the end of the movie with Alice floating over the lake after victory and Jason jumps out of the water and gets her. Dream sequence or no, that made me jump like 10 feet. I was not expecting that.

Overall, "Friday the 13th" is a movie that is definitely worth respecting if you are a fan of the horror genre because it did help pave the way to bolster this slasher flicks. And it also gave us the iconic horror villain Jason Voorhees. Yet when compared to the other two movies, "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" that I'll get into later this month, this definitely doesn't hold a candle to those. I give it respect from being a product of its time that successfully delivered the type of film that people liked back in the 80's. And perhaps the horror cliches weren't as big of cliches when the movie was released. But as is, this is a movie that's void of plot for the majority of the run time and doesn't really have any characters worth caring about. When we have a slasher horror filled with characters being killed that leave no lasting emotional weight when they're gone, then that's a significant problem. But Mrs. Voorhees being revealed as the villain surprised me and when she was on screen, the movie was pretty great, so that redeemed the film somewhat. And that final jump scare. Man. If I were ranking individual jump scares in movies, that has to be towards the top of the list and almost made the whole movie worth it. Thus my final grade for "Friday the 13th" is a 7/10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Movie Preview: October 2017

Thanks to the shockingly huge run of Stephen's King's "IT," September 2017 reversed course from the summer by easily becoming the highest grossing September on record with $696.1 million record, besting the 2015 record of $626.4 million. The $123.4 million opening weekend of "IT" shattered the September opening weekend record, previously set by "Hotel Transylvania 2" with $48.5 million. "IT" wound up making a total of $286.6 million in September, which represented 41.2 percent of the entire month's overall grosses. The next highest grossing movie in September was "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," which wound up with $62.2 million in the final two weeks of September. This goes to show that highly anticipated, high quality movies with good marketing campaigns can make money in any month of the year, which could help future Septembers perform even better. Now we move onto October, which should see "IT" continue to do well given the Halloween season. The rest of the new movies? Well, let's just say most people will be saving their money for what should be a busy holiday season in November and December. But there's still a lot of movies on the schedule that will attempt to change people's minds, so let's dive in.

October 6th - 8th- 

The first weekend of October is officially in the rear view mirror as of the posting of this blog. This is because of a short vacation that put this blogger a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, the weekend was won by the surprisingly underwhelming performance of Blade Runner 2049. Heading into the weekend, the studio's expectations for the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic were around $45-50 million, with many sites predicting it could go as high as $55-60 million. Thus its total of just $32.7 million was shocking to many, given how strong the reviews were from critics and general audiences alike. It appears that general audiences simply weren't quite as excited for the sequel as long time fans were. The audience breakdown ended up being 86 percent above the age of 25 and 71 percent male. Thus many may have overestimated the power of the "Blade Runner" brand, which itself was an initial box office failure as well. Like "Blade Runner," "Blade Runner 2049" is a futuristic, neo-noir, sci-fi film that heavily explores themes of advanced technology and the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. The movie is set 30 years after the events of the first film as sees Harrison Ford reprising his role while teaming up this time with Ryan Gosling.

Coming in second place was the even more disappointing debut of The Mountain Between Us, which tallied just $10.6 million as it suffered from mixed to poor reviews from critics with its 44 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers who survive a plane crash in the high Uintas and have to learn to trust each other so that both of them can survive. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by Charles Martin and is the type of movie that Fox was probably hoping would be an awards contender. Having Idris Elba and Kate Winslet in the lead roles is a great start for that. They also premiered the movie at TIFF last month before giving it a wide release this past weekend. Given that October is the month where awards season starts to kick into full gear, Fox played all of their cards right. The problem here is that having a quality movie on your hands is the most important factor here and mixed reviews won't cut it. Thus this ends up being the type of film that shot for the stars, but instead fell flat on its face.

Coming in at the tail end of this past weekend's wide releases was My Little Pony: The Movie, which ended up in fourth place at the box office with $8.9 million, just behind the $9.9 million that "IT" made in third place and barely ahead of the $8.7 million of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" in fifth place. While $8.9 million might not seem like much, this is actually an improvement for Lionsgate when it comes to their attempts to distribute animated films. Lionsgate most recently saw "Rock Dog" open to $3.7 million, "The Wild Life" open to $3.3 million and "Norm of the North" open to $6.8 million. "My Little Pony" obviously had its built in audience that it was targeting, which mostly includes young girls. But also includes plenty of older girls as well as a section of fandom called "bronies," which are adult males who love "My Little Pony." In order to please its fans, "My Little Pony: The Movie" brought back a lot of the original voice cast and characters from the TV show while adding a whole host of new characters to attempt to bring in more audiences. Its $8.9 million is a decent opening for a movie adaptation like this, so no tears shed here.

October 13th - 15th- 

And now we dive into the actual future releases. This October sees the arrival of the infamous date of Friday the 13th. Hoping to take advantage of the haunted date is the horror movie Happy Death Day. Any horror movie this Halloween season will have the disadvantage of following up "IT," which will still be having great legs throughout the season. "Happy Death Day" will hope to differentiate itself by being a more teenage-friendly horror film with its PG-13 rating. Not that teenagers didn't go see "IT" despite the adult-rating, but "Happy Death Day" is specifically targeting them, hoping they show up in droves. "Happy Death Day" is the latest film to try to take advantage of the "Groundhog Day" trope of being stuck in a time loop that was popularized recently by "Edge of Tomorrow." This time around, a girl keeps getting killed by a mysterious person in a mask and has to re-live the day of her death over and over until she presumably figures out who this person is and how to stop him or her. Despite being a very common premise, it went over remarkably well in "Edge of Tomorrow," meaning if "Happy Death Day" plays its cards right in terms of character and plot, then it might end up being a very popular movie this Halloween season.

Hoping to challenge "Happy Death Day" for that top spot will be Jackie Chan's The Foreigner. This will be the latest in a string of R-rated action films that have dominated the box office of late. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" ruled for three weeks starting in late August. "American Assassin" was the runner up during the second weekend of "IT," then "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" ruled for two weeks in late September. In fact, if we throw genre aside, if "The Foreigner" can manage to pull the upset, this will be the 10th straight weekend where an R-rated movie has been No. 1. The big draw for "The Foreigner" will be lead star Jackie Chan back in an American action movie doing his popular fighting style once again. Now Jackie Chan hasn't really left the film industry. In the last 5-10 years he's done quite a few handful of live action films, but most of them have been Chinese films that didn't cross over to America. This is probably because he's able to have more freedom to do things his way over in China as opposed to here in the United States. The premise is very much like "Taken" in that it's a revenge film after someone killed his daughter. Early reviews are positive, though, meaning this could have breakout potential if it connects with general audiences as well.

In around 1,200 theaters, Annapurna will be releasing the very relevant drama Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Director and write Angela Robinson must be very happy that "Wonder Woman" was such a smash hit this summer, because now this biopic of the creator of "Wonder Woman" has the potential to make a lot more money than it otherwise may have. William Moulton Marston, who went by the pen name Charles Marston, had a polyamorous relationship with his wife and his mistress, with all three of them being very happy with the situation, despite that not exactly being accepted in the day. This movie tells the story of their relationship, how it inspired the "Wonder Woman" comics and how those comics were very controversial at the time. Those who loved "Wonder Woman" this summer may very well be curious as to the story behind her creation, if Annapurna plays their cards right, which they didn't with the movie "Detroit," back in August. In a very crowded month, this could either become a sleeper hit or it could get lost.

The final wide release of the weekend is the latest biopic that Chadwick Boseman will be starring in and that is Marshall. Boseman gained popularity by playing Jackie Robinson in "42" in 2013 as well as James Brown in "Get on Up" in 2014. Those breakout roles led him to be cast as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After being introduced in "Captain America: Civil War," Black Panther will be getting his movie this February. Thus Chadwick Boseman definitely has the star power to help propel this forward as "Marshall" will see him play the role of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Open Roads Films will be hoping for some positive reviews on this one so that they can give it a good Oscar push. Those reviews will be critical here as Open Roads has also made the decision to scale back the theater count. Initially scheduled for a wider release, they have decided to instead play this in just over 800 theaters, thus playing the word of mouth game to hopefully push it forward through a crowded marketplace.

October 20th - 22nd-

The third weekend of October has five new releases, which means something has to give because they can't all make a ton of money. The most likely candidate of the bunch to lead the way will be Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween. Tyler Perry has been churning out his movies pretty consistently since 2006, with his Madea series being most popular. Madea being a fictional character of Tyler Perry dressing up as a older black woman. Despite Tyler Perry having a pretty faithful fan base that show up to all his movies, regardless of what critics, he was trending downward before last year until his Halloween themed Madea movie, "Boo! A Madea Halloween" surprised and became his second highest grossing film with $73.2 million total, behind only "Madea Goes to Jail." The holiday theme combined with the Madea character got Madea fans to come out of their closets and swarm the theaters. So Perry acted very quick and threw together this sequel for this year. More Madea with more Halloween. Comedy sequels are very hit and miss, with a lot more siding on the miss portion of that lately. But the Madea films from Perry have thus far had a pretty safe floor as all of them have made over $50 million, so it feels safe to bet on this one.

The next three movies have the potential to all be neck and neck, so at this point it's hard to predict which one will rise to the top, but lately the movie that has been trending upwards is The Snowman. No, this is not your typical happy snowman that sits in your front yard and it's certainly not a Frosty the Snowman movie, this is a movie about a serial killer whose signature includes leaving a snowman at every murder scene. It's based off the book of the same name by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø.  The movie stars Michael Fassbender as the detective hunting down this serial killer and co-stars Rebecca Fergusen, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons and others. With this being a thriller released in October, "The Snowman" hopes to be this year's "Gone Girl" while hoping to avoid becoming the next "The Girl on the Train." That being in terms of quality, of course. "The Snowman" would love to make similar money as either film, but perhaps a more realistic comparison financially might be 2007's "Zodiac," which opened to $13.4 million while ending with $33.1 million total.

Next up we have a movie in a similar situation as the aforementioned "The Mountain Between Us," but will be hoping for better results and that is Only the Brave. Unlike "The Mountain Between Us," this is a survival movie that's based on a true story, whereas "The Mountain Between Us" is fictional. "Only the Brave" tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who sacrificed their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona in June 2013. At the time, the fire was the deadliest U.S. wildfire since 1991 and the deadliest for U.S. firefighters since 1933. It's the sixth deadliest firefighter disaster in U.S. history and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona. The movie is directed by Joseph Kosinski, director of "Tron Legacy" and "Oblivion," and stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly and Taylor Kitsch. Again, the success of this type of movie is dependent on reviews. Strong reviews could mean Oscar buzz and/or strong box office. Negative reviews could mean the movie is forgotten after a few weeks. With this specific event fresh on the minds of many, proper execution of the story will be necessary to please audiences, much like Peter Berg has had with "Deepwater Horizon" and "Patriot's Day."

While "The Snowman" is trending upwards and "Only the Brave" will await critical reviews, a movie trending the wrong direction this weekend is Geostorm, which looks like a disaster movie taken straight out of the 90's with special effects from 2017. The 90's loved their big, silly disaster movies that may have made no sense, but audiences have seemingly grown out of that phase, with a lot of recent disaster movies being completely rejected by audiences. The most notable recent example was that of "Independence Day: Resurgence," which may have been more accepted had it come out two or three years after the original was released in 1996, but was probably 15-18 years too late by coming out in 2016. Same story here for "Geostorm"? The plot is the monster of all disaster movies with the satellites designed to control the global climate having gone completely skiwampus, causing crazy national disasters to happen across the globe. In addition to audiences having overgrown this genre, it might be possible that this movie has poor timing with a lot of actual natural disasters devastating millions across the globe this year. The movie is directed by Dean Devil, producer of "Independence Day" and stars Gerard Butler, Ed Harris and Abbie Cornish.

The final movie of the month is the latest Christian film from Pure Flix, that of Same Kind of Different as Me. Pure Flix recently delivered "A Question of Faith" into 661 theaters on the final weekend of September to decent results of $1.03 million in opening weekend, a decent total for a smaller Christian film. If the theater count is the same for "Same Kind of Different as Me," that's probably a good range to look at. Or it could play like Pure Flix's "A Case for Christ," which opened to $3.97 million in 1,174 theaters this past April on its way to $14.7 million total. "Same Kind of Different as Me" stars Greg Kinnear from "Heaven is for Real" as a man who is struggling with his marriage and is forced by his wife, played by Renee Zellwegger, to befriend a homeless man, played by Djimon Hounsou. The story will presumably be teaching the principle that if you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God. This type of Christian movie about the power of service could go over quite well with Christian audiences, but a breakout performance on the lines of "The Shack" ($57.3 million) or "Miracles from Heaven" ($61.7 million) is probably not in the cards.

October 27th - 29th-

With Halloween coming on a Tuesday this year, if moviegoers are looking for a good theatrical scare the weekend before, they'll have the chance to see "IT" or "Happy Death Day" if they haven't already. Or they can venture out to see Jigsaw, the latest addition in the long-going "Saw" franchise. "Saw" was first released around Halloween in 2004 and did well enough for them to decide to do another sequel each year until 2010. The franchise revolves around John Kramer, known as the Jigsaw Killer, or just Jigsaw. He captures his victims and puts them through certain "games" or "tests" to see how much psychological or physical torture they can endure. For example, in the first "Saw," two men are chained into a room and one of them is told to kill the other one or his wife and kids are going to be murdered, followed by him being left for dead. Not surprisingly, critical and audience reaction both went down with each ensuing film, but because the budget was so small that they made great profits, anyways. The seventh installment in 2010, titled "Saw 3D" was supposed to be the last one. But it's often never good to believe Hollywood when they say they're done. So we'll see if audiences are actually interested in this eighth film seven years later.

The next movie sees George Clooney return to the directing chair with his latest film Suburbicon. Clooney has quite the decorated history with the Oscars in all sorts of categories, having been nominated as an actor, producer, writer and director, winning an acting nomination for "Syriana" as well as a best picture for "Argo" as a producer. As a director, he's had various levels of success. "Good Night, and Good Luck" got six Oscar nominations, including best picture, while "The Ides of March" was also given high critical praise. But other movies, such as his latest 2014 film, "The Monuments Men," were a completely different story. Written by the Coen Brothers and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, "Suburbicon" was supposed to be Clooney's return to form as a director, but reviews out of Venice and TIFF were shockingly bad as the movie currently sits at a 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 49 reviews counted. Many have cited too much tonal inconsistencies with this movie being a dark comedy about a supposedly peaceful community hiding a very violent underbelly. Clooney probably hopes that general audiences react better than the festival crowds, otherwise this might be dead on arrival and disappear quickly.

The final significant release of the weekend is the war drama Thank You for Your Service. This is the second appearance this month by Miles Teller in a movie based on a true story, with the first being "Only the Brave." The movie is directed by Jason Hall in his directorial debut following his Oscar nomination as the writer of "American Sniper." It's based on the book of the same name by David Finkel and tells the story of soldiers from Iraq who are trying to reintegrate back into society, but are having troubles doing so due to PTSD and other issues. This movie doesn't have a whole lot of buzz heading into its release and didn't make any festival rounds, so it has a big uphill battle to fight in order to gain recognition, but if it can manage to stand out of the crowd with how many war films have tackled similar subjects, then this could be a sleeper. But at the moment it's not looking super positive.

Last month I covered the movie All I See is You, but it managed to avoid release and moved into the last week of this month instead. I don't have any idea if Open Roads is committed to this date either, or how many theaters they are planning for this one, but this is the thriller directed by Marc Forster ("Word War Z," "Quantum of Solace") where a woman played by Blake Lively receives her sight and learns that her husband, played by Jason Clarke, is not quite the man she thought he was. For a few more details, head over to my September preview.