Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Way Way Back Review

If you have just casually stumbled on this review by whatever means, there is a good chance that you have never heard of this movie. It is not a huge, high-budget Summer blockbuster by any means. What it is is a Sundance Film Festival selection that opened in limited release a few weeks back. There are lots of movies like this that people living in New York or Los Angeles get the honor of seeing. Since I am not one of those lucky people, I have to wait for these movies to push their way through good word of mouth into a wide release and The Way Way Back did that this past weekend. It's not the best or most original movie you'll ever see, but if you find it in a theater near you, I'd definitely recommend you give it a shot. It's worth your money.

The Way Way Back is a drama about a young 14 year old boy in a rather sour situation. His parents have been recently divorced and all he wants to do is spend the Summer with his dad. Instead he is forced to go with his mom and her boyfriend to her boyfriend's Summer home and as a quiet, somewhat socially awkward person he doesn't fit into the wild atmosphere around him at all. As an escape, he runs away and finds a water park in the area to hide in. He is quickly noticed by the manager of the water park who takes him in under his wing and is also befriended by a girl next door who is just older than him.

The plot of the movie is fairly predictable, but a great cast really is what makes it work. And for the most part it is a lesser known cast that pulls this off. The huge name in this movie is Steve Carell and honestly I think this is one of the best performances he has done. Although the movie is a drama, it does have a lot of comedy in it. Steve Carell, though, is not one who provides any comedy. He is purely in a dramatic role and I think that fits him best as an actor. His role in the movie is the boyfriend and he is great in a you really hate his character type of way. Our main star in the movie is Liam James, playing the 14 year old Duncan and as his character goes through a lot of progression he does a great job of pulling off the many different emotions he goes through. Stealing the show in my opinion was definitely Sam Rockwell's character Owen, the water park owner who befriends Duncan. He is both super funny and appropriately serious in teaching Duncan some good life lessons. Finally I want to commend the beautiful young actress AnnaSophia Robb (she's almost 20 years old in real life so I'm allowed to say that, even if she does play a teenager) who plays his friend next door.

Overall this is a great drama that has a lot of heart and sould to it. You are invested  in Duncan's story and rooting for him to overcome the obstacles placed in front of him. The movie is realistic and is easy for people to relate to. How it ended was a bit of a surprise but after stewing over it for a bit I was really impressed in ways I can't say without spoiling it. Also the lessons that you can take from it are quite inspiring. In the end, I give The Way Way Back a very good 8 out of 10.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Turbo Review

Towards the beginning of the year, there was a dearth of animated movies and now they are coming out in great abundance. Earlier in the year, Dreamworks took advantage of the dearth of animated movies and turned The Croods into a surprise hit. This time around, Dreamworks' next movie Turbo looks like it is getting lost amidst the abundance of animated movies which include monster hits in Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, with The Smurfs 2 coming around the corner. When I went into The Croods, I wasn't expecting much of anything. I ended up being super surprised because I got a movie that was really funny and super emotional at the same time. The best animated movie of the year. Going into Turbo, I wasn't expecting much of anything, either. I was hoping going into it that I would experience a similar phenomena as in The Croods. However, such was not the case. Turbo was fun, but it was nothing fantastic and several years down the road, most audiences will probably have forgotten that Dreamworks made the movie.

Turbo is the story of a snail who has a dream of racing in the Indy 500. His hero is Indy 500 star Guy Gagne, who is currently winning every single race. Gagne's motto is "No dream is too big. No dreamer is too small." This motivates Turbo the snail to chase his dream and he gets the chance when by a freak accident, he gains the power to travel over 200 miles per hour. On one side this sounds like a cute, original premise for an animated movie. My five year old nephew was super excited to see this movie because he's never seen a movie where a snail can move super fast. On another side, it seems like a silly movie that was put together really fast with not much effort. After seeing the trailers, you have an idea of exactly what is going to happen in the movie. Even if you haven't seen the trailers, 10 or 20 minutes into the movie you will have an idea of exactly what is going to happen in the movie. The biggest problem with the movie is that you won't be wrong. It is super predictable. Now you can have a super predictable movie if there is another aspect of the movie that redeems it. Turbo isn't bad, but it doesn't have anything that outweighs the predictability of it. It has a few laughs, but not much. It tries to be emotional, but you see right through that because it doesn't try hard enough.

One of the best parts of Turbo is it has a fantastic voice cast and everyone does a good job. Ryan Reynolds plays Turbo, the snail with the dream to race in the Indy 500. Paul Giamatti plays Turbo's brother who tries to make him be a normal snail. Michael Pena plays the Mexican guy that discovers Turbo and tries to use him to help his restaurant gain popularity that he co-owns with his brother, played by Luis Guzman. Samuel L Jackson and Snoop Dog are two of the snails in the snail racing gang around the restaurant. Then we also have Michelle Rodriguez who plays one of the store owners. All of these people together create a cast that really is quite good. They don't really save the movie, but they do the best with what they are given.

Overall, I would say if you are a parent with small children that have been looking forward to this movie, my recommendation is that you should take them because young kids don't require a whole ton in a movie. This is a movie that is made for kids and kids will love it. However, this grumpy adult that does ask of a lot in a movie wasn't super impressed with it. I usually like animated movies, but I like an animated movie that is good entertainment for both kids and adults. Dreamworks is usually good at accomplishing this just like in The Croods, but this time they missed the mark. I'll recommend this to your kids, but if you don't have kids, then I would recommend you skip this one and go see The Croods or Despicable Me 2 instead. I give Turbo a 6 out of 10.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Red 2 Review

Red. Not the color. The acronym standing for Retired Extremely Dangerous. Red was a movie that came out in October of 2010 and turned out to be a surprise hit. When I went into Red, I guess I was slightly uniformed about it, but I was expecting a really fun action movie with old people. Yes, that is what I got, but the high level of comedy I didn't expect. I was thus super entertained by the action and also laughing my head off the entire movie. Very well done and perfectly cast. Sometimes when sequels get announced I groan a bit because Hollywood is very sequel happy, but in this case when I heard about Red 2 I was super excited and the movie easily made my list of 15 movies of 2013 that I was looking forward to. I have been disappointed with several of those movies already, but Red 2 did not disappoint. Definitely a movie I would recommend.

In Red 2, we get a lot of the same things as we did in Red and as I was thinking about it, it reminded me of what happened with National Treasure 1 and 2. Completely different movies, I know, but National Treasure 2 was the same thing as National Treasure. Personally I liked both about the same, but some people didn't like that idea. Same thing here. Red 2 is almost the same movie as Red just with a different story line. Some people I can already tell are complaining about that, as is evidenced by its mid-30's Rottentomatoes score, but I had no problem with that. The old saying comes to mind "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." The formula for Red worked really well and they kept that same formula for Red 2 and once again it worked great. Not all movies can pull that off, but Red 2 did.

What is the basic story line you ask? Well, not that it's anything deep and profound, but I'm not going to dive into that too much. What I will say is that once again people are out to kill Frank, Bruce Willis' character, and so he goes out on the run with the same crew to figure out why and to stop it. Simple enough, but it works and is very fun. What I do want to talk about is the cast. In Red 2, we bring back the whole gang from Red, the one's that make sense to bring back anyways (if you've seen Red, you'll know what I'm talking about). The crew includes Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, and Brian Cox. I've always enjoyed Bruce Willis movies and he is great in this one like he always has been. His character Frank is still together with his now girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). They are trying to live the normal quiet life, but are dragged into this new situation. Sarah has come along way since getting kidnapped in the first and is now gung-ho on adventure. The tension between the two is quite hilarious throughout as at first Frank is trying to calm her down, which is hard with Marvin (John Malkovich) around, who initially is the cause of the adventure this time around and the three of them are the main trio in this. The chemistry between the three is just plain brilliant and Marvin is as crazy as ever. Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Ivan (Brian Cox) come into the picture a bit later. Helen Mirren I will have to say is one of the coolest older ladies ever and her and Brian Cox have some great moments in this one, just like they did in the first.

Adding to this already great cast is the new additions that really make the sequel work. Catherine Zeta-Jones comes on as Frank's ex-girlfriend and that sparks some great moments between him, her, and Sarah. Neal McDonough takes the Karl Urban role this time as the man who is initially hunting down Frank and he is quite brilliant. If you don't know McDonough, he is the dad/opposing coach in the movie Forever Strong and he plays a similar serious, down to business type of role in this movie that works really well. If you've never seen Forever Strong, stop what you are doing and go fix that. Also added to this movie is Byung-hun Lee from G.I. Joe movies, David Thewlis from Harry Potter, and of course the great Anthony Hopkins. I'll leave those three as more of a mystery as to what their roles are in the movie, but all three are quite brilliant, especially Anthony Hopkins. He is SO good in this movie!

Overall, Red 2 brings a lot of awesome action as well as tons of humor thanks to a once again brilliant cast one-ups the first one. If you liked Red, you should love Red 2. If you hated Red or weren't impressed, don't expect to be won over because it brings much of the same. Personally I loved Red and I also loved Red 2. Which one is better? Well, that is hard to say. Both are fantastic. But due to an extremely well done third act in Red 2 led by the brilliance of Anthony Hopkins, I am actually going to give the slight edge to Red 2 and award the movie a solid 9 out of 10.

Friday, July 19, 2013

R.I.P.D Review

R.I.P.D. is a movie that most critics are calling D.O.A. Yes. I just said that. A poorly done Men in Black rip off is what it's being labeled as. Yes, I know it's based off a comic book, but the comic book itself actually came out after Men in Black did, so I feel justified in calling it that. Both are movies about monsters/aliens that secretly exist in our society. Both star a team of secret agents working on stopping these monsters/aliens. In both cases one agent is old and experienced and the other brand new. Both try to use this premise to be light-hearted action comedies to simply please crowds without being super in depth or complicated. The differences? One of these movies works well, has a fun plot, and has decent special effects. The other just falls apart and fails in about every category. And no, I'm not dissing on Men in Black. On top of that it is coming out on a crowded weekend in a crowded Summer and unfortunately there is only so much money to go around and so many movies that people have time to see and when cheap rip offs like this come out in a busy time of year, they are good candidates to just get ignored. Well, I managed to go see it because that is what I do. I go to movies and then write about them so I can give out recommendations. You were probably planning on skipping this one this weekend and I am here to tell you that that would probably be a good decision.

So in discussing the failures of R.I.P.D., I want to start at the top with the premise of the movie. Our main character, who is a police officer, gets shot and killed in a police raid and since he kinda failed in life, while he is getting swept up to the afterlife, he gets intercepted by the R.I.P.D., or the Rest in Peace Department. They realize his failures and thus want to use him in their force because he is really good at what he does and after working for them, he can potentially redeem himself. What does the R.I.P.D. do? Well, apparently there are too many people dying these days and the afterlife system wasn't designed to handle that many deaths at once and so a lot of the people end up slipping through the cracks and are able to stay on Earth without getting getting judged. The R.I.P.D. goes out and finds these people to take them to judgement. And in the meantime, the R.I.P.D. is able to use certain foods and powders to turn them into giant ugly monsters, confirming that they are indeed dead. Yeah, that whole premise just felt completely ridiculous to me. Men in Black's premise was fun. This one was just stupid. And along with that, it felt very choppy and cheap in how in how the story line was put together. Add to that, it was also extremely predictable.

Moving downwards, the next failure comes with the two lead roles. Men in Black had Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith and they were perfectly together. R.I.P.D. has Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. Now both Bridges and Reynolds are good actors, so you would think they would be great, but there is just zero chemistry between the two. I wouldn't say their acting is bad in this, although Jeff Bridges' voice got super annoying super fast, but for some reason they just don't work together well in this and that probably has a lot to do with the script and the writing. Next up is the CGI. The "deadies" as they were called were just awful. It looked like cheap, poorly done CGI that I think was actually outdone by the first Men in Black, which is rather sad. Now all of this could possibly be forgiven if this was a kids movie. Kids in watching shows don't have a high bar and can be entertained by a movie like this. However, R.I.P.D. didn't even seem to know what target audience it was going for because this was a kids style movie, but there was enough sexual content in the movie that I would suggest parents keep their kids far away from this. They were obviously trying to go for adults and kids at the same time and sadly they missed both of them.

Were there some redeemable qualities? Well, yes. It wasn't a complete mess. Like I referred to before, the acting in the movie is actually pretty good. Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon and others all did a decent job, they just weren't given much to go with so they did the best they could. Also, while a lot of the comedy fell flat, there was several moments where I did find myself laughing or chuckling. Also towards the end the movie grows on you a little bit and thus you can have some fun with it towards last half of the movie, but overall none of those aspects were able to overcome all the follies that I have mentioned before, so I will have to recommend that if you are in the mood for a silly movie with aliens/monsters and secret agents hunting them down, just go rent Men in Black and skip R.I.P.D. Or at the very least, wait until you can see it for cheap. My grade for the movie is a 5/10. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim Review

This year has been the year of the sci-fi movie. And the year the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic movie. All this had to have been inspired by the fact that the world was supposed to end at the end of last year. Obviously it didn't, but the fact that it was supposed to sparked all these ideas in the minds of movie makers and thus this year we have had a whole slew of them. We started off in February with a zombie rom-com. Then in March we took over the White House twice. Then we had the Tom Cruise's version of the post-apocalypse. Soon after the Smith family bored us with their version life after earth. In June we experienced the zombie apocalypse, took over the White House for a third time, and had a celebrity gathering at James Franco's house to experience the apocalypse. Now with Pacific Rim we have monsters coming out of the center of the earth ready to destroy mankind. Exciting right? Well, as you've heard Idris Elba yell from the trailers of Pacific Rim, TONIGHT WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE!!!!! Or just reviewing another apocalypse movie, I guess. Let's get started!

Pacific Rim is directed by Guillermo del Terro and is about what you expect. Quite honestly the concept of the movie didn't really intrigue me that much. Sure, it's an original movie. That is if you define "original movie" as a movie that is not a sequel, remake, or an adaption of some sort. But if you define original as something that has never been done before then this is far from original. World ending movies have been done a lot. Tons of movies have included monsters or aliens in them. And we have always had plenty of robots. Pacific Rim just takes all these ideas and throws them all into one movie. Not that clever in my books. It seemed like it was a combination of Godzilla and Power Rangers. Yes, I could say Transformers, but in Transformers the robots are alive with their own brain and personality. In Power Rangers we have humans inside the robots controlling them, so Pacific Rim's robots are more like that... but on steroids. Despite this, what really attracted me to the movie was the fact that it was directed by del Torro and he usually does a fantastic job with his movies, so I was definitely willing to give it a shot. And it really didn't disappoint. That is if you go in with the right mindset.

The movie really starts in the year 2020 after running through the origin story in the first five minutes in fashion of 2008's Incredible Hulk movie. And yes, like you've seen, these huge Godzilla-like monsters that they call Kaiju emerge from a portal on the ocean's floor and start annihilating earth. To stop them, humans have built the Power-Rangers-on-steroids that they call Jaegers that are controlled by two humans. The humans that get this job are entitled rangers (another reason I use the Power Rangers comparison). The Rangers begin to control the Kaiju population and thus become celebrities on earth. And thus we have our movie intro. Some drama in 2020 happens and then we jump five years and that is where we spend most of our movie. Pacific Rim is really a major visual spectacle. The visual effects category in the Oscars really is the only category that the Academy gives to big blockbusters and if Pacific Rim doesn't get a nomination there I think that there is something wrong with them because this movie deserves that. Also, in terms of pure action, this is probably the best this year. Like I mentioned earlier, you need to go into this movie with the right mindset and that mindset is that you are going to see a ton of awesome action between monsters and robots. If you go in expecting a huge drama or a really deep, intelligent movie, you will walk out disappointed. But if you go in wanting to just enjoy a ton of awesome action, then you will walk out with a smile on your face.

Having said that, is this the best movie of the year? No. Is it intelligent as Oblivion? No. Is it as intense as World War Z? No. Is it a psychological action movie like Iron Man 3? No. Just monsters vs robots. The story line really isn't anything to write home about and in fact is pretty predictable. The movie did spend a lot of time developing the characters in the movie and while most of the essentially lesser known cast (Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman) did a good job, I honestly didn't find myself emotionally attached to the cast. They could've all been destroyed and I wouldn't have shed any tears over any one character lost (not a spoiler -- just a theoretical statement). Honestly that was a huge problem. I feel I need to be attached to at least someone in the cast during a movie. But like I said, if you go into this movie you need to just go in expecting an awesome action movie and not expect much more. If you do that, I promise you will walk out of the movie entertained like I was. If you don't like that type of movie, then you might want to skip Pacific Rim or wait until you can watch it for a cheaper price. Overall, I will give Pacific Rim a 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Lone Ranger Review

The Lone Ranger was a huge movie project that came out this past week, right before Independence Day. Sadly it was a disaster waiting to happen and everybody knew it. The problem? The budget on the movie was upwards of $250 million and the attempt was at a western movie. The western genre was really popular back in the day and has had some recent attempts to bring it back, but the honest truth is that crowds don't swarm out to see westerns anymore as no western has ever grossed over $200 million in the US. Even highly reviewed recent westerns like the True Grit remake and Django Unchained barely topped $150 million, which was fine for them because their budgets were significantly smaller. The Lone Ranger was made by the same crew that made Pirates of the Caribbean and since that franchise has earned over $3 billion worldwide, they were certain that if they slapped that on the advertising and brought on Johnny Depp that they would have this in the bag and the huge budget wouldn't matter. Nope. Huge mistake. It made just under $50 million in the US during its five-day Independence Day weekend and will probably end with just over $100 million. Early reports are that Disney may lose close to $200 million on the project, which really won't matter that much as they have their Marvel movies coming out as well as Star Wars Episode VII, but still. That's a lot of lost money. All this is a really sad story to me because, despite the awful critic reviews, I actually found myself really liking the movie.

If I were to call myself a big fan of the original Lone Ranger TV series, it would actually be a lie. Nothing against it really. If I were to watch it, I am positive that I would enjoy it. I just haven't seen it. But I do know enough about it and I'm a huge fan of the classic Lone Ranger theme song, which is simply an arrangement of the William Tell Overture, one of the best classic pieces ever written. But back on track. In this Lone Ranger remake, what we have is essentially the origin story of the Lone Ranger. John Reid is a man of the law who gets promoted to Texas Ranger. After a series of events, the group of rangers gets ambushed and Reid is left as the "lone" ranger, finding himself teamed up with the crazy Indian Tonto. The two are out to get justice on one Butch Cavendish for different reasons but conflict arises when the two have differing views of justice. And thus we have our movie.

While admittedly a bit long, the movie is very engaging and quite brilliant in my opinion. Except for one major aspect. It is told Princess Bride style with old Tonto recounting the story to a young boy who wanders into a museum. In my opinion they could've totally scrapped that. Outside that, though, the story was good. It was balanced with plenty of drama, great action scenes, and quite a bit of humor provided by Johnny Depp as Tonto and the horse Silver. Overall the acting was really good and there was plenty of character progression throughout that worked. Armie Hammer took the lead role as the Lone Ranger and he pulled it off quite fantastically. Many will complain at Johnny Depp in this because he plays his same quirky character that he always plays. Do I see why people are bothered by it? Of course. Was I bothered by it? Not really. Sure, I think if they had cast an actual Native American for the role it would've been better. Yes, Johnny Depp is 1/16th Native American or something like that, but I'm talking full blooded Native American. They cast many of them in this movie and they could've cast one more. But it didn't bother me that much. Also in terms of the cast, the main villain was played by William Fichtner and he did a great job. Helena Bonham-Carter also made an appearance in more of a minor role, but was entertaining.

What really made the movie for me was the ending. I mentioned earlier that I really love the Lone Ranger theme. I wasn't completely sure if we were going to get it in full, but as the final battle scene began there it started. And my was it beautiful. Not only that, but as that fantastic song was playing, the actual end battle was super awesome. I obviously won't go into details as to why as that will spoil it, but needless to say I really enjoyed it. And along with that great action in the end going alongside the great music, it is of note that visually the movie is a masterpiece and that also helped it out a lot.

The most disappointing part of the movie was upon it ending, I knew that this was it. Due to the huge financial bomb, no way in heck will a sequel be made and that is unfortunate because this is a movie that really deserves a sequel. Oh well. At least I can go back and watch this one as much as I want as I am certain that will happen. No sequels will probably also motivate me to actually go back and watch the old TV series as I will need to get an additional Lone Ranger kick because I really was a huge fan of this movie. Best of the year? No. But it was entertaining enough to warrant an 8 out of 10 grade from me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Movie Preview: July 2013

I usually like to submit these monthly previews right before the first weekend, but that became a little difficult with my schedule on Independence Day week and the ensuing weekend, so this July preview is a bit late, thus making the first weekend more of a review than a preview, but so be it. After a slow start to the year, this Summer has been on fire as May broke the all-time May record and this past June broke the all-time June record. Helping this past June out were huge debuts every weekend. The Purge in week one opened up to almost twice as much as people thought. Man of Steel and Monsters University were big like expected in weeks two and three, while World War Z in week three smashed even the most generous of predictions. Finally The Heat in week four opened to nearly $40 million which was also a touch higher than expected. July has already started off with a bang, but there will need to be several huge surprises in order to win the July record, which has always been the biggest month of the year in the past. At an early look the current schedule isn't looking too promising as far as records go, but it still should be another positive month.

July 3rd - 7th - 

Like I said, the first weekend of July started out with a band and that was due to the release of Despicable Me 2. The first Despicable Me became a surprise hit back in the summer of 2010 by opening up to $50 million and ending at $250 million. In doing so, it put Illumination Entertainment on the map, thus expanding the animated movie genre even more. It also pulled all the right strings with it's lovable characters, great story, and hilarious minions. The minions became so popular that in advertising Despicable Me 2, they put those minions front and center and for the longest time all fans new were those minions and yet despite not knowing anything about the story, fans were still excited. Yes, more about the movie was eventually advertised and having seen the movie I can say that they played on all the popular aspects of the first movie without changing much and while sometimes that can be risky, it definitely worked out as audiences stormed the theaters to see it throughout the five-day weekend giving it the highest five-day gross ever for an animated movie at $143 million. With reviews (mine included) saying it is just as good as the first, it will hold very well throughout the rest of the summer and may even challenge Iron Man 3 for the highest grossing movie of the year.

While Despicable Me 2 was tearing it up in the box office over Independence Day, The Lone Ranger was sucking it up. Sadly the project was a disaster waiting to happen ever since it's inception, this because of the high price it took to make it and the low demand for the Western genre. The Lone Ranger had a budget of $250 million which is a disaster because no Western movie has ever earned more than $200 million in the domestic box office. Even the popular True Grit remake and Django Unchained didn't get there, although they were fine not making that because their budgets were approximately $200 million less than Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger was made by the people who did Pirates of the Caribbean and they advertised that heavily to try to buck the Western trend, but it didn't work. The Lone Ranger's three-day total was just under $30 million with a five-day total just under $50 million. Reactions were mixed. The general audience gave it a luke-warm reception on average while the critics ripped it apart. For a movie that cost $250 million, it's final total will be really disappointing as it will probably barely top $100 million. Overseas totals could help it, but probably not since international audiences typically don't jump for Westerns.

Finally, the surprise of the week was Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. The movie is simply a stand-up comedy concert brought to the big screen and those types don't happen very often and when they do, they usually don't make a ton of money because really they don't need to. However, Kevin Hart showed his rising popularity by helping this movie get all the way to $17 million in its first five days. That is already the fifth highest grossing stand-up comedy concert ever and it's been out less than a week. Not bad at all.

July 12th - 14th - 

Outside a huge surprise from one of the two newcomers this week, the second weekend of July should be taken once again by Despicable Me 2. If this is the case, then the two newcomers will be in a close battle for second place and honestly it is looking like that crown will be taken by Grown Ups 2. The first Grown Ups came out three years ago in the Summer of 2010 and combined the comedic forces of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. While Adam Sandler is not loved by everyone, he certainly has a pretty big following that always shows up to his movies, when they are not rated R of course. Grown Ups opened to a really good $40 million on its way to $162 million and was pretty well liked among the Adam Sandler fan club and turned out to be his second highest grossing movie ever behind only Big Daddy. Grown Ups 2 brings everyone but Rob Schneider back I would expect it to earn numbers similar to the first one, at least for opening weekend.

If July is going to break the July record, Pacific Rim is probably the movie that needs to break out big time, but whether it will or not is questionable. Right now I wouldn't be surprised to see it fall to third place this weekend behind Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2. Audiences have been loaded with action movies recently and may be a bit burnt out at this point, which could be the cause of both White House Down and The Lone Ranger flopping. Pacific Rim is billed as an original sci-fi movie, which really is questionable as it looks like a combination of Power Rangers, Transformers, and Godzilla. The huge thing it does have going for it is the fact that it is directed by Guillermo del Toro and he has a very strong track record, so perhaps audiences may see it as what Transformers would've been like if it actually had a good director.

July 19th - 21st - 

The third weekend of July sees four new nationwide releases and none of them has a clear advantage over the other and honestly if none of the four break out, Despicable Me 2 or one of the two movies from the previous week could take the top spot. My personal thought, though, is that if any movie winds out on top out of the newcomers it will be Red 2. Red, standing for Retired Extremely Dangerous, if you haven't seen it, is an action comedy that came out in October of 2010. It was a surprise hit that month and because of that had really good legs and nearly made it to $100 million after only opening to $20 million. Red 2 brings back much of the original cast, namely Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich, while adding Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, David Thewlis, and Neal McDonough. Thus it promises much of the same fun action and humor as the first while providing much more. The first has a decent enough fan base that should provide this movie with a run similar to the first one, while having the advantage of being a Summer movie instead of a Fall movie that could make it even a touch  bigger.

Providing some good counter programming to Red 2 will be Dreamworks' latest animated movie Turbo.  It does come at a somewhat problematic time as there will be many family audiences still enjoying Despicable Me 2 and plenty of others looking forward to Smurfs 2. A movie about a snail may be hard-pressed to get audiences out, but that could be Dreamworks' problem with advertising. There are two different routes that it could take. The first is the route of Dreamworks movie from earlier this year in The Croods, which opened to $40 million on it's way to $180 million and in that case it could steal the weekend, but the more likely scenario is that it will go the way of Dreamworks movie from last year in Rise of the Guardians, which opened up just north of $20 million and only barely crossing the $100 million mark. While Dreamworks' track record isn't as good as Pixar's, they have still managed to have 13 straight movies earn over $100 million. Turbo is in danger of breaking that streak. It is worth noting that Turbo does get a head start on this weekend by opening on Wednesday the 17th.

Another highly possible candidate to take the weekend is the one movie with no genre competition and that would be horror movie The Conjuring. Horror movies typically have a very small ceiling, but if last month is any indicator with The Purge, there is still a good audience for them if they make themselves seem unique enough. The conjuring is billed as a true story, which really isn't that unique, but word is with this movie a few of the people involved in the actual incidents helped work on making this movie and that could attract audiences. The more likely thing to attract audiences, though, is director James Wan, the director of Saw and Insidious, two typically well-liked horror movies. If The Conjuring opens up like The Purge from last month or Mama from earlier this year, it could take the weekend, but otherwise it may get lost in a crowded weekend.

Final movie of the week comes the most troubled one and that is R.I.P.D., which stands for Rest in Peace Department. The movie has been heavily advertised in order to try to get it recognition, but the problem is that is most likely will have somewhat of an identity crisis as to who its audience is. On one angle it is trying to go for the family audience. That will be difficult with family audiences opting for either Turbo or Despicable Me 2. The PG-13 rating also makes it a difficult choice for families. The other option is the adult audience which is also troubling because Red 2 is also opening this same weekend. Adult audiences will either opt for that or wait another weekend for The Wolverine. R.I.P.D looks like it is trying to be the next Men in Black, but it won't get anywhere near those numbers. In fact, I'd be shocked to see R.I.P.D.'s final total even get near the $50 million opening that all three Men in Black movies got.

July 26th - 28th - 

After several crowded weeks in the box office the final weekend of July will slow down a bit in terms of number of releases as there really is only one major release. That one is a big one, though, and will most definitely be the second biggest movie in July behind Despicable. I am of course talking about The Wolverine. For the longest time, fans like me assumed that this movie was a sequel to 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which begged the curiosity of the naming of the movie. However, it was eventually revealed that it is not a sequel to that movie at all, but is in fact the exact opposite of that movie as the events in The Wolverine take place after all the X-Men movies. Wolverine is the generally the most popular character in X-Men and this movie sees him become a mortal, more human Wolverine. Thus this brings a different take and could attract audiences. There is the chance, though, that audiences could still be bitter about the poorly reviewed X-Men Origins: Wolverine and avoid this. I see The Wolverine landing somewhere between that first Wolverine movie and the recent X-Men: First Class. The former opened to $85 million and ended with $180 million while the latter opened to $55 million and ended with $146 million.

There are also two comedies that get released this week, but both will be in only be in around 600-700 theaters, so neither will make a huge box office dent. The first is R-rated comedy The To Do List which is a comedy about a recently graduated high school girl trying to become more sexually experienced in her first year of college. That is all I care to say about it. The second is a PG-13 comedy called The Way, Way Back, which got an official release this past weekend, but will be getting its official wide release this final weekend. The movie is an official Sundance Film Festival selection is is more of a drama/comedy as it is about a 14 year old boy trying to fit in his mom and her boyfriend during his Summer vacation. Finally, it is worth mentioning that The Smurfs 2 is a July release as it gets released on Wednesday July 31st, but its first weekend is all in August, so I will discuss it in next month's movie preview.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Despicable Me 2 Review

Despicable Me came out three years ago in the Summer of 2010. I don't know if I actually caught it in theaters, but whenever it was that I first saw it, I immediately fell in love. And the more and more I watched it, the more I liked it. The minions are hilarious, the three girls are really cute and awesome, and the story is intelligent and heart-warming. Normally I don't get too ecstatic over sequels because I think there are way too many sequels nowadays and not enough original movies, but Despicable Me 2  is one sequel that I have been super excited about ever since it was announced and the great thing is that I didn't even have any idea what it was about. The advertising focused almost solely on the minions. Even when the later trailers came out, it turns out the non-minion footage was taken from the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, making the story a complete surprise, which was a plus. I took the opportunity to see the movie as soon as I could and to my great relief, I was not disappointed.

Being that the trailers didn't give away much about the actual movie, I will refrain from doing so in my review. What I will say is that is Despicable Me 2 is very smart in the way it went about things. There are a lot of movies that try to separate themselves from their predecessor, but Despicable Me 2 does the opposite. It takes what was really popular in the first one and uses that as the focus in this one. Namely minions. Minions were a huge part in the advertising, like I mentioned, and they were a huge part of the movie. Minions! Minions! Minions! And of course we have our girls. Agnus is as cute and adorable as ever. Edith is super awesome, running around like a ninja for much of the movie, and being disgusted at romance that is happening. Margo, in the meantime, is growing up. She starts getting involved with boys and Gru is a great father by being quite protective of. Speaking of Gru, we saw him go through huge character development in the first one as he turns from greedy criminal to happy father. In this one he gets faced with another obstacle, but I won't dive in to what that is.

One thing that I was nervous about this one is that they might perhaps go overboard with things. Taking a great formula and repeating it exactly can be something that can sometimes get redundant and annoying, but this time it worked. Just like the first one, the minions were hilarious. I found myself laughing really hard throughout the whole movie at all the stuff the minions did. But that wasn't the only thing that made this great. The girls were fabulous. Gru was fun. The story wasn't anything mindblowing and unpredictable, but it wasn't trying to be. If you look back at the first movie, that one wasn't either, but I'd say overall when compared to the first one, the story was better and the villain was better. I'd say Gru's character progression was better in the first one than this one, but it was still good.

Overall, this is a fantastic family movie that will work well for kids and adults alike and is a perfect outing for the Independence Day weekend. Do I think it was better than the first one? Well, that is honestly hard to say because I totally love the first one, but I will say at the very least it is just as good as the first one and was even better in some aspects, which is a really high praise if you know me. In terms of the best animated movie of the year, I think I will still give the slight edge to The Croods, but that's not a hit against Despicable Me 2 because you will probably see both animated movies show up in my end of year top 10 list. Despicable Me 2 gets a 9 out of 10 from me.