Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet Review

It's hard for me to believe that "Wreck-It Ralph" was released six years ago. It seems just like a year or two ago when it lost best animated feature to "Brave" at the Oscars. I guess when you have a movie that memorable, it lasts a lot longer in your brain. It's funny how time works like that. Because, on the other hand, "Brave" seems like it came out forever ago because it just wasn't that memorable. Anyways, another thing that might be hard for people to believe, but something that I enjoy pointing out, is that "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is really only the second sequel that Disney's main branch of animation, that being Walt Disney Animation Studios, has ever done. The first one was "The Rescuers Down Under" in 1990 and that's often seen as being better than "The Rescuers." All the other awful animated sequels that you mostly would like to forget? Yeah, those come from DisneyToon, Disney's direct-to-DVD branch of animation. So when people say they aren't excited for "Ralph Breaks the Internet" or next year's "Frozen 2" because of Disney's poor track record with animated sequels, well, that's not exactly a fair statement. This is actually fairly new grounds for Disney and in this case, they owned it. You can call them two for two with their animated sequels.

I know I'm late with this review, but I was busy with Thanksgiving this past week and had no time to type my review. So you're getting it a week late. In "Ralph Breaks the Internet" we again return to our beloved arcade, which is understandably becoming a bit run down as it's hard for arcades to compete with modern gaming. Just like it's been six years since the first movie came out, the events in this movie take place six years later in this fictional universe. Ralph is absolutely loving life. He gets to work at his game during the day and hang out with his best friend Vanellope all night. However, Vanellope is getting a bit restless because she's getting a bit bored with doing the same thing over and over in her game. When Ralph tries to help her out by spicing her track up a bit, it leads to the steering wheel in her game breaking. Because of the fact that the arcade just isn't making that much money, the arcade owner decides it's time to retire her game of Sugar Rush because the price it would cost to fix it is more than the game makes in a year. This leads to Vanellope feeling even more insecure about things. So in order to help his friend, Ralph comes up with a plan for them to head off to the internet via the new WiFi router that was just installed in order to find the new part.

What I really appreciate with this movie is the creativity with this idea. This feels like a sequel that was made because someone came up with a clever idea as to what they could do next rather than it being the other way around, that being Disney commissioning a sequel because the first made money, causing filmmakers to then figure out what to do next. Supporting this idea in my brain is the fact that in Disney's modern animation renaissance that began with "Tangled" in 2010, "Wreck-It Ralph" is actually their lowest grossing movie besides the 2011 "Winnie the Pooh," which wasn't pushed heavily as a tent-pole release. At the domestic box office, "Wreck-It Ralph" made $189 million, which is less than "Tangled" ($200 million), "Big Hero 6" ($222 million), "Moana" ($248 million), "Zootopia" ($341 million) and "Frozen" ($400 million). So on financial terms, it makes the least sense to do a "Wreck-It Ralph" sequel. But yet here we are. And as I said, I think that's because they came up with a great idea with Ralph and Vanellope heading off to the world of the internet, presenting a whole lot of fun avenues to go down. Because of this, the movie feels fresh and unique. I enjoyed the fact that this was a completely different movie than "Wreck-It Ralph."

In regards to specifics, I think what made "Wreck-It Ralph" so fun was that the movie had a blast with all of its retro arcade game references. If you're a gamer, especially when it comes to classic 80's and 90's video games, chance are that "Wreck-It Ralph" was a real treat. In a similar manner, but with different content, "Ralph Breaks the Internet" has a lot of fun in its internet world. The attention to detail is pretty great as there's so many internet related jokes and references that are pure gold. A lot of them are direct and in your face, like them wandering through eBay land or Vanellope running around through Oh My Disney, but what makes this a lot of fun are all the small details scattered throughout in the background or things that are shown quickly in passing. It was just a joy and you could tell that the animators had a lot of fun throwing in as many internet-related references as they could. In doing so, the movie manages to connect with a wide range of audience members. The kids are going to have a lot of with this world and the characters, but a good portion of the movie's references are going to fly right over their heads. In contrast, adults may facepalm at some of the childish humor, but will admire the movie's details and creativity with said references.

In this manner, the movie is able to strike a good balance in a way that reminded me a bit of "Inside Out." Yes, a lot of the emotion characters are a lot of fun for the kids in that movie and it's one that they'll certainly enjoy. But there's a lot of clean humor in "Inside Out" catered directly towards adults that make the movie genius. Now if I'm going to address the giant elephant in the room, the other obvious comparison to "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is to "The Emoji Movie," the latter of which I still claim is a horrendous abomination. Yet both movies' premises are quite similar. What's the difference? Well, a lot. In fact, the only similarity in both movies is the idea of the internet. "The Emoji Movie" is loaded with characters you don't care about out, a stupid overall story arc, humor that just isn't funny at all, and themes that are actually bad for kids if you think about it. Nothing works in that movie and it is the epitome of everything wrong with Hollywood. Meanwhile, "Ralph Breaks the Internet" reunites us with lovely characters that we do care about, sends them on an incredible journey, has deep themes that make you tear up, and has a whole ton of fun with its internet-related humor that's actually clever and genius. It's a powerful movie for kids.

In regards to said journey and themes, this is where the movie caught me off guard. I expected to have fun with its internet-related humor. I relished at the opportunity of diving into the world of Oh My Disney because there was so many things that could be done there. But I had no idea what the story of the movie was going to be because the movie did a great job of not revealing that. At least not in the initial trailers. The story that remains hidden from the advertisement is one related to friendship. As the movie sets up at the beginning, Ralph is perfectly content with the life that he is living. Vanellope is not. She enjoys her game and she enjoys racing, but there's something missing in her life that she can't quite put her finger on. I don't want to dive into too many details on how this turns out, but the story here is one of self-discovery. Vanellope is trying to search for her dream and for what her place in the world is. She slowly starts to realize that her dreams and aspirations may be quite different than Ralph's, so the two of them have to reconcile their friendship to figure out what each of them wants to do. Sometimes life takes best friends in different directions and that's perfectly OK. I think that's a powerful message for kids as well as one that will connect with adults.

As the movie explored this, the Disney magic was powerful. When I saw "Wreck-It Ralph" back in the day, my initial reaction was that it felt very much like a Pixar movie, which was funny because "Brave," which was Pixar, felt much more like a Disney movie. That's not the case with "Ralph Breaks the Internet." This felt like pure Disney and the Disney themes and atmosphere were quite strong. On that note, I do feel obligated to talk about the Disney princesses in the movie. Their inclusion was a heavy part of the advertising and I totally understand why. If you have all the Disney princesses in your movie, it's a great selling point. But that extended scene in the trailer comprises about 30 percent of their screen time in the entire, which makes me wish that it was more of a surprise. Now there's more to that scene that the trailer doesn't show and they have more involvement in other parts of the movie that I think were super clever and hilarious, but they're not a huge part of the movie. In fact, I thought we were going to spend most of the movie in the Oh My Disney section of the internet. But we didn't. We spend more time in the eBay land, the discount YouTube land, and the new racing game they stumble on. Gal Gadot's character is more prominent than any Disney princess.

As far as negatives go, I hate to be a Debbie Downer is such a delightful movie, but the movie does take a while to get going. We spent a lot more time in the arcade at the beginning than I thought we were going to. It takes a while for them to get to the internet. And when we get to the internet, it also takes a while for me to figure out what the actual plot was outside them looking for a new part to Vanellope's game. There's a lot of emotion and a lot of power in this movie, but it requires a bit of patience to get there. I've actually seen the movie twice now, once with a friend on the night it debuted and once on Thanksgiving morning with a crowd of young people. Now if you ask a kid what they thought of the movie, they're not going to dive into some great analysis of what they thought. They're just going to say they loved it and call that good. But if you watch them watching the movie, you can get clues as to how much they are enjoying the movie and the first half of the movie had a lot of restless kids in the theater, so it wasn't just me. The theater got a bit noisy as the kids were running out of patience while watching the film. It's also worth noting that there are certain parts of the movie that are a bit scary for kids, so be aware of that if your kids get scared easily.

That aside, the movie as a whole is mostly a delight. With how powerful the second half of the movie is, you're going to walk out of the theater on a powerful emotional high, perhaps having forgotten about any flaws the movie has getting started. And your kids are going to have so much fun in the end that they'll forget that they were a little bored and restless with the beginning. Thus I have positive feelings towards this movie with a very high recommendation that makes me troubled in my mind in regards to whether I liked this movie or "Incredibles 2" more. But the picky critic in me has to point out that the movie as a whole isn't quite as sharp as the original and that's OK, so there's your answer as to which "Wreck-It Ralph" movie is better. When I put together my ranking of all the Disney animated movies, "Wreck-It Ralph" made it somewhere in the top 15. I have no idea where "Ralph Breaks the Internet" will be on that list, but it won't be nearly as high. That said, the two movies are quite different and can be enjoyed for different reasons. That also means if you didn't like "Wreck-It Ralph," there's a chance that this movie might win you over, but I might be the wrong person to ask there since I loved "Wreck-It Ralph." That said, I'm still going to give "Ralph Breaks the Internet" a 9/10.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Creed II Review

That would be "Creed 2," not "Creed 11," since the Rocky franchise uses roman numerals with their sequels. Although we're not too far away from the 11th movie in this franchise as "Creed II" is the eighth movie in a franchise that I've thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, the Rocky movies are some of my Dad's favorites, so I have some amazing memories growing up watching the Rocky movies with my Dad and other siblings. "Rocky" is a classic. "Rocky II" is just as good, if not better. "Rocky III" is super cheesy, but a lot of fun. "Rocky IV" packs in some heavy emotion. I haven't actually seen "Rocky V." We didn't watch it growing up because it was PG-13 instead of PG. I've always heard it wasn't worth it anyways, so I've never bothered. "Rocky Balboa" as the sixth film is surprisingly emotional and extremely underrated. So yeah, a solid series. I wasn't sure what to expect with "Creed," but was mostly excited to see Rocky back again. Yet I was shocked to discover it was one of the best ones in the franchise, up there with "Rocky" and "Rocky II." With how successful it was across the board, I knew it meant that a "Creed II" was on our way and I was ready to welcome it with open arms. Now that it's here, I'm delighted to report that this is another solid entry in this franchise.

In regards to the plot of the film, there's not a whole you can do when you're on the eighth movie in a boxing franchise, yet somehow "Creed II" managed to strike gold with its premise, tying it directly into "Rocky IV." As a recap, "Rocky IV" is the movie where Dolph Lundgreen's Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed, Rocky's opponent in the first two movies and friend in the third movie, in a boxing match at the beginning of the film. Rocky then has to train hard to get revenge against Drago, which he does at the end of the film. "Creed" is a movie that follows the emergence of Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed, as he tries to emerge out of the shadow of his legendary father to create his own legacy. With Adonis having grabbed the attention of the world at the end of "Creed," it felt like the natural progression of things to bring Ivan Drago back into the picture for "Creed II." Of course Ivan Drago is too old to fight on his own in this movie, but he has his son Victor Drago trained and ready to beat Adonis, bringing glory back to the Drago name after Rocky humiliated Ivan years later. So the moment Adonis is declared world champion, the Dragos come out of the woodwork to challenge him to a fight. Victor vs. Adonis. Drago vs. Creed. Now Adonis needs to make up his mind in regards to what to do.

What made "Creed" such a good movie is that it perfectly followed the formula of "Rocky" by being a character piece first and foremost. It was much more than just another boxing movie with fun boxing matches. The fact that "Creed II" also follows that format is why it's also successful in my eyes. Of course the easy answer in this is for Adonis to fight Victor and send the Dragos back to the shadows. But when you dive beneath the surface, this is a lot more complex than that. First of all, Victor is a lot bigger than Adonis, which means Adonis has to figure out a way to fight smart because he's not going to win by brute strength. If he runs into the ring with his emotions getting the better of him because the Dragos are the reason why he never knew his father, the match isn't going to turn out so well for him. Then there's the obvious fact that Adonis' father was killed in a very similar match, adding some real stakes to this. Topping it all off, Adonis is now in a relationship with Bianca, his girlfriend turned fiancee in this movie, and she is pregnant with their child. Yes, he can avenge his father's death, but in doing so, he risks doing to his young family what his father did to his. Leave them without a husband and father. So as you can imagine, the emotions are running strong in this one with all parties involved.

Powering this movie forward are a whole string of brilliant performances, lead once again by Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed. Jordan has been on the scene for quite some time now with roles in the "Friday Night Lights" TV series and "Chronicle" in 2012 being some early examples. But "Fruitvale Station" in 2013 is where he really grabbed a lot of people's attention, which most certainly led to him being cast in the lead role in "Creed," given that both movies were directed by Ryan Coogler. And well, pun very much intended, but he delivered a knock-out performance in "Creed," one that should've given him an Oscar nomination. This year he's made an even bigger name for himself as gave what some have called a performance for the ages as he starred as Erik Killmonger in "Black Panther," a performance that could give him his first Oscar nomination depending on how much the Oscars love "Black Panther" this year. So yeah, the guy can definitely act. And he once again gives his all to this role, making me believe that he's a prolific boxer who deserves his spot next to Rocky Balboa in this franchise. When the movie did the sports movie trope of showing the Sports Center guys, I bought into the idea that I was legitimately watching Sports Center rather than it feeling forced.

Of course there's a lot of great supporting actors holding Michael B. Jordan up so that he's not carrying this movie by himself. The most obvious one here is Sylvester Stallone returning as Rocky, which is always good to see. In "Creed," Stallone gave potentially his best performance yet as the iconic character, which still makes me mad that the Oscars gave the best supporting actor award to Mark Rylance instead, despite Stallone practically sweeping the rest of the awards season in that category. In "Creed II," Stallone's role isn't quite as emotionally heavy, thus on Oscar nomination is probably not on his way and I'm fine with that. But he still owns it as this character. It's been 40 years since he first stepped into this role and it was once again great to see this legacy of his continue. Surprisingly, though, if there was one actor in this movie who deserves a supporting actor nomination, I would contend it's Dolph Lundgreen as Ivan Drago. He was one of Rocky's most cold-hearted opponents and you want to hate him, but they give him a ton of depth in this movie that actually causes you to feel for the guy. You kinda want his son to go get the win because of it, which makes this a very conflicted fight even though Victor still acts like a stuck-up jerk.

I think the movie's biggest flaw is that Ryan Coogler's absence is very much felt. My guess is that he was too distracted with his "Black Panther" movie to come direct "Creed II," so they tapped Steven Caple Jr. to direct the movie. I'm not sure where or how they found this guy since the only other feature-length film he's directed is a 2016 movie called "The Land," which only had a max of 13 theaters, making $43,756 overall at the domestic box office. And I suppose Caple Jr. does a competent job. He proved to me that he was worthy of directing the movie. But the movie as a whole is just not as sharp as "Creed." It's a bit rough around the edges and takes a long time to get going. I feel if Coogler had returned, he could've smoothed things out quite a bit and made for a more enjoyable ride. The other big flaw I had was with the soundtrack. It was a very hip-hop heavy soundtrack. And I get it. It's a product of its time. I bought into the idea that Creed himself would probably be listening to this type of music. So it fit. It's just that hip-hop doesn't motivate me personally, so when the training montages used hip-hop to pump me up, I wasn't very pumped up. However, when the traditional Rocky soundtrack shows up, I think I squealed a bit in my seat. That's one of my all-time favorite movie soundtracks.

That said, the movie as a whole was still very enjoyable. Did it do anything particularly new? No. But in this case I don't think it needed to. Since I watched this the day after Thanksgiving, the comparison that I thought off was a Thanksgiving dinner. When I sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner, which is one of my favorite meals of the year, I don't need something new or different. In fact, I need my turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on my plate or I'm going to feel underwhelmed. It's the same thing with a Rocky movie. I need the drama at the beginning to set up an end fight. I need the main character to fall a bit. I need him to find the motivation to fight. I need an epic training montage. I need an epic final battle with the classic soundtrack thrown somewhere in there. If the movie went away from any of that, I would be disappointed. So yeah, I knew exactly where this movie was going and I wasn't surprised by the final result, but that's what made me so happy. It included all the elements that I wanted. But not just that, it handled those elements with care and precision to deliver a well-crafted Rocky movie. There is a lot more specific details that I could dive into, but for now I'll let you discover those on your own. "Creed II" is a worthy successor and I'm going to give it an 8/10.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

It's time once again to dive into the wonderful wizarding world of, well, not Harry Potter this time around, but Newt Scamander and the rest of the people around in the 1920's, just over 50 years before the dreadful day when Lord Voldemort killed Harry's parents. "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is now our 10th movie in this franchise, which is a fun milestone. Like most people who call themselves millennials, "Harry Potter" was a huge part of my growing up years and is still important to me this day. As far as the books go, I was eight years old when "The Sorcerer's Stone" was released in 1997 and had just graduated high school a few months before "The Deathly Hallows" was released in 2007. Tack on the movies beginning in 2001 when I was 12 years old and finishing (with the original series that is) in 2011 when I was 22 years old. I'm even in the same age range as Daniel Radcliffe (born in 1989), Emma Watson (born in 1990) and Rupert Grint (born in 1988). So there's been no franchise that's been this important to me as I've spent most of my life looking forward to the next book or the next movie. So of course "The Crimes of Grindelwald" was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. This was my franchise and I was excited to go back and explore it some more.

The 40 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes? Yeah, I didn't care. That should've been a warning sign to me. But it wasn't. The 40-70 percent range is what I call mixed reviews. Even though the first "Fantastic Beasts" wound up as positive on the tomatometer, that one had very mixed reactions among fans and I wound up on the positive side there. In fact, I thought "Fantastic Beasts" was a clever way to get us all back into the franchise. Back in 2011, after seeing "The Deathly Hallows - Part 2" in theaters, I was emotionally crushed because I felt this part of my life was coming to a close. I didn't know how to react to the idea of not having something Harry Potter related to look forward to. Thus after a five year wait, I was relieved when said chapter wasn't actually ending. There was still more movies to look forward to. Granted, I was initially worried as to how they were going to turn a Harry Potter textbook into a movie, but it turns out the beasts themselves weren't the real focus here. The focus was on what was happening in the wizarding world when Newt Scamander, author of said textbook, was a young man. J.K. Rowling has said she's been attached to this character for a while and now she's been excited to finally tell his stories to the world. I was totally on board with this.

Sure, "Fantastic Beasts" was far from a perfect film. I think the biggest problem is that the storyline in the movie as a whole isn't super memorable and not all of the characters connected as well with me as our main Harry Potter saga. But it was an excellent introduction to this new generation of movies in the wizarding world. The most exciting thing that the movie brought to the table is the promise for the future by diving into the story of Grindelwald. I remember Johnny Depp as Grindelwald was rumored to show up eventually, which is why I was taken by surprise when Colin Farrell's character ended up being Depp's Grindelwald in disguise. Yeah, I just spoiled that first movie for you, but I kinda had to in order to talk about this sequel because this second movie is about the rise of Grindelwald, as the title suggests. Ever since the seventh book, I've found this story to be rather fascinating. Dumbledore and Grindelwald were childhood friends until a huge falling out turned them into enemies. Grindelwald then experiments in the dark arts and becomes a powerful dark wizard, second only to Voldemort in power, until he was defeated by Dumbledore in 1945. Well, we're in 1927 in this movie and I was excited to see the beginning of this rise to power.

Which is why I found this movie to be so disappointing. I was extremely excited for this movie and I was quite bullish when it came to the reaction. If "Fantastic Beasts" was a solid intro to this universe, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" had the potential to blossom into a grand and glorious chapter of the wizarding world, building on what that first movie set up. And, well, I still have hope that the future of this franchise will be great. But that's the thing. The potential has not yet been reached. Instead of blossoming into something beautiful, this second chapter sputtered out and dragged it's feet, making a lot of confusing and baffling choices along the way. Thus I've been greatly troubled in my mind over the last day or so as I have no idea what to do with this. To be fair, though, this is not a bad movie. In fact, there's a skeleton of something great with some phenomenal performances holding this up. Leading the way with these performances are the two big arch rivals, Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Jude Law plays a young Dumbledore and he really captures the spirit of what makes Dumbledore so great. Standing opposite of him, Johnny Depp genuinely does a great job as the sinister and cunning Grindelwald. This is the beginnings of something great that I hope really pays off.

However, despite pulling off great performances, these two really aren't given much to do here. Dumbledore is there to provide support and have some excellent conversations with our characters. But he's not an integral part of this plot. He's there as a tease for what we could be in store for later. And Grindelwald has an excellent opening sequences and a really powerful final sequence, but in between all that he's a character in the shadows, lurking around with his two partners as they quietly wreak havoc. And I'm not even sure what the "crimes" are that the title is referring to. This is actually the first time in the entire Potterverse that the title hasn't made a whole lot sense. Carrying this movie for most of it is in fact Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. I really enjoy this character. Newt is a very socially awkward individual who has a great moral compass, yet has no desire to get involved in anything. But he's thrown into this almost against his will, this time by Dumbledore as Dumbledore commissions Newt to go stop Grindelwald in Paris because Dumbledore can't do it himself. So after Grindelwald escapes, Newt is off to Paris, which I think was a solid idea after an intense opening. I was ready for some sort of big conflict as Newt tried to spoil Grindelwald's plans.

Yet that's where the movie started to slip away from me. I was waiting for something to happen, but all I got was an overabundance of characters all doing things that I really wasn't invested in. And speaking of this overabundance of characters, the movie really tested my brain power on who they all were. Despite being a Potter fan for the majority of my life and being well-versed in the lore, I had the haunting feeling while watching that I forgot to do my homework. It's like going into a test, looking at the questions and being filled with dread because you didn't study hard enough or you studied the wrong material. I should've re-watched the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie because I quickly realized that I forgot about who most of the characters were in that movie. I knew Newt Scamander. I knew Jacob Kowalski. I vaguely remember Queenie and Tina Goldstein. And I obviously knew Grindelwald. That's about it as concerning returning characters. With all the other people, as they came on the screen, I was doing my best to remember who they were while keeping track of what they were doing in this movie. Plus there's a whole bunch of new characters I had to learn and several that I completely forgot existed. All of this unfortunately started to hurt my brain.

Then we have the actual plot. Or, well, the main plot that was scattered throughout all of the wandering side plots. What that boils down to is that everyone is searching for Credence, a character who I embarrassingly have to admit that I completely forgot about. The movie made it loud and clear that he was extremely important as Grindelwald was desperately searching for him while a lot of the others were I believe were trying to stop Grindelwald from finding him. Thus the title of this movie could've been called "Fantastic Beasts: The Search for Credence." Or better yet, since the fantastic beasts are even less important to this movie's plot than they were in the first movie, we might as well just call it "Newt Scamander and the Search for Credence." Yet despite the movie bashing over our heads that Credence was extremely important, the movie refused to tell us why. All we know on Credence's side of things is that he has no idea who he is and he really wants to know why. OK, so that means we're in for a big reveal of some sorts, but the movie decided to drag that on for as long as humanly possibly instead of simply revealing it towards the beginning or middle and spending the rest of the movie making said reveal make sense, thus giving us an actual story to care about.

Maybe it's because I've been watching too much of the Arrowverse, but this style of mystery box reveal where they string you along for way too long has really gotten under my nerves. In "The Flash" season 3, around 90 percent of the drama was the mystery of who the masked Savitar was. They didn't reveal the identity until the very end of the season because they apparently thought it was a fun game to play with viewers. I hated it. In "Arrow" season 4, the started out revealing that a main character was going to die this season, but it was apparent that the writers had no idea who it was when they started the season. They just wanted to play that game with their viewers. When it was finally revealed towards the end of the season, I felt like throwing my computer at a wall because I was upset that they played that game with me for so long and said reveal wasn't even worth it. My feelings here were similar. "The Crimes of Grindelwald," in essence, is a movie that straps you in like a donkey and dangles a carrot in front of you the whole film, forcing you to follow it, but not letting you eat it until the journey is over. Much like "Arrow" season 4, when said reveal finally happens, it winds up being extremely confusing as it makes absolutely no sense at all.

Instead of walking out of the theater feeling extremely satisfied with another journey into the wizarding world, I walked out with a laundry list of questions for J.K. Rowling, who did indeed write the screenplay for this movie. Even if they all end up making sense, this still leaves us in the position of this movie only existing to set up future movies. When it comes to the Harry Potter books themselves, two of my favorite books are "The Prisoner of Azkaban" and "The Goblet of Fire" because the individual stories in those books are so interesting and entertaining. In both situations, but especially in "The Goblet of Fire," J.K. Rowling managed to progress the plot of the whole series forward while also providing a story that stands well on its own. That's what a Potterverse book or movie SHOULD do. So the fact that "The Crimes of Grindelwald" only exists to set up drama in future movies is extremely disappointing in its own right. Thus it could be compared to my least favorite book, "The Half-Blood Prince," which I would argue only exists to build the bridge between the first five books and the grand finale. But even that book had great moments in it. "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is extremely lacking in interesting content outside a thrilling beginning and final battle.

On top of that underwhelming structure to this movie, there is a huge laundry list of other questions that J.K. Rowling sparked in my brain. It was obvious that she relied heavily on Easter eggs from the Potterverse to please fans when a lot of those Easter eggs didn't provide anything worthwhile to the plot. And there's several of these that made me wonder if J.K. Rowling fact-checked her own books to make sure what she was doing made sense because it doesn't seem like she did. I can't dive into all of these due to spoilers, but one example that I think is safe to bring up is the inclusion of Professor McGonagall, who is indeed a professor at Hogwarts in this movie. What's the problem with that? Well, if you dive into her story, or look up her Wikia, it can solidly be determined that she was born in 1935. Yet this movie takes place in 1927. Not only that, she's also still a professor during flashbacks to the early 1900's. See the problem there? It sadly reminded me a lot of George Lucas' Star Wars prequels. In the original trilogy, Leia says she remembers her mother. But in the prequels, Padme dies giving birth to Luke and Leia. Whoops! You forgot about that detail Mr. Lucas. There's several examples like this in both the Star Wars prequels and "The Crimes of Grindelwald."

Then we have characters included here like Nagini and Nicholas Flamel. There's no continuity errors with them, but their inclusion in the movie is completely pointless. And no, I don't consider bringing up either character a spoiler because they are both in the trailer and are introduced fairly early in the movie. With Nagini, we learn that she was a human who was doomed to be permanently turned into a snake. I don't know why we needed to learn that. All that it accomplishes is making Nagini's story in the Potter books a bit disturbing when she eats a human being and kinda depressing when Neville decapitates her. What does she do in this movie? Nothing. She's pointless. Maybe she'll have use in the future, but at this point in time her inclusion in the story is solely to make fans of the books happy. Same goes with Nicholas Flamel. Yeah, it was kinda cool to see him on the big screen for the first time. But does his character do anything to progress the plot forward? No. He has absolutely no purpose in the film. J.K. Rowling simply decided to bring characters in for fan recognition rather than actually giving them something to do. This whole thing made me feel like she should've been attached to this movie as a consultant rather being the one who wrote the screenplay.

So how do I grade this? This isn't a question that I should be this troubled over because the grade shouldn't be what matters here. But yet it has been. Due to all of these complaints that I've had, there's a part of me that's wanted to completely rip into this movie, calling it the worst Harry Potter film in the whole franchise and one of the worst movies of 2018. But then there's the other part of me that has quietly called out, reminding me that there are a lot of elements that I enjoyed. Johnny Depp as Grindelwald was excellent. He gets a great scene at the beginning and an even better one at the end. Jude Law as Dumbledore was an inspired casting choice. The returning cast members from the previous film also gave it their all, especially Eddie Redmayne as Newt. He's an excellent character and he has some great support around him. And yes it is true that there's a chance that my opinion could improve if I go back and watch the first movie, then re-watch this one. There's also a possibility that some questions could be answered in future movies that will ease my troubled mind, causing this movie to get better in hindsight. But there's also the chance that the exact opposite happens, so I don't know what to do. For now I'll split the difference and give this a 6/10.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Overlord Review

It's been a bit of a rough November for me in terms of my enjoyment of films that I've seen thus far. I made sure to hit all three of the big ones that were released, "Bohemian Rhapsody," "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" and "The Grinch," and they were all duds. So when the giant blockbusters aren't working out, what do you do? You turn to the small films to get a win. So that's what I did. I suppose it's not completely accurate to call "Overlord" a small film, per se. It's not one of these independent/art house films vying for Oscar attention. Rather it's more like a medium-level film that didn't get quite as much attention as it deserved and will probably get overlooked even more over the next several days with the likes of "The Crimes of Grindelwald," "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and "Creed II" being released. But such is life. I'll do my best to vie for the movie. And if no one cares and no one reads this review, then so be it. As I said, I mainly went into this movie for selfish reasons. I wanted a win with a November movie, so I went and saw "Overlord" and I got a win. And that's all that really matters, right? And it actually did a little better at the box office than I thought it would, so perhaps there are a few of you out there that had this on your radar. If so, check it out.

Before I tell you what this movie is all about, I first want to tell you what this movie is NOT. That's a bit of a unique route to take for a movie description, but in this case it makes sense. First and foremost, this is NOT a "Cloverfield" film. "10 Cloverfield Lane" wasn't initially a "Cloverfield" film until it became one later in production. "A Quiet Place" was ALMOST a "Cloverfield" before they smartly decided against it. Then we have Netflix's "The Cloverfield Paradox" which is a lit bit of a lot of things. So given all that history, and the general secrecy regarding the "Cloverfield" franchise, everyone assumed this was going to be another "Cloverfield" movie since it was a J.J. Abrams production with his Bad Robot company. People thought maybe this would tell more of the origins of the "Cloverfield" aliens since this was set in World War II. But no, J.J. specifically came out earlier in the year to clarify that this was it's own thing without having anything to do with the "Cloverfield" franchise. And no, that wasn't a smoke screen because this doesn't secretly become a "Cloverfield" movie at the end. Granted, at this point I wouldn't put that past the "Cloverfield" franchise, but that's not what happens. It's its own movie, which in this case I think is an excellent thing.

Another important thing to note is that this movie really isn't a zombie movie and that's important to know because it's been heavily advertised as one. All the trailers and posters have been heavily pushing it is a Nazi zombie movie, which is unfortunate because now I feel that a lot of people are walking out of the theater disappointed because they went into the movie expecting a "World War Z" type of movie, but set in World War II. That's not really what this movie is. If Paramount hadn't falsely advertised it as such, I may not have even brought up that element of the movie in my review, leaving it as a third act surprise. But nevertheless my hand has been forced as I have to discuss it. There are zombies in this movie. But there's only a few of them that play a big role and those characters are the surprise that the movie builds up to. What this movie IS is a straight-up war movie. There's a paratrooper squad who are sent on a mission to destroy a German radio tower in an old church on the day before D-Day so that the Allied invasion of Normandy can be successful. Obviously this is a fictional story, but it's a fun theoretical war story that plays with the idea of the Nazis being up to some sort of secret mission.

Obviously, as I've explained, the secret Nazi mission was them experimenting with the dead to bring them back to life. And yeah, they could've done a whole lot more with this if they were aiming to do a straight up B-film involving an army of Nazi zombies during World War II, but they decided to take a realistic approach to the idea and present it in a way that this could've been something that actually happened. I found that to be a clever approach and thus I found myself to be super invested in the story leading up to it rather than simply sitting and waiting for the movie to commit to an all-out B-movie. And I think if you go into the movie expecting a war film rather than a zombie, I think there's a lot that you can take in because this is a really intense movie right from the get go. The movie wastes no time introducing characters or giving you a detailed backstory on how they got to the point where they are. Rather, the movie begins with them all strapped in on their plane, flying through the mass hysteria that was the World War II sky at night. As they fly, we get some brief exposition on what it is they are planning on doing, but at this point you aren't even sure which characters you're supposed to be following and if you're not paying close enough attention, you might miss the whole thing with all the loud noise around them before their plane gets hit and causes them to crash.

I thought that introduction to the movie was a great way to set the tone for what we were about to get ourselves into, which was a rather intense war film. After their plane blows up, you begin to know who the main characters of the film are by who actually survives. It's at this point that the movie takes the time to slowly introduce you to who these people are by their interactions among themselves as they carefully weave their way through the battlefield in order to figure out how exactly they're going to finish their mission despite the fact that most of them just blew up. And I found myself to be surprisingly invested in all of these characters. They had a good team dynamic that slowly grew over time. At first they feel like a bunch of strangers who were forced into this situation and have to deal with each other. The glue that holds them together initially is the soldier who is the highest rank among that have survived. He's kinda leading them around in the dark, both literally and figuratively, while forcing them to stick together and keep focused on what it is they're supposed to be doing. Naturally there's a whole lot of tension and there's one or two of them that you wish would've been a war casualty, but such is not the case and they are forced to work together.

I think what helped this bond for me is that I didn't recognize any of the cast while watching the movie. Several of them looked super familiar, but it wasn't until I went over to IMDb afterwards that I figured out where I recognized them from. This meant that while I was watching the film, I was able to see them as characters in the movie rather than actors playing the characters. I think they all did a great job, especially the two characters who end up being the main two characters, Jovan Adepo as Boyce and Wyatt Russell as Ford. Wyatt Russell is the one whose in charge as the highest ranking official while Jovan Adepo is the one who barely feels like he belongs as he's knew to this whole soldier thing. The bond between the two of them because rather strong by the end of the film, giving us characters arcs that really sold me. The rest of the gang as more supporting characters also had some solid side-arcs intertwined with the main two, giving us a good camaraderie as a whole that led to a solid movie that build rather well. The fact that I cared about all of these characters made the horrors of war even more intense, especially as the team got closer to infiltrating this radio tower. It's inside this radio tower that the movie successfully transitions into a solid horror film.

Unfortunately you already know the secret there because the movie's advertising forced me to discuss the movie's secrets. As the movie gets more and more intense, the movie also gets more and more gross, thus if you don't have a good stomach for violence and gore, you might want to stay away from this because nothing is held back. Specifically, all the experiments on the dead and the dying are quite the sight to behold, to put it lightly. It might get a bit gratuitous at times, but it also does a great job of setting the tone of the second half of the film. This was already set pretty well with the war aspect of the film. Their plane getting bombed down at the beginning was intense. Them wandering around in the dark was intense. As they were able to find a hiding spot thanks to certain new characters who are introduced, it gets intense as certain Nazis get closer to discovering them. And then to top it all off, we have these horrific experiments that make your stomach churn. This is quite the excellent build up that makes you brace for the absolute worst as you know the movie is not going to hold back once you finally get to the moments that most people were waiting for the second they walked into the theater. And without saying too much, that final act of the movie is insane.

In summary, this could be a mixed bag for people, depending on what you are expecting going in. If all you want is a Nazi zombie B-movie, you're going to spend most of the movie bored with the fact that this tries to be a real movie, then probably doesn't give you what you came for with the final act. However, if you go in expecting a war movie, I think you'll be rather pleased as this is a really intense war film right from the very beginning that successfully gives me everything that I usually want when I go into a war film. There's a lot of war action. A lot of intense battlefield moments. A lot of suspense with characters hiding from the enemy. There's a good team of characters who have to learn and grow together in order to successfully accomplish the mission that they were assigned from the beginning. And then we get rewarded with a clever twist at the end that the Nazis were doing a lot of crazy, underground experiments with the dead and dying soldiers from both sides. All of this builds up to a final act that is extremely rewarding. I left the theater on a huge high after being solidly entertained by this war thriller sprinkled with zombie horror. This is certainly the best film of November so far and could be one of the many great highlights of 2018. I'll give "Overlord" a 9/10. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Review

A classic Dr. Seuss tale has once again found its way onto the big screen. It goes without saying that Dr. Seuss is one of the best and most iconic children's book authors, if not the best. What makes his work so incredible is that his stories are so memorable and fun for kids, but they also teach very important lessons. As an adult, I've often been a bit awestruck returning to these stories as I've discovered not-so-hidden messages that are super relevant to society and often extremely political. It's obvious that Dr. Seuss desired to leave a real impact on kids' lives rather than simply leaving them with meaningless, fun stories. That's why millions of parents for generations upon generations have gravitated towards his stories and used them to teach and raise their own kids. In regards to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," the message is pure and simple. Despite the hustle and bustle surrounding the holiday, it's not the toys and presents that make Christmas what it is. That's a very important message to teach kids because when they're super young, they don't know any better. Christmas means toys, presents, Santa and fun. That's why I think this story should be a staple for every family during the holidays so that kids can learn from a young age what Christmas truly means.

That said, the main focus of this review will, of course, be on Illumination's latest adaptation of Dr. Seuss' story. But I do think some background here is important so you know where I'm coming from, thus I feel it's important to talk about the two previous adaptations before diving right into Illumination's movie. Obviously the most pure adaptation of the book, which was released by Dr. Seuss in 1957, is the 1966 T.V. special. This short, 26-minute version is the purest form because it's essentially Boris Karloff reading Dr. Seuss' book with some animation being added. To get it to the full 30-minute T.V. slot, they added a few songs ("Welcome Christmas," "Trim up the Tree" and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch") as well as some extended animated sequences without dialogue. This version is perhaps the most effective adaptation because it's pretty much the same as reading the book to your kids, but they have some really good visuals to go along with it as well as some fun music, especially "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" as Thurl Ravenscroft's deep voice makes that a Christmas classic. Plus, the short length means that their attention span isn't going to run out and they can get the full impact of the story without having to spend too much time on it.

In regards to the live-action Jim Carrey adaptation in 2000, this is a movie that I wanted to do a retro review on because I find it to be absolutely phenomenal. Does the story of the Grinch need to be stretched out to 90 minutes to cash in on the popularity of the source material? Perhaps not. The book and the 1966 T.V. do just fine on their own. But if you're going to take a short story and adapt it into a movie, this is how. Not only did director Ron Howard transform this story into a hilarious comedy that very much has the exaggerated, comical, Dr. Seussian flavor to it, with a huge portion of said comedy coming from perhaps my personal favorite Jim Carrey performance, but the movie has a stunning amount of heart and depth to it that I think Dr. Seuss himself would've been proud of. We get to see how the Grinch was bullied and pushed away by his classmates when he was young for looking different than others. We get to see the adorable, innocent Cindy Lou Who make a real effort to reach out to the Grinch as she sees signs of him perhaps being not as awful as advertised. In addition, young Cindy Lou Who is trying to discover the meaning of Christmas herself, giving us the great song "Where Are You, Christmas?"

Adding that depth to the movie enhances the power of the story and we get real drama as the Mayor is trying his hardest to fight young Cindy Lou Who by keeping Whoville Grinchless. And he almost succeeds by purposely triggering some bad memories from the Grinch's childhood to push him away. I like the idea that this specific incident is what leads the Grinch to terrorize Whoville that night by stealing all of their decorations, which he thinks is going to ruin Christmas as he thinks all they care about the commercialism of the holiday. Then when they wake up in the morning, the Mayor confronts Cindy Lou Who and her family, trying to instill a strong feeling of guilt on the poor, little girl. But the power of the movie comes when Cindy's dad comes to her defense and teaches the town that his family is all he needs to have a good Christmas. That's what causes the whole city to then sing "Welcome Christmas" from the original T.V. special, which is what the Grinch hears from the mountain, causing him to realize that he's failed and feel truly guilty about what he's done. It's a hilarious, quotable and powerful film that I remember seeing in theaters and have watched just about every year since. It's on Netflix right now if you want to go give it another try.

Now we get to dive into Illumination's 2018 adaptation, a movie I was never excited about. I hated the idea when it was announced a few years back and I thought all of the trailers looked incredibly stupid. Combine that with the fact that I have a very spotty record when it comes to my enjoyment of Illumination's movies and I had every right to believe that this movie was going to be trash. And I was right. Yes, there's a few good elements scattered throughout the movie. But none of the elements that made the previous two versions so great are here in this movie. Young kids might be mildly entertained by the final result as the big focus is the childish slapstick humor and gags that you saw littered in the trailers. But the movie struggles mightily to figure out how to get to 86 minutes and also lacks the depth that a Grinch movie should have, thus the final result is an ultimately pointless venture done solely because Illumination wanted a quick cash grab given that they knew people would show up to a Grinch movie during Christmas, especially since it's been 18 years since the Jim Carrey version and 52 years since the T.V. special. Smart move on their part financially, but if you're looking for a quality movie to take your family to, I'd say skip this one.

Let's focus a bit on plot here. Yes, everyone knows the story of the Grinch. There's nothing to spoil here. The Grinch hates Christmas. He decides to steal all of their toys and decorations on Christmas Eve, but yet when they wake up, he hears them singing and realizes his plan has failed. His heart grows three sizes and he makes restitution and tries to become part of the community. But how to expand that? As I've explained, the Jim Carrey movie did an excellent job at expanding the story. This Illumination movie does not. There's absolutely no drama in Whoville. In fact, the number of characters from Whoville who even get major dialogue can probably be counted on your two hands. Our main character is Cindy Lou Who and she spends a good chunk of time scheming with her friends as to how to trap Santa Claus because she wants to talk to him about her mother. On the Grinch's side of things, once he decides to steal Christmas, the movie spends a huge chunk of time on his preparation. That's how we get to 86 minutes. Cindy Lou Who scheming to trap Santa Claus and the Grinch preparing to steal Christmas. It was quite frankly boring and drama free. I don't think I laughed even once.

I think the best compliment I can give to the movie is that the animation looked good. The design of Whoville was fantastic and all the inner workings of the city were well planned out. That's pretty much it. A lot of time was spent on the animation. Almost no time was spent on drafting a competent story. I don't even think the voice work was that good. I love Benedict Cumberbatch, but I don't think his voice was a very convincing Grinch. Our narrator was Pharrell Williams. While he wasn't particularly awful, when compared to the likes of Boris Karloff and Anthony Hopkins, he felt extremely weak when giving his narration. The music is also been a fun part of the previous movies. And the only good song was "Welcome Christmas," which they brought in from the T.V. special without changing much. That's it. The rest of the music is done by Tyler the Creator and his version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is quite frankly terrible. And included at the beginning of the movie instead of when he's scheming to steal Christmas. He also has a few original songs that made me want to gag. I think this choice was made so that Illumination could feel relevant with how popular hip-hop is today, but for me it did not work at all, which shouldn't surprise you.

So yeah, the voice work was off. The humor was such that would entertain a young child, but not an adult. At 86-minutes, the movie felt like a slog because the writers had no idea how to expand the story and thus settled by spending way too much time on two story arcs that were ultimately pointless or could've been done in five minutes. There was no drama in the film. Hardly any life. The Grinch wasn't even very Grinchy, just mostly lonely and bored. Yes, the movie does try to pull at your heartstrings by giving the classic Grinch themes, but the way they ended this movie actually felt more forced and awkward. While I've already complained Tyler the Creator's soundtrack, I was shocked at the end credits to learn that Danny Elfman did the actual score because the score didn't stand out at all. Thus I'm left with saying that the animation was done well and the design of this land was done with care. But given that we're in 2018, that should be a given with any major animation company. The movie isn't particularly offensive, but it's just lifeless and boring. Yes, you can take your kids and they'll probably enjoy it. Or you can save your money for "Ralph Breaks the Internet" instead. Or stay home and watch one of the other two versions. My grade for this Grinch is a 5/10.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Queen, one of the most legendary bands to ever exist and certainly one of my personal favorites. If you've spent enough time with me, or if you've browsed my music blog enough, you'll probably know that the 80's and the 70's are my two favorite decades of music. Having been born in 1989, I am technically an 80's child, although it's probably more accurate to call myself a 90's kid, but given that I have several older siblings that lived through the 80's, the 80's music and culture was certainly a heavy influence on my early years. And of course Queen played big into that with songs like "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions" and "Another One Bites the Dust." I think I'm contractually obligated to love "Bohemian Rhapsody" as well, but I could write a whole blog post on my experience with that song, so we'll discuss that another day. Yes, I've grown to like the song, but the previously mentioned three songs are the ones I had a stronger connection with growing up. And that's the thing. Queen's discography of legendary music is so vast that everyone has been influenced by them in one way or another. So obviously everyone's going to be excited for a biopic of the band, which is why it destroyed at the box office with a $51.1 million opening domestically.

But what if I told you that I wasn't all that pumped about it? Would you charge my apartment with torches and pitchforks in hand and try to burn me at the stake? If so, then so be it. Because it's true. While it's true that I like the idea of a Queen biopic, especially since frontman Freddie Mercury is one of the most fascinating individuals in music history, I'm a bit weary of movies that went through development hell in order to get to the big screen. Because, yeah, they've been working on this since 2010. Initially it was supposed to star Sacha Baron as Freddie, but he left in 2013 due to creative differences and the project then sputtered out for a few years until Rami Malek jumped on in 2016. Even then, Brian Singer was brought on as the director, but got fired last December for multiple reasons. Dexter Fletcher was hired to finish the project and finally got it done, but I was getting the feeling that the movie might arrive feeling a bit bandaged up with all the different cooks in the kitchen fighting over it. On the Brian Singer note, if you saw the movie and are confused as to why he's still listed as the director in the credits, it's some sort of weird Directors Guild of America thing that helped him retain sole directing rights while Fletcher got an executive producer tag.

Yes, it's true that there's a lot of situations where movies had production issues, but the final product ended up being fantastic. "World War Z" is my favorite example of that. It still doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to be nervous when I hear all of this. That, and when the trailers dropped, I didn't think the trailers were edited together very well. Instead of picking just one Queen song to feature, they tried to cram in as many Queen songs as they could over some randomly thrown together footage of the band doing things. I was a bit confused as to what this movie was going to be or what the specific focus was, which is what I usually expect from a musical biopic, but we'll get to that in a bit. Finally, the critics reviews came in very mixed, which wasn't encouraging to me. On that note, let's take a quick Rotten Tomatoes 101 crash course. Many audience members have slammed the critics for hating this movie, yet the movie ended up with a 60 percent score. A score in the single digits or teens means the critics hated the movie. A 60 percent score means that 60 percent of critics, over half of them, enjoyed the movie. The best label there is to say they were mixed. In fact, I would say that any movie that gets 40 to 70 percent would qualify as mixed reviews.

Maybe it's the movie critic in me, but I would really appreciate it if people could stop saying that critics don't matter or that their opinions are pure trash, especially when a majority of them actually approved of this movie. Granted, it would be nice if Rotten Tomatoes had less of a black and white system that didn't label a movie rotten whenever it got below 60 percent. Allow for some gray area between 40 and 70 percent so that ignorant people don't throw a fit whenever a movie they like isn't certified fresh. But still, if people can learn how to properly interpret Rotten Tomatoes's slightly broken system, that would be nice, too. It's not rocket science. With that rant out of the way, I honestly think the critics have every right to be mixed when it comes to this film. Sure, they always have that right, but I especially think that's the case here because mixed is exactly what I felt. Now if you are one of the many people who praised the movie as one of the best things since sliced bread and you get mad at me for "hating the movie," then I'm going to find you and slap you in the face because that means you ignored these last two paragraphs. I don't hate this movie. There's a lot to praise about it. But there's also a lot of things that frustrated me.

Before we dive into all the movie's historical inaccuracies, allow me to first paint the timeline of what the movie attempted to portray. The movie starts out in the year 1970, right before the band was formed and continues all the way until 1985 when they performed at the Live Aid concert. That's a large chunk of time to cover in just two hours, thus a movie that attempts such a feat needs to have a good team of writers on board who can creatively keep my interest. Unfortunately, though, rather than the movie having a good, solid story arc, this is a movie that didn't really have a specific focus. They tried to tell everything about Queen from beginning to end, which resulted in them rather monotonously jumping forward on a straight timeline, moving from the creation of one big hit to the next. There didn't seem to be an end goal in mind or one theme that the movie wanted to focus on, thus the narrative of the film started to quickly bore me. On top of that, there wasn't a whole lot of drama in the movie. Freddie joining the band was pretty easy. The relationship with his girl happened without him really trying. They gained popularity right away without working too hard and just wrote songs and performed concerts. That was our movie for the first half and I was unimpressed.

Yes, it's true. I love Queen. Because of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the music in this movie. The individual scenes of them creating the songs was entertaining enough. I enjoyed it when they were creating "Bohemian Rhapsody." That was a fun sequence. When they came up with the ideas for "We Will Rock You" or "Another One Bites the Dust," that was fun to see and I certainly enjoyed it when the performed it on stage in front of a loud audience. In fact, I saw this movie in 2D IMAX, so the large screen and great sound did a great job of enhancing the experience. If all you're concerned with is having good music and good performances, then that very well might be enough to please you. You can turn off your brain and enjoy a bunch of Queen concerts strung together and be pleased with the final results. But if you care about story and narrative, then it's possible you might be a bit disappointed because the story here isn't as strong as a could've been and the narrative wanders off in a bit of a freestyle instead of being tight and focused. Yes, this is a common theme when it comes to music-related films for me, whether it be a musical biopic or a straight-up musical. A lot of people only care about the music itself. While that's important to me, I need the story to work.

The whole time I was watching this movie, there's one movie that jumped into my mind as a prime example of a musical biopic done right. That movie is the Beach Boys biopic "Love & Mercy." If you've never heard of that movie, I wouldn't be that surprised. It was a smaller, independent film released in the summer of 2015 that only made $12.6 million total and maxed out at 791 theaters. So it kind of flew in under the radar. But it's this exact style of movie, except the focus isn't on showcasing the entire career of the Beach Boys while making sure to cram in the creation of every major hit they had. The focus was on Brian Wilson and his personal struggles with psychosis that impacted everyone around him. It was a beautifully crafted character study with a brilliant story arc behind it that just so happened to feature some music from the Beach Boys. I feel "Bohemian Rhapsody" was the opposite. The goal seemed to be on the music and the band with Freddie Mercury's journey being more of a footnote. There's also plenty of other movies that came to my mind, but the most obvious one is last month's "A Star is Born." While the specific story is fictional, again the focus is on the story and the characters, not the music.

I want to stress that the structure of the movie is what bothered me when in left the theater. However, there is another element to this movie that must be brought up because it comprises the experience for me once I learned about it. And yeah, this requires spoilers, so you've been warned there. But this movie is a big lie. Yes, I know. When you're making a biopic, there's times where you have to have some creative liberties to make things work. But this movie's portrayal of the events are completely false. Now there's a lot of small things that are inaccurate that don't bother me that much like how he joined the band, how he met the girl, and how in reality they went through several bass guitarists before settling on John Deacon. But the crux of the drama in the second half of the movie involves Queen breaking up, Freddie Mercury learning he has AIDS, and the band reuniting in dramatic fashion right before the Live Aid concert, using that as their reunion. All that is false. The band didn't break up. They took a bit of time off in 1983, but it was mutual and they stayed in contact. They even wrote an album in 1984, went on tour, then performed at Live Aid. Freddie Mercury didn't find out he had AIDS until 1987, two years after Live Aid.

Again, even if the movie was perfectly historically accurate, I would've had troubles with the movie itself. It's not like I left the theater raving about how great it was, then came home, learned of its huge inaccuracies, then decided to write a negative review. Given that I'm not a huge Queen aficionado, I actually assumed that the basic outline of events was correct, especially since the surviving band members helped work on the movie, so I also am not one who was angered right away when the events became twisted. But it's really disappointing when I come home and find out the only times where the movie had a high level of drama were instances where said drama was completely fictionalized in order to make the movie interesting. And that's even more disappointing considering the fact that they didn't need to create a fictional story arc to create a great movie about Queen. The material was already there given how fascinating of a character Freddie Mercury was. Just tell that story. The most confusing part of this is that the band helped put this together, but I guess they were fine with the filmmakers changing their story in order to make a good movie? I suppose a similar thing happened with "Straight Outta Compton," so maybe they should've sat this one out.

All in all, the best word to describe "Bohemian Rhapsody" is frustrating. Here we have one of the greatest bands ever formed with some of the world's most iconic music, led by a fascinatingly complex human being in Freddie Mercury, yet the final result is a poor story structure that decides to focus mostly on uneventfully wandering from song to song with little to no drama behind it. When they do decide to make the movie dramatic in the second act, it turns out they scrambled the whole history of the band while flat-out inventing things that didn't happen in order to give us said drama when they could've simply told the real story of Freddie Mercury as is and the movie would've been excellent. There's been some people that have said that this movie needed to be rated R in order for them to do it right. I disagree. A few added f-bombs and some sex scenes wouldn't have inherently fixed the structure of the film. Regardless of rating, what they should've done is zero in on Freddie Mercury and create a great character piece around him. If that means cutting some of the early timeline and ignoring the creation of certain songs, then so be it. But that's not what was done and thus I left the theater feeling a bit underwhelmed. Sorry. My grade for the movie is a 6/10.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

I figured I better quickly review this movie before I completely forget that I even saw it. I saw both this and "Bohemian Rhapsody" yesterday and while I really want to jump into "Bohemian Rhapsody" because there's a whole lot of talking points there, but "The Nutcracker" is about to completely leave my mind, so I need to discuss it first while I remember. That fact in and of itself is probably a good enough analysis of this movie. Disney has been shoving this movie down our throats with a rather aggressive marketing campaign, yet I was never convinced that this would be a good movie. The initial teaser had an excellent arrangement of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" as the trailer song, but that was it in terms of things that excited me. The movie itself looked like a bad rip-off of Disney's own live action "Alice in Wonderland" movies, which is a really bad sign because Tim Burton's 2010 movie was a giant waste of time and the 2016 sequel that most people probably already forgot existed somehow managed to be even worse. So out of all of these live action reimaginings that Disney is doing, this seemed like a really perplexing choice. At least most of the others have a large built-in fan base, but is there anyone on Earth that was begging Disney to do "The Nutcracker"?

Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair with that statement. I certainly wasn't excited about a film version of "The Nutcracker," but if I'm being completely honest, all I've ever known is the music from "The Nutcracker." I think it goes without saying that Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" is one of the most iconic pieces of classic music there is, especially when it comes to Christmas music. "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" has especially been a personal favorite of mine, which is why I really liked the arrangement from the teaser. But the ballet and story behind it? Do people even remember that? I didn't. When they started advertising this movie, my ignorant brain immediately wondered what in the heck they are basing this off of, because I didn't know there was enough content behind this to make a full live action film. That's why when I did my November preview, I decided to educate myself about the history of all of this so I don't sound stupid when I go into the movie. That's when I reminded myself that "The Nutcracker" is a ballet. Duh. That's the ballet with all the mice and toy soldiers dancing around. I vaguely remember all of that as a kid, but never once did I think about the story or potential mythology behind those strange happenings. I just enjoyed the music.

Now in true educated fashion, I can tell you what this is all about. As it turns out, "The Nutcracker" was a ballet that was originally choreographed by Marcus Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with Tchaikovsky of course doing the score. The first performance was in Saint Petersberg on December 18, 1892. The ballet itself was based on a short story written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816 called "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The basic premise of that story is that Marie and her brother Fritz are given gifts on Christmas Eve by their godfather, Drosselmeyer. One of such gifts is a nutcracker that Marie becomes especially fond of. That night she stays up later than all of them and witnesses all the toys come to life and fight a war against a bunch of mice. The toys are led by the nutcracker that Marie has become fond of and are almost defeated until Marie throws her shoe at the mice. Then she faints and wakes up, where she is unable to convince anyone of what she saw. And this is where things get a bit fuzzy for me because, even though I read over the premise multiple times, I was really confused as to what actually happened after that. All I picked up is that there is an elaborate backstory behind all of this that ends with Marie being whisked away and becoming queen of this magical land.

That's especially important because, as it turns out, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is not an exact retelling of that original story. It's a sequel to that. Our main character is a girl named Clara who is the daughter of Marie. I made that connection in the film and the light bulb went off in my head. It made me glad that I had read the premise of the original story before seeing the movie, otherwise I think I would've been extremely lost as to what all was happening and why. In this movie, Marie, Clara's mother, has passed away. Clara, her sister, her brother and her father are all feeling pretty miserable because of that, yet the father insists that they celebrate Christmas Eve anyways because they need to celebrate Christmas. Clara becomes upset because the present that her mother left her is a fancy egg-shaped thing that she can't open because the key is missing. Later that night, Morgan Freeman, who plays the godfather from the original story, is giving everyone their presents, but they need to follow a trail of strings to learn where they are. Clara's string leads her to a mysterious room in the giant mansion where she finds Narnia... I mean, the Four Realms, which is the land that her mother got whisked away to. And from there all the fancy adventures begin.

By adventures, I mean that most of the movie has her chasing down this key. As she gets into Narnia, the key is by a Christmas tree, but before she can grab it, a mouse steals it away from her and she goes on a wild goose chase to find the mouse. She eventually runs into a soldier who helps her chase the mouse, but the mouse gets away. Eventually the soldier learns that she is the daughter of Marie, the former queen of their land and suddenly Clara is treated as the princess and taken to the headquarters. Surprisingly, all of this setup isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The filmmakers managed to create a rather visually spectacular world that is fun and pretty to look at. And I really liked the dynamic between Clara and her family, who were all struggling with the recent loss of their mother/wife. That gave the movie some potential for some strong family-related themes that could work well during the Christmas holiday. And Mackenzie Foy was absolutely adorable as our lead girl. She had a very lovable innocence to her and perfectly competent acting skills, making for a strong lead character. This combined with her playing young Murph in "Interstellar" means that she has a good career in front of her if she keeps to it and stays on the right path.

I think the big issue that I ran into was that the movie had a really hard time keeping my attention once we got into the thick of things. As I've thought about it over the last 24-hours, I've decided that the big issue probably comes with the source material itself. As popular as "The Nutcracker" is, I was fascinated to learn once I did my research on this that the ballet itself was an initial failure, which made everything make sense. Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" was what exploded initially, but the ballet didn't find success until many years later. Even then, I imagine that most fans of the ballet enjoy it because of the music and the dance choreography. Has anyone bragged about how amazing the mythology is behind the music and dance? I don't think so. A war between nutcrackers and mice isn't the most interesting thing. I think it might be telling that, in an effort to make a feature-length film, the filmmakers here chose not to tell the original story, but tried to expand the lore by sending Clara into the land years after her mother became queen rather than simply telling her mother's original story, which was only based on a short story in the first place. It's often hard to turn a short story into a feature length film.

I imagine a situation here where Disney commissioned people to make a movie about "The Nutcracker," but said people really struggled with how to make it work. Again, I give them props for trying. This is not an inherently bad film. There's just not enough to work with. When I described the film's premise, I referenced the fact that it felt an awfully lot like Narnia when she disappeared into the Four Realms. I know that comparison had been given plenty of times before, but going in I was set on my "Alice in Wonderland" comparison. Yet she walked through the tunnel and I couldn't help myself. It was Narnia. Except it was a second-rate version of Narnia that was heavy on visual effects, but extremely lacking when it came to interesting characters and story inside the land. When strange, random things starting happening and eccentric characters showed up, that's when the "Alice in Wonderland" elements came to play. But sadly even "Alice in Wonderland" made it's characters and universe more interesting than what we got in the Four Realms. I think supporting cast members such as Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren were having fun with their roles, but there's just nothing to work with. There's not much more to even say.

Again to the movie's credit, when we hit the actual finale, the themes of family wrap up in a nice little bow, leaving you with a few feel goods, but it doesn't make up for a lack of content. I could dive in and spoil things that happen and no one would probably care, but I don't feel it's worth my time. You'll just have to trust me that the directions that this movie takes are a bit perplexing. The "villains" don't have solid motivation. There's no epic fantasy sequences to keep audiences entertained. The twists that the movie tries to throw your way are extremely underwhelming. The drama never really hits a good peak as everything seems to easy for Clara and the people that end up getting behind her. Pretty much everything that makes a land like Narnia, or Wonderland for some, are completely missing. Thus the movie ends up feeling like more of a second-rate copy of those other lands and movies, meaning that there's no reason to give this a chance. I'd say it might be harmless fun for families with young kids, but in a holiday season that is set to deliver "The Grinch," "Ralph Break the Internet" and "Mary Poppins Returns" among others, this is one where I recommend you stay home and save your money. But you were already planning on that, right? My grade here is a 5/10.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Movie Preview: November 2018

As was expected based on the slate of releases, October 2018 did deliver the record-breaking performance that it was set up to give, earning a total of $818 million at the domestic box office, which bested the previous October record of $758, which was set in 2014. Leading the way was the huge breakout performance of "Venom," which soared past even the most generous predictions, earning $80.3 million opening weekend, a new October opening weekend record that was previous held by "Gravity" in 2013 with $55.8 million. Said opening weekend record was nearly broken again by "Halloween" just two weeks later as the later opened to $76.2 million, carrying the month over the top to break 2014's record. "Venom" and "Halloween" have made $190 million and $137 million respectively through the end of October. Riding along with them is "A Star is Born," whose $153 million total thus far is rising quickly up the list of movies that never hit No. 1 at the weekend box office. All three movies should provide decent holdover totals for November, which also begins the holiday season. That means we should be in for another big month at the box office, although probably not record-breaking since that bar for November is much higher. But nevertheless, let's dive in!

November 2nd - 4th- 

Looking to start November off with a bang will be Bohemian Rhapsody, which looks to easily take away the crown from "Halloween," the winner of the previous two weekends. It's also set to spoil Disney's new release, though we'll get to that in a second. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the musical biopic for the band Queen, chronicling the years leading up to their appearance at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Given that Queen is one of the most popular rock bands in history, this movie has a naturally huge fan base built in. That combined with the strong buzz surrounding Rami Malek's performance as the legendary Freddie Mercury has had fans excited for this one for some time, especially with the huge marketing push that Fox has put behind this. That could lead to an opening weekend that flirts with the $50 million mark. The obvious comparison here is the $42.9 million opening of last month's "A Star is Born," or perhaps the $34.9 million opening of this summer's "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." The big disadvantage here is the less than stellar reviews from critics who have said the movie doesn't dive quite as deep as it could've. Although that didn't hold "Venom" back last month, so positive word of mouth from audiences could negate that.

Disney has been having a fantastic year this year so far, as they've earned $2.7 billion at the domestic box office alone. Although they could be in a bit of trouble with their latest release this weekend, that being The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" is arguably one of the most popular classical music pieces, especially when it comes Christmas time, with "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" being one of the most well-known selections from the suite. "The Nutcracker Suite" was extracted from "The Nutcracker" ballet, which had its initial two-act performance at Saint Petersberg in 1892. The ballet was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman's 1816 story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," which is a story about a young girl witnessing a nutcracker coming to life on the night of Christmas Eve and leading the dolls into battle with the Mouse King and his army. Later the young girl is whisked away into the nutcracker's magical kingdom. Despite this long, storied history, this movie adaptation of "The Nutcracker" is not one that has really grabbed people's attention. The lack of excitement combined with poor reviews, wavering around 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, will probably make this Disney's lowest opening of the year at around $20 million.

If Disney's not careful, they could see a bit of competition for that runner up spot from Tyler Perry's Nobody's Fool. At best, "The Nutcracker" could see an opening around the $33.1 million opening of fellow Disney release this year of "A Wrinkle in Time" or their 2016 release "Alice Through the Looking Glass," which debuted to $26.9 million. However, if audiences are as unimpressed as critics, they could be looking at a total closer to the $21.5 million opening of "Pete's Dragon" or the $18.8 million opening of "The BFG." If that's the case, that's where "Nobody's Fool" could play spoiler because Tyler Perry fans have rather consistently come out in support of his films. While the Madea films are his most popular, and this movie is not one of those, Perry's 11 non-Madea films have averaged an opening weekend of $18.6 million, with his latest, that of "Acrimony," opening to $17.2 million earlier this year. And "Nobody's Fool" is opening in 400 more theaters than "Acrimony" (2,468 vs. 2,006). "Nobody's Fool" also has the advantage of starring Tiffany Haddish, who recently helped "Night School" open to $27.3 million. The movie is about a woman who recently is released from prison to discover her sister in a bit of a sketchy online relationship.

November 9th - 11th-

If we're calling Disney's release of "The Nutcracker" the beginning of the Christmas season, then Illumination is planning on building off that to swing the season into full gear with their release of Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, potentially stealing all of Disney's thunder in the process. While Illumination hasn't necessarily built up their reputation to the same level as the likes of Disney or Pixar in terms of quality, their box office totals are not to be argued with as their eight releases have averaged a domestic total of $272.6 million, their last five releases all topping the $250 million mark, with three of those crossing $300 million. Since "The Grinch" seems to have everything set up in its favor, there's no reason to believe that will change here. The story of the Grinch is one of the more popular Christmas stories and it's been 18 years since the live-action Jim Carrey version. Illumination bringing it back to animation gives it a more unique angle than the 2000 movie and the star power of Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the Grinch also helps immensely. All things said, this could be looking at an opening weekend around $70 million with long legs ahead given the Christmas holiday. Don't be surprised if this winds up as the biggest domestic release of the holiday season.

While we've had two Christmas releases thus far, heading into the actual holiday in November, that being Thanksgiving, the market looks to be really crowded, especially as Thanksgiving itself approaches. That doesn't bode super well for our next two releases, both of which will be fighting for the adult audiences. The first one will be The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story, with the subtitle of said film being added on fairly recently in order to boost brand name recognition. On that note, "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" began as a trilogy of novels written by Stieg Larsson, with the first book being released in 2005 and the two sequels in each ensuing year. There have been two film adaptations, a Swedish version in 2009, with both film sequels also being released the same year, and a Hollywood version in 2011 directed by David Fincher, which has not yet had any sequels. While fans of the franchise were probably hoping for a sequel to David Fincher's film, they'll have to settle with this instead, which is based on the fourth book in the series, called the Millenium series, with "The Girl in the Spider's Web" being written by a different author as Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, before his three books were published.

If "The Girl in the Spider's Web" matched the opening of David Fincher's "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo," that means it's in line for an opening around $12 million. "Dragon Tattoo" held on very well and wound up with $102 million, something that "Spider's Web" probably won't accomplish. That said, a $12 million opening is probably good enough to place ahead of the other adult-targeted release, J.J. Abrams' Overlord. This movie was initially thought to be a fourth "Cloverfield" movie, but Abrams confirmed in April that it is not, but is its own film. While Abrams is on as producer, this is actually directed by Julius Avery and is a World War II drama where a team of soldiers gets caught behind enemy lines after their plane crashes on their way to destroy a German radio tower. With enough buzz, this could in theory match the $15.2 million opening of "Hacksaw Ridge" in November 2016. However, last month's "Bad Times at the El Royal" comes to mind as that was a well-received, adult-targeted film that simply got lost in the mix and could only manage an opening of $7.1 million. Last month also saw the submarine thriller "Hunter Killer" only open to $6.7 million. So barring a breakout performance, that's about the range that "Overlord" is looking at.

November 16th - 18th-

With Thanksgiving being at its earliest possible date of November 22nd, that thanks to Nov. 1st falling on a Thursday, that means this weekend is the weekend right before the week of Thanksgiving and that's where audiences will be transported back to J.K. Rowling's wizarding world with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. This pre-Thanksgiving weekend has always been a productive weekend for the young adult book adaptations as every year from 2008 to 2016, this spot has been occupied by either a "Twilight," a "Harry Potter," a "Hunger Games" or a "Fantastic Beasts" film, all of which got huge openings. While "Fantastic Beasts" was on a break last year, "Justice League" jumped into the spot. This year, though, "Fantastic Beasts" is back, and as the title reveals, Johnny Depp's Grindelwald is wreaking havoc as he was revealed at the end of the 2016 film. To confront Grindelwald, a young Albus Dumbeldore, played by Jude Law, has commissioned this franchise's protagonist Newt Scamander to lead the charge. While this spin-off franchise was never going to match the huge grosses of each "Harry Potter" film, it's safe to expect this sequel to match the total of the first "Fantastic Beasts," which opened to $74 million on its way to $234 million.

Providing a comedic option for the Thanksgiving holiday, and potentially on through the Christmas season, is Instant Family, which is a movie that re-teams Mark Wahlberg with director Sean Anders, who helmed both "Daddy's Home" movies. Like "Daddy's Home," this is a movie involving a non-typical family situation as Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play a couple who don't really want to have kids and are certainly not the best parents in the world, but happen to adopt three foster children into their family anyways and have to figure out how to make that family work. Given that this is the first comedy since "Night School" at the end of September and won't have any direct competition until "Holmes and Watson" on Christmas,  the door is wide open for it to have a good run and the Mark Wahlberg star power will certainly help. Although without a fellow co-star on the level of Will Ferrell, this probably won't get quite as high as either "Daddy's Home" movies, which starred both Wahlberg and Ferrell, making $38.7 million and $28.7 million respectively on their opening weekends. Rather, we've had a long string of comedies in 2018, like "Tag," "Game Night" and "Life of the Party" all open in the mid- to upper-teens range, so that seems like a safe bet.

There's been plenty of Oscar contenders that have been released already and November will see a handful more. While I encourage you to constantly be on the lookout for the smaller releases that slowly expand, in this post I'm choosing to only cover the ones opening in wide release, just for the sake of simplicity. On this weekend that means talking about Widows. This movie is a big deal because it's Steve McQueen's first directorial effort since he won best picture with "12 Years a Slave," a 2013 release. "Widows" follows four women who team up together to pull off a heist after their husbands were all shot by police in an armed robbery attempt. The four widows are played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo, with a supporting cast that includes Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Jon Bernthal and more. After early releases at various film festivals, the movie currently stands at a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising it for combining popcorn entertain with a strong message in a heist thriller. This means it could be the type of movie that pleases people across the board, from casual film-goers to Oscar voters, which could give it a good box office run.

November 21st - 25th -

As previously stated, Thanksgiving falls on November 22nd this year, which means there will be three wide releases all opening on Wednesday, November 21st. Hence the extended date range. Leading the pack will be Disney with Ralph Breaks the Internet, sequel to 2012's "Wreck-It Ralph." Believe it or not, this is actually only the second sequel Disney's main branch of animation has made for one of their animated films, with the other being "The Rescuers Down Under" in 1990. Unless you count the 2011 "Winnie the Pooh" or "Fantasia 2000." But what about all of those other sub-par sequels to all the animated classics? Yeah, those are all DisneyToon, not the main branch. That means Disney's in surprisingly new territory here, but a second adventure with Ralph and Vanellope should be a good crowd-pleaser as the two of the head out to the internet, where they run into all sorts of internet-related obstacles, including all the potential cameo appearances from the "Oh My Disney" section of the internet, such as all the Disney princesses. As far as box office comparisons, Disney's most recent Thanksgiving release, that being "Moana," earned $56 million on the three-day weekend and $82 million on the five-day weekend, so that might be a range to look at.

Providing additional power to the Thanksgiving week will the eighth film in the "Rocky" franchise and second to specifically follow Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed, that of course being Creed 2. Those with an attachment to the "Rocky" franchise might take especial interest here with the connection to "Rocky IV," as Adonis Creed is determined to face off against Viktor Drago, whose father Ivan Drago killed Adonis' father Apollo Creed in a boxing match at the beginning of "Rocky IV." Dolph Lundgreen will be reprising his role of Ivan Drago in the movie while Florian Munteanu will be playing his son Viktor. Sylvester Stallone will of course also be coming back in his iconic role of Rocky Balboa with Tessa Thompson also returning as Adonis' love interest. Since "Creed," Tessa Thompson has seen her star power rise after wowing audiences as Valkyrie in "Thor: Ragnarok." The most notable person to not return to "Creed 2" is director Ryan Coogler, being replaced by Steven Caple Jr. That could be the main issue that hurts this sequel, but it still should be able to play well, despite the crowded market, as the first "Creed" opening to $29 million over the three-day weekend and $42 million over the five-day weekend during Thanksgiving 2015.

The third Thanksgiving week release is the one that very well might be dead on arrival and that is the umpteenth film iteration of Robin Hood. This version of "Robin Hood" stars Teron Edgerton in the lead role of Robin Hood, with Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn and Jamie Dornan also coming along for the ride in supporting roles. That's a decent cast there, especially with Edgerton as the lead, but that's about all the movie has going for it at the moment. The biggest issue here is convincing people to be excited for another version of this character. Wikipedia has a whole page devoted to the list of films and TV series featuring Robin Hood and I think I counted 78 entries on that list. Not to mention Wikipedia also claims the character has been around in folklore since the 15th century in various stories, songs, plays and other productions. So I'd probably wouldn't be exaggerating when I say the number of times Robin Hood has shown up is countless. With so many options this Thanksgiving, it's hard seeing too many people choosing "Robin Hood" over all the others. The perfect comparison is last year's "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," which faced a similar problem of overexposure and tanked with an opening of $15.4 million. Word is "Robin Hood" is tracking behind that movie.

November 30th - December 2nd-

Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving is left completely blank and is dominated by holdovers. This is often a smart move by studios in giving audiences a bit of breathing before loading them up again for Christmas. And that's mostly the case this weekend, thus however things shake up over Thanksgiving will probably end up being how they reflect here, with "Ralph Breaks the Internet" being the best candidate to lead the way both weekends. However, there is one small movie that decided to show up last minute in wide release and that is The Possession of Hannah Grace. This little horror film is about a corpse that is possessed in a hospital morgue and is discovered by a cop working the graveyard shift after recently getting out of rehab. It comes to us via Screen Gems, who have had a decent time recently with "Searching" and "Slender Man" both making around $30 million total domestically, an alright total for low-budget horror films. Given the lack of awareness at the moment for "Hannah Grace," if this opened anywhere near the $11.4 million of "Slender Man," that would probably be a huge win for Screen Gems. Although an opening closer to the $3.6 million of "Unfriended: Dark Web" or $3.7 million of "Unsane" might be a more realistic goal.