Tuesday, February 19, 2019
The answer to that question is that, despite Fox's seemingly lack of interest, audiences are gravitating towards the film. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is at a shockingly high 93 percent with the movie also earning an A- Cinemascore. This has led to another strong wave of "don't trust the critics on this one," which has given me a big headache. Sure, the movie's 60 percent score with the critics is a lot lower than the 93 percent from audiences. But a 60 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean that the critics hated it. In fact, that literally means that 60 percent of critics gave the movie a passing grade. That's the majority of critics claiming they liked the movie. I hate this black and white world we live in where every critic has to praise a movie to the high heavens or else it means they all hated it. I mean, to heck with a middle ground or a gray area, right? A movie can't have mixed reviews. It's only good reviews or bad reviews. And how about the hypocrisy of hating on the critics when you happen to be on the opposite side of their consensus, then praising them to the high heavens when you do agree? "The critics suck," people say... but only when they disagree with you. If you liked a movie they all liked, then the critics suddenly become your first line of defense.
Anyways, with that tangent out of the way, how about we talk about this movie? The movie that audiences seem to be loving, while critics are MIXED on. Because of all this, I wasn't sure what to think going in, which refreshingly left me with a blank slate. I was open to being pleased, but I also had my initial worries in the back of my mind, so things kinda cancelled themselves. What I will say is that I purposely waited until $5 Tuesday for this one because that's when IMAX is only $5 instead of $15-20. Even with various reactions, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the special effects on this are great, so why not go see an IMAX showing for just $5? And right off the bat, I can tell you that that was a great choice on my part. Sure, I could've had my review out four or five days earlier, but I would've missed out on a rather special treat. I want to talk about the budget of this movie here in a bit, but for now I'll just say it was large and the crew of this movie took full advantage of that massive budget to craft quite the visual spectacle. I was rather impressed at how much care was put into making this movie look as good as they could get it. I'm trying to think of the best comparisons here and honestly I think that this movie might be the most visually stunning film I've seen since "Blade Runner 2049" and that was an October 2017 release.
These action sequences were easily the best part of these films. I wasn't always sure why they were happening, but every time one of these fights broke out, I was completely immersed. First of all, Alita was a very charming, charismatic character brilliantly played by Rosa Salazar, so I became emotionally invested in her journey. When such an innocent looking girl all of sudden started kicking the trash out of these giant, scary, evil cyborgs that were brilliantly designed, I was richly rewarded. And the IMAX experience made it even better. It was a world with stunning visual effects, great character designs and beautiful fight choreography that was elevated with a brilliant score that fit IMAX so well that I could feel the movie at certain points. And I mean that literally because there were times that the theater shook. It reminded me of one of those Hans Zimmer scores that fits the action sequences so perfectly that the theater rumbles. And every time we got some blade on blade action, the sound design felt so sharp that I almost felt like the action was happening around me, like I needed to go hide around the corner while Alita takes care of these random baddies. In this case, the IMAX experience also came with 3D, which didn't add anything. But the IMAX was well used.
So yeah, I have to give this movie some legitimate top-notch praise for what they were able to pull off. It was one of those experiences that stunned me with how entertained and immersed I was. However, you may have picked up on my vague descriptions on whatever the heck was going on with the plot, because yeah, I don't know. There's a lot of exposition and a lot of context thrown at you and I had a hard time keeping track of it all. Bad things happened 300 years ago. Scary people are running around. We have a big baddie hiding in the shadows somewhere, using people on the ground as his puppets. Alita was trying to figure out who she was and I was just about as lost as she was. The movie is based on the Japanese manga titled "Gunnm" that began in 1990 and I think I was at a disadvantage at knowing absolutely nothing about that. I think James Cameron got a little ahead of himself while writing the screenplay as I think he assumed that everyone watching would be familiar with the manga and thus not need any explanation. Given the fact fact that this isn't just one story, but a manga series, I think that maybe James Cameron shoved a bit too much of the series into one movie. There's a lot of movie here with a lot of plot shoved into two hours.
Maybe this next point might sound a bit contradictory, but I also think James Cameron got a little ahead of himself by assuming this movie would be such a huge hit that he didn't need to explain everything that he shoved into this movie because he could include that in the three or four sequels that I'm sure he wanted to get done. It seemed like a huge portion of this plot was setting up this world and setting up the sequel, with not enough focus on making one individually great movie. Given that James Cameron is the director of the world's two highest grossing movies, "Avatar" and "Titanic," I think he was somehow able to con Fox into giving him a ginormous budget for this. The initial price tag for the production budget stands at $170 million. Add in all of the marketing costs that have been going on for the last two years and whatever other troubles or costs they've had, and Fox is reporting that the break-even point for this movie is a global total of $350-400 million. Other reports online are claiming that it could be even higher with a break-even point that is as high as $500-550 million. Yeah, sure, you make $2.7 billion like "Avatar" and that's nothing. But that ain't happen. Early reports say that Fox might take a $200 million loss on this film.
Knowing all of that going in, it was frustrating for me to watch the movie try so hard to set up a sequel when I knew that a sequel probably wasn't going to happen. Then things get worse when the movie leaves you on a cliffhanger, making me go crazy that I now have to live the rest of my life with this unresolved story in my head that wasn't completed because James Cameron got a serious case of overconfidence. It's like diving into a TV show after knowing that it already got canceled. That makes the finale really frustrating. Sure, in this case I have the option of going and checking out the original manga, but I don't know if I really care enough to do so. I haven't read a lot of Japanese mangas in my life and if I ever decide to change that, I'm not sure this is the one I'd start with. I'm hoping that this is a situation where James Cameron can learn from. But I'm afraid it may be too late as he's spent the last decade doing nothing but "Avatar" sequels. FOUR of them to be exact. They all have dates right now. "Avatar 2" is December 2020. "Avatar 3" is December 2021. "Avatar 4" is December 2024. "Avatar 5" is December 2025. Yet there's no guarantee that "Avatar 2" will even make any money because I don't think enough people even care about that franchise.
Now I've been giving a lot of credit to James Cameron for "Alita: Battle Angel" as if he's the one who directed the movie. He didn't. Robert Rodriguez is the director here. But this is James Cameron's movie. He's been wanting to make this since 2002, but never got around to it because he's been doing nothing but "Avatar" for the last 20 years as it took him forever to get the first "Avatar" out as well. So eventually he gave "Avatar" over to Robert Rodriguez, but Cameron still wrote the script and stayed on as producer. Robert Rodriguez has had an interesting career as he's directed everything from "Spy Kids" to "Sin City." It seems like this was a project where he dedicated himself to fulfilling James Cameron's vision. And on that level he did a great job. But that fact almost emphasizes the fact that this is still James Cameron's movie and so I'm giving the blame on this one to James Cameron for getting too overly confident. If this movie wasn't so focused on setting up the next movie, I think this movie could've legitimately been great. But that's where it falls short. And that same over-confidence led to a way-too-huge production budget that will result in now "Alita" sequels. But this is still a visual masterpiece and based on those merits, I'm going to give "Alita" a 7/10.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Describing this as a movie where Jessica Rothe getting stuck in another time loop is a bit of an oversimplification. They actually do set up more of a lore for this phenomenon. A simple way of explaining why this is happening. However, I don't know if I want to get too deep into that, even though said explanation takes place within the first 20 minutes of the movie. So I'll just say for now that the time loop phenomenon, instead of completely going away, gets passed onto their friend Ryan. When Ryan explains this to Tree (Jessica Rothe's character), she can immediately relate and they set out to figure out how to get Ryan out. Well, one thing leads to another and certain things go kaboom, and suddenly the time loop gets passed back to Tree, who completely loses her mind when she wakes up on her birthday again. Given that she's already cracked the code on how to solve this, she immediately approaches the perpetrator... only to realize that she hasn't just been sent back into the previous time loop. She's been sent back into an alternate dimension where everything's different and things have happened that she doesn't even remember. So now the challenge of this film is for her to figure out how to get back to her proper dimension where she belongs.
Because of this, the movie went from being a silly horror film to a surprisingly emotional drama that had me caring quite a bit. There were some decisions that had to be made that caused me to feel for this girl. And, yeah, there's also plenty of fun to be had on top of all this. The movie becomes a bit sciency in parts, which was a major departure from the first film. I thought that was an interesting choice, but I ended up being fine with that. Because of that, instead of Tree deciding to get killed by the new baby face killer every night to figure things out, she comes up with some clever ways to kill herself when a reset is needed for reasons that I won't get too deep into. That leads us to our mandatory time loop montage that the trailers focused heavily on with Tree doing things like jumping off a plane in a bikini to drinking some sort of poisonous fluid in an auto parts store and a whole bunch of stuff like that. It might sound a bit morbid to be entertained by that, but this movie is meant to be a lot of fun. In fact, it goes to the point where the movie often forgets that it's a horror film. There's a large portion of this movie where the baby face killer is missing in action. I'm not sure if some will have a problem with that or not, but I didn't care.
The other thing that I really appreciated about this movie is that the filmmakers here made an honest effort to separate this movie from the first film while also keeping the heart and soul in tact. There's a lot of horror franchises out there that get really lazy with their sequels. They manage to come up with a creative idea that a lot of people gravitate towards with their first film, but when they crack the code and make a lot of money, all the creativity gets thrown out the window in favor of a cash grab. Given that horror films are often the cheapest genre of movie to make, it's really easy to make a quick profit. Point in case, "Happy Death Day" was made on a budget of just $4.8 million. Thus a $55.7 million domestic total was a huge return on their investment that got even better when they ended with $125.5 million worldwide. If all they wanted to do was to make money, they didn't need to put much effort into this sequel all. They doubled their production budget to $9 million with "Happy Death Day 2U," thus a phoned-in, poorly-written retread would've easily given them a quick profit. But instead of doing that, it honestly felt like they cared about this property enough to build on the first movie and create a fun franchise rather than just scamming a bunch of teenagers.
Yes, there's a lot that could be nitpicked about this movie. Same thing goes with the first one. Said first movie ended up with a 71 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 65 percent audience score. I listened to a lot of the complaints and I totally understood the negativity. It was by no means a masterpiece of a film. But I didn't really care. I had fun with it. It was one of those movies where I was able to turn off my brain and enjoy. "Happy Death Day 2U" seems to be about on the same level. At the time of me typing this, there's still a lot of reviews yet to come in as they held those back until last night. But with 81 reviews counted, the score was at a 65 percent with the critics. Although it surprisingly has a much higher audience score compared to its predecessor with 83 percent right now, which is encouraging for me. But nevertheless, I've read through a lot of the negative reaction and I understand. In fact, I'm not going to rush to this movie's defense because I think there's a lot of solid points from the people not liking this. But ultimately said complaints didn't bother me. I just wanted to go have fun and I did. If you're on board with me in regards to the first film, then go check this sequel out. I'm going to give "Happy Death Day 2U" an 8/10.
Friday, February 8, 2019
However, I will say that my official excitement level walking into the theater was cautiously optimistic. It's one of those movies where I wanted to be super excited based on goodwill from the first one, but I watched the trailers and just wasn't able to get myself there. And as far as the LEGO franchise goes, while "The LEGO Batman Movie" was equally as fun and genius as "The LEGO Movie," there is this thing called "The LEGO Ninjago Movie," which was a complete dud in my opinion. So it hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies thus far. Topping this all off, Lord and Miller aren't back as directors for this movie. That job went to Mike Mitchell, director of "Shrek Forever After," "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" and "Trolls." Neither of those are particularly bad, but nor are they particularly great. So that didn't inspire a ton of confidence in me. I know, fans of "Trolls" are going to now come after me with their torches and pitchforks. But so be it. What did inspire a little confidence is that Lord and Miller did write the screenplay for "The LEGO Movie 2" and were also on board as one of the 5,000 producers of the film. So they still had their stamp on the movie, even if they didn't have quite as much control as they did in the first movie.
When watching the first movie, it took me until the very end of the movie to figure out what was going on. This time around, I caught on right away. And I don't feel the movie made any attempt to hide what was happening. They took the philosophy that since the cat is now out of the bag, let's just take it and run with it rather than try to be secretive about it. And it works just fine. The general idea here is that the young boy, named Finn, has all of his stuff downstairs and his sister Bianca has her stuff in her room upstairs. They both love LEGOs, but like a typical brother and sister, they don't always get along or play well with each other. The movie cleverly incorporates this into the animated universe as it jumps back and forth from live action to animation. Lucy and the gang getting captured and taken to the unknown is equal to the little sister taking the toys and running up to her room. Then you can see the conflict represented in the sister's room being the "evil lair." But is it evil or is it just a stubborn older brother not wanting to play along? I'm not exactly sure how old the kids in the movie are supposed to be, but the child actors who play them are 15 years old and 8 years old respectively. That's Jadon Sand as Finn and Brooklyn Prince as Bianca, both of whom do great.
So there are a lot of clever themes in the movie and a strong message about getting along with your siblings, but I couldn't help but think that this is a movie that is specifically targeted at kids, which is slightly disappointing considering how clever and funny the first movie was. It managed to hit the Pixar balance of being perfectly enjoyable and fun for younger kids while being equally as entertaining and memorable for adults. A group of college students can sit down and watch "The LEGO Movie" as a movie night and no one will even bat an eye or question why a kids movie was decided on for them to watch. "The LEGO Movie 2," on the other hand, doesn't seem interested in finding this balance. They just made a movie for kids. Yes, there are plenty of jokes that I laughed at, but there were a lot more chuckles than laugh-out-loud moments. And the movie didn't try very hard to be clever and witty with all the Warner Bros. references. In fact, as I think about it, "The LEGO Movie" seemed determined to throw in as many Warner Bros. references as they could, with several references from other properties as well. This movie abandoned that. There's a few cameos from characters we saw in the last movie, but they seemed like more of an afterthought.
Also in regards to this being primarily a kids movie, I really appreciated the fact that the humor is clean and appropriate. There's so many kids movies that will resort to poop and fart jokes to make kids laugh. This movie completely avoids that trope, providing humor that will make your kids laugh equally as hard without resorting to all that juvenile toilet humor. It's legitimately cute and charming. And it terms of the message, it drives home the idea of playing nicely with your siblings to the point where I think that message will stick into kids' heads and thus make parents really happy. So I can't be too mad or grumpy at this. Do I personally have a desire to buy this and watch it over and over, like I have done with "The LEGO Movie" and "The LEGO Batman Movie"? No, I don't. This one viewing is probably perfectly satisfactory. Granted, if someone else decides to watch it and I happen to be in the room, I'm not going to run away and hide. But I'm also not going to be the one to seek it out or suggest it for a movie night, if that makes sense. It's not a must see. Unless you're a parent with young kids. In which case, see it asap. It's perfect. And it might be the type of movie that becomes a timeless classic for your kids. And I appreciate it for that. So I'll give "The LEGO Movie 2" an 8/10.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
On that note, it is of utmost importance that you watch BOTH "Unbreakable" AND "Split" before you see "Glass." If you skip one or the other, you're going to be confused and you'll walk out not liking the movie. I know this specifically because the three guys I saw this with hadn't seen "Unbreakable." They either thought it was a sequel to "Split" or they thought "Unbreakable" wasn't necessary viewing. I didn't learn this until after the fact when all three were talking about how stupid the movie was. I asked them if they've seen "Unbreakable" and the answer was a unanimous "no." Had I known that going in, I wouldn't have let them see it with me until they fixed that. So don't make the same mistake as my three friends. See both movies first. If you end up loving "Split," but not liking "Unbreakable," you're in for a rough trip because if I were to pick which movie "Glass" is more like, I'm going with "Unbreakable." In fact, they easily could've titled this "Unbreakble 2" and it may have made even more sense than "Glass." Yes, the title of "Glass" makes sense, even though Mr. Glass doesn't get a speaking part until over an hour into the film, but we'll get to that. But why would you jump into a sequel without seeing the first movie? Don't do it. See "Unbreakable."
My opinion on "Glass" is a bit complex. I did see the movie exactly two weeks ago, shortly after it was released. Normally I'd try to get my review out as soon as possible afterwards, but this movie stumped me. I didn't know what to think of the movie going in because "Unbreakable" and "Split" are two separate genres. I wasn't sure exactly how they were going to combine them, what tone the movie was going to take, or what the specific story was going to be. But whatever it was that I was expecting in the back of my mind, the final outcome completely blindsided me. It went the exact opposite direction and I frankly didn't know if I loved it or hated it. I was actually leaning towards anger and disappointment initially, but I couldn't get myself to sit down and type that review. I felt like I was missing something. Perhaps the shock value of it being a movie I wasn't expecting was causing me to be too harsh on it. But yet, there were still things that I knew that I didn't like, so how was I supposed to reconcile this? The answer is that I gave it two weeks, then saw it again. I still don't feel like I'm all the way there with this movie. But with two viewings in, I have enough of a grasp to sit down and write a review. But doing so requires me to spoil the daylights out of this, so beware.
When I analyze my own thoughts, I honestly think that I was wanting this to be more like a "Split 2." I love James McAvoy's character in "Split." My all-time favorite thriller is Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," mostly because the dive into Norman Bates' Dissociative Identity Disorder makes for an absolutely fascinating character. The idea of an extremely mentally troubled individual who breaks down and becomes a serial killer when his other identity takes over is the most genius idea ever for a villain. The execution of that idea in "Psycho" is crafted to perfection by Hitchcock. The reason why I liked "Split" so much is because that's what it is. It's a modern-day "Psycho," but on steroids because McAvoy's Kevin Wendell Crumb has 23 different personalities protecting him, that all take turns with the light as they prepare for the inhuman 24th identity they call "the Beast" to take over. That's a basic overview, anyways. It's more complex because there's three personalities in favor of the Beast while the others aren't. But the three in favor, Patricia, Dennis, and Hedwig, are in total control. I wanted to see more of this. I wanted another dark thriller that ends with our hero David Dunn coming in and figuring out a way to stop the Beast. How Mr. Glass figured into this was beyond me.
However, it's not without its major bumps along the way. And the thing that makes this a complicated movie is that I'm not sure how severe all of these bumps really are. Are they small nitpicks that will resolve themselves over time or are they major flaws that will forever tamper the film, causing there to be some severe missed opportunities here? I don't know. But we're going to plow through them anyways. First off, though, we get to start off with the positive. The first 20-25 minutes of this movie are complete genius. This is because the movie actually does what I subconsciously wanted it to do. It was "Split 2." The Hoard, as is the nickname of the personalities in favor of the Beast, have now kidnapped three different sets of girls, and it these kidnappings are getting some legit press in the local news. Their latest victims are four cheerleaders and we get to again see Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig work their plan as they prepare the cheerleaders to be sacrifices for the Beast. But before the final plan is put into place, David Dunn ends up bumping into Hedwig on the street, which causes him to see the vision of what they are doing and he comes to the rescue. The Hoard then unleash the Beast as we get to see David Dunn vs. the Beast in a rather glorious battle.
But then the battle is immediately interrupted by our secret anti-superhero clan. Both David Dunn and Kevin Wendell Crumb are captured and thrown into a mental institution where they are interrogated by Sarah Paulson's character, the leader of this clan, who is determined to convince them that their superhero powers aren't real, but are rather a mental thing that they have created. If I'm being honest, I was not really a fan of this plot twist. I knew it was coming because that's where all the trailers were focusing their advertising, but I thought it would be a quick 10-20 minute thing at the beginning. But no. After our first 20-25 minutes of intro, this is where we spend the next hour of the film. The momentum of the movie slams to a halt and my adrenaline got completely derailed. I really didn't care for Sarah Paulson's character and I was bothered with the idea of over half of the movie being spent on her scheme. Now there are some positives here. Namely its a James McAvoy showcase as they learn that flashing a blinding light will force a different personality out of him. McAvoy has so much fun playing all of these different characters and I had a blast watching them all shuffle through. We also got to see a lot of new characters, which was a lot of fun.
I think the biggest problem with this whole hour-long segment in the mental institution is that it was just so boring. I don't mind slow if the build-up is done properly and the script is written nicely, but this movie just dragged its feet for an hour. And in the process, it completely sidelined David Dunn. Bruce Willis is an actor who often gets accused of not caring in his roles. With this movie, I think he did care. They just didn't give him much to do. He got to sit in his prison cell while the movie focused primarily on James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson. When those two first met and started scheming, things starting heating up. But it took a while. I looked I my clock the second time around and we were about an hour and 15 minutes before Samuel L. Jackson first spoke. And they were captured at around the 25 minute mark. And it was an hour and half before they finally escaped. I think a big part of the reason why I was so bored is that this premise is one that's been done a whole lot. It's the vigilante story arc. Shortly after the heroes learn of their powers, the government, the people, or in the case, a secret organization, start to oppose it and there has to be a period of reconciliation before we can move forward with the plot. It happens in every superhero story at one point.
Given that "Unbreakable" was released in 2000, perhaps this is a storyline that Shyamalan felt needed to be explored next with this characters. If this plot had been incorporated in an "Unbreakable" sequel that came out in 2002 or 2003, maybe it would've been a more compelling arc. But now that we've had 20 movies in the MCU to go along with competing movies from Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros., as well as a whole bunch of superhero TV shows, I'm done with this arc. If someone is going to do it again, they're going to need to find a way to make it seem fresh and new. And I'm fair across all platforms with this. In fact, I heavily dinged "Captain America: Civil War" for the same exact thing. So overall, I think I was ready to get out of the mental institution. Both times I watched the movie I dozed off at different parts. Perhaps next time I try this out, I need to figure out a way to stay awake for the whole time, but I still contend that there's an inherent issue with this section of the movie that's going to make it a difficult thing to pay attention to because it takes up so much time of the movie. But eventually we do see a plan get put into place by Mr. Glass as he uses Kevin Crumb and David Dunn to help them all escape, which is what leads into the final portion of this movie.
Intermixed with that was a final duel that was spectacular. We have Mr. Glass watching on the sidelines as his master plan is coming to fruition. We have the anti-superhero clan coming after them to recapture them, some of whom are acting as police. We have the Beast in all-out fury mode trying to bring down this army of police that's attacking him. And we have David Dunn in hero mode trying to save the day. It was quite the beautiful spectacle. But then as Casey is able to convince the Beast to let Kevin take the light, BOOM. He gets sniped and shot. As he is dying in Casey's arms, he sifts through all his personalities once again as we get to say goodbye to all of them, ending with Kevin taking the light for the remainder of the time, with his final words being what I just mentioned, that having the light wasn't such a bad thing. As this is going on, David Dunn as detained by a police grunt and is being drowned in a street puddle. And Mr. Glass, after being attacked by the Beast, who turned on him after a speech from one of the heroes (either David Dunn or his son), is also dying after being fatally wounded. And I was sitting her in shock and disbelief. M. Night Shyamalan's way to wrap up these three character's arcs was to kill all three of them? I felt cheated.
This is the thing that I don't know if I'm going to be able to get over. Even if I eventually accept the boring second act or find the themes of the movie to be even deeper than I initially thought, I have to live with the idea that M. Night Shyamalan created three amazing characters, then decided to kill them all off in his final movie. Sure, I guess it might make sense to kill the two villains. But David Dunn drowning to death in a street puddle by a random police grunt might go down in history as one of the most useless, unnecessary, and upsetting deaths in cinema history. This after Shyamalan mostly sidelined him the whole movie to showcase Kevin Wendell Crumb and Mr. Glass. But, sure. The final finale is decent enough. The clan thinks they've won. They admit that the three of them did have superpowers and they're about to move onto the next city, but PSYCH! Mr. Glass secretly recorded all of this and sent videos to Casey, Joseph Dunn and Mr. Glass's mother, who upload the videos and release all of this footage to the world. Now Mr. Glass's plan is finally complete as everyone else with superpowers will be able to see this and have the courage to come out of hiding and the world will be full of superheroes, just like in all the comics that Mr. Glass has been obsessed with.
In other words, Shyamalan just recreated "X-Men." Except he killed his Professor X, so who are all these new people supposed to go to? Since the first "X-Men" movie was released a couple months before "Unbreakable" in 2000, perhaps that gave Shyamalan an idea as to what to do with an "Unbreakble" sequel. It just took 19 years for his vision to be completed. And in those 19 years, we've had so many superhero movies and TV shows, that Shyamalan feels late to the party with his ideas, which his unfortunate. No, this movie is not as bad as some critics have made it to be. But this had the potential to be the movie event of the year. The "Unbreakable" sequel that fans have been waiting years for, combined with the "Split" characters, giving us a legitimate villain for David Dunn. But instead of a grand spectacle, he locks them all in a cage for an hour of the movie, repeats some story arcs that have been done a thousand times in superhero movies, then kills them all in the end. Yes, there's a lot of good themes and story arcs interwoven. And it does get better a second time. Who knows what will happen a third time. But after typing up all of these thoughts, I'm still not ready to go super high with my score. I'll go positive, but for now I'm only going 7/10 for "Glass."
Monday, February 4, 2019
February 1st - 3rd-
February 8th - 10th-
Getting a head start on the Valentine's Day week will be the adult-targeted comedy What Men Want. This is a remake of sorts of the popular romantic comedy "What Women Want," which starred Mel Gibson as a man who gains the ability to hear women's thoughts. This helps him realize that most women don't like him, which in turn helps him work to repair those relationships. "What Men Want" flips the script on that by starring Taraji P. Henson as a sports agent who gains the ability to hear men's thoughts, which helps her know how to gain an advantage in her male-dominated field. While "What Women Want" is your traditional PG-13 romantic comedy, and was a huge success in the year 2000, "What Men Want" does seem to be leaning heavier on the comedy aspect of things, even though it does have a romance side arc, and also carries with it an stronger R rating. This could work out, though, given that we haven't had too many adult-themed comedies recently. While comedies are hard to predict at the box office, producer Will Packer has an excellent track record, thus this does have potential to match the opening weekend totals of fellow Will Packer produced comedies "Night School" ($27.3 million) in 2018 and "Girl's Trip" ($31.2 million) in 2017.
The third movie of the weekend sees Liam Neeson once again searching for revenge in his new movie "Taken 4"... I mean Cold Pursuit. I joke around with that, but tell me if this premise sounds familiar. Liam Neeson is minding his own business until a group of people do a misdeed to one of his children, causing Neeson to find who did it and get revenge. In "Taken," the people kidnapped his daughter. In "Cold Pursuit," the people killed his son. So "Cold Pursuit" hits a bit darker, but it's a similar idea. Neeson's method of revenge in the movie primarily involves him discreetly getting revenge using his snowplow that he drives around with. Neeson has been rather regular with these gritty action movies, so it's easy to point out a range here as to what this might make. Without the benefit of the "Taken" brand name, said comparisons point this one to the low teens for its opening. The best comparisons are 2018's "The Commuter" ($13.7 million), " 2015's "Run All Night" ($11.0 million) and 2014's "A Walk Among the Tombstones" ($12.8 million). If the R-rating here catches enough people's attention, 2011's "The Grey" ($19.7 million) could be a comparison, but "Run All Night" and "A Walk Among the Tombstones" were also R, so it all depends on the reaction.
Most likely to get left in the dust this weekend is the horror film The Prodigy. This is a movie distributed by Orion Pictures, a studio trying desperately to make a comeback. Back in the day, Orion released movies such as "Dances with Wolves," "Platoon" and "Silence of the Lambs." But then they went bankrupt and shut down, with their final release being in 1997. They were officially revitalized by MGM in September 2017, with their first release being 2018's "Every Day," a moderate release that only made $6.1 million overall. They tried again with "Anna and the Apocalypse," but that barely hit 100 theaters, so the comparison isn't good. With "The Prodigy" they are going big with a 2,500 theater release, but the interest level or awareness doesn't seem to be super high. The plot centers around a young boy who is a genius kid, but starts to show disturbing behavior, which causes his mother to suspect that he's being possessed. The budget on this type of film is never too high, so the bar of success is most likely quite low, but nevertheless a good comparison might be to November's "The Possession of Hannah Grace," which opened to $6.4 million. If it gets really lucky, it could even hit the $9.3 million that last February's "Winchester" opened up to.
February 13th - 18th-
Despite the slate of new releases, the winner of this weekend looks to be "The LEGO Movie 2." If it follows the trajectory of "The LEGO Batman Movie," that would mean a $32.7 million second weekend. "The LEGO Movie" itself scored $49.8 million in weekend two. Somewhere in that range is where the sequel will hit. Meanwhile, the top new release is looking like it will be Happy Death Day 2U. This is a follow-up to the surprise teen horror flick "Happy Death Day," which was a surprise hit in October 2017, opening to $26.0 million. The movie revolved around a college girl who got stuck on a Groundhog Day style time loop, where she had to relive the day of her murder over and over until she was able to figure out who her killer was. As it turns out, her time loop adventures with death aren't over as she gets stuck in it again, this time with the Baby-face killer seemingly also going after all of her friends. The original film was very self-aware if its silly premise, which is why it was able to entertain its target audience so well. Predicting how a horror sequel does is also quite tricky. Sometimes they explode. Sometimes they are DOA. But the reaction to the trailers seems positive, so there's a good chance this opens in the same general range as the original.
After a very long journey to get to theaters, it appears that Alita: Battle Angel will finally be arriving. This is based on the Japanese cyberpunk manga series titled "Battle Angel Alita" or "Gunnm," which began in 1990 and has produced several volumes or chapters since. James Cameron, director of "Avatar," "Titanic," "The Terminator," "The Terminator 2" and "Aliens" has stated in interviews that he's been trying to get this made for a long time, since at least the early 2000's, but has been too busy with "Avatar" and all of its sequels to get it done. Eventually he settled in as simply being producer, while Robert Rodriguez, director of "Sin City" was hired as director. Even after being finished, the movie has bounced around on the release schedule quite a bit. The movie stars Rosa Salazar as Alita, a human-like robot girl who is very good at her fighting skills. Thus the movie is yet another one of these human vs. technology films that we've seen a hundred times, which is why the initial reviews here are mediocre. It's being praised for its visuals, but it was a huge uphill battle with this premise, and it looks like its a battle that it'll lose. The very similar live action "Ghost in the Shell" movie opened to $18.7 million in 2017, a total that looks like it'll be on the high end of the range for "Alita."
Battling for positioning in the top five with "Happy Death Day 2U" and "Alita" will be our big Valentine's Day movie, Isn't It Romantic. This stars Rebel Wilson as a girl who has always thought that what happens in romcoms is all fantasy and never realistic to life. One day she is mugged in a train station and knocked out, which somehow puts her into a PG-13 romantic comedy fantasy world where everything is perfect and she's the only one who realizes what's going on. Thus if this movie hits the notes right, it could be the type of self-aware comedy that has entertains those who are well aware of the romcom cliches as the movie spends its time making fun of all of them, while also potentially being a decent romcom itself. With the "Fifty Shades of Grey" franchise being officially complete, there's a bit of a void this February in terms of Valentine's Day box office that this movie and last weekend's "What Men Want" will attempt to fill. For "Isn't It Romantic," the most obvious comparison is Rebel Wilson's own "How to Be Single," which hit theaters at this exact time in 2016, opening to $17.9 million. The biggest difference with these two is that "How to Be Single" was R, while "Isn't It Romantic" remains PG-13, but the totals should still be similar.
The final film of this extended weekend will be the wrestling drama Fighting with My Family. This is based on the 2012 documentary "The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family," and tells the story of Saraya "Paige" Bevis, who grew up in a family of professional wrestlers and eventually went onto be a two-time WWE Divas Champion. The movie follows the drama behind her getting into the WWE, especially in regards to her making it in while her brother didn't. Florence Pugh plays Paige in the movie while Jack Lowden plays her brother Zak. Their parents are played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is an executive producer of the film and also makes a brief appearance, playing himself in the movie. The exact theater count on this one hasn't exactly been revealed, making it a bit tricky to project its total, but it did have its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, which just recently finished up. It came out of there with positive reviews from the Sundance crowd. It has an 8.0 on IMDb and a 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes after 22 reviews. Potential comparisons that I came up with for its opening weekend are "McFarland, USA" ($11.0 million), "Eddie the Eagle" ($6.1 million) and "The Miracle Season" ($3.9 million). But again, theater count will be huge.
February 22nd - 24th-
Since there's no other movie this weekend, allow me to take some time to discuss this movie's box office potential. The first "How to Train Your Dragon" opened to $43.7 million in 2010. It quickly became a well loved film, thus word of mouth pushed it to $217.6 million. Based on good will from the first one, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" was expected to hit $250-300 million domestically. Yet despite great reviews of its own, it only opened to $49.5 million in 2014 and fell harder than the first, ending up with $177.0 million. That's certainly not a failure by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a surprising underperformance. That leaves "The Hidden World" at an interesting spot. It's already had several early screenings and is soaring high at an incredible 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with over 50 reviews counted. But what does that mean for its box office? Despite doing better with its recent films, Dreamworks still hasn't had a $200 million film since "Madagascar 3" in 2012 and great reviews didn't help the second movie either. One also has to consider the direct competition from "The LEGO Movie 2" and next month's "Dumbo." So it makes sense to peg this movie at about $45-50 million for its opening and a final total that finishes around $150-175 million.