Wednesday, September 27, 2017

'The Good Place' Builds on Last Season’s Twist, Emphasizing the Need to Connect

There are few genuine surprises left to reveal anymore on television, but The Good Place pulled off a brilliant twist at the end of its first season. By upending the premise of the show to create a world in which almost everything we thought to be true was actually false, the series immediately created excitement for the new season, while never abandoning its commitment to finding the funny in the ridiculous. It’s important to note that the major revelation from last season wasn’t a cheap ploy or an unconvincing shift; rather, it was the kind of clever development that reminds viewers smart and skillful writing isn’t just for prestige dramas. Michael Schur is an especially excellent example of a showrunner and writer who understands world building and character development in comedy.

Eleanor’s search for Chidi (“Okay, Chidi, where are you? Or what are you? A type of soup, maybe?”) quickly upsets everyone’s specific roles, and the ways they attempt to right the failing experiment isn’t only funny, but also offers real stakes. What only Michael knows is that his boss, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), is giving him just one more chance to make his idea work. When Michael’s plan is foiled for the second time, he hides that failure, and his now third attempt, from Shawn. This not only increases the pressure on Michael, but also drives home the point that this fake Good Place is an outlier that no one really understands or believes in.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Reviews Of Dunkirk

Lean and ambitious, unsentimental and bombastic, overwhelmingly guy-centric, Christopher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" showcases the best and worst of the director's tendencies. The best win out and the worst recede in memory when you think back on the experience—provided that you want to remember "Dunkirk," a movie that's supposed to be grueling and succeeds. Less of a war film and more of a disaster (or survival) picture, it's an ensemble work that chronicles the evacuation of British soldiers who got trapped in the harbor and on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, in late May and early June of 1940, with the Germans, who had driven Allied forces practically out to sea, closing in for one last sweep.
From filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight” Trilogy) comes the epic action thriller “Dunkirk.”
Nolan directed “Dunkirk” from his own original screenplay, utilizing a mixture of IMAX® and 65mm film to bring the story to the screen.
“Dunkirk” opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.

“Dunkirk” features a prestigious cast, including Kenneth Branagh (“My Week with Marilyn,” “Hamlet,” “Henry V”), Cillian Murphy (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight” Trilogy), and newcomer Fionn Whitehead, with Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” “Wolf Hall”) and Tom Hardy (“The Revenant,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Inception”). The ensemble cast also includes Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy and Barry Keoghan.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Last week, North America shot oh statistics

With an estimated $10 million on Friday, Sony's The Emoji Movie is going to be in a tight race with WB's Dunkirk for #1 at the weekend box office. Dunkirk landed an estimated $8 million on its second Friday in release and both films are looking to gross over $27 million for the weekend. It will largely come down to how Emoji plays over the weekend as opening day audiences gave the film a "B" CinemaScore, though kids under the age of 18 gave it an "A-".  

Focus' new release of Atomic Blonde landed in third place on Friday, bringing in an estimated $7.1 million with an expectation for an opening around $18-19 million. The film also received a "B" CinemaScore from opening day audiences 
Landing in fourth on Friday, but expected to finish third for the weekend is Universal's Girls Trip, which scored an estimated $6.2 million in its second Friday of release. The film is looking at an impressive 37% drop for the weekend and a three-day around $19.5 million should estimates hold. That's just a fraction less than the 35% average second weekend drop for films that opened in over 2,000 theaters and score an "A+" CinemaScore.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

‘Wonder Woman’: Wonderful war movie

I’ve had lots of calls to review War Machine, but given that it is a Netflix exclusive, I regret I cannot supply that review. I can offer a worthy replacement, Wonder Woman.

Much has been made of the fact that Wonder Woman is on path to be the highest grossing woman-directed film, a successful woman-led comic book film, and the first feature-length movie honoring the 76-year-old character. But how does it stand as a movie, and a war film? Reviews are almost universally favorable and I can report it is an extremely enjoyable film. It’s slightly weaker as a war film, for reasons I will explain, but still an admirable effort to express some interesting ideas.

First, it is worth one’s while to watch Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice as preludes to this film. Reviewers haven’t been very kind to those films but I quite enjoyed Man of Steel and found BvS still serviceable popcorn fare. If one views the Ultimate Edition of BvS on DVD you get an additional 30 minutes which redeems some of the choppiness and inadequacies of the theatrical release.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl' — THR's 2003 Review

On June 28, 2003, Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films brought the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie to audiences nationwide.
Director Gore Verbinski's adaptation of the Disneyland ride opened to $13.5 million, marking the best Wednesday opening of the year. The Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley starrer went on to put $305.4 million domestically in its box office treasure chest and would earn Depp an Oscar nomination for his now-iconic role as Captain Jack Sparrow. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Since the previous Walt Disney Co. film based on one of its theme park attractions was the unbearable The Country BearsPirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is surprisingly not bad. For one thing, the filmmakers draw upon the entire legend and lore of pirate life — of high-seas ambushes, mountains of gold, cruel captains, lusty rogues, feisty damsels, drunken sailors, barroom brawls, ancient curses and furious sword fights. So the film pays bemused tribute not only to one of Disneyland’s most popular rides but those old swash-bucklers who once graced movie screens.
Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are mostly associated with animation, and this is one time when a cartoon approach in live action is exactly right: The movie’s flamboyant personalities and tongue-in-cheek action push the envelope of high camp without ever succumbing to sheer silliness.
This $100 million-plus production, stylishly directed by Gore Verbinski and lavishly produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, has the makings of one of the summer’s big hits.
The film includes a number of "scenes" from the Disneyland ride, such as the imprisoned pirates trying to coax a dog carrying a jailhouse key toward their cell to a raucous tavern featuring zaftig serving wenches.
But the smartest borrowing — and one of the best of the 600-old visual effects shots — is the living skeletons.
The curse of the title occurs when black-hearted Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) relieves fellow pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) not only of his command but his ship, the Black Pearl, and its treasure, leaving him to die on a tiny isle. Sparrow mysteriously survives and, as the movie opens, sails into Port Royal harbor in little more than a dinghy.
What Sparrow doesn’t learn until later is that the Pearls’ treasure carries a curse that dooms his former crew to sail the seas as the undead. Only moonlight reveals them as living skeletons.
The Pearl attacks Port Royal, just after Sparrow arrives, to retrieve a gold medallion. This is the last piece of the plundered treasure. If the treasure is completely restored along with the payment of a “blood debt,” the curse will lift. The crew also kidnaps the medallions’ owner, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of the governor (Jonathan Pryce). Two men pursue the Black Pearl, hoping to rescue this beauteous damsel: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith and childhood friend secretly in love with her, and haughty Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who fancies himself her fiance.
Despite his loathing of pirates, Will joins forces with Sparrow. The duo hijacks the fastest ship in the British fleet and sets sail for the Isla de Muerta, where the pirates hope to break their curse.
This sets up a series of set pieces of comic action and effects — the attack on Port Royal, the escape of Sparrow and Will, sea battles between the Black Pearl and other vessels, no less than two climaxes in a torch-lit island cave and, most impressively, moonlit battles between British sailors and pirate skeletons.
Actors try out a range of salty brogues that pitches much of the dialogue in a sea of confusing accents. However, Depp takes the opposite approach with precise enunciation of every line in what is best described as an accent-less accent. Depp plays his charming rascal in the lightheaded manner of a man who has either been in the sun too long or knows something no one else does. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
Rush zeroes in on the comedy in his wily villain. Knightley continues to display the athleticism exhibited in Bend It Like Beckham as a damsel who is able and willing to fight and escape with the best of men. In the closest thing to a straight man in the movie, Bloom attacks his role with the pent-up fury of a man who only hates pirates because pirate blood races in his veins.
The large cast, costumed and made up as a fitly scalawags and sinister buccaneers, gives tremendous energy to every scene. There are many solid gags among this motley crew — the pirate forever chasing his false eye, the parrot trained to speak for its mute master, the series of fetching wenches who deliver slaps to Sparrow for past wrongs.
Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and production designer Brian Morris manage to convey the giddy feel of the original Disneyland ride — that we are in a dark world, where we may safely gasp and giggle at its outlandish villainy and savage avarice. Klaus Badelt’s music is at times over the top, but he takes his cue from a production that banishes all subtlety.