Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekend box office for June 28 - 30, 2013; White House Down roasted by The Heat

Monsters University topped the box office again with $46 million. The Heat was a close second, beating expectations with $40 million and further proving Melissa McCarthy's appeal. The big news is that White House Down only managed to debut in fourth place, also beaten my World War Z. Its $25 million opening is slightly less than fellow White House action flick Olympus Has Fallen's $30 million March opening. (Last year, also during June's last weekend, audiences spent $39.1 million on another Channing Tatum film, Magic Mike.) While a $25 - 30 million first weekend was fine for the moderately budgeted OHF, WHD was a blockbuster $150 million investment, an amount that likely won't be reached in America. I'm going to give WHD some credit and attribute its performance to tough, surprisingly robust competition. Many viewers received the film more warmly than critics, similar to director Roland Emmerich hits 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

Monsters U, Now You See Me and This is the End all had modest drops. Disney may not be very concerned about Despicable Me 2's impending opening because, back in 2011, Toy Story 3.continued to bring in decent bucks following the arrival of the original DM. DM2 has already grossed over $50 million after a few international openings. After Earth is an afterthought in America, but it's taken in over $130 million elsewhere so it may not be a total bust. See more information about the top 10 movies here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What to Watch This Weekend: June 28, 2013

In Theaters: 20 Feet from Stardom
This documentary gives backup singers the spotlight. Their stories about their numerous career roadblocks can be heartbreaking, but that just makes it more satisfying to hear about their rare triumphs. Their winning personalities are funny and engaging. It's at less than a handful of DC-area theaters, but it's worth the effort. Here's the review.

On DVD: The Call
Alright, I haven't actually seen The Call, and it has a pretty bad critic rating. But, it does feature Halle Berry in Jheri curls and has a high audience rating. Not much came out this week so if you want to see Halle Berry kick butt in this thriller, check it out. Did I mention it has Halle Berry in Jheri curls?

Streaming (Amazon Instant): For Ellen
I just realized this movie was available on Amazon Instant video and I can't wait! It's got Paul Dano, so that's all you really need to know. It looks like an interesting and serious story about a dad struggling to connect with his daughter while balancing his own attempt to revive an almost career. It's the movie I'm definitely going to be watching this weekend! 

Streaming (Netflix): The Avengers
All your favorite Marvel superheroes (who aren't X-Men) team up to stop an alien force. This movie has a great cast and a very comic book story. It's also required watching if you're going to truly appreciate Iron Man 3 when it comes to DVD later this year. 

Review: RED 2

Release date: July 19, 2013
Running time: About 110 minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins
Who to see it with: Fans of over-the-top, funny action


RED 2 sees the return of everyone's favorite over-the-hill super assassins. The first movie was  a surprise hit and the sequel looks to continue the same retired (in a good way), over-the-top action as the first one. In RED 2, Frank Moses (Willis), Sarah Ross (Parker), and Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) are forced to hunt down a nuclear weapon before various governments get to them--and the weapon--first. If that plot sounds hard to fathom and maybe a little unrealistic, don't worry, RED 2 doesn't take anything too seriously. And that's a lot of the fun of the movie. The action is overblown, the characters are total badasses, and it has just the right amount of campiness. In that respect, it's similar to the Fast and the Furious movies and you all know I love those. Sure, some of the action is a little too CG heavy and a lot of the scenes are preposterous, but that's not the appeal of the movie. RED 2 succeeds exactly because everything is completely insane.

And, a lot of the appeal of the RED movies is the phenomenal cast. Most of your favorites are back and the characters they added fit perfectly in the world. Willis and Malkovich make a great team, with Willis's rather serious demeanor providing a nice contrast to Malkovich's craziness. Parker is a lot of fun as she grounds the whole team with her lack of experience in international espionage and assassination. Of the additions to the movie, I especially loved Anthony Hopkins. He is such a joy to watch on screen, especially in a role where he can be completely let himself go. Each character in RED 2 embodies some stereotypical action movie persona, and they all mix together in perfect chaos and harmony. One of the touches that I really appreciated about the sequel is that they inserted some callbacks to the RED series source material. Some of you might not realize after seeing the first movie that this series is based on a comic book. RED 2 helps remedy this by starting the film with some comic style animations and then having comic transitions here and there. It's a small touch but one that is greatly appreciated. RED 2 is just an enjoyable movie. It's got the characters, action, fun, and craziness of the first one while managing to have a more engaging story and just be an overall better film. 

See it.

I think RED 2 is successful because of the nearly constant comedic vibe found throughout the movie. It never takes itself very seriously, and Bruce Willis's standard tough guy character works well when accompanied by a goofy girlfriend and the other wackier spies. It's fun to see actors best known for dramatic work apply their talents to roles that are so silly. Like Fast & Furious 6, it should easily appeal to those looking for action or comedy. Scenes that would seem cliched in most blockbusters are regularly given a dose of humor. The action was slightly better executed this time, though it does become a bit too outrageous toward the end. The mix of a campy spy story with Willis and Parker's relationship hijinks works better than I would expect. Despite its aging stars, RED 2 has more life and energy than many of its more youthful peers.

See it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

News: Liam Neeson back for Taken 3?

I've heard that Liam Neeson was reluctant to make Taken 2, but he returned to the role of Bryan Mills upon being offered $15 million. It looks like money still talks, because he's reportedly accepted $20 million to display his very particular set of skills, once again, in Taken 3. That's pretty good for a 61-year-old who spent much of his career in low key films, but no surprise considering his talent helped the two low-budget thrillers gross $226 million and $374 million, respectively. Now that Bryan's immediate family, including himself, have all been taken, who can possibly be taken next? Producer Robert Mark Kamen says that 3 won't follow the same formula. Perhaps no one will be taken at all, similar to Hangover Part III's odd lack of hangovers. Also like The Hangover, the second film was beaten by critics who felt it had lost the original's unique touch. Hopefully this threequel will reverse the downward trajectory. Read more about this news here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Teaser Trailer: Ridley Scott's The Counselor stars Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt

Ridley Scott's recent work has not been warmly received. Even the box office success of Prometheus, his second-highest grossing film worldwide, was accompanied by much disappointment. The Counselor could be a return to form, powered by its strong cast and the first produced screenplay by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy. Michael Fassbender plays an attorney who gets into trouble after entering the world of drug trafficking. The Counselor also stars Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem (seen above with the wacky hairdo), Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and John Leguizamo. U.S. audiences will be counseled on October 25, 2013.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: 20 Feet from Stardom

Release date: June 14, 2013 (June 28, 2013 in the DC market)
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Mick Jagger
Who to see it with: Music lovers


Backup singers often receive little credit for their hard work. 20 Feet from Stardom gives them the spotlight and explores the crucial, challenging roles that good backup singers have played in many classic songs. We mostly hear from older, female singers who've been in the business for decades, some who've been performing since the 1950's and 60's. This naturally leads to some discussion of the music industry's racism and sexism, but 20 Feet cares more about the feelings that arise when someone is perpetually uncredited and placed in the background, and the challenges faced by even the greatest backup singers when attempting to become a lead. Its stories are often frustrating and heartbreaking, including tales of hearing themselves on the radio as other artists are credited, or watching their solo albums fail despite seeming destined for success. This makes it more satisfying, and sometimes disappointing, to hear about the success (or lack thereof) some found after many unfulfilling years.

20 Feet is also insightful and funny, its lively stars often joyfully reminiscing about their complicated pasts rather than lamenting them. Darlene Love's story feels the most complete, detailing how she began performing as a teen to her troubles with producer Phil Spector to her eventual rise as a lead singer. The makers could have dug a little deeper into the reasons why the others have such difficulty developing their careers (or, in one case, why a singer might willingly choose to remain backup), but their stories provide illuminating, if brief, glimpses into the setbacks faced by singers who don't have mainstream, pop star-like images. Many of the names and faces will be unfamiliar, but you've probably heard them unknowingly. For some viewers, this film will associate those voices with actual, accomplished performers, particularly a scene where Merry Clayton and Mick Jagger discuss Clayton's soulful contribution to Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter. 20 Feet from Stardom is an interesting look at the many trials and occasional triumphs experienced by performers who receive far too little recognition.

See it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Screening: RED 2 Advance Screening

Screening Date: June 27, 2013
Time: 7:00 PM
City: Washington, DC

Update: The winners have all been notified. Thank you all for entering and for reading the site!

Retired CIA Agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and the gang are back as they reunite on a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. We have some passes for the sequel to well received action-comedy hit RED for THIS THURSDAY in Washington, DC. The film has an all star cast including Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, and Helen Mirren! The screening takes place on June 27, 2013 at 7:00 PM.  

We will be selecting winners on Wednesday. To qualify, you MUST be a fan of Watch or Pass on Facebook, so if you haven't "liked" us yet, please go there and do so now. After that, please comment on this blog post (using Disqus, so we have an email address to contact you at) with your answer to the question: What do you hope to do after you retire?  

My answer: I probably won't be able to retire, but if I ever did I would hope to travel some more and catch up on my video game backlog.

Screening: The Way, Way Back Advance Screening

Screening Date: June 26, 2013
Time: 7:30 PM
City: McLean, VA

Want a break from your summer job? Then head on over to an advance screening of the the new summer movie The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alison Janney, and Sam Rockwell! The screening takes place on June 26, 2013 at 7:30 PM. I saw it a few weeks ago and it is one of my favorite summer movies so far! 

We will be selecting winners tomorrow afternoon. To qualify, you MUST be a fan of Watch or Pass on Facebook, so if you haven't "liked" us yet, please go there and do so now. After that, please comment on this blog post (using Diquis, so we have an email address to contact you at) with your answer to the question: What is the name of your favorite water park?  

My favorite water park is Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. It wasn't the best park I went to but it was near my hometown so I spent a good amount of time there as a kid.

Weekend Box Office for June 21 - 23, 2013; Monsters U graduates with honors, World War Z passes too

Monsters U scared its way to the top of the box office with $82 million, Pixar's second-highest opening behind Toy Story 3's massive $110 million. World War Z's $66 million beat lowered expectations related to its troubled production, and has surprisingly become Brad Pitt's biggest opening ever (previously Mr and Mrs. Smith with $50.3 million). It's also the the second-highest 2nd place opening of all time. Like the weekend when both Fast 6 and Hangover Part III opened, two strong debuts and the continued success of other recent releases made this one of the biggest box office weekends ever. This summer seems to feature a lot of smart pairings of all-audience films with more targeted releases, like next weekend's White House Down and female-powered The Heat or the following week's Despicable Me 2 and the incredibly big budget The Lone Ranger.

Man of Steel has already become the highest-grossing Superman movie ever made, but its second weekend drop was slightly higher than that of similar movies. It's expected to beat $300 million in America, which is good but not spectacular when compared to the success of recent Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man films. This is the End debuted much lower than Hangover, but is retaining more of its audience. Now You See Me and Fast 6 are hanging on, unlike the rapidly disappearing After Earth. The Internship has beaten Vince Vaughn's 2012's disappointing The Watch, but will likely do little better than 2011's similarly disappointing The Dilemma and its $48 million total. Epic is looking like Blue Sky's lowest-grossing production yet. Bling Ring and Much Ado About Nothing both went nationwide. Read more about the box office here and see how other movies performed here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trailer: Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston are Drinking Buddies

The trailer for Drinking Buddies, a romantic dramady about beer and friends, has dropped. In what appears to be a pretty predictable plot, Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson are co-workers at a brewery and best friends (hmm, wonder how this is going to work out). Wilde starts dating Ron Livingston. Johnson is dating Anna Kendrick. The best friends are clearly dating the wrong people. After Livingston is introduced to the group, awkwardness ensues. I think we can all imagine how the plot will progress from here but, come on, what romantic dramedy can you not guess the plot? I already love these types of movies and this one has the added bonus of a great cast and lots of beer drinking. Seriously, who is not going to see this movie? Drinking buddies taps the keg on July 25, 2013.

What to Watch This Weekend: June 21, 2013


It's another theater heavy weekend with plenty of great movies for you to see. The weather is also looking to be beautiful so get out and see some films!

In Theaters: Monsters University
Monsters University is a fun, charming prequel that achieves what so many other prequels fail to do: tell a meaningful, entertaining, and interesting tale while filling in the back-story of the characters and world that you love. If you have any interest in Pixar or Monsters, Inc., you should definitely see it this weekend.

In Theaters: Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is a fresh take on a Shakespearean classic. It keeps the heart of the play while updating the aesthetics to the modern era. Although it was officially released a few weeks ago, it gets a broader release this weekend and should definitely be seen.

On DVD: 21 & Over
Maybe you want to just see a stupid comedy this weekend. Well, the 21 & Over is the movie for you. It's not a great movie, but it is funny and much better than I expected it would be. We recommended a rental a few months ago so now is your chance to check it out.

Streaming (HBO Go): Chronicle
Chronicle is an interesting, though slightly over the top movie with the same shooting style as Cloverfield. It's taken from the perspective of a hand camera that is passed around the characters as they discover and hone superpowers. It also stars Michael B. Jordan, one of my favorite young actors.

Streaming (Netflix): TEDTalks: Life Hack
This TEDTalks collection reveals simple tricks that can transform your life. Learn how your body language shapes who you are, how to start a movement, the secret to better work and much more. It has a 4.1 star Netflix rating and looks really interesting. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trailer: Only God Forgives, Ryan Gosling reteams with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn

In Only God Forgives, Ryan Gosling plays a respected Bangkok criminal and boxing club owner who is ordered by his crime lord mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to avenge his brother's death. Judging by the trailer's colorful imagery and pulsing music, OGF looks and sounds as highly stylized as Refn's Drive. It may also share Drive's lack of dialogue, with one early review saying it's, "equipped with a script that would hardly fill four or five pages." Its reception at Cannes was polarized, with critics both booing and giving standing ovations. As of today, its Rotten Tomatometer is only 29% with 17 reviews. I'm curious how a film that seems so stylistically similar to critically acclaimed Drive could be received so differently. Gosling prepared with Muay Thai training, so expect some action. Only God Forgives strikes theaters on July 19, 2013.

Review: Fruitvale Station

Release Date:  July 12, 2013
Running Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
Who to see it with: Someone concerned about social justice.


Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant during New Years Eve 2008. The movie follows the events leading up to that fateful night as he meets friends, enemies, and strangers. What eventually unfolded was shocking and painful to watch. And thankfully, it's masterfully told by 27-year-old director Ryan Coogler. Coogler has a clean style of directing that is great for telling a story like this. This movie is a character driven one and it definitely shows. There are long cuts, flashbacks to help give Oscar's character depth, and some of the most dramatic scenes are masterfully done. The movie has a slow, deliberate pace that focuses on the story it's telling, but also leaves you anxious for what you know will come later. 

One of the risks Fruitvale Station faced was the concern that it might put Oscar Grant on a pedestal and change his story, memorializing him after the fact. Thankfully, Coogler and Michael B. Jordan portray Oscar as I expect he was: a good but flawed character. They don't try to sugar coat his past or his many faults, but they also manage to bring out plenty that was good in him. You're left feeling a sense that Oscar is a real character, not a saint, which makes the movie all the more powerful. It also helps that the supporting cast is great. Octavia Spencer is phenomenal as Ms. Grant and Ariana Neal is wonderful as Oscar's daughter Tatiana. The chemistry between the cast is easily apparent, especially the relationship between Oscar and his daughter. If there is any criticism about the movie, it's that instead of being a "true story," it's "based on a true story." Some of the scenes do feel a little contrived and convenient, placed in the film to give Oscar more characters to interact with. There is another scene part way through the movie that seems completely random. But, those aren't enough to derail what is already a very good film. Fruitvale Station combines a powerful recent event, amazing acting, and great directing. Together, they manage to tell a poignant and important story; one that should not be missed.

See it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: World War Z

Release Date:  June 21, 2013
Running Time: 116 minutes
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz
Who to see it with: Someone who wishes zombie stories featured less gore and more action


If you've seen the World War Z trailer, you are probably not expecting much from the movie. The trailer looks like a typical summer action movie with an over the top (and not very well done) special effects budget. Well, thankfully the movie is a LOT better than the disappointing trailer. World War Z tells the story of the zombie apocalypse where the zombies are fast, ruthless, and can turn people in a matter of seconds. It spreads so quickly that most of the world is overrun in a matter of weeks. Gerry Lane (Pitt) is sent to go figure out where the disease originated from in the hopes of finding some answers and a cure. This adventure takes him all over the world, which at times feels forced. It feels like the filmmakers wanted Gerry to span the globe at the expense of inserting many story holes. But, those holes aside, it allows the film to have some interesting variety in their locales. 

I started off talking about the effects of the film and I'm happy to report that most of the movie's effects don't look as terrible as the trailer makes it appear. There is plenty of CG usage but thankfully the amount of scenes where hordes of zombies are on screen is fairly minimal. Most of the scenes involve a smaller amount of zombies using actors and make up, which contributes to a more believable movie. One thing I didn't expect is the amount of tension in the movie. From the initial attacks to Gerry going through tense, zombie infested areas, there are many suspenseful sequences. Many of the scenes are actually pretty imaginative and leave the viewer on edge wondering where the zombies will come from next. Unfortunately, these scenes can't overcome some pretty fantastical situations and the few scenes where the special effects really pull you out of the movie.  

Rent it.

WWZ feels less like a cohesive story and more like an assortment of zombie apocalypse set pieces linked by a very resilient, globe-trotting protagonist. This allowed the makers to easily use multiple post-apocalyptic settings and horror scenarios, but makes everything feel a bit disconnected. The book it's based on also jumps between locations and perspectives, but its postwar, documentary-like approach better connected its various situations and themes. Not much time is spent with any character other than Brad Pitt's, but their personalities are established fairly well considering their brief times on screen. 

Action was probably not the best choice of genre for an adaptation, but WWZ does action much better than you'd expect following the terrible trailer. The trailer also doesn't hint at the film's more effective, suspenseful moments. I liked how the pacing goes from 0 to 60 within the first five minutes, though I wonder if the film is too short. It ends appropriately but abruptly, probably because the film's structure resembles several short stories stitched together rather than being built around a standard climax. World War Z offers a fair amount of tension and a creative depiction of a zombie apocalypse, but not much of a story.

Rent it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

News: "Bioshock" Creator Ken Levine set to write Logan's Run Remake

Deadline is reporting that Ken Levine, the creator of the amazing Bioshock video game series, has been tapped to write the script for the remake of the 1976 cult classic,  Logan's Run.  The movie is based on a 1967 book by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, about a dystopian society in the year 2116 where individuals are voluntarily executed at age 21 (30 in the film) for population control.  Warner Brothers has been trying for a long time to get this remake made and hopefully the introduction of Levine will be just what this project needs.  Levine started his career in screenwriting before rising to become one of the most influential people in the video game industry.  Don't worry video game fans, Levine will continue to focus on Bioshock: Infinite's downloadable content while working on the script. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Trailer: White House Down Trailer 3

The third trailer to White House Down has dropped and it looks to be a longer, just as ridiculous version of the other ones. White House Down follows Tatum on an interview for the Secret Service. He doesn't get the job but fortuitously is still in the White House when a large attack happens. Tatum miraculously survives the attack (probably because of his abs) and is the only one able to save the President, played by Jamie Foxx. The review called for a rental, but opinions on Facebook said differently. Channing Tatum saves the president in successively decreasing layers of clothing on June 28, 2013. 

Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Release Date:  June 7, 2013 (DC Market June 21, 2013)
Running Time: 107 minutes
Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg
Who to see it with: A Shakespeare or Joss Whedon fan.


Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is so refreshing and clever that you just have to enjoy it. Joss Whedon's black and white adaptation of Shakespeare's classic play is just amazing. I absolutely loved this movie. Since it's Shakespeare, the writing is going to be clever. His screenplays have a timeless quality with clever word play and classic plots. Joss Whedon's adaptation chose not to change the dialog and built on this solid writing, adapting the characters and aesthetics to the present. Leaving the dialogue as is grounds the movie in its Shakespearean roots. Yet, the play is set in a beautiful suburban mansion, everyone wears suits, modern touches are added hear and there, and everything about the film seems fresh. 

The cast is simply superb. Every character is well played and embrace their roles. Many of the performers built on the characters and added their own clever quirks. A look here, a ridiculous mustache or tick there, everyone made their performance their own. I imagine many of them have been performing this play for years, and this familiarity might help explain how a 12-day shoot could amount to such quality performances. And they are great performances. One fear of using the original script is that it might be difficult to follow in modern times. And although there are pieces of dialog delivered a little fast for my taste, for the most part it is understandable and very funny. Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is a fresh take on this Shakespearean classic. It keeps the heart of the play while updating the aesthetics to the modern era. It is something that should not be missed. 

See it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weekend Box Office for June 14 - 16, 2013; Man of Steel is solid

Man of Steel soared with a $113 million opening weekend, beating Toy Story 3's former June record of $110 million. It actually took in $125 million by this point, but both MoS and This is the End had early openings on Thursday and Wednesday, respectively, that slightly lowered their weekend grosses. It's the third-highest DC Comics film opening following The Dark Knight and its sequel, and more than doubles the $52.5 million opening of Superman Returns. The End performed similarly to other recent comedies featuring its stars like Superbad, Pineapple Express and Knocked Up, which opened with $23 - 33 million.

The Purge had one of the highest second weekend drops of all time, dropping from $34 to $8 million. It's still made considerably more than its budget, and horror movies are typically very front-loaded. The Hangover Part III just missed the top 10, totaling only $107 million after its fourth weekend. At this point, the first film had made over $180 million and was maintaining over half its audience from weekend to weekend. Next weekend, Monsters University and World War Z will likely take the family and sci-fi audiences from holdouts EpicStar Trek, After Earth and Iron Man. See more box office estimates here.

Box office estimates for June 14 - 16, 2013:
(rank, title, weekend gross, % change, total gross, weekend #)

Man of Steel 
This is the End 
Now You See Me 
Fast & Furious 6 
The Purge 
The Internship 
Star Trek Into Darkness 
After Earth 
Iron Man 3