Sunday, September 29, 2013

Box office estimates for September 27 - 29; Cloudy eats competition

Sony's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and its $35 million debut beat the original's $30.3 million. It won't be significantly more successful than the first in America, but should do much better overseas. (See Despicable Me 2, which beat DM's American total by $110 million and its overseas total by over $200 million.) Sony should be glad that it won't disappoint like Smurfs 2Prisoners beat the expanding Rush. The weekend's two new romantic comedies placed fourth and fifth. Baggage Claim and Don Jon only made $9.2 million and $8.8 million, but those grosses are already ahead of their low budgets. Metallica Through the Never's $1.7 million is much lower than other concert film debuts, but it stars a much less mainstream artist and will expand to more theaters next weekend. See how other movies performed here.

Weekend box office estimates for September 27 - 29, 2013:
(title; weekend gross; total gross; weekend #)

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2; $35.0 million; opening weekend

2. Prisoners; $11.27 million; $38.95 million total; 2nd weekend

3. Rush (2013); $10.3 million; $10.57 million total; 2nd weekend

4. Baggage Claim; $9.3 million; opening weekend

5. Don Jon;  $9.0 million; opening weekend

6. Insidious: Chapter 2; $6.75 million; $69.54 million total; 3rd weekend

7. The Family (2013); $3.67 million; $31.7 million total; 3rd weekend

8. Instructions Not Included; $3.38 million; $38.57 million; 5th weekend 

9. We're the Millers; $2.87 million; $142.42 million; 8th weekend

10. Lee Daniels' The Butler; $2.42 million; $110.28 million; 7th weekend

Friday, September 27, 2013

What to Watch This Weekend: September 27, 2013


In Theaters: Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directorial debut is a confident, smart, and, most importantly, genuine romantic comedy. The content will probably be too explicit for many viewers, but those that stick around will find that between the cringes and laughs, there is a touching story. It was also one of David's top 5 movies of this year!

In Theaters: Rush
Rush is a surprisingly good sports drama that follows two Formula 1 racers as they dominate their sport despite their utterly different styles of living and driving. The central rivalry brings uncommon amounts of fun and action to the biography genre while still making time for drama.

In Theaters: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
CWACOM 2 is imaginative, has a clever premise, and is a fun movie for both viewers who were hungry for a CWACOM sequel and those who are having the sequel as their first taste of this franchise.  

On DVD: Kings of Summer
Another one of David's favorite movies of the year, this genuinely great indie coming of age movie was my surprise hit of the summer. This summer had multiple indie coming of age movies come out, but Kings of Summer was my favorite.

Streaming (Netflix): Side Effects
What initially seems like a drama exploring the side effects of antidepressants becomes a complicated psychological thriller. Toward the end, the plot twists start seeming a bit silly but, overall, it's a suspenseful and surprising movie with another great performance by Dragon Tattoo actress Rooney Mara. 

Streaming (Netflix): Upside Down
This movie has an imaginative premise and some great performances, but it was hampered by some cheesy dialog and plot twists. Still, it is an interesting movie with some beautiful visuals and you should definitely check it out on Netflix!

Review: Enough Said

Release date: September 18, 2013 (Limited release)
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone
Who to see it with: A fan of slightly more serious romantic comedies

David:

Enough Said follows a pair of divorced individuals, Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (Gandolfini), as they dip their toes back into the dating pool. Their relationship starts off as you would expect, with some awkwardness born from lack of practice and bonding over being older, divorced, and with children. Eventually, something occurs that leads to awkward situations for the couple and between Eva and her friends. The situation starts out manageable, but eventually goes over her head and how she deals with it provides the bulk of the movie's conflict and plenty of funny and sad moments. This is Gandolfini's final movie and his performance is the highlight of this film; unfortunately we won't be seeing him again because he really shines and shows how great of an actor he was. Albert is charming and relatable in a way that film characters rarely are. He has flaws, like anyone, but he's accepted those and even laughs about them. The conversations he has with Eva bring a smile to your face, both because they are cleverly written and because it seems like a real couple exploring the dating world after being gone for so long.


Louis-Dreyfus is hit or miss for me. Half the time I loved seeing her on screen, but there are other times where I thought she was just trying too hard to be funny. Maybe it's not her fault, maybe it's the way her character is written. It's possible the problem is that she reminded me too much of Tina Fey at times (although since she was first, maybe Tina Fey is copying her) and of Sarah Jessica Parker at other times. Neither of these is necessarily a bad thing (well, maybe the SJP thing is) but it made it distracting, which is sad because there are plenty of times when she is really funny. There was also an awkward, and slightly annoying, thread dealing with Eva's married friends (Collette and Falcone). But, even despite these flaws, I really loved this movie. I liked seeing the relationship develop between Eva and Albert. Relationships of this kind are not normally seen on screen and even when they are, they are rarely as convincing and genuine as this one. The moments with Eva and Albert really are the draw of this film. Despite the flaws, you have a wonderful romantic dramedy about two seemingly real people whose relationship grows naturally and believably. It's almost innocent at times, and it's something that is easy to appreciate and will bring a smile to your face.

See it.
Lee:


Eva and Albert's relationship and their effects upon one another were great. Gandolfini's character is definitely the most likable in the film. His flaws are less pronounced than those of the other characters. I wasn't bothered by Louis-Dreyfus' acting. I think her character is intentionally grating at times, and her sometimes immature behavior plays a major part in the later plot conflicts. That behavior reminded me of characters in sillier romantic comedies, but it never feels cartoonish or unrealistic. And the acting and writing feel mature during and after those moments that reminded me of sillier films. I think the slightly annoying married friends were helpful additions to a story revolving around divorcées, providing a contrasting example of a continuing imperfect marriage. Enough Said a pleasant movie that feels realer than the average romantic comedy.

See it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Release date: September 27, 2013
Running time: 95 minutes
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris
Who to see it with: Your hungry friend or child

David:

Full disclosure here, I didn't see the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs because I didn't like the idea of a movie that was *very* loosely based on one of my favorite children's books. However, after hearing good things about the first one, I decided to check out the sequel. And I am sure glad that I did. The film follows the group of unlikely heroes from the first movie as they have to explore more consequences from Inventor Flint Lockwood's FLDSMDFR. The friends travel to a mysterious island that is inhabited by living food animals. The movie has a very Jurassic Park or King Kong feel to it as the group delves deeper into this bizarre world. 


The interesting premise is enough to wet your appetite, but the real meat of this movie is the beautiful animation and great voice acting. The characters and art style have a very fluid motion that is tough to explain but really fun to watch. The aforementioned food animals, in addition to being imaginative, are beautifully animated. They are all very expressive with clever uses of food to portray a variety of wildlife. From taco-diles to shrimp-anzees to hi-potato-muses, all the food-related animals are cleverly designed and fun to see. The voice acting is really good with characters brought to life by believable performances. CWACOM 2 requires some pretty expressive and varied voices and it's all done wonderfully. NPH is especially good as Lockwood's monkey friend Steve. He doesn't have many lines but they're all perfectly executed. In addition to the great voice acting, the writing is sharp and clever. Although it's an animated movie, there are plenty of jokes that adults will laugh at and pop-culture references that will keep the parents entertained. CWACOM 2 is imaginative, has a clever premise, and is a fun movie for both viewers who were hungry for a CWACOM sequel and those who are having the sequel as their first taste of this franchise. 

See it.


PS - There are some very funny stingers after the movie ends and at the start of the credits. Make sure to stay for them! 

3D Note - The 3D is beautiful. If you can afford it, see it in 3D.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekend box office estimates for September 20 - 22: Prisoners holds audience captive

Prisoners captured the most attention and grossed an estimated $21.4 million. Battle of the Year is no Step Up and landed in fifth with $5 million and its gross won't even match its low $20 million budget. Insidious Chapter 2 is a success but is no Conjuring. It still took second with $14.5 million, but is already over $20 million behind the director's last hit. Wizard of Oz's 3D/IMAX reissue made about $3 million on 318 screens. Enough Said and Rush both grossed around $200,000 in a handful of theaters. Their star power and critical acclaim should make them limited release hits once they expand. See how other movies performed here.

Weekend box office estimates for September 20 - 22, 2013:
(title, weekend gross, % change, total gross, weekend #)

1. Prisoners; $21,430,000; opening weekend

2. Insidious Chapter 2; $14,500,000; -64.0%; $60,855,000 total; 2nd weekend

3. The Family (2013); $7,000,000; -50.1%; $25,641,000 total; 2nd weekend

4. Instructions Not Included; $5,700,000; +17.2%; $34,262,000 total; 4th weekend

5. Battle of the Year; $5,000,000; opening weekend

6. We're the Millers; $4,670,000; -13.6%; $138,176,000 total; 7th weekend

7. Lee Daniels' The Butler; $4,304,000; -22.4%; $106,452,000 total; 6th weekend

8. Riddick; $3,672,000; -46.3%; $37,180,000 total; 3rd weekend

9. The Wizard of Oz (3D/IMAX); $3,022,000; opening weekend

10. Planes; $2,861,000; -8.0%; $86,543,000 total; 7th weekend

Friday, September 20, 2013

Screening: The Fifth Estate

Screening Date:  Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Bethesda, MD
Theater: Landmark Bethesda Row


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

Based on real events, The Fifth Estate reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned WikiLeaks, an Internet upstart, into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. This thriller stars Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Daniel Brühl as Assange's colleague as they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data. We both thought that the film had some really great acting and David liked seeing the interaction between Assange and his colleague. We have passes for a screening of the highly anticipated movie on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM.

We will be selecting winners on Sunday.  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 like and leave a comment in THIS Facebook thread with your answer to the question: What is your favorite Benedict Cumberbatch film? 

What to Watch This Weekend: September 20, 2013



Sadly, we missed Battle of the Year 3D and can't make it this week's theater pick.

In Theaters: Prisoners

When the missing child's father feels let down by the law, he uses very disturbing methods to pursue his own investigation. See this dark, twisty mystery for its great acting, twisted morality, and constant suspense.

On DVD: Disconnect
Each of Disconnect's three seemingly unrelated stories explore a different aspect of the dangers of social media. It may sound preachy, but the cast and plots keep you invested in the characters. Unfortunately, the characters' intelligence seems to drop when the stories begin to come together.

Streaming (HBO Go): Argo
Are you one of those people that whined and complained when Ben Affleck was announced as Batman? If so, stop complaining and watch his latest acting and directorial movie, Argo. It had the right combination of comedy and tense drama, and is even more powerful because it is based on actual events. 

Streaming (Amazon): The Source Family
This documentary follows restaurant owner, commune founder, and psychedelic rock band leader Father Yod and his group of 100+ devoted young followers around 1970's Los Angeles. Some admired their strange lifestyle, but the local authorities weren't so appreciative. Learn the history of the family and see interviews with former members.

Review: Gravity

Release date: October 4, 2013
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Basher Savage, Eric Michels
Who to see it with: Someone who's curious about space or likes great special effects.

David:

If you're like me, you weren't expecting much from Gravity after seeing the trailers. It looked like an odd space movie with not much happening. Thankfully, the trailer simply tries to limit your exposure to what happens in the film. I won't elaborate at all, but the movie has much more substance than the simple trailers let on. The movie is set in space, so obviously the effects are an important focal point. And thankfully, the effects are gorgeous. Space is wonderfully rendered, with amazing views of the Earth and a sky full of stars. The characters realistically float in the environment with a convincing zero gravity effect. There are enough fantastic (but also believable) effects that you truly can get lost in the movie.

As good as the effects are, the sound is equally as impressive. As the movie tells the audience at the start, in space there is no sound, making for some very difficult sound design. The effects are realistically muffled and there are some scenes where the lack of sound is simply breathtaking. The music is subtle but contributes to the overall mood in the film when you hear it. If there is any complaint with the movie, it's that some scenes can seem overly dramatic. But, you go to the movies for an experience, and you won't have many experiences quite like this. This movie is made to be seen on a big screen, with the views of space filling your vision. Gravity convincingly puts you in space, and has the viewers float around an adventure that is literally out of this world.

See it.


3D Note - The 3D is a mixed bag. There are some cool 3D-style effects but then there are some scenes where the 3D distorts items in your periphery. If you enjoy movies in 3D, it is probably worth it but it's not a must have.
Lee:


I mostly agree with David, though I had higher expectations for the movie. I thought it would be like 127 Hours or Cast Away (in space!) but, thankfully, it's a bit different. The stars of the movie are the great visuals and sound, but it couldn't succeed without Sandra Bullock and George Clooney's performances. Even when you can't see the actors' faces, you can hear the desperation in their voices. I don't think Gravity is overly dramatic considering the very dramatic nature of the situation, though some may feel that survival of certain situations is a bit too unlikely. The astronauts often remain relatively calm when events spin out of control and don't overact in hysterical ways. It's a straightforward survival story with no filler and a few unexpected quiet moments where the characters and audience can take a breath and appreciate the beautiful scenery.

See it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: The Fifth Estate

Release date: October 18, 2013
Running time: 124 minutes
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Carice van Houten, Laura Linney, David Thewlis
Who to see it with: Someone curious about Wikileaks, or who likes political thrillers

Lee:


The Fifth Estate gives a look into how Julian Assange (Cumberbatch) grew Wikileaks into a major media threat with the help of Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Brühl). Stories about controversial topics usually try to appear impartial but TFE generally seems to champion Wikileaks or, at least, its original intent. Any discussion of increasing transparency and breaking down communication walls are shown in positive lights, though it remains fairly neutral when covering the potential benefits versus danger related to the huge Bradley Manning leaks.

Assange is portrayed as an egocentric man with a mission, kind of like a more political Steve Jobs. Much time is spent on his work with Berg and the differing approaches that stress their relationship, possibly too much. Focusing on their turbulent relationship is slightly interesting, but a closer look at the inner workings of Wikileaks, its impact and side effects would have been more informative and captivating. In the end, you don't learn much about the men or Wikileaks. The film regularly employs unnecessarily fancy CG transitions to illustrate information's movement, and cuts to some weird metaphorical Wikileaks office to heavy-handedly display changes in Assange and Berg's relationship. I don't recall director Bill Condon being so unsubtle. The story and ending are unsatisfying, closing by oddly relaying controversial information about Assange. An uninformed person will likely get the wrong impression about him and Wikileaks' current state. The Fifth Estate provides a shallow look at Wikileaks, and its coverage of Assange and Berg's strained relationship doesn't give much insight into either man. You may be more satisfied by reading an in-depth article.

Don't see it.
David:

I agree with pretty much everything Lee said about the mechanics of the movie. I didn't dislike the focus on Assange and Berg's relationship, because I thought it was pretty interesting, but I also wish they had focused more on the inner workings of Wikileaks, some of the technology behind it, and also given more context for its current state. I also wish the movie provided more backstory into Assange; there are pieces mentioned throughout the film but it's not enough to really understand who he is. The movie is very similar to another controversial, personality-focused movie that came out recently, Jobs. Like Jobs, TFE focuses too much on the characters and doesn't focus enough on the entity he built. And, similar to Ashton Kutcher in Jobs, Benedict Cumberbatch does a phenomenal job as Assange. He really transforms into the character and I can't think of many actors that could do it so convincingly. But unfortunately, like Jobs, the ending of TFE is unsatisfying. 

Rent it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Prisoners

Release date: September 20, 2013
Running time: 153 minutes
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano
Who to see it with: Fans of dark crime mysteries like Mystic River and Seven

Lee:


Prisoners is a dark, twisty tale about a small town's search for missing children. The daughters of friendly neighbors Keller and Franklin (Jackman and Howard) go missing during a brief walk between their houses. Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) is on the case but can't find many leads aside from one unlikely suspect (Dano), the mentally challenged driver of a mysterious RV who lives simply with a feeble aunt (Melissa Leo). Keller's dissatisfaction with the law's investigation prompts him to seek answers in less legal ways.

Prisoners often feels like a well-made but standard crime thriller. Keller's horrific investigative tactics are the story's most unique element and provide a complex moral dilemma, though that dilemma is only briefly explored. Maybe less time should have been spent on the pursuit of red herrings and more used to further detail his acceptance of such desperate measures and its impact upon others, a surprising thought when the movie is already two and a half hours long. Still, the acting and cast are good, including a creepy guy played by an actor with the dubious honor of looking like he was born to play creepy guys. Jackman is understandable but disturbing and Gyllenhaal's cop is rough and seasoned without seeming like a tough guy stereotype. The others are good in limited roles, but I wish more time was spent with Davis and Howard's characters. The case remains interesting and fast-paced despite the long running time, and tension is high as you watch Keller work and follow people into dark basements and home invasions. Good acting, suspense and a bit of moral complexity improve Prisoners' decent mystery.

See it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Rush

Release date: September 20, 2013 (September 27 in the DC area)
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Natalie Dormer
Who to see it with: Fans of sports movies and / or of high speed; also fans of great characters.

David:

Rush is based on the true story of the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl), from their rise through the lower-tier Formula 3 ranks to their days competing in Formula 1, and culminating with their competition in the 1976 Formula 1 series. The two drivers rose in the Formula 1 scene together and their rivalry for the 1976 World Championship was widely followed. Part of the reason that their competition was so compelling was that the two were complete foils: Hunt the hard-living, hard-driving playboy and Lauda, the clinical, brilliant tactician. Their differences make for some great scenes that are even more compelling because, despite their completely different styles, they were both at the top of their sport. 

Rush is directed by Ron Howard and, as expected, the cinematography is phenomenal. There are beautiful angles, wonderful lighting, and the rain / water effects are something to behold. Additionally, Howard focuses on the two driver's relationships with plenty of time devoted to developing the characters as equal, but opposite, personas. Additionally, Rush is scored by Hans Zimmer making the music epic and engrossing. The race music especially gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. As expected form a racing movie, there is plenty of attention given to those events. The film uses great camera angles--which give a good sense of speed--and wonderful sounds. The squeal of the tires, the roar of the engines, and the rush of the cars on pavement are all present and contribute to the excitement of Formula 1. Even if you aren't a fan of the sport (and I imagine most of you, like myself, don't follow it regularly), you will be floored by the intensity and attention paid to those competitions.

But, the best aspect of Rush are the characters, brought to life by some truly wonderful acting. As previously mentioned, both Niki and James are given plenty of attention and developed so the audience has a real understanding of where they come from and what motivates them. And, although the movie initially seems to be a James biopic, Niki has plenty of screen time and, at some point, seems to overtake James for the film's pole position. In some respects, this is similar to Amadeus, where the "secondary" character ends up with a majority of the screen time but I had no problem with that; seeing the differences between the two men provides an interesting angle that is missing from many sports movies. And, at some point, despite thinking that you would be forced to pick a favorite, you realize that you are just enjoying seeing them compete and watching how they push each other. Rush is a triumph; it's a compelling sports movie whose characters drive you through their neck and neck competition for a World Championship. And, once the checkered flag has waved, you will wonder how you were able to get there so quickly and hope for another peak into this amazing rivalry.

See it.
Lee:

I'm not a sports movie fan but I enjoyed watching Rush's core rivalry. Lauda is understandably cocky because he knows he's skilled and Hunt is an often charismatic, privileged jerk. Their personalities turn many of their interactions into funny attempts to belittle one another, while maintaining an underlying, begrudging respect for one another. It's not often that a story focused on rivals develop the characters so well that you care about both of them. Little time is spent on the women in their lives. They use their brief time on screen well, but you only see the most important moments in their relationships. It's not really an issue because Rush remains so focused on the relationship between the drivers and rarely spends time on anything that doesn't develop that. Even the longer race scenes seem designed to reflect upon their characters. The racers' wit and dangerous levels of determination allow the often light story to take fairly seamless dramatic turns. Rush's central rivalry brings uncommon amounts of fun and action to the biography genre while still making time for drama.

See it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What to Watch: Lee's top 5 movies so far


These are some of my favorite 2013 movies. Like David, I'm including a 2012 foreign film that did not reach American theaters until this year. The top five are in no particular order and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

Lee:

Blue Jasmine – I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but his writing and Cate Blanchett's performance made this story of an uppity socialite's fall into a surprisingly effective tragicomedy. Despite her unsympathetic behavior, I pitied the increasingly unhinged Jasmine while enjoying her darkly comical struggle to adjust to lower-class life.

Captain Phillips – Paul Greengrass made his depiction of the well-known 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking a tense thriller by focusing on the humanity of the victims and attackers. CP shows that the key to effective tension isn't spectacle (not that I don't appreciate a well-done blockbuster); more important are character development and depth that make you invested in the situation and its outcome.

Short Term 12 – This story about a teen group home and its workers is full of great characters and moments. It feels like a real glimpse into the troubled lives of these youths, one that doesn't sugarcoat their lives but also doesn't try to make them seem overly depressing. Brie Larson is great as the caring lead worker struggling to help them while dealing with her own issues.

The Hunt – Stories of wrongful accusations are often told as mysteries, but The Hunt instead focuses on a clearly innocent man's fight for his reputation. It hurt to watch an upstanding member of a community be seen as a monster due to the disturbing words spoken by a seemingly innocent child.

The Place Beyond the Pines – I expected a crime film but got an ambitious triptych about troubled fathers and the effects they have upon their sons. It was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed watching the story's three distinct sections play out, the woodsy upstate New York setting and the performances of everyone involved.

Honorable mention:

Before Midnight – Before Sunrise and Sunset were sweet glimpses of brief, ill-timed romantic connections. BM brings the romance trilogy's fleeting lovers down to earth by examining the challenges and shifting relationship dynamics that arise during long-term commitments.

Don Jon  I enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt's mocking homage to romantic comedies and his ability to make the somewhat asinine lead character into a likable womanizer.

The Way, Way Back  Some of the family drama feels familiar, but it's very fun to watch the awkward main character interact with his wacky water park coworkers and possible love interest. His development and interactions feel real and hilarious, largely thanks to Sam Rockwell as his man-child boss.

What to Watch: David's top 5 movies so far



Now that summer is over, we thought that it would be fun to pick out our five favorite movies of 2013 so far. These are purely subjective and likely to change once the Fall and Oscar-hopeful movies come out, but here are the films that we think everyone should see! The criteria is that we have to have seen them in a screening this year, thus Starbuck being on my list despite it being a 2012 Canadian film.

David:

Short Term 12 – It’s rare to see a movie and not want to change a single thing about it, but Short Term 12 has it all: great acting, a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story, and some truly interesting characters brought to life by amazing writing. It’s a movie that everyone should see.

Kings of Summer – A genuinely great indie coming of age movie. This summer had multiple indie coming of age movies come out, but Kings of Summer was my favorite. If you have to choose one, then this is the movie to see, but honestly check them all out.

Don Jon – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directorial debut is a confident, smart, and, most importantly, genuine romantic comedy. It’s a guy’s romantic comedy that both mocks traditional romantic comedies while managing to follow the formula closely. The content will probably be too explicit for many viewers, but those that stick around will find that between the cringes and laughs, there is a touching story.

The World’s End – The third movie in the Cornetto trilogy, The World's End is a really good movie. It has a story that is funny but also deals with darker, more complex themes than the previous Cornetto movies, great acting, funny writing, and some excellent cinematography. Plus, it has plenty to enjoy for both fans of previous Simon Pegg / Nick Frost efforts and those who are new to the movies.

Starbuck – They’re remaking this movie as The Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn but there is no reason to wait. The original Canadian (French-language) version is perfect as is. Great writing, very funny acting, and an interesting story make this one of my favorites of the year.

Honorable Mentions:

The Way, Way Back – Another great indie coming of age movie. I loved this one but I liked Kings of Summer slightly more.

Fast 6 – If you like Fast and Furious movies, then you can’t get much better than this movie. It has everything you’d want in a Fast and Furious sequel.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend box office for September 13 - 15, 2013: James Wan scares audiences again with Insidious

Insidious: Chapter 2's estimated $41.1 million opening was the weekend's highest, in addition to being the second-highest September opening following Hotel Transylvania's $42.5 million opening. It's slightly less than the $41.9 million start of director James Wan's last film, The Conjuring. The two horror films have given Wan the unusual distinction of becoming the second director to have two $40 million+ debuts within a year (the Wachowskis beat him with the Matrix sequels), and he's sure to add a third with the July 2014 release of Fast & Furious 7. IC2 easily beat the first film's $13 million opening and will pass its $54 million total, but it likely won't have the legs of Wan's last two hits. It already looks more frontloaded than Conjuring, which grossed millions less on its opening day yet finished slightly higher.

The Family opened second with a decent $14.5 million. Riddick dropped 63% but was budgeted accordingly and should meet expectations. The Butler passed $100 million and We're the Millers continues remaining right behind it. The other August openers--PlanesPercy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and especially Elysium--weren't so successful here but have respectable worldwide numbers of $138.8, $164.6 and $232.4 million. Monsters U will soon beat Up's $731 million and, worldwide, become Pixar's third most successful film. See how other movies performed here.

Weekend box office estimates for September 13 - 15, 2013:
(rank, title, weekend gross, percent change, total gross, weekend #)

1. Insidious: Chapter 2; $41,050,000; opening weekend

2. The Family (2013); $14,500,000; opening weekend

3. Riddick; $7,013,000; -63.1%; $31,280,000 total; 2nd weekend

4. Lee Daniels' The Butler; $5,582,000; -33.6%; $100,041,000 total; 5th weekend

5. We're the Millers; $5,415,000; -29.6%; $131,602,000 total; 6th weekend

6. Instructions Not Included; $4,250,000; -47.8%; $26,581,000 total; 3rd weekend

7. Planes; $3,066,000; -25.6%; $82,984,000 total; 6th weekend

8. One Direction: This is Us; $2,400,000; -40.7%; $26,887,000 total; 3rd weekend

9. Elysium; $2,050,000; -34.7%; $88,388,000 total; 6th weekend

10. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters; $1,825,000; -24.8%; $62,035,000 total; 6th weekend

Friday, September 13, 2013

What to Watch This Weekend: September 13, 2013



It's another pretty light theater weekend.  Horror fans or fans of the first one should check out Insidious: Chapter 2.  Otherwise, catch up on some DVD and streaming movies you might have missed!

In Theaters: Insidious: Chapter 2

The major complaint about this movie is that it's too similar to the original. Although we thought it was a rental, we both liked the divergent story line and the attempt at director James Wan's focus on more atmospheric horror. Insidious: Chapter 2 is the best movie coming to theaters this week and a good choice if you liked the first one or are a horror fan. Plus, it's Friday the 13th today so it makes perfect sense to see this!

On DVD: Star Trek: Into Darkness
We thought J.J. Abrams follow up to the 2009 hit movie was a fun adventure with great character interaction and good production values. We gave it a see it, but if you happened to miss the movie in theaters, you should definitely check it out on DVD. Although the adventure had some overall issues, it is still an enjoyable experience and has some truly gorgeous special effects.

Streaming (Netflix): Lilo and Stitch
Lilo and Stitch is a Disney classic about a lonely Hawaiian girl named Lilo, being raised by her sister, who adopts a funny-looking dog and names him Stitch. It's an older movie that most of you have probably already seen, but if you're like me and missed it, check it out this weekend. 

Streaming (Amazon): The Story of Luke
The Story of Luke is about an autistic boy who sets out on an adventure to find a job and a girlfriend. It's a recent movie and has received a rating of four and a half stars after 47 reviews on Amazon. We haven't seen it but it sounds like an interesting indie movie for you to check out this weekend.


Streaming (HBO Go): The Sessions
The Sundance award winner is now on HBO Go. The Sessions tells the story of a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity and contacts a professional sex surrogate. It has a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating so go see it now!

Review: Captain Phillips

Release date: October 11, 2013
Running time: 134 minutes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Yul Vazquez, Max Martini, Barkhad Abdirahman
Who to see it with: Someone into realistic action involving relatable characters; Paul Greengrass fans

Lee:

Captain Phillips is an action thriller based on the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking by a group of Somali pirates. This true story is a great fit for a action film. I didn't expect much going in, but maybe I should have trusted director Paul Greengrass considering his work on the Bourne sequels and United 93. CP briefly introduces Phillips (Hanks), his wife (Catherine Keener, onscreen for only a couple of minutes) and the Somalis, spending almost its entire running time at sea. Once the captain sees the pirates, the story becomes a long string of suspenseful moments and tense interactions between them and Phillips' crew.  Hanks is great at portraying the captain's multiple states of mind. He's smart and well-prepared but very nervous and edgy, with a tendency to sometimes talk too much. His performance is good throughout the film, but capped by a very emotional final scene. The hijackers' actors, each in their first credited roles according to IMDb, make them threatening while seeming in over their heads (appropriate since they were teenagers). They initially seem like average criminals but become more complex and surprisingly sympathetic during the second half.
CP's grounded in reality action is often more effective than that of most blockbusters because it feels real and involves developed characters. Phillips and the crew's attempts to thwart the hijacking are clever and low-tech, and tension is increased by the claustrophobic ship setting. Those familiar with the incident will know the outcome, but the relationship between Phillips and the pirates should provide a real sense of danger and give CP a strong, dramatic foundation. Phillips feels for them while displaying anger and despair, and they provide a sense of the desperation that would drive them to commit such a dangerous act. Those unfamiliar will find that the story takes unexpected turns that complicate the situation. I like that CP never emphasizes politics and avoids glamorizing the military or anyone else as heroes. Its straightforward narrative maintains interest by focusing on the humanity of the crew and their attackers, along with exploring their reactions when plans go awry. Captain Phillips' dramatization of 2009's Maersk Alabama hijacking sails past other thrillers with its strong performances, interesting antagonists, and focused depiction of an intense, unusual crisis.

See it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: The Family

Release date: September 13, 2013
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones
Who to see it with: Someone who wants a little more comedy in their mafia movies

David:

The Family follows an ex-mafia family after they move to a French town under witness protection. They are told to fit into the culture and not draw attention.  The Blakes initially attempts to, but struggle with both the repercussions of their old lives and the contrast between French and American culture. Each member of the have their various quirks and issues, but the main struggle is with Fred Blake (De Niro) trying to stay under the radar, but still holding onto some parts of his old life. He has a wicked temper (although he only takes it out on people that "deserve" it) and struggles with staying discreet and not letting others know who he is and what he's done. During much of the movie, he has an urge to tell people who he is, which obviously causes problems.

The best thing about this movie is the acting. De Niro and Pfeiffer are very good as Mr. and Mrs. Blake; their on screen chemistry is fun to watch as are their portrayals of ex-mafia parents. Unfortunately, there isn't much else that stands out about The Family. The trailer gave me the impression that this was a comedy and although there were some funny moments, there weren't a lot of truly laugh out loud ones. Additionally, a lot of the comedic scenes seem unnecessarily violent; the store clerk is rude to you, blow up their store; this person is being lazy, drag him from your car. Although there isn't a lot of gore, it does seem a bit excessive. It's possible that this is to show the errors of a life of crime, but I can't be sure. The film's story is serviceable, but slightly disjointed--including a romance that feels a little extreme--and the movie concludes with an unsatisfying end. Overall, The Family is a movie that doesn't do anything great. After seeing it, I couldn't really pick out anything that stood out other than the performances. It's not a bad movie, just not one that will stay with you after the credits roll.

Rent it.
Lee:

Unlike David, I had no issues with the violence or the family's over-the-top behavior. It seemed fitting for a silly R-rated mafia comedy. And excessive gore is avoided by cutaways from the bloodiest acts. Unfortunately, I agree that the movie is just not very funny. The characters are fine, especially the parents and Jones' frustrated agent. De Niro and Pfeiffer make a good mob couple. The children aren't bad, but not used well. The know-it-all son's storyline feels rushed and the daughter's romance is a melodramatic failure. In the end, the father's clashes with local officials also go a bit too far over the edge. The movie is best when the family members are together in some capacity or placed in somewhat grounded situations, but it often focuses on less successful individual subplots or way over-the-top moments. Pfeiffer's character fares best. The others benefit from her presence and her scenes are more inspired and a little more restrained. The Family's story places its funny characters into too many not so funny situations.

Don't see it.

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