Saturday, October 8, 2016

Review: The Birth of a Nation

I do not own the above image. Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

            In 15 years of going to the movies, I’ve had a single dream: watching a movie in a theatre by myself.  I’ve come close many times usually with an elderly couple coming in during the previews.  It finally happened this week but never in a million years would I have thought it would have happened during an opening night showing.  And fulfilling that dream wasn’t the most exciting thing to happen me in that theatre that night.  It turns out the movie I saw all by myself was absolutely marvelous.
            Nate Parker (star, director & co-writer) decides right off the bat to make THE BIRTH OF A NATION a personal, artistic motion picture.  The emphasis is not on Nat Turner’s unsuccessful slave rebellion but on our hero and the birth of his rebellion.  This is an up-close look at one slave & his experience as a pawn pastor for the white man and his reaction after reaching his breaking point.  Nat has to appear with multiple dimensions and not just motivated by his faith & treatment as a slave.  Nat finds inspiration through love found in the slave trade.  His love for Cherry is beautifully chronicled in both short-ish montages & conversations.  Two of their scenes together stand out: Their first, full true encounter in the plantation’s front yard is like a scene out of the best romantic movies yet is so natural here.  But their real powerhouse scene is their conclusion.  I won’t spoil it but their final scene is one of those magical emotionally & cinematically perfect moments that don’t come around often enough.
            Nat’s faith journey is just as emotional.  Taught to read by his master’s wife, he is taken from plantation to plantation to preach.  His “ah-ha” moment when we see his face as he tells his fellows slaves that being obedient to their owners will get them to the promised land hits you in the gut.  Nat’s breaking point, in which he talks back to his young master by quoting the Bible, and its aftermath perfectly summarizes the theme of the movie: Religion is a weapon of hope & fear and the vicious hypocrisy between the classes & races use of it is forever evident.  Never before has a movie like this been so timely.  There are also a few “tribal” scenes that take place in the woods that convey that Nat is some sort of spiritual figure, successfully turning him into the chosen savior of his people.
            Nate Parker knows his way around a camera considering this is his directorial debut.  There are sprawling shots of the pre-Civil War American South that creates a “prisoner in paradise” atmosphere, as if the movie needed to be more torturous.  His selective use of extreme close-ups gives each of them the appropriate emotional kick.  There are a few scenes of slave brutality, just enough to get the idea of what they went through.  But TBOAN is far from being the torture & misery porn that 12 YEARS A SLAVE was three years ago.  His direction of the mostly non-household name actors worked like a charm.  Everyone from the never better Armie Hammer as his owner to virtually unknown Aja Naomi King as Cherry to the reliably sinister Jackie Earle Haley as the leader of the slave patrol brought their A-game to the set.
            THE BIRTH OF A NATION is the African-American version of BRAVEHEART.  Some will see this as an insult.  Why?!  Both are emotional tragically heartwarming stories of oppression & resistance, war & love, despair & hope with a little more faith & artistry thrown in the newer feature.  Nate Parker, despite his checkered past, has created something that should be cherished & celebrated.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

The State of My Cinematic Journey

            After the miserable summer I’ve had going to the movies, one thing has become abundantly clear: I am quickly falling out of the key demographic for movie studios.  I’m still a white guy with a fairly good paying day job.  I turned 31 earlier this month.  I have other priorities.  My wife is going back to school to finish her degree.  We want to get a house.  We want to start a family.  I need a new car.  I’m finally beginning to feel great about my poker skills.
            And I hoped my passion since I was 15 would stay with me.  In general, it has.  I still get giddy at the ticket counter.  When the usher rips my ticket, points me in the director of my theatre & says “Enjoy the show!”, I still smile & say “Thanks!” every time.  I love walking in to take my seat & see with whom I get to share this experience.  The hairs on the back of my neck still stand up as the lights dim.  I love the quiet moments I get to reflect as the end credits roll & the lights fade up.  But recently, I’ve noticed something odd.  I’m not enjoying as many movies as I used to.  Also, the audiences I’ve watched these movies with have gotten less & less enjoyable to be around.
            So what can I attribute that to?  Am I at that age where I need to move on?  Do I leave my passion behind?  My answer: I’m not going anywhere.  I still love movies.  I loved travelling with fugitives as they take one’s son towards his destiny.  I loved following teenagers find freedom & joy through music.  I fell in love with a college freshman & his baseball teammates as he assimilates to his new surroundings.  I found joy in a panda finally living out a prophesy put forward years ago.
            So where am I going with this?  Well, I have come to the conclusion that I need to change my movie-going habits.  From this day forth, I will no longer make comic book “movies” a priority in my theatrical journey.  If there is a CBM that I want to watch in a theatre, I won’t be buying a ticket for until the third Monday of release at the earliest.  I will spending 17 days on the outside as yet another visual effects extravaganza makes a billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts.  In addition, I won’t waste my time reviewing them nor will I be getting in arguments with people online over them.  They aren’t worth the time or energy.  I’ll throw out a tweet or two immediately after watching said spectacle but will only barely acknowledge its existence after that.
            I’m sure you noticed that I put quotation marks around the word “movie” in the above paragraph.  That is because I believe that recent theatrically released comic book adaptations are not movies, motion pictures, films, whatever term you want to use.  A movie is a series of pictures strung together to create a compelling story with a beginning, middle & end with interesting characters, spectacular action sequences with high stakes & expertly crafted visuals and great actors well-written dialogue.  Many recent comic book adaptations don’t have endings; they stop.  They take this “sequel culture” that we live in to the extreme and leave more open endings than closed ones after every installment.  Recent super villains have been quite dull.  I get a kick out of seeing Daniel Bruhl on screen but his Helmut Zemo in Civil War could have been eons more conniving.  Even as technology improves and visual effects get better, the over-reliance by these creations is really distracting.  And while studios open their bank accounts to get the best looking & most talented actors, studios don’t seem to care who they hire to write these creations.

            I guess you could say I’m a grump, an old fart, stubborn, a snob.  And I won’t deny being any of those things.  I did not grow up on comic books.  I only remotely started paying attention to them after I saw Spider-Man in 2002; even then, I still didn’t read them.  I showed up in theatres from time to time when more comic book “movies” were released.  I’ve raved about a few over the years.  X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2, The Avengers, Days of Future Past: each one great.  But now, especially this year, these seem like experiences that only readers or devotees can appreciate.  I’m not one of them and if I haven’t become a fanboy by now, I never will.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: April 29 - May 1

Cost: 804 FML Bucks
Estimate: $35.077 million
After another huge weekend, TJB is poised to win its third weekend in a row before a Civil War hits theatres.  But how big will it be?  I can't see a non-animated Disney movie to hold over 60%, even without any new competition.

Cost: 346 FML Bucks
Estimate: $17.15 million
A hilarious comedy from the stars/creators of Key & Peele that will sure to test just how powerful television stars can be on the silver screen.  It is 'R'-rated and unabashedly so.  Could go anywhere in the teens or even low 20s.

Cost: 309 FML Bucks
Estimate: $12.31 million
Another Garry Marshall "Day" movie for everyone to ignore again.  That cast could open any other movie in the universe.  But that trailer is as bad as the price is high.

Cost: 172 FML Bucks
Estimate: $7.972 million
A sub-$20 million weekend with bad buzz and 'B+' Cinemascore spells doom for this unwanted sequel.

Cost: 129 FML Bucks
Estimate: $6 million
If an animated movie opens, but a film buff like me only saw a commerical twice, does anyone else know it exists?

Cost: 110 FML Bucks
Estimate: $5.575 million

Cost: 94 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.835 million
This movie is just going through the motions until it disappears from theatres with its capes between its legs.

Cost: 72 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.775 million
The first of two movies expanding this week that are overpriced due to not expanding as much as expected.  AVOID AT ALL COSTS!

Cost: 71 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.731 million
A bad comedy with a competition coming from both the R-rated comedy side (KEANU) and the female-centric side (MOTHER’S DAY).  Could still be a force considering the cost.

Cost: 57 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.751 million
Final weekend of relevence before it disappears into the great beyond of the Target bargin bin.

Cost: 32 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.246 million
A moderate drop after a horrible opening weekend.  Theatre count is everything this weekend.

Cost: 27 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.043 million
A smaller than expected expansion this weekend (523 screens instead of 600+) makes this a little too expensive to consider, even as 8th screen filler.

Cost: 24 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.044 million
Faces direct competition for the first time this weekend.  Not a huge drop is expected but enough to be unplayable.

Cost: 15 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.6985 million
The slam dunk Bonus pick last weekend is anything but this weekend.  A 7th & 8th screen filler?  Maybe.

Cost: 15 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.5418 million
Too few screens to be a player, especially with the same price as the movie above it.

My Cineplex
           I have no confidence in my projections because of many unanswerable questions.  How much will THE JUNGLE BOOK fall in the "calm before the storm" weekend?  Will Key & Peele's huge fanbase show up?  Does anyone know RATCHET & CLANK exists?  My "safe" lineup:

Total Cost: 997 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $85.15 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: April 22-24

Cost: 804 FML Bucks
Estimate: $56.728 million
Where does a movie go after a $102+ million opening weekend with a 90%+ on RT & an ‘A’ Cinemascore?  Back to the top of the box office.  The question is how high it will go.  I’m going the conservative route with my prediction but a $60 million weekend won’t surprise me.

Cost: 324 FML Bucks
Estimate: $25.5 million
A Kristin Stewart-less pre-sequel to the 2012 Stewart hit.  With the interest in this movie low & the Tomatometer even lower, how much can the starpower of Theron/Hemsworth/Blunt/Chastain take in at the cinema this week?  I think I’m on the high side, but you never know.

Cost: 134 FML Bucks
Estimate: $10.1 million
A big disappointment for those of us who went all out with it last weekend.  The rule of thumb with well-received minority-centric movie falls as close to 50% as possible.  But can this threequel drop just 45% & win the Bonus?  Maybe.

Cost: 67 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.8852 million
Competition from TJB finally knocked this animated film down a few pegs but still had a respectable weekend and should have another one this weekend.

Cost: 64 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.4811 million
As expected, this fell 57%+ last weekend.  This is a real wild card this weekend.  A sub-50% drop might make this a playable option.  But I doubt it.

Cost: 62 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.6 million

Cost: 48 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.514 million
This movie is just going through the motions until it disappears from theatres with its capes between its legs.

Cost: 35 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.3068 million
A complete flop that isn’t worth even speaking its title, let alone consider playing in this game.  Just keep reading.

Cost: 32 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.69416 million
A moderately successful mom-com (a comedy only your mother could love) that has been on my radar just about every week thus far.  This week is slightly different.  Not chance to play this week.

Cost: 13 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.93 million
Finally fell like a regular movie last weekend.  This weekend may be its last stand but not worth it.

Cost: 12 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.777 million
One last week for Alan Rickman to be in the spotlight but not in your lineup.  Sad…

Cost: 11 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.7508 million
Can this hateful movie just go away already?!

Cost: 10 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.05 million
A Mexican film that is showing up in 350ish theatres this weekend.  Is its price enough to coax me & you into playing it?  Maybe…

Cost: 10 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.731 million
Don Cheadle’s directorial debut is this Miles Davis biopic that expands enough to be in the game this week.  Just not enough to be useful in the game.

Cost: 9 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.6165 million
The third part of a YA series that has made half the money as the first one did two years ago.  Not worth shifting your lineup to have one.

My Cineplex
            I am going against my own figures a little this week.  I should go with HUNTSMAN but I have little to no confidence in my own calculations.  Maybe I should change my method to my madness.  Anyhoo, my “safe” play this weekend:

Total Cost: 998 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $85.15 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: April 15-17

Cost: 748 FML Bucks
Estimate: $78.7 million
Another new live-action remake of a classic Disney animated film.  This time, we get Jon Favreau’s take on the Rudland Kipling novel with CGI everything except Mowgli.  The 94% on the Tomatometer (at writing) might help this hit $80 million plus but I’ll stay a little cautious.  Will win the Bonus if the next movie underperforms.

Cost: 202 FML Bucks
Estimate: $24.35 million
A threequel to one of the most successful African-American franchises.  More importantly, this is the first minority-centric, non-spoof comedy in almost three months.  Look for this to possibly dominate the Bonus race.

Cost: 143 FML Bucks
Estimate: $10.6137 million
A shocking victory in overall box office & in the FML Bonus contest.  Can McCarthy repeat?  After a ‘C+’ Cinemascore, not a chance.

Cost: 116 FML Bucks
Estimate: $11.6815 million
After a shocking loss last week & three weeks of underperforming, BvS should fall a normal amount this weekend.  Right?  I mean, not enough to win the Bonus but enough to look respectable now.  Right?!

Cost: 93 FML Bucks
Estimate: $9.324 million
Now it it’s 7th weekend, this overachieving Disney animated film finally has competition in THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Regardless, should have a respectable, “might be playable” weekend.

Cost: 90 FML Bucks
Estimate: $7 million
A poorly reviewed, under-marketed action movie with Costner & Reynolds.  Avoid at all costs.

Cost: 39 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.368 million
This crowd-pleasing but critically reviled (including by yours truly) rom-com sequel continues to do well relative to its budget.  Another sub-50% drop this weekend & in contention as a screen filler.

Cost: 31 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.059 million
The Christian-themed movie that won’t go away.  This is a very solid play as a screen filler.

Cost: 27 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.043 million
Tainted as a failure by both box office prognosticators & FML’ers, stay away from this.

Cost: 24 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.027 million
Mean-spirited religious movie that got rejected this time around.  FML’ers should reject this too.

Cost: 21 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.1108 million
About 50% behind the pace of the first movie two years ago.  Too expensive for consideration this week.

Cost: 20 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.8824 million
Doing fairly well for a movie I’ve heard very little about.  Still not worth playing.

Cost: 20 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.888 million
Can this become the first movie to be part of the Perfect Cineplex for the fourth straight weekend?  Probably too expensive this week.  Too bad.

Cost: 13 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.355 million
This is the last weekend this will torture me with its presence.  Good riddance!

Cost: 11 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.966 million
A decent little film gets one more weekend in the spotlight.  Not worth playing though.

My Cineplex
            One projection that I have above most other players is BARBERSHOP hitting well over $21 million.  Again, the target audience has been waiting for a movie like this.  After maxing out on that, there’s about 190 bucks to divide among four screens, to be filled by one mid-range option & three low-end screens, which leads me to a lineup of:

Total Cost: 999 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $124.554 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review: THE BOSS

I do not own the above image. Copyright Universal Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

            What is the most miserable type of movie to watch?  To many, movies with disturbing images, like torture porn or Lars Von Trier films, are seen as endurance tests or feats of nerve & even artistry.  To others, a movie with a depressing subject, like SCHINDLER’S LIST and SPOTLIGHT, is brutal to sit through without feeling depressed feelings afterwards.  While I can’t defend the former, the latter classification of movies features some the best movies of the past few decades, such as the two movies listed above.  But to me, unfunny comedies are the ultra-marathon equivalent of endurance tests in the movie world.  And THE BOSS is among the roughest ones to sit through.
            Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is one of the most successful businesswomen on the planet.  That is until she’s busted for insider trading, serving prison time & having her assets frozen in the meantime.  Once released, the only person who doesn’t outright reject Darnell is her former tortured personal assistant Claire (Bell), who reluctantly opens her home to her.  How can Michelle get back on her feet?
            You get this sense of doom from the first scene of the movie where we see young Michelle being returned to a Catholic orphanage three times during her childhood with Margo Martindale playing the nun in charge.  Michelle has developed quite a mouth on her while Ms. Martindale has to just stand there, the script rendering her helpless.  This opening exchange is a perfect representation of what THE BOSS is: a good concept that consistently & almost exclusively goes for the lowest common denominator instead of using the situation created to make bigger, specialized joke.  There are numerous opportunities just like this one.  After a show in Chicago, a conversation about Claire getting a raise into a joke about goofy Michelle’s face looks carrying the conversation while getting her teeth whitened with a dental apparatus in her mouth.  The one scene that takes place on the grounds of the prison isn’t about the posh lifestyle behind the barbed wire but just serves as an excuse for Michelle to assault her financial advisor with a tennis ball.  The rivalry between the groups of young female scouts should be about strengthening the skills of future successful professional women.  Instead, Michelle & the opposing alpha-mom exchange vulgarities (not vulgar insults, just the choice four-letter-words) that culminates in a poorly-shot streetfight.  Nothing says female empowerment like a grown woman clotheslining a preteen girl.
            Bell’s Claire is a frumpily dressed single mom, a fact which she reminds every person she interacts with during the movie, exists purely as a punching bag for Darnell.  Their biggest confrontation comes not from the previously mentioned raise, not during the process of creating the homemade brownie company but from her wardrobe choice for a date.  The fight soon devolves into a minute long shot of McCarthy & Bell swatting each other’s boobs.  How hilarious!  For the record, I laughed one time at the most throwaway but least dirty joke in the movie.
            Where THE BOSS completely loses me is in the third act turn that begins with a misunderstanding between Claire & Michelle after a meeting with Renault (Dinklage), Michelle’s former lover turned business rival whose presence lingers for the entire movie like a fart in a near-empty theatre.  From that meeting, the movie spins completely out of control, ending in a sequence that belongs in a bad version of last year’s SPY.  But before the movie gets there, Darnell goes to find herself with a person only alluded to briefly in one scene early in the movie.  The meeting between Darnell & this character makes you like her even less than you did before because it makes Michelle’s intentions that much less genuine & heartfelt.
            Then come the last two “jokes”.  The first is a callback to an earlier moment & serves as a cheap ending to a subplot that hadn’t been referenced in at least 45 minutes.  The second “joke” is actually a gag reel over the end credits.  A staple of the 1990s, the gag reel should have been put to rest after Pixar added such scenes to their end credits in a few of their early movies in the late 90s & early 2000s.  But what’s worse than actually adding it to begin with is that it’s not funny at all; just one last bankrupt attempt to get people to laugh at cheap antics.
            My patience for Melissa McCarthy is running pretty thin.  I’m sure she loves her husband Ben Falcone, who directed & co-wrote this movie with her.  I’m sure in real life that they love each other & are soulmates.  But their professional collaborations, first with TAMMY (full disclosure: I haven’t seen yet despite it being on HBO for about a year) and now with THE BOSS, are complete failures as comedies with bottom of the barrel jokes, choppy editing to remove jokes that epically failed and characters who aren’t worth our time.  A complete waste of time, resources & talent.

Zero Stars

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: April 1-3

Friday Cost: 346 FML Bucks
Friday Estimate: $19.10 million
Saturday Cost: 472 FML Bucks
Saturday Estimate: $27.19 million
Sunday Cost: 334 FML Bucks
Sunday Estimate: $18.451 million
After the $166 million weekend with an $81 million opening night and the small number of new movies, the powers that be decided to keep each BvS day as an option.  But with 29% on the Tomatometer a ‘B’ Cinemascore, all signs point to a larger than normal drop for a huge blockbuster.  I’m thinking a 61% drop, with daily percentage splits of 29.5/42/28.5.  STAY AWAY!

Cost: 251 FML Bucks
Estimate: $16.213 million
Another weekend, another weekend as the top family option.  It’s doing so well right now that its net theatre change is +28.  Insanity!  Not enough to pull off a surprise upset for the Bonus, but it is a better option than any of the BvS choices.

Cost: 212 FML Bucks
Estimate: $13.5 million
The sequel for the surprise hit of Spring 2014 as it made over $9 million in less than 800 theatres.  It opens in 2300+ theatres this time so the weekend gross will be higher, but with all the Christian movies that have been out so far this year including a more palatable one in more theatres this weekend, this should be drowned out enough to not be in contention for the Bonus.

Cost: 157 FML Bucks
Estimate: $11.61 million
The real crowdpleaser of the weekend with an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore.  And with a target audience who isn’t the type to run out early to see this, the drop should be minimal.  I’m talking Bonus-winning minimal.

Cost: 93 FML Bucks
Estimate: $5.33 million
No longer the newest Christian-centric movie in theatres.  But the word is out about this as a feel-good kind of religious experience.  It’s just too high priced for Bonus contention.

Cost: 71 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.717 million
Already down to just above 3000 theatres, this penultimate entry in the franchise is dead in the water.  Don’t even bother.

Cost: 55 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.791 million
A few weeks after a black-centric romcom, we get another black-centric spoof of THE PURGE.  Opening in only 1011 theatres, needs a good PTA to have a chance at the Bonus.  It will fall short.

Cost: 53 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.19 million
A well-received drama about drone strikes in the War on Terror notable for being the final on-screen appearance of the late Alan Rickman.  Other than that sentimental factor, how many people are clamoring to see that?

Cost: 52 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.356 million
Last week’s Bonus winner expands into 959 theatres this weekend.  Sure to be moderately successful but not nearly enough to win back-to-back weeks.

Cost:  FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.938 million
Now in under 2000 theatres…NOPE!  Not doing it.  Not giving commentary on this.  I’m always wrong.  You’re on your own.

Cost: 50 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.97 million
This movie’s success still fascinates me.  Will be a non-factor this weekend, but…wow.

Cost: 47 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1 million
A Hank Williams biopic expanding to only 741 theatres.  There’s something wrong here.  Not worth your time or attention.

Cost: 28 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.514 million
Drops to about 1500 theatres this weekend while probably splitting screens in most places.  Still a great low priced filler, as the cheapest option usually is.

My Cineplex
            A difficult weekend at first sight, quickly turned into something fairly easy.  One medium-priced movie was a fantastic value but going all-in with it is a risk.  But being able to easily round out the Cineplex with low-priced filler while using near maximum dollars made my choice a no-brainer:

Total Cost: 998 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $84.685 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Friday, March 25, 2016


I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Brothers/DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

            After the moderate success of 2013’s MAN OF STEEL, Warner Brothers thought it was best to combine their entire comic book catalogue into one movie, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, in order to keep up with rival Marvel/Disney.  This also allowed WB to relaunch the Batman franchise with relative ease.  The move was also seen an overreaction to the success of THE AVENGERS.  Did the move work?  Not really.
            My theory behind my positive reaction to MAN OF STEEL was the belief that producer Christopher Nolan held Zack Snyder back from doing frenetic camera movements & extreme close-ups all the time.  With Nolan no longer over Snyder’s shoulder most days, I feared BvS would allow Snyder go back to his usual self.  My worst fears were realized in the second scene of the movie where the destruction of Metropolis is shown from Bruce Wayne’s view on the ground.  Every shot, from Bruce weaving in & out of traffic to the quiet moment at the end, is shot in a way where the camera appears to be moving in four dimensions.  I’ve ridden roller coasters at Cedar Point that made me less nauseous.  Snyder also uses the darkest color scheme possible for the majority of BvS but when it comes to the numerous explosions, he uses the brightest yellow he can find.  I’ve never squinted more during a movie in my life.  Later on, there’s a car chase where over half the shots are extreme close-ups, most of which are of Batman inside the Batmobile.  In fact, I don’t believe the whole Batmobile is shown in a single frame.  Why build these gadgets, which the fanbase loves as much as the character of Batman himself, if you aren’t going to show them?
            I found myself asking, “what is the difference between Snyder & fellow schlockmeister Michael Bay?”  The scripts they work with.  Chris Terrio (ARGO) and David S. Goyer (DARK KNIGHT trilogy) are given the unenviable task of creating a screenplay that not only contains what seems to be more than two movies worth material required to move this franchise up to where Marvel has The Avengers but to also organize it in such a way that is a half step above understandable.  Unfortunately, not even a master screenwriter like Charlie Kaufmann could crunch two 110 minute movies worth of material cohesively into a 155 minute movie while making room for those audience pleasing action scenes.  Terrio and Goyer have to take so many short cuts during the first hour & a half that the reveals & Easter eggs are cheapened & ineffective.  Once the bloated foundation is laid down as flat as it possibly can, however, the movie slowly begins to work until the third act finally gives us that battle we’ve been promised.  And those final 40 minutes, other than one last stupid rescue moment, are what the whole movie should have been: fluid & alive.
            Each of the actors is at least acceptable in their roles.  Henry Cavill still works well as Superman, juggling with his nobility while showing that unhinged rage when necessary efficiently.  He does, however, get his butt handed to him when his Clark Kent goes mano-a-mano with Amy Adams as his perennial damsel-in-distress Lois Lane.  In their first scene together, Snyder shows his borderline misogynist side by having it performed with Adams naked with little soap in the bathtub; a scene which, as I pointed out to my wife as soon as it ended, was much better portrayed in shoulda/woulda/coulda been Batman helmer Darren Aronosky’s THE FOUNTAIN ten years ago.
            Skeptics can breathe easy as Ben Affleck is almost perfect as Bruce Wayne & is effective as the Dark Knight himself.  Affleck incorporates the perfect amount of suaveness to Wayne & is a very imposing figure as Batman.  But he too is out-staged by a figure close to him.  Jeremy Irons makes it appear that he was born to play Alfred.  But what else would you expect from the classically trained Oscar winner?  Gal Gadot is also perfect as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, proving once again that she was one of the few brightspots of the FAST & FURIOUS franchise.
            But the highlight of the movie has got to be Jesse Eisenburg.  I’ll let you catch your breath for a moment before you keep reading.  Just hear me out: I do agree with the consensus that his character’s motivations are foggy at best.  But Eisenburg as Lex Luthor is that single daisy growing in the charred field that is the first half of BvS.  He is over-the-top but in a partially restrained fashion that worked for me & keeps to movie chugging along until the story is strong enough to take over.
            As wonderful as the cast & the third act are, the rest is the polar opposite.  Overstuffed & incoherent for much of its runtime, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE falls into the trap that the Marvel Cinematic Universe falls into as of late: setting up future projects while sacrificing a tight, cohesive product presently on-screen.


Fantasy Box Office: March 25-27

Friday Cost: 709 FML Bucks
Friday Estimate: $76.34 million
Saturday Cost: 525 FML Bucks
Saturday Estimate: $55.52 million
Sunday Cost: 408 FML Bucks
Sunday Estimate: $41.64 million
The first of the big, highly anticipated comic book movies of 2016 (What's DEADPOOL?).  For the third time, a new release was divided into days with Thursday night showings (probably) counting towards Friday's total.  I did some research finding the daily splits of these huge blockbusters & after tweaking the formula based on the fact that its Easter weekend to a 44/32/24 split.  A Saturday/Sunday or a double Sunday combo is possible if you have the guts to do that.  At least one of these screens will be part of the Perfect Cineplex, unless another new sequel overperforms.

Cost: 267 FML Bucks
Estimate: $24.9 million
If there is anything that BvS is not, it’s a family movie.  And with no other non-religious movies like it, this will be the choice for those with little children.  Just not enough to be useful this weekend.

Cost: 169 FML Bucks
Estimate: $17.8 million
If there is a box office record that will never be broken, it’s the original’s record of highest gross without hitting #1 for a weekend of over $200 million in 2002.  But the real question is how much can this sequel make opening opposite a huge comic-book movie?  It’s not unprecedented for an alternative choice to make a lot of money opposite a huge blockbuster.

Cost: 134 FML Bucks
Estimate: $12.19 million
The third installment of the series fell 40% from the original installment two years ago as the Young Adult genre seems to have faded.  My projection is higher than just about anyone else’s so this could go way lower.

Cost: 97 FML Bucks
Estimate: $10.1 million
It is Easter weekend and those looking for a Christian faith-based movie have two choices this weekend.  MFH is the bigger of the two and could have a great hold or even an increase, but I remain bullish on that idea.

Cost: 71 FML Bucks
Estimate: $6.253 million
Third weekend of a thriller sequel which loses 625 theatres.  My wife still hasn't seen it & hopes to see it Tuesday.  Who will see this on Easter Sunday?

Cost: 62 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.646 million
What can it do now that it is no longer the newest comic book adaptation in theatres?  Could be an alternative to those who are shut out of BvS showings but has the target already seen this twice?

Cost: 46 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.109 million
A week after winning the Bonus, this drops over 800 theatres to begin its well earned slide into obscurity.

Cost: 18 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.68 million
Loses over 1200 theatres on its way to the bargin bin at Best Buy.  It deserves better than that.

Cost: 12 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.928 million
Leaves about a quarter of its theatres behind.  Will the

Cost: 12 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.724 million
This movie’s success still fascinates me.  Will be a non-factor this weekend, but…wow.

Cost: 9 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.1 million
What do you call an independent comedy starring a two-time Oscar winner in almost 500 theatres?  A runaway Bonus winner.

Cost: 9 FML Bucks
Estimate: $0.81 million
Christian movie #2.  Will this be overshadowed by the other faith-based movie & its 500+ theatre drop?  Probably.

My Cineplex
            Despite the insane upside to taking five GREEK WEDDINGS, the downside of it is way too much to go there.  So maxing out on BvS’s & DORISes is the play of the week.  After plugging in my figures in my spreadsheet & playing around with combinations, I come up with this as the best, low risk play:

BvS Saturday, BvS Sunday, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS x5
Total Cost: 987 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $115.76 million

As always, Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Saturday, March 19, 2016


I do not own the above image.  Copyright Summit Entertainment.  All Right Reaerved.

            Since the immergence of TWILIGHT back in November 2008, the Young Adult (YA) novel adaptation has been the go-to genre for studios who can’t get comic book rights.  While none of them have been great, a few including THE HUNGER GAMES and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES have been at least good.  The current most successful franchise is the DIVERGENT series about a dystrophic society in the ruins of Chicago.  I found little enjoyment in the first two installments so my expectations for the third one, ALLEGIANT, didn’t exist.  And yet, it still failed to meet them.
            After the defeat of Janine & a disagreement over the treatment of her supporters by the new leadership, Tris (Woodley) & Four (James) decide to escape Chicago & explore the other side.  Soon after, they are rescued by members of the army protecting the Bureau of General Welfare, headed by David (Daniels).  Tris soon learns from David about the purpose of the Bureau, its relation to Chicago and the lineage & destiny of Tris.
            Let’s say your biggest ally & lover comes up to you and warns you about the possible sinister happenings of the organization that you know little about.  Do you trust him or the leader of said organization, who you met a few days ago?  Here’s another one: Your biological son comes to you to warn you about the fallout that will occur from an attack on a rival faction.  Do you trust him or this slimy, arrogant little punk you’ve known for about an hour?  ALLEGIANT features characters who have been though recent rough physical & mental battles in the previous two movies where they have to have absolute trust in the person in front, behind or next to them in order to keep their fight going.  But all allegiances, whether through birth or genuine chemistry, are pretty much thrown out the window in two significant, inconceivably stupid decisions by major characters.  I do find it interesting that both decisions were made by women in a movie based on a book by a woman.  It’s almost as if this movie is trying to be some sort of weird, anti-feminism thing perpetrated by director Robert Schwentke (INSURGENT, RED, R.I.P.D.) & writer Noah Oppenheim (THE MAZE RUNNER).  There’s probably nothing to that since ALLEGIANT is all talk & no substance.
            As bad as the main story is, what makes ALLEGIANT unbearable is the presence of Miles Teller’s Peter Hayes.  Hayes’ entire role in this series of movies is to add sarcastic comments in the most assholishly way possible and undermine our heroes in every step of the way.  Teller is at his absolute worst during the final two minutes as Tris gives her closing, voiceover monologue, which is juxtaposed with scenes of Peter whining outside the fence that guards the Bureau’s headquarters, distracting us from the final message the movie wants to present to its audience.  How was he able to hang with that group for so long considering how much damage he’s caused in three movies and HOW THE F*CK WAS HE NOT IMPRISIONED OR EXECUTED AT THE END OF THIS MOVIE?!?!
            Shailene Woodley can act and I understand she needs these bigger movies to keep her visible in the eyes of the general movie-going public but these DIVERGENT movies don’t give her any challenges.  She is the only one of the young actors who isn’t a nuisance since Theo James is only slightly more charismatic than Taylor Lautner, Zoe Kravitz is given nothing to do until the final action sequence and Miles Teller…I’ve already had my rant about him.  I’ve seen Jeff Daniels give better performances in Pure Michigan commercials.  Daniels, just like everyone else, appears to just go blandly through the motions until the third act where some action actually occurs.
            Despite the fact that it looks professionally done, ALLEGIANT is a miserable experience in any way you look at it with a boring first hour, a poor second hour hampered by two inconceivably bad decisions and the most annoying adult male character I’ve ever seen in a movie.  The appeal of this entire series is baffling to me but never in a million years would I think I’d see another YA adaptation this inept.