Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Watch: 'Ghost in the Shell' Gets First Full Trailer


The first full trailer for the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation dropped yesterday. The movie has been at the centre of a so-called 'whitewashing' scandal, after Scarlett Johansson was cast in the role of Japanese character Major Motoko Kusanagi. The trailer has elicited mixed reactions from fans of the original manga books and animated films. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Box Office Briefing: 'Shut-In' Gets Shut-Out of an Otherwise Strong Weekend

Doctor Strange held on to the number one spot at the North American box office with an impressive hold. Dropping just 49.5% in its second weekend (the third-best second week hold of all the MCU features), the film brought in a total of $42 million. This brings it to a global total just shy of $500 million, meaning it is fast-approaching Ant-Man's lifetime gross after only three weeks of release. Don't be surprised to see a Doctor Strange sequel announcement in the coming months.


Meanwhile, Denis Villeneuve's thoughtful sci-fi feature Arrival also came out of the gates strong. The film, which stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, opened with $24 million. This is the highest debut for a Villeneuve picture to date (his previous work includes Sicario and Prisoners), while this is also a better-than-average opening for Amy Adams. Indeed, this is her biggest opening weekend since The Muppets which opened to $29 million back in 2011.

While Arrival had a healthy opening it still found itself settling for number three, thanks to a very impressive hold for Dreamworks' Trolls. While the critical reception for the film has been lukewarm at best, with a second week drop of just under 25%, it appears there is much audience interest in this film loosely based on the iconic toys of the 1980s.


Hacksaw Ridge and The Accountant also performed well in their second and fifth weekends respectively, while the low budget holiday-themed comedy Almost Christmas had a solid opening of $15 million. The only other wide release was Naomi Watts' Shut-In, which proved to be the weekends one sore spot. It pulled in just $3.6 million, proving to be another disappointment for Europa Corp following the summer's bizarre comedy Nine Lives.



Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: Doctor Strange (Spoiler-Free)

Doctor Strange is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and brings yet another classic super-hero to the party. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world-class neurosurgeon whose work is some of the best in his field, but all this success has made him arrogant and selfish. After being involved in a terrible car accident (caused entirely by his own reckless driving), Strange's hands are seriously injured and he is unable to perform surgery. His desperate attempts to heal eventually lead him to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who opens his eyes to a world of magic and endless possibilities.

Doctor Strange stumbles out of the starting gate with an opening act that brings little new to the table. The title character initially comes off as little more than a less likeable Tony Stark, and the supporting cast take some time to grow into their roles. Additionally, in the film's first half many of its attempts at humour fall flat, with numerous jokes more likely to be greeted with awkward silence than thunderous laughter. Fortunately though, the further this movie gets into its two-hour runtime the stronger it becomes, with its final impression being that of yet another satisfying super-hero epic from Marvel Studios.


There are a lot of interesting new ideas in Doctor Strange which make it well worth the price of admission. For starters, the visual effects are some of the most mind-bending ever put to film and ensure that this movie lives up to its name. Initial fears that the visual style would draw too heavily from the likes of Inception are unfounded; while there are certainly moments that are reminiscent of that 2010 hit, Doctor Strange puts enough new spins on these ideas (sometimes literally) that it successfully crafts its own identity.

Also, without spoiling anything, this movie has a fascinating final battle sequence which is a very inventive departure from what is usually seen in the genre. Genuinely unexpected and refreshingly original, this finale could be used to argue against the view that super-hero films have nothing new to offer.

Something that the MCU movies have consistently struggled with is a lack of compelling villains, with Tom Hiddleston's Loki being the only one to leave a lasting impression. Doctor Strange's main villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), doesn't reach the giddy heights of Hiddleston's charismatic trickster but is in the upper echelon of MCU baddies. With a clear motivation, personality and an intimidating look he shouldn't be as easily forgotten as some earlier villains have been.

Mikkelsen does well in the role and most of the cast is similarly strong; once they get past their aforementioned early wobbles Cumberbatch and Swinton bring some great performances, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo also deserving of praise. One weak link would be Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, a role which fails to develop outside of the generic love interest archetype.

Overall though, despite a troubled start and a few rough edges the finished product is an entertaining movie, one which should please both fans and newcomers alike. The initial shortcomings are redeemed by an exhilarating second half which offers some fantastic action sequences, and ends in a clever and satisfying way.

Friday, 14 October 2016

'Doctor Strange' To Defeat 'Ant-Man' (At The Box Office)



Doctor Strange is likely to gross more in its opening weekend than 2015's Ant-Man, industry experts say.

The super-hero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch opens in North America on the 4th November, and on Thursday a major tracking service projected a first weekend total of $64 million or higher.

This is a noticeable improvement on the debut of Marvel Studios most recent new franchise Ant-Man, which opened with $57 million in mid-July of last year.

The film sees Cumberbatch in the role of Stephen Strange, a former neurosurgeon who seeks the healing power of mystical figure The Ancient One, after a car accident leaves his hands seriously injured.

As the 14th feature film from juggernaut Marvel Studios, Doctor Strange is expected to become yet another franchise for their so-called 'Cinematic Universe' which also includes such characters as The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and also stars Tilda Swinton (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal).

Monday, 26 September 2016

Box Office Breakdown: The Magnificent Seven

It is telling just how dire a position the western genre is in that The Magnificent Seven's $35 million debut has been announced by many as a great victory. With a $90 million budget not including advertising costs, this debut would be considered the bare minimum needed from a film of a more commercial genre. Frankly though, the western can be considered anything but in this day and age. With a few notable exceptions such as Quentin Tarantino's 2013 hit Django Unchained, the western has produced a string of flops in recent years that count the likes of The Lone Ranger, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Cowboys & Aliens among their number.

With this in mind, even with box office heavyweights like Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington attached, The Magnificent Seven was far from a safe bet for box office success. Therefore, I would speculate the warm congratulations the film has received for its frankly bog-standard debut over the weekend, a product of industry relief that they can again declare a blockbuster to be not an outright flop -- something they didn't get many chances to do over the summer movie season.


And to be fair, The Magnificent Seven  cannot be considered a flop at this point in time. This debut is unremarkable but not necessarily bad, however the executives at Sony and MGM should pause for thought before they prematurely raise any celebratory banners. With a predicted final domestic gross for The Magnificent Seven looking to be somewhere between the $110-$130 million mark, this feature will need significant support from overseas audiences to turnover any major profit (or indeed any profit at all). This is something that few Westerns have been able to gain in recent years, with most struggling to get past $100 million internationally, meaning in a best case scenario The Magnificent Seven is currently looking at a total worldwide gross under $250 million (and we can assume it will need at least $225 to start making profit).

All things said then, The Magnificent Seven is shaping up to be the most modest of hits for Sony and MGM, but as we leave a summer dominated by financial disappointments (at best) and huge disasters (at worst), a film making any profit whatsoever appears to be newsworthy.



Thursday, 18 August 2016

Thoughts on John Campea's Deleted Ben-Hur Review

This article contains spoilers for both the 1959 and 2016 Ben-Hur movies.

Yesterday, film critic and reporter John Campea uploaded his review of this week's Ben-Hur remake to his self-titled YouTube channel. Intrigued to see how the film was faring with critics, I was one of the many who clicked on the review and was left subsequently puzzled.

Campea had some positive remarks for the Ben-Hur remake, but ultimately gave the film a negative review largely due to how it ended. The critic took issue with how the sister and mother of main protagonist Judah Ben-Hur -- Miriam and Tirzah -- were miraculously cured of their leprosy after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, particularly as he claimed that this did not happen in the 1959 Ben-Hur movie (the most famous of this story's many adaptations).

This was immediately confusing to me as having watched the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur movie only last year, I remember quite clearly that this did indeed happen in that adaptation of the story, while Jesus cured the two women in a similar fashion in Lew Wallace's original novel from 1880. I wasn't the only one to recall this detail of the iconic story, and soon the comments section of the review was filling up with people pointing out Campea's error.

What was most confusing to me about this situation was that throughout his review Campea spoke as someone who had seen the 1959 cinematic landmark, at one point even imploring his viewers to seek it out themselves if they haven't already. Yet if he had actually seen the three and a half hour epic, wouldn't he have remembered one of the most pivotal scenes in its closing act?

The only other option is that Campea saw the film so long ago that he had forgotten how it ended, but I don't believe that excuses this behaviour. 

If he was pretending he had seen the original film in order to boost the credibility of his opinion on the matter, then that is very deceitful of him. If he hadn't seen the film in so long that he'd forgotten how it ended, he should have refreshed his memory either by watching it again or by simply reading through the Wikipedia plot synopsis, before using a non-existent change as a major criticism of the remake. The fact he chose not to I feel was inexcusably lazy for one of YouTube's most prominent film critics.

Whatever the reality of the situation, the review has since been taken down which seems to suggest Campea is aware of the error he made. 

This video frustrated me personally as it was such a large mistake that was so easily avoidable, and it's a kind of sloppiness that would only be deemed excusable on YouTube. As much as I enjoy the thriving film criticism community on the video-sharing site, it is in situations like these where you see quite vividly where it falters in comparison to more traditional film reviews from outlets such as the Guardian or the BBC. Such major mistakes from paid film critics would not be accepted on those sites, which makes me wonder why we're more willing to accept them from paid film critics on YouTube?

This is not intended as an attack on John Campea, I'm sure he works very hard to produce as much content as he can. I just feel that mistakes like these shouldn't be brushed off, as all they do is make YouTube seem less credible than other film criticism sites, and that could cause long-term problems.

Friday, 12 August 2016

TEN Film and Television Awards 2016: The Winners

It's finally here! Long overdue, the winners of The Entertainment Network Film and Television Awards 2016 have been announced, although the previously planned video ceremony has been cancelled. These are sad times indeed.


Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Winner: Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)
Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jason Statham (Spy)
Michael Pena (Ant-Man)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Winner: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)
Rachel Weisz (The Lobster)
Rebecca Hall (The Gift)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Scarlett Johannson (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture

Winner: Andrew Garfield (99 Homes)
Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture

Winner: Emily Blunt (Sicario)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Maika Monroe (It Follows)
Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak)

Best Director

Winner: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
Guillermo Del Toro (Crimson Peak)
Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)

Best Picture

Winner: Ex Machina
99 Homes
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian

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Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

Winner: Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil)
Aaron Paul (Bojack Horseman)
Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
David Tennant (Jessica Jones)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

Winner: Yael Grobglas (Jane the Virgin)
Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Jean Smart (Fargo)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil)

Best Lead Actor in a Television Series

Winner: Patrick Wilson (Fargo)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Jesse Plemons (Fargo)
Terrence Howard (Empire)
Will Arnett (Bojack Horseman)

Best Lead Actress in a Television Series

Winner: Kirsten Dunst (Fargo)
Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)

Best Television Series

Winner: Fargo
Bojack Horseman
Daredevil
Jane the Virgin
Jessica Jones
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Box Office: 'Nine Lives' is Dead on Arrival

Yesterday we discussed Suicide Squad's impressive opening weekend, and our projections for next week's box office results. Now though, it's time to take a closer look at the older films that aren't making so many headlines, but are still kicking around in the top ten.

For starters, there's Jason Bourne; the Matt Damon franchise revival opened relatively strong last week with just shy of $60 million, the second highest debut for this franchise just behind 2008's Bourne Ultimatum. Unfortunately, the story isn't quite so positive going into week two, as the release of Suicide Squad almost certainly took the wind out of Bourne's sails. The film suffered a 61% drop pulling in a little over $20 million in its sophomore weekend, not a  disaster by any means but perhaps an indication that this film won't have the legs of last year's Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

While you could put this down to Bourne's lukewarm critical reception, this is a recurring theme that has haunted the entire summer movie season this year thus far. WIth a new tentpole blockbuster hitting theaters almost every weekend, few films have been able to find their footing before losing the attention of movie-goers; Suicide Squad cannibalized Jason Bourne, just as Jason Bourne cannibalized Star Trek Beyond one week prior.



As we discussed yesterday, Suicide Squad seems to be one of the only films that will prove an exception to the rule. The film has relatively little competition on the horizon, and that should put it in the best position possible to hold steady in the face of bad reviews -- something March's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not able to do.

One film that has been holding remarkably well is Mila Kunis comedy Bad Moms, which managed to hold its number three position following its solid debut last weekend. Falling just 41%, the $20 million picture now boasts a domestic haul of over $50 million. This is a real boost for Kunis who seemed to have lost some of her star power following the one-two punch of critical and commercial flop Jupiter Ascending and her surprising replacement in Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2 (although that can be seen as Kunis dodging a bullet, depending on how you look at it). Bad Moms can also be seen as a win for newbie distributor STX Entertainment, this being their highest grossing film to date by a significant margin (their previous record holder being Joel Edgerton's The Gift which reached $43 million domestic late last year).

Also holding well is Illumination Entertainment's animated offering The Secret Life of Pets, which is now up to a domestic total of nearly $320 million from a relatively small $75 million budget. A sequel to the film has recently been greenlit, giving the fairly young animation studio a third successful franchise after the Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss movies.

If the stories of Bad Moms and The Secret Life of Pets are evidence of anything, it's that keeping your budget reasonably low is in most cases a wise thing to do; this is a lesson those behind the latest Star Trek film should have learned sooner. Indeed, in spite of the fact that 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness was something of a financial under-performer, Paramount chose to invest a similarly colossal budget into the franchise's third entry: $185 million. After opening with the lowest debut to date since this rebooted series began, Beyond has seen its takings drop alarmingly quickly over the last two weeks. At this point its domestic total is unlikely to get above the $150 million mark, and worlwide the film is only at about $195 million.

If Into Darkness' disappointing performance wasn't enough for Paramount to reassess their investment in this franchise, this surely will be. At this point it wouldn't be surprising if the previously announced fourth entry in the franchise (which would see the return of Chris Hemsworth in a much larger role) was scrapped entirely, at the very least you can expect the film to be significantly cheaper than its precursors.

Bizarrely positioned against DC's juggernaut Suicide Squad movie was Europa Corp's utterly ridiculous Nine Lives, starring Kevin Spacey as a man who swaps bodies with his house cat. The first trailer was met with bewilderment and some outright disbelief by the people of the Internet a few months back, and after all hopes of the film achieving "so bad it's good" status were extinguished last week it's unsurprising that the feature failed to find an audience.


Debuting at number six with a minuscule haul of $6.2 million, the only comforting part of this whole situation is that at least the film won't be a hugely expensive flop with a budget of just $30 million -- which still seems surprisingly high in this reporter's opinion. In a world where the likes of The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory are currently in theaters, you can't blame most families for passing on Nine Lives. Europa Corp. should have seen this coming and pulled the plug on this picture before the cameras even started rolling.

The James Wan-produced micro-budget horror film Lights Out continues to impress, now holding a domestic total of $54 million from a budget of just under five. Less impressive are the three films rounding out the top ten, starting with the Emma Roberts/Dave Franco thriller Nerve which dropped 48.5% in week two sending it down to number eight. This isn't a terrible hold but as the film didn't open with very much to begin with it seems to paint a fairly dismal picture for the feature going forward.

Ghostbusters is next up at number nine, now heading into the closing weeks of its theatrical run the film has only managed to make $116 million domestically, with a worldwide total of $180 million. This is not a good sign for what was intended to be a new series of films, with director Paul Feig having said some weeks ago that the film would have to make it to $500 million to get a sequel. That isn't going to happen. Where the franchise goes from here is tough to call, with a direct follow-up to this reboot seemingly unlikely.

Finally, Ice Age: Collision Course is at number ten. The film's domestic box office numbers have been meager, but this is a franchise which for many years now has relied on overseas audiences to keep itself afloat. With just $54 million racked up in the States, the film is up to $288 million worldwide thanks to those foreign box office numbers, but still it's looking to be one of the weakest entries in the long-running series to date.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Suicide Squad - $135 million
2. (1) Jason Bourne - $22.7 million
3. (3) Bad Moms - $14.2 million
4. (4) The Secret Life of Pets - $11.5 million
5. (2) Star Trek Beyond - $10.2 million
6. (-) Nine Lives - $6.5 million
7. (6) Lights Out - $6 million
8. (8) Nerve - $4.9 million
9. (7) Ghostbusters - $4.8 million
10. (5) Ice Age: Collision Course - $4.3 million

Monday, 8 August 2016

Box Office: Suicide Squad Brings New Meaning to 'Squad Goals'

A barrage of bad reviews simply wasn't enough to slow the momentum of Suicide Squad going into its opening weekend, where the film performed as projected bringing in $135 million over the weekend and breaking several records in the process. The DC Comics adaptation can boast not only having the largest August opening day to date ($62.5 million), but also the largest August opening weekend of all time dwarfing Guardians of the Galaxy's $94 million from 2014.

There was never really any doubt that Suicide Squad would open big, but what these reviews have called into question is the film's long-term performance. No matter what your personal opinion of the film is, there's no denying that Batman v Superman's critical reception did impact its box office takings, and can be considered at least partly responsible for the film's hefty 69.1% second week drop. That film ultimately went on to gross $872 million worldwide, a figure which Warner Bros. saw as disappointing. This isn't hugely surprising when you consider that the combined cost of Batman v Superman's production and marketing was a colossal $415 million, and film studios usually only see about half of a film's box office gross returned to them (in this case that would be about $436 million).


It's hard to say for sure whether Suicide Squad will suffer the same rapid decline as BvS, but at this point it seems like there's a solid chance. Some analysts are expecting Suicide Squad to drop by about 67% next weekend, a slightly better hold than DC's previous feature although BvS did open higher so perhaps that's an unfair comparison.

One thing that Suicide Squad does have in its favour is a relative lack of competition. The widest release next weekend is Disney's Pete's Dragon remake which seems to have a general lack of buzz surrounding it. The Mouse House has had a lot of success with previous live-action remakes Cinderella and The Jungle Book, but at this rate Pete's Dragon is unlikely to perform on those levels. I would predict a debut between $30 and $35 million, performing more in line with the likes of Alice Through the Looking Glass and TMNT: Out of the Shadows than those bigger Disney juggernauts. However, even if the film was to open higher it doesn't seem to share an audience with Suicide Squad and the two could still conceivably co-exist.


Animated comedy Sausage Party could eat into more of the Squad's target audience, but the film's R rating should keep it from overtaking the DC flick. At this point, it's difficult to predict whether Sausage Party will perform on the level of recent Seth Rogen comedies This Is The End and Neighbours 2 (both of which opened with around $20 million), or if it can wrangle in a greater audience with its unique premise in the same way Seth McFarlane's Ted did back in 2012 (which opened with over $50 million). I'd say its most likely to fall somewhere in between, but land closer to a Rogen debut (especially considering Ted 2's under-performance seems to suggest audiences only have so much time for these kinds of comedies).

Meryl Streep biopic Florence Foster Jenkins also opens next week, but with a smaller theater count could struggle to make an impact. A performance on-par with last summer's Ricki and the Flash seems a reasonable expectation, that would give Jenkins a debut between $5 and $8 million.

We'll have more box office coverage coming later today, in the meantime here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Suicide Squad - $135 million
2. (1) Jason Bourne - $22.7 million
3. (3) Bad Moms - $14.2 million
4. (4) The Secret Life of Pets - $11.5 million
5. (2) Star Trek Beyond - $10.2 million
6. (-) Nine Lives - $6.5 million
7. (6) Lights Out - $6 million
8. (8) Nerve - $4.9 million
9. (7) Ghostbusters - $4.8 million
10. (5) Ice Age: Collision Course - $4.3 million

And here's our final predictions for next week's chart:

1. Suicide Squad - $50 million
2. Pete's Dragon - $33 million
3. Sausage Party - $28 million
4. Jason Bourne - $12 million
5. Bad Moms - $9 million

Outside of the top five, we're predicting a $6 million debut for Florence Foster Jenkins. Be sure to come back next week to see how our predictions compare to the real results!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Box Office: Finding Dory Dominates, Warcraft Doesn't Respawn

In a summer that has been somewhat unkind to blockbuster sequels, Finding Dory has managed to break the trend to become yet another smash hit for Pixar animation. The film opened with $136 million over the weekend -- the largest opening weekend for an animated feature ever -- and close to double the $70 million the first film debuted with back in 2003. Pixar are moving ahead with numerous other sequels including Toy Story 4, Cars 3 and the long-awaited Incredibles 2 and looking at these numbers it's not hard to see why. This opening is a far cry from the rare misstep the studio made last winter with original film The Good Dinosaur, which went on to become the lowest grossing feature Pixar has made to date. Finding Dory more than makes up for that film's shortcomings and proves that audiences young and old still have a lot of time for Pixar movies.

 
The other big new release over the weekend was Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart's action-comedy Central Intelligence which came in at number two with an opening of $34.5 million. This opening matches that of Hart's previous starring role (January's Ride Along 2), and has generally been seen as a solid if unremarkable start for the movie which is projected to finish with a domestic gross of around $90 million.
 
Still, while Central Intelligence's opening may not be turning any heads at least it isn't shocking people Warcraft-style, as the videogame adaptation continues to be rejected by American audiences. Indeed, after the film's meagre $25 million opening it was all but guaranteed to flop in the US, however a miniscule second week drop would have done at least a small amount of damage control. Sadly, the film had no such luck falling a huge 73% and making just $6.5 million on its second weekend. That's the third highest second week drop ever for a film screening in more than 3,000 locations, behind only 2009's Friday the 13th and last year's Fifty Shades of Grey. The film's fate now weighs even more heavily on Chinese audiences, with whom it continues to be a smash-hit.


The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 both suffered from greater second week drops than their respective first entries, although nothing quite as brutal as Warcraft. The Conjuring 2 fell 61.5% in comparison to 2013's The Conjuring which fell a more reasonable 46.9% in its sophomore weekend. This is only slightly disappointing as thanks to the affordable nature of these films, The Conjuring 2 is still a big success and this is a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down.

One franchise that might put the brakes on just a little is Now You See Me, as the more expensive second film continues to underperform. The film's 56.9% drop leaves it with a ten-day domestic total that is nearly $20 million less than the original film had at this point in its run. Whether or not the third film still goes ahead is unclear, but if it does don't be surprised if its given a smaller budget.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Finding Dory - $136.1 million
2. (-) Central Intelligence - $34.5 million
3. (1) The Conjuring 2 - $15.5 million
4. (3) Now You See Me 2 - $9.6 million
5. (2) Warcraft - $6.5 million
6. (5) X-Men: Apocalypse - $5.21 million
7. (4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $5.2 million
8. (6) Me Before You - $4.1 million
9. (8) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $3.6 million
10. (9) Captain America: Civil War - $2.2 million
 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Donald Glover Joins Spider-Man: Homecoming, Probably Isn't Miles Morales

Industry trade Deadline reported yesterday that Donald Glover (also known by the stage name Childish Gambino) has officially joined the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming. To those who have been following the 'Donald For Spider-Man' campaign this is big news, for those who haven't allow me to fill you in.
 
Back in 2010 when Sony's Amazing Spider-Man reboot was still searching for its lead, a fan of Glover's work suggested that he should be one of the actors in the running for the title role. The actor, then starring in NBC's Community, embraced this idea asking his fans to tweet the hashtag #Donald4SpiderMan in order to see how far they could spread this fan-casting. The campaign soon gained a large following, although ultimately the role went to Andrew Garfield with Glover claiming he was never given the chance to audition.
 
The idea remained in people's minds long after the release of the 2012 reboot regardless, with the creation of the black-Hispanic Spider-Man Miles Morales in 2011 only adding more fuel to the fire. Glover's casting in this latest instalment in the wall-crawler's film history (which stars Captain America: Civil War's Tom Holland in the lead), is a knowing wink to all those fans who had championed the actor for the role -- although it should be noted that Glover is almost definitely not playing the aforementioned Miles Morales.
 
 
In the comic-books, Morales gains his powers at the age of just thirteen years old and so if the character was to make his way to the big screen -- something which isn't out of the realm of possibility -- it's likely that they would cast someone far younger than the now thirty-two year old Glover. Indeed, Glover's role in the movie is currently unspecified but we can only hope that he'll be playing a character with some depth and importance, as it would be a shame to waste such a talented actor in a role only included to provide fan service.
 
Glover joins Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in the upcoming MCU Spider-Man flick, which is directed by Jon Watts and set for release on the 7th July 2017.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Review: Martian Comics #1

Julian Darius' Martian Comics is one of the most interesting super-indie titles I've read in some time. The majority of the book's page count is devoted to telling the story of Izzy Montoya, a young woman whose dreams about Mars are soon revealed to be the result of her body being possessed by an alien. In an interesting twist, the Martian character who takes control of Izzy's body is no evil emperor plotting to kill or conquer, rather she is just a woman who has grown disillusioned with Martian society and makes the decision to leave her body out of a desperate desire for a break from it all.
 
In this sense she's a character we can all relate to at least to some extent. Most of us have dreamed of a break from the stresses and strains of daily living, and Izzy's possessor faces those same struggles only on the face of a different planet. With her narration guiding almost the entire issue, by the final page writer Julian Darius has built a likeable protagonist with the potential to tell great stories with. One scene in particular sticks out in my mind in which Izzy tries to understand Earth humour and impress people at a party with hilarious results. Unfortunately, in this issue a well-developed lead comes at the expense of any well-developed supporting characters. Indeed, Izzy is very much front and centre this entire issue, which doesn't give the book's other characters much chance to grow.
 
 
The most prominent supporting character would be Izzy's sister Rita, who in the second half of the book is introduced as a loyal and loving sibling to the lead character. Still, her time in the limelight is limited and dominated by Izzy who spends most of these scenes trying to convince Rita of her extraordinary predicament, while also shedding some light on the history of Martian's interactions with Earth. Ultimately, it would be nice to see Rita given something pivotal to do herself throughout the duration of this story, something which could better define her personality and extend her beyond the bewildered but supportive sister archetype.
 
The only other memorable character introduced in this issue is the villain, known only as the Devil at this point. His appearance is brief and clearly just a hint towards things to come, so it would be unfair to complain that he isn't better developed. Judging from the cover, the next issue will give us a greater insight into this sinister figure, something I await with anticipation as his entrance here made quite the impression.
 
Although I had some gripes with the absence of a supporting cast, I did very much enjoy Martian Comics #1 thanks in large part to the creative mythology Darius has built around the series even at this early stage. Glimpses into Martian culture and even the method in which these creatures take control of a human host, as well as the effects a possessed person can have on those around them are all ideas I haven't seen before. There were a few things about life on Mars that I feel weren't explained terrifically well and bordered on confusing, but the ambitious world-building on display here is still impressive to watch unfold.
 
 
Where this issue falters is in its back-up story which explores the idea of Jesus as a human who was possessed by one of the book's Martian characters. This was an idea referenced mid-way through the book, and worked in passing as a fun line emphasising the expansive secret history Mars has with our planet. However, when elaborated on in the form of this short story it doesn't work quite as well. The whole five-page story feels disjointed and fails to capture your attention in the same way as the main plot, which ultimately I would have preferred to see more of in this slot. I understand that Darius is trying to expand his universe in these back-ups, but I feel like more interesting things could have been presented than a rushed recap of Jesus' life from the Martian perspective.
 
The artwork is carried out by Sergio Tarquini with colours from R. L. Campos; together this team provide the book with an appealing style in which each character has their own very distinctive look. Tarquini's designs of Mars and the aliens which inhabit it are memorable, and he shows a good understanding of portraying character's emotions on the page, an important factor in selling any scene. There are a few backgrounds that feel a little bland, but mostly the artwork is strong and nicely finished by Campos whose colours breathe life into the high-concept and futuristic Martian society, just as they also bring a realism and familiarity to our less impressive planet.
 
While not without its flaws, this is a strong debut for Martian Comics that science-fiction fans should really enjoy. This story shows great potential, and if it can correct its flaws in subsequent issues could prove to be a real hidden gem.
 
Martian Comics #1 is out now on ComiXology, with a Kindle edition also available.
 
 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Box Office: The Conjuring 2 Takes #1, Now You See Me 2 Underwhelms

James Wan's return to the horror genre in the form of The Conjuring 2 impressively managed to avoid the worrying trend that has been facing many sequels this summer, that of a debut significantly lower than the previous film. The Conjuring 2 now joins an exclusive club of movies that have been exceptions to that rule, a club whose only other member at the time of writing is Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War. The Conjuring 2 did debut ever so slightly lower than the first film in the series (bringing in $40.3 million to the first film's $41.8), but given just how unforgiving this summer's box office has been so far most Hollywood trades will likely ignore this difference in favour of finally having a positive headline to print. It's been a little while.
 
 
The Conjuring 2 was likely helped along by some strong reviews (something many sequels have been lacking this year), with an A- CinemaScore implying most audiences have walked away from the feature feeling satisfied. This gives James Wan an even stronger filmography going into his next project, an ambitious film adaptation of one of DC Comics' most famous characters: Aquaman.
 
Videogame movie Warcraft performed as expected over the weekend, unfortunately expectations weren't high. The film brought in just under $25 million, enough to take the number two spot but not enough for a film with a $160 million price tag. As we discussed here a few days ago, the key to a Warcraft sequel is held firmly in the grasp of the Chinese box office, the only place in the world where the film is pulling in huge numbers. The film is estimated to have brought in over $150 million in China alone after only five days of release, thanks in large part to the huge fanbase the Warcraft videogames have maintained in China for many years.
 
If Warcraft can keep up the momentum it has gathered in China then the Middle Kingdom could single-handedly get a sequel greenlit, and in the process win the hearts of the many Western fans who have insisted the film isn't as bad as its harshest critics would have you believe.
 


Magician-thriller sequel Now You See Me 2 couldn't avoid audience's sequel aversion in the way that The Conjuring 2 did, instead having to settle for the number three spot and an opening of $23 million ($6 million lower than the first film's debut back in 2013). This isn't good news for Lionsgate and Summit who were hoping this could be a new big franchise for them, showing dedication to the property by gifting this sequel a budget $15-25 million higher than the first film had while also prematurely starting production on a third entry. This isn't a disastrous debut by any stretch but given this inferior opening weekend and an as of yet unremarkable international performance, the film is looking likely to finish with a lower worldwide gross than the original.
 
Last week's number one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows drops three places to number four to accommodate the new releases, taking a drop of about 58%. This isn't far off the second week drop the first film was dealt two years ago (55.7%), but it's worth noting that the 2014 entry opened with a lot more than this sequel to begin with. Overall, Turtles 2 is another sequel that is significantly underperforming this summer, but given that these kinds of films often make a lot of their money back in product placement and merchandise sales this doesn't necessarily spell the end of this franchise.
 
Rounding out the top five is X-Men: Apocalypse, another sequel which at this point has no chance of matching its precursor in terms of box office figures; the kindest headline that can be found for Fox's Marvel sequel this week, is that it is now the eighth highest grossing X-Men film domestically -- not all that impressive when you consider there has only been nine.
 
The harshest weekend was suffered by Andy Samberg's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping which dropped 63% from its already abysmal opening, plummeting straight out of the top ten to number thirteen on only its second week. The film made only $1.7 million over the weekend, despite still playing in over 2,300 theatres. In stark contrast, Disney's The Jungle Book is still clinging onto its spot in the top ten after nine weeks of release, crossing the $900 million mark worldwide last week.
 
US Box Office (weekend of 10th-12th June 2016)
 
1. (-) The Conjuring 2 - $40.3 million
2. (-) Warcraft - $24.3 million
3. (-) Now You See Me 2 - $23 million
4. (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $14.8 million
5. (2) X-Men: Apocalypse - $10 million
6. (3) Me Before You - $9.2 million
7. (5) The Angry Birds Movie - $6.7 million
8. (4) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $5.5 million
9. (6) Captain America: Civil War - $4.3 million
10. (9) The Jungle Book - $2.7 million

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Review: Warcraft -- Is This The Beginning or The End?

For those unfamiliar with the games on which it is based, Duncan Jones' Warcraft could be an intimidating watch. Throwing its audience in at the deep end of the extensive lore that this series has accumulated over its twenty-two year history, there's no denying that the movie could have tried a little harder to welcome newcomers to its world. Warcraft's story struggles under the weight of a wave of new concepts and terminology that come with relatively little explanation, some sound mixing that leaves numerous lines seemingly inaudible, and a script which even after years in development hasn't been able to rid itself entirely of plot holes.
 
Nonetheless, in its grandest moments it's difficult not to get swept up in the vast world that Warcraft presents to us, and while flawed it has to be said that this is a far more competent film than the videogame adaptations that have come before -- thanks in part to a talented director with a passion for the source material.

 
Warcraft tells the story of how the long-waged war between orcs and humans began, with the grotesque creatures opening a portal from their decimated world to ours (the peaceful Azeroth) with plans to conquer it for themselves. Led by the sinister Gul'Dan the orcs begin attacking settlements, taking captives with the intention of eventually sacrificing them to reopen the portal to the orc homeworld. This would let in the so-called orc 'horde', and in the process destroy any and all chance that the humans had of winning this war. Needless to say, the stakes are very high indeed and the film does a good job of keeping the audience engaged throughout its two-hour runtime in spite of its aforementioned story issues.
 
This can be put down to some likeable leads in the form of Travis Fimmel's Sir Lothar, Paula Patton's Garona and Ben Schnetzer's Khadgar; they are perhaps the most well defined characters of the piece, and it's no coincidence that all three are from the human side of the conflict. While early interviews reveal that Warcraft's intention was to tell a war story that depicted neither side as inherently villainous, it seems hard to imagine that anyone could leave this film rooting for the orcs. Not only do they follow the repulsive warlock Gul'Dan, but they also have a lack of engaging characters with Toby Kebbell's Durotan being perhaps the only exception. The design of the creatures likely doesn't help; attempts were made to differentiate these characters visually, but the absence of strong personalities on the orc side still makes it difficult to pick them apart in a fast-paced action sequence.
 
That's not to say that the human characters are handled flawlessly, with a subplot about a father and son on our side of the conflict being severely undercooked. Additionally, characters like Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga's King Llane and Lady Taria found themselves in dire need of development, while Ben Foster's Medivh found his initially intriguing character thrown into incoherence by one of this film's more nonsensical plot twists -- a great shame as Foster's performance was possibly the strongest in the film, but was unfortunately put to waste.
 
It is quite possible that these characters would be better defined in a director's cut of the film, as reports of many scenes being scrapped to keep the runtime down are given credibility by the abrupt nature in which more than a few of them end.


What Warcraft lacks in character development it makes up for in world-building; while some aspects of this universe would have benefited from further elaboration, it was still enjoyable seeing the many different cultures and creatures on display here. This film successfully conveys the idea that Azeroth is a world that has been lived in for thousands of years, with secrets buried in every beautifully crafted set. Indeed, Warcraft is at the very least a treat for the eyes. While it perhaps leans too heavily on CGI here and there, the meticulously designed sets and costumes are a joy to behold.

With an ending that makes no attempt of tying up the film's many loose ends, it's quite clear that the hope is to turn Warcraft into cinema's next big fantasy franchise. Ultimately, that will depend on whether international box office numbers can make up for the movie's underwhelming prospects stateside. But given the effort that was put into making this movie a faithful adaptation of its much-beloved source material, one could argue that it deserves a second chance at the gold. It's true that Warcraft isn't a homerun for Legendary and Blizzard, but nor is it the disaster that some critics have gleefully declared it.

The plot can lose its footing here and there (something which will be particularly noticeable to those with no prior knowledge of the universe), and the film would have greatly benefited from spending more time defining the characters that make up its ensemble cast. But to say the film is without merit would be unfair. Warcraft's story does hold some exciting moments and there's great potential for the movie's surviving characters to be better served in a follow-up. Indeed, while Warcraft isn't entirely successful in all its aims, it sets up a rich and interesting world with far more skill than a typical video game adaptation; fans of these games and of fantasy in general could leave this feature feeling quite satisfied, and certainly shouldn't brush it off without consideration.
 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Brian Michael Bendis' 'Scarlet' Heads To Cinemax

Following the successful premiere of Robert Kirkman's Outcast, television network Cinemax has got its eyes on adapting a second mature comic-book series: Brian Michael Bendis' Scarlet. Published by Marvel's icon imprint (which allows for creator-owned stories told outside of the Marvel Universe), Scarlet has been running since 2010 and tells the story of the titular Scarlet Rue who starts a modern American revolution following the murder of her innocent boyfriend by corrupt police officers.
 
 
Bendis made the announcement that the series was headed to television at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, but stressed that at this point it is only in the earliest stages of development. The writer, who has already seen two of his comics recreated for the small screen in the form of Netflix's Jessica Jones and the PlayStation Network's Powers, claims that the team developing this latest adaptation is set to be formally announced soon.
 
The Scarlet comic-book series has been greeted with a generally positive reception from fans and critics alike, and is illustrated by Bendis' frequent collaborator Alex Maleev. The series has an infamously slow release schedule, with only nine issues released since it began six years ago.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Box Office: Will China Save Warcraft?

Just as it seemed videogame adaptation Warcraft was poised to flop magnificently, emerging box office powerhouse China swooped in to quite possibly change the story single-handedly. In just its first two days of release the film pulled in over $90 million in the country where MMORPG World of Warcraft has some of its strongest supporters. This impressive figure also comes packaged with some broken records, which may well give the critically-mauled film some good publicity going into its first weekend of release in the United States.
 
Warcraft not only boasts the highest two day total that China has ever seen ($90 million to the $88 million achieved by previous record holder Furious 7), but also holds the country's highest Thursday box office to date. The film brought in $46 million on its first day of release leaping ahead of Chinese film The Mermaid which opened with a $37 million Thursday earlier this year.
 
 
The fate of this movie may well rest on whether it can keep up this momentum in China, as at this point the film is set to be practically dead on arrival in the USA where it is predicted to open with a paltry $20-25 million. This figure pales in comparison to the $160 million price tag the movie carries with it, a number which doesn't include the advertising costs associated with the film. Estimates say that the film will need to make around $400 million in order to turn a profit. China is shaping up to be Warcraft's guardian angel and could well have a greater impact on its box office prospects than any other country on this green Earth, but that will depend on how quickly the film's takings drop. In some territories the film is looking to be quite front-loaded, opening impressively but quickly seeing its numbers plummet. If it pulls a repeat performance in China that could affect the film severely.
 
Still, that's a worry for the future; right now there's no doubt that Lionsgate along with Warcraft's other investors (many of whom are Chinese companies), are breathing a sigh of relief that this risky blockbuster is showing some signs of life overseas even if it doesn't appear to be in the US. That can be attributed at least in part to the lack of big name talent involved in the picture, and perhaps to moviegoers previous run-ins with videogame adaptations (of the thirty-two released up to this point, not one has been positively received by critics -- a trend which Warcraft has sadly been unable to break).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

The second Robert Kirkman creation to be adapted for the small screen after the juggernaut Walking Dead series, got off to a solid start last night with its season premiere entitled 'A Darkness Surrounds Him'. The episode comes out of the starting gate strong with a chilling opening scene depicting possessed boy Joshua, which is anchored by a very impressive performance by the young child actor Gabriel Bateman. Bateman displays a great understanding of body language, changing his physicality just enough to seem unnatural but not exaggerating to the point where things become cartoonish. What this makes for is a very memorable performance, and a child actor who may have stolen the episode from his far more experienced adult co-stars.

 
Indeed, this episode does seem at its most effective during the claustrophobic nightmare-fuelling exorcism scenes, and ultimately loses its footing in the scenes between. The introduction of Patrick Fugit in the role of Kyle Barnes feels uninteresting, possibly not helped by the fact that it comes so soon after the aforementioned shocking opener. Barnes is a deeply troubled character with a horribly dark past but it feels as if Fugit perhaps doesn't have the acting chops to portray such a role, overshadowed by his co-stars in most scenes. It isn't until roughly halfway through the episode that the performance shows signs of life, when an interesting plot twist makes things even worse for the unfortunate Barnes. Fugit takes full advantage of this development, and shows a marked improvement in subsequent scenes. Still, by the end of the episode it remains unclear whether he was the best choice to lead this series.
 
Wrenn Schmidt and David Denman appear as Kyle's caring adoptive sister and her less understanding husband, but neither character leaves a lasting impression with both requiring a great deal more development over the course of the series. The pair give the best performances they can with what they're given, but of the adult cast it is Philip Glenister who comes out on top with his turn as the weary Reverend Anderson proving to be one of the episode's highlights. The Reverend is perhaps the most well defined and interesting character featured in the episode, feeling like a truly new creation rather than a more general archetype -- a point which many of the show's characters are yet to progress from.


This isn't helped by a script which wobbles at points with certain expository lines feeling forced in to speed up the plot, leading to awkward moments which can briefly take you out of the story. One has to wonder whether this was the right project for director Adam Wingard, whose recent projects The Guest and You're Next have both left room for comic relief and tongue-in-cheek moments, neither of which can be found in this dour episode. Wingard does a competent job drawing from his previous experience in the horror genre but fails to leave a distinctive impression.

Still, in spite of its flaws Outcast definitely has potential. Although this first episode doesn't do a tremendous job of developing its cast of characters, that isn't to say there won't be opportunities to do interesting things with them further down the line. Mysteries crying out for elaboration are healthily sprinkled in throughout this episode, while a reference to the impending and rather ominous sounding 'great purge' gives a clue as to where future episodes could be headed. The show shines in its pulse-pounding and visually arresting exorcism scenes, but should be careful not to lean to heavily on this aspect as overexposure could lessen their effectiveness. Flawed but ultimately an interesting watch, Outcast is definitely a show which should be on your radar.
 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

After Legendary recently removed the Pacific Rim sequel from their upcoming release schedule, things were looking bleak for the Guillermo Del Toro creation and many suspected the follow-up would never make it to cinema screens. This wouldn't have been hugely surprising either as although the first film did make over $400 million worldwide, when you consider its colossal $190 million budget plus advertising costs that number becomes less impressive.
 
 
However, just when all hope was lost news broke yesterday that Pacific Rim 2 was indeed coming and in better form than many had dared hope. The sequel has bagged John Boyega for the lead role, an actor hot off his breakout role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens who has quickly established a sizeable fan following. He will be playing the son of Idris Elba's character from the first film, and will no doubt end up piloting one of the movie's gargantuan jaeger's by the time the credits start rolling.
 
No other plot or cast details were given, and so whether the sequel will also see the return of Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman remains to be seen -- but fans will be keeping their fingers crossed.


Guillermo Del Toro who is seemingly always working with an extremely packed schedule has stepped down from the director's chair for the sequel, possibly at the request of Legendary who its rumoured was looking for someone more cost-effective to helm the film. Apparently that someone is Steven S. DeKnight who is better known for his work as a producer, with his only recent directing gigs being an episode of Netflix's Daredevil series (for which he was also the showrunner). Handing someone so new to directing the reins to such a big budget franchise is a daring move, and only time will tell if it ends up being a successful gamble.
 
Pacific Rim 2 is set to start shooting sometime in the final quarter of this year, with a release date as of yet uncertain but rumoured to be sometime in 2018.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

This week's box office numbers continue what has been an ongoing theme throughout this year's summer movie season, that being a diminishing interest in blockbuster sequels from movie-going audiences. Indeed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is only the latest big budget follow-up to open with significantly less than it's precursor, perhaps a result of the so-called blockbuster fatigue that has been predicted for some time, or maybe a sign that audiences are ready to shift the emphasis back to original ideas after years in the grip of sequel-fever.
 
Alternatively, it could simply be that this summer's crop of movies frankly hasn't been up to par. According to review aggregate site Metacritic, the only films released since May began that have garnered generally positive reviews are Captain America: Civil War, The Nice Guys and this week's mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping which ironically suffered the worst debut of all the weekend's new releases.

 
Whichever the cause it's hard to ignore the cold shoulder many sequels have been given so far this year, with the Ninja Turtles weekend haul of $35 million being yet another example of this harsh treatment.  This opening is a little over half of the $65 million the first film opened with back in August 2014, in spite of the film receiving (marginally) better reviews than the first entry and a larger budget of $135 million. While disappointing, this soft debut was still enough for the Turtles to take the top spot, as fellow sequel X-Men: Apocalypse also finds itself on the receiving end of audience apathy.
 
The 20th Century Fox super-hero sequel opened last week to $30 million less than previous entry Days of Future Past, and fails to recover any ground this week with a steep drop of 66%. This amounts to a second weekend haul of just $22 million, most likely a consequence of the film's mixed critical reception. Apocalypse fared better overseas where a strong debut in China of $59 million made it the number one movie at the foreign box office, but still the film is unlikely to exceed or even match the total of Days of Future Past -- currently looking at a worldwide gross of around $650 million in comparison to Future Past's $747 million.
 
It is telling that the one film which opened above and beyond expectations this week was a non-sequel with no ties to any major franchise, that being romantic drama Me Before You. Expected to open with around $12 million, the film instead raked in over $18 million snagging the number three spot in the process. The film is a much-needed win for Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke who faltered last Summer with the critical and commercial flop Terminator Genisys, but has come under fire from some in the disabled community who claim the film suggests disabled people are a burden on their loved ones while advocating euthanasia. It remains to be seen how this backlash will affect the film going forward.


After a horrible opening weekend the forecast doesn't get any better for Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass this week, as the film drops 60% falling to number four with a second week haul of just over $10 million. Comparing the ten-day totals of 2010's Alice in Wonderland with this summer's sequel is genuinely shocking; by this point in its release the first film had already pulled in well over $200 million in the USA alone, while Through the Looking Glass has limped to just $50 million with it's colossal flop status all but confirmed. With a hefty price tag of $170 million plus advertising costs which is unlikely to be recouped, this film could well sound the death knell of Johnny Depp's blockbuster career.
 
The film's disappointing haul has been blamed by some on the actor's very public recent split from actress Amber Heard which came with accusations of domestic abuse, however with a lengthy string of flops behind him dating back to 2011 it feels as if Depp's career problems have been building for some time. Next year's Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales could very well be the actor's last chance in the big leagues, and if it too flops then Depp's face could be one absent from blockbuster films for the foreseeable future.
 
Alice Through the Looking Glass may well be the film worst affected by audience's apparent aversion to blockbuster sequels, with Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,  X-Men: Apocalypse and underperforming comedy sequel Neighbours: Sorority Rising getting easy rides in comparison. It's salt in the wound that in a week where so many sequels have struggled to find an audience, one of the summer's original movies has reached a huge milestone. Disney Animation's Zootopia has reached a worldwide total of $1 billion, only the fourth animated film to accomplish such a feat (after Toy Story 3, Frozen and Minions).
 
But just as things begin to look brighter for the future of original movies in Hollywood, a debut the size of the aforementioned Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping comes along. The spoof comes courtesy of comedy band The Lonely Island and is fronted by Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg. No doubt the film was hoping to benefit from the elevated star-power Samberg has gained from the critically acclaimed FOX sitcom, but surprisingly the film ended up opening with a lower debut than The Lonely Island's 2007 offering Hot Rod. Popstar settled for number eight bringing in just $4.6 million over the weekend, with the film's restrictive R-rating cited as a possible reason for such a disappointing result.
 
Domestic Box Office Results (June 3rd-5th 2016)
 
1. (-) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $35.2 million
2. (1) X-Men: Apocalypse - $22.3 million
3. (-) Me Before You - $18.2 million
4. (2) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $10.6 million
5. (3) The Angry Birds Movie - $9.7 million
6. (4) Captain America: Civil War - $7.5 million
7. (5) Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising - $4.7 million
8. (-) Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping - $4.6 million
9. (6) The Jungle Book - $4.2 million
10. (7) The Nice Guys - $3.5 million
 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky chronicles the unfolding of a complex military situation in Nairobi, where two Al-Shabaab extremists have been found preparing suicide vests for an imminent attack on a populated area. British Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is eager to eliminate them with a drone strike before they have the chance to leave, but the situation is made far more complicated by the arrival of a young girl selling bread who would likely be caught in the blast radius and possibly killed.
 
This already impossibly difficult situation is made all the more so by the tightly restricted time window those in charge have to make a decision. As Powell points out numerous times, the extremists could potentially leave at any given moment and the consequences of their escape could be devastating. The audience isn't spared from the gut-wrenching indecision as the film takes place more or less in real-time, and feels very much like watching a real military operation in action.
 
 
This is an impressive feat, especially when considered that some of the technology in the film is quite clearly beyond what is currently at our disposal. But even with this knowledge, there's a great sense of realism carried throughout this film's runtime and that is because the futuristic tech never distracts from the theme this movie is drawing attention to; that being the ethics of drone warfare.
 
This is a theme handled with surprising delicacy and sophistication; as characters start taking sides in the debate on whether or not to strike, neither preference is made to seem like the "right" choice nor is either side portrayed as either villainous or heroic. The film is remarkably objective and never tries to force a point of view onto the audience, instead giving us all the arguments and allowing us to form our own opinions on the matter.
 
This high-tension story is anchored by strong performances across the board with the aforementioned Mirren portraying a hardened Colonel, but still managing to retain a sense of humanity. Aaron Paul, still searching for his place in a post-Breaking Bad world, reminds us why he was the emotional core of that show in his role as American 2nd Lieutenant Steve Watts. As the one who would have to fire the missile, Watts is arguably the most concerned for the life of young girl Alia and displays quite powerfully just how much strain a single day in the military can put on a person's mind. 


Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips fame is undercover agent Jama Farah, and as the character in the most imminent danger is easy to empathise with and proves here that his 2013 Oscar-nominated debut was no fluke. Finally, Alan Rickman (who tragically passed away earlier this year) puts in an excellent performance here as Lieutenant General Frank Benson. Rickman manages to perfectly deliver some of the film's comedic lines while never losing his persona as a respected and somewhat intimidating high-ranking member of the military.
 
Indeed, that is something that could be said for the film as a whole. It does occasionally veer into darkly comic territory in its satire of government and military indecision, while pointing out just how far removed some of the key decision makers can be in situations like this. Still though, it never makes light of the obviously highly sensitive situation it depicts and doesn't become so satirical as to lose the very grounded and brutally realistic tone that it establishes early on.
 
Eye in the Sky is a thrilling look at the ethics of drone warfare that could quite possibly end up being one of the most thought-provoking films of the year.
 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Batman v Superman v Daredevil (2003) | Which is Better?


Batman v Superman has a lower score on Rotten Tomatoes than the Daredevil movie from 2003! But is this really accurate? David Craig presents this in-depth exploration of both films, with the intention of deciding once and for all which is the better super-hero movie: Batman v Superman or Daredevil (2003)?
 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Review: Midnight Special

This review is spoiler-free.

Midnight Special has been showered with praise by many critics, and so I'm quite disappointed to say that I feel the film has really let me down. Expectations were high given the strong track record of director Jeff Nichols and the impressive cast which counts Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver among its number. Unfortunately though, Midnight Special ends up buckling under its own weight by setting up a mystery it can't satisfyingly solve.


Indeed, it was around halfway through the movie that I began to suspect answers to the many questions this film poses were unlikely to be revealed, and as a consequence what tension the film had began to be drained. This also wasn't helped by its plodding pace and thin characters, many of whom lacked development.

Joel Edgerton's character stands out to me as particularly odd; he explains in the film that he only has a distant relationship with Michael Shannon's character Roy, and yet he seems quite happy to put his life on the line for him and his son while being remarkably unaffected by the young boy's superhuman abilities. This kinds of oversights make these characters feel less real, and in a film focused on exploring superhuman events in a very real-world setting that becomes a problem.


Still, the actors do the best here with what they're given. The entirety of the main cast are at the top of their game right now and it shows; frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon rarely lets us down, while Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver are hot off of recent head-turning performances in Fargo, The Gift, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens respectively. Meanwhile, Nichols was able to find a child actor with real talent, as the young Jaeden Lieberher impresses in only one of his first main roles in a major motion picture.

There are some engaging sequences in Midnight Special, particularly in the film's earlier scenes however when the final act falls apart quite so catastrophically as it does here, it's hard to see those moments as redemption. There is really no pay off to anything in the ending Midnight Special provides, ending with a bizarre sequence intended (I assume) to be emotional and exciting but ultimately failing at being either.

The warm critical reception to this movie implies that for some Midnight Special will be a pleasing experience; however, for those looking for a coherent story that can actually answer the mysteries it sets up I would recommend looking elsewhere.
 

Monday, 28 March 2016

TEN Film and Television Awards 2016: The Nominations

Admittedly this year's TEN awards show has arrived a little late; in an attempt to compile the strongest list of nominees possible, I decided to wait for some of the films I missed upon initial release to come out on DVD and streaming services. While arguably these awards are perhaps a little less relevant coming four months after 2016 drew to a close, I thought this would be a fun thing to do nonetheless.

 
A quick note before we continue; certain films that have been awards contenders at the major American shows such as The RevenantRoomCreed, and The Hateful Eight are not nominated here due to the fact that they were released in the UK in 2016 -- this awards show is strictly for films and TV shows released in 2015.
 
Without further ado, here's the nominations for this year's awards; we hope you'll return to see the winners later this month.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jason Statham (Spy)
Michael Pena (Ant-Man)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)
Rachel Weisz (The Lobster)
Rebecca Hall (The Gift)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Scarlett Johannson (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture

Andrew Garfield (99 Homes)
Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Emily Blunt (Sicario)
Maika Monroe (It Follows)
Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak)

Best Director

Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Guillermo Del Toro (Crimson Peak)
Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)

Best Picture

99 Homes
Ex Machina
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian

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Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

Aaron Paul (Bojack Horseman)
Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
David Tennant (Jessica Jones)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil)

Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Jean Smart (Fargo)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil)
Yael Grobglas (Jane the Virgin)

Best Lead Actor in a Television Series

Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Jesse Plemons (Fargo)
Patrick Wilson (Fargo)
Terrence Howard (Empire)
Will Arnett (Bojack Horseman)

Best Lead Actress in a Television Series

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Kirsten Dunst (Fargo)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)

Best Television Series

Bojack Horseman
Daredevil
Fargo
Jane the Virgin
Jessica Jones
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Winners to be announced early April!