Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Geek Peek 2015: The Boxed Office helps you geek-out on your movie going for the year ahead
Happy 2015! It’s time once again for all of us here at the Boxed Office take our annual crystal ball session concerning our most anticipated films of 2014. We look ahead at some of the biggest sci-fi, super hero and fantasy and CGI films coming soon to a theater near you:
(ARTH VADER AV) The Seventh Son (2/6) The lone remaining warrior of an ancient mystical order travels to find a foretold hero born with incredible powers, the last Seventh Son. Having watched this initial trailer for an 2014 release over a year ago, I am not sure what to make of this one, Pontificator. Generally, its never a good sign when a film is pulled and re-tooled or has a significant amount of new, re-shot material. Here's to hoping.
(AV) Jupiter Ascending (2/6) Who's ready for an original Wachowski Brothers screenplay? Apparently no one was a year ago. The original 2013 release of this film was halted when initial audience pools tracked so poor, executive pulled the film and completely re-tooled the film. In February 2015, we’ll see how that effort turned out. I will say, though, P-Man, the new trailers kind of have me a little giddy. Here’s to hoping Mila “TED” Kunis and Channing “Jump Street” Tatum can do something they have yet to do prove so far… that they can act.
(AV) Chappie (3/6) One the most talented directors in Sci-fi today is Neil “District 9” Blomkamp who’s latest film, Chappie, premieres March 6th. While initial reports are panning the film, I am excited to see what comes of this latest film. Another precursor to the ‘countdown to the singularity’, Chappie is the story of an AI / Robot who learns of the human world through the actions of his creator(s) and those that fear and mistrust him.
(AV) Ex Machina (4/10) It’s time for another Singularity story arc, Ponty. This one features the story of Caleb, a 20-nothing programmer employed at a large internet company, who wins a week at a private mountain retreat. But, when Caleb arrives at the isolated retreat he finds that himself swept up into a a strange and frightening experiment in which he must interact with the world's first true artificial intelligence, who takes on the form of a beautiful woman. Directed by horror pro Alex “28 Days” Garland, the movie chronicles an interesting inter-species coupling thats both telling and frightening.
(AV) Avengers: Age of Utron (5/1) When it comes right down to it, there really are only two big flicks to look forward to in 2015, Star Wars and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel Studio’s follow-up to their colossal 2012 hit, pits our heroes against the Avenger’s greatest adversary, the twisted AI construct, Ultron. With new foes, new allies and new costumes for Marvel’s most colorful band of brothers, Age of Ultron has every potential to exceed the $1.4 billion payday that accompanied the 1st movie.
(THE PONTIFICATOR TP) Mad Max: Fury Road (5/15) : Being a big fan of the original Max films (“Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior,” not so much “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”) I was happy to hear that director George Miller was attached to this project Vader. It means most of what made those films great will be returning for this reboot/reimagining although I was sad to see Max’s car get destroyed in the trailer (love that car). Tom Hardy is an excellent actor and the perfect choice to reprise the role of Max. This film looks as though it’s gonna be huge and the fact that they are offering it in 3D just tells me to expect some serious special effects! I hoping it’s everything the first two films were…and more.
(TP) Jurassic World (6/12): I’m a huge fan of all the Jurassic Park films and so I’m very excited about this latest installment, the fourth in the series, set twenty-two years after the original. Although director Colin Trevorrow hasn’t done anything thus far to impress me, I’m hopeful that Spielberg as executive producer and Chris Pratt as the lead can pull this off regardless of any shortcomings, anywhere. The premiss of the film has some cheese potential, I mean, in addition to the regular dinosaurs posing a threat (as usual) we now have a genetically modified dinosaur to deal with, but this type of film is not meant to be thought-provoking, just a wild ride. From what I have seen so far, it looks to be just that, a wild ride for the summer and I’m looking forward to it Vader.
(AV) Ant Man (7/17) Who’s psyched to see a grown man shrink down to be 1/4” tall? I know I am! The littlest big Marvel flick stars Paul “Ant Man” Rudd, Evangeline “I’m Lost as an Elf” Lilly and Michael “Henry Pym” Douglas. Shrouded in controversy, due namely to the hiring and 8-years-later firing of wunderkind director Edgar Wright, this film has almost everyone in a quandary about this film’s ability to resonate with audiences. As for me, I say this; if Marvel made The Guardians Of The Galaxy the top film of 2014, they can do anything. The trailer is fun and has CGI that will likely make the world of the Ant Man a giant success.
(TP) The Fantastic Four (8/7): I gotta say that even though I was gracious in my opinion of the first two films (being a comic geek and all), I have not been thrilled by what I have been hearing about this film. There has been much controversy over the cast, specifically Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, but reading the latest synopsis for the film, I might be willing to throw everything I know about the Fantastic Four out the window and come at this film with an open mind. I generally have not been happy with how Fox has treated Marvel characters, but it seems they might be taking some notes from Marvel Studios as it has been confirmed that the Fantastic Four takes place in the same cinematic universe as the X-Men. Despite the negative rumblings, I will remain optimistic.
(TP) The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (9/18): I wasn’t a very big fan of the first film, it just didn’t make sense to me on many levels (see the review here) so a continuation of the story doesn’t have me particularly excited. That said, the very fact that it takes place in the most scorched part of the Earth with new dangers and challenges does have me intrigued. I’m hoping this film makes more sense than the first, or at the very least can add more sense to the first. At any rate, great directing and awesome special effects can do much to salvage a film, so I’m hoping this film encompasses all of the above and leaves us with something interesting to review later Vader.
(AV) Victor Frankenstein (10/2) This unique take on Mary Shelley’s classic tale of the original plastic surgeon, is the tale of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster as told from the prospective of Igor, the film is told from the troubled young assistant's dark origins-likely his cameo in 2014’s Dracula untold–or his redemptive friendship with the a young Viktor Von Frankenstein. Igor becomes an eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein–and his infamous abomination–become the legends we all know. We can be cautiously optimistic that this film will be an entertaining–if not certifiable–train wreck. Heres to hoping, P-Man.
(TP) Spectre (11/6): I’ve been watching James Bond films since I was a kid (they actually predate me) and I have enjoyed all of them (some more than others). I have certainly enjoyed Daniel Craig as Bond and look forward to seeing more of him in this film, his fourth installment as 007. Monica Bellucci will be the “Bond Girl” of this film and at fifty years old, the oldest to ever do so. Although this film will not be based on any of Ian Fleming’s original work, the idea of a worldwide secret criminal organization (Spectre) seems to fit right in with what has come to be expected from a Bond film. Also expected is plenty of action, some gadgets…and a new Aston Martin. As with the previous Bond films by Craig, this one should be a lot of fun O’Dark One.
(AV) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (11/20) Pontificator, if I may, do you know why I am just this side of giddy over the release of this film? It’s because it means a certain and definitive END to this franchise that has quite frankly… overstayed its welcome. Let hit the finale button on this series and wrap this all up. I am fatigued over the amount and volume of HG comments, fandom, and movie chatter. This story has run its course for me and I will be happy to watch the final installment–and equally happy for the end of the franchise.
(TP) The Martian (11/25): This film seems like it will be a very interesting movie, although not as original as it appears to be. Based on a novel by Andy Weir, it looks to be a mix of “Gravity” meets “Interstellar.” Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars (remember he was also stranded in Interstellar) with little hope of rescue, but a determination to live in hopes of just that. With Ridley Scott directing, I have high hopes that this film will keep me on the edge of my seat and completely entangle me in the plight of Damon’s character. If this film even hints at the desperation and emotional angst Sandra Bullock displayed in “Gravity,” I’m predicting a winner here with a deep impact and lasting impression.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Exodus Gods & Kings makes two lost hours feel like wandering the desert for 40 years.
ARTH VADER (AV): I guess to be completely forthcoming, the epic biblical tale of Moses, the Egyptian prince who learns of (and eventually embraces) his hebrew heritage to herald God’s word to lead the Jewish slaves out of captivity and on a path to the promised land is the framework of this film. While the Christian Bible can be (in some circles) grounds for controversy and interpretation, the story follows the book of Exodus rather loosely. As is the case with all film adaptations, this movie takes some ‘creative liberties’ with the screenplay. But this, as the saying goes, is just the beginning. How did this movie hold up for you, old friend?
CASTING DIRECTING & ACTING
AV: Christian “Batman” Bale plays the leading role of Moses, Prince of Egypt (and not very well I might say). The casting is in short, a hot mess. John “Is there another Transformers movie coming?” Turturro is cast as the Pharaoh Seti and Aaron “Jesie” Paul is cast as Joshua. If those sound like baffling casting calls (and they ALL are) try Sigourney “Ripley” Weaver who shifts in for a hot minute as Tuya. Director Ridley “Please stick to Aliens” Scott does share a stunning vision of ancient Egypt that is curiously not offensive and is a cinematic spectacle. That is to say it looks incredible. As for the acting… in a word; “meh”. What’d you think, Pontificator?
AV: Though I did leave the theater with my socks on, the visual effects were quite impressive. From the CGI armies in the opening conflict to the parting of the Red Sea in the film’s finale, the VFX are a spectacle to behold and gives the viewer a grand sense of scope and impressive vision. Most notable were the seven plagues that are unleashed upon the Nile and Egypt; one does a get a sense that these plagues and natural disasters are indeed overwhelming.
TP: The special effects were done well, but I think by leaving the source material (the Bible) so far behind, it was a missed opportunity to really do some wonderful things onscreen. I really enjoyed the costuming and while no new ground was broken with the effects, there was certainly an opportunity to do much better than was done.
AV: Soapbox time here kiddies! Honestly, how many more movies must we wade through of prominent Black roles being portrayed by White actors? Christian Bale as Moses? C’mon Hollywood! Does it strike anyone as whacko that there are no prominent actors of color in movie that takes place in Africa? Whats next, redoing the Godfather with all Asian actors speaking in an Italian-American brogue? It’s getting ridiculous. And that is the word I would use to describe this whole film. Even deeper–because this is the deeper part of the review–the film seems to go out of its way to portray Moses as a crazy person and not a biblical character of historical importance. In short, the film seems to take a very neutral stance on the subjects of God, Miracles and the character of Moses himself. Spirituality aside, it’s hard to enjoy a film that has no sense of self conviction. Thoughts, P-Man?
TP: Look... the fact that Moses and Ramses II were separated historically by 200 years is just the tip-off the iceberg for me Vader. This presentation of Moses being some schizophrenic that apparently sees children that aren’t really there was absolutely idiotic. The presentation of the plagues as some kind of explainable natural occurrences that happened by happenstance was equally idiotic. I absolutely lost it when they showed Moses chiseling the ten commandments… I mean what??? The Bible says God wrote them with his finger, but the message here is a crazy old guy that sees imaginary people somehow came up with the moral backbone of civilized society. Ridley Scott took out the very thing that makes this story so alluring and exciting… God. I honestly would have gotten more enjoyment out of watching a remastered presentation of “The Ten Commandments!”
AV: Biblical spectaculars are an emerging genre in Hollywood but I don’t know if they should. This film was like a warm cup of tap water. Bland, hard to swallow, does the job but with no flavor or flair of any kind, and as you’re taking it in, you just know it could be so much better. With any luck, this will be Ridley Scott’s only biblical endeavor, seeing as how it was dedicated to his deceased brother. I will respectfully not offer any more negative feedback.
ARTH VADER rates Exodus: Gods & Kings: So if you like biblical spectaculars (plus or minus the spectacular) than you give this flick a go. A forgettable experience to be sure but not without some merit. Also, if you like watching movies that depict horrific scenes of horse violence, then you have a winner here. I swear, Ponty more horses are killed in this film than a little bit. Still, if you’re in the mood to watch a batch of A-Listers dial-in some mediocre performances, then Exodus:God & Kings is waiting. Afterward, you’ll see why I parted with only three (3) busted blocks and was all too happy to find the promised land—namely the theater exit.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies Is A Surprisingly Exciting Finale
ARTH VADER (AV): In what has likely been described as a horrific re-interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel that chronicles gentle Bilbo’s discovery of Sauron’s ring of power, The hobbit films have been a mish–mash of too much CGI, over-inflated plot and drawn-out story telling. Tolkien’s grand prequel to the great ‘war of the ring’ has been studied in middle-schools and high schools all over the world for nearly 40 years. The continuity of this film with it’s two predecessors is in alignment, though they have scant little to do with the original content but lets face it, these days that just doesn’t matter anymore, does it Pontificator?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There is little to discuss here with regards to continuity Vader, since the films left the books a long time ago. Legolas is not even in the Hobbit, nor is Tauriel…but it was still entertaining to see them in this film. If it’s about accuracy to the book…we’ll have to read the book. This film was not made for accuracy, but to deliver entertainment and rake in dollars, and it does a modicum both.
CASTING, DIRECTION & ACTING
AV: Nothing really new on the casting front for this film, old friend. The acting was solid, as each character reprises their roles from the previous films with some interesting introspection from Richard (Thorin Oakenshield) Armitage and Benedict (Dr. Strange) Cumberbach; as both the dragon Smaug and the frightening Necromancer. In his portrayal of the Dwarf lord struggling with his own inner turmoil, Armitage puts on a somewhat cardboard but nonetheless convincing tortured soul, adding to the old adage ‘heavy is the head that wears the crown.’
One thing that must be reiterated is how much of a master Peter Jackson is at depicting epic battles where massive armies collide, pan in, bring us into the battle up close and personal and then back out, is breathtaking.
TP: There is really nothing to say concerning the casting and acting in this film–both were superb. I was especially pleased with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Bard (Luke Evans). The directing could have been better though as I had some issues with the way the battle unfolded but I’ll get into that later.
AV: Here is where every Lord of The Rings film excels, P-Man. The opening engagement with Smaug The Terrible is CGI at its finest. While not breaking any new ground in the digital visual effects arena, the entire film is as impressive as ever. Say what you want about Jackson’s film making but these films are a wonder to behold. From the fantastic beasts to the grotesque monsters, movie-goers will be astounded at how good these films look.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: I must confess, that after the last film (The Desolation of Smaug) I was very much expecting another visually compelling flop. What we got was a pretty good action flick, but one devoid of story, dialogue, and ultimately merit. What this says to me is we got exactly what many thought we were going to get—a long, drawn-out over-indulgent, over-blown and over-the-top series of films that told in nearly eight hours what should have taken about half that time. The Hollywood self-inflicted formula of three-film trilogy franchises makes great sense to investors, producers and the studios, Not so much for film integrity. Fantasy film giants like George Lucas (prequel trilogy) or Peter Jackson (LOTR) seem to take truly landmark works and destroy their own legacies. It’s very literally snatching defeat form the jaws of victory. And Pontificator, it is so demoralizing. How say you?
TP: Battle of the Five Armies had me expecting to see the most epic fight scenes… ever. I mean, both “300” films and “Troy” stand out for the fights and battles. Now I’m not suggesting that there be more blood and gore, that would have detracted from the film, but I am suggesting that Jackson should have taken FULL advantage of presenting an ARMY of Elves. Why didn’t we see wave upon wave of Orcs being obliterated by the more agile and skilled Elves? Look at all the Elves armed with bows and realize there is not a single arrow shot from them during the entire forty-five minutes of battle. Although there was a great showing for the Dwarven King, there should have been incredible showings for any Elf on screen. I just didn’t get the sense that the Elves were the absolute elite and most feared combatants on Middle-Earth, and that’s exactly what anyone watching the film should have gotten…from the battle, not the formation displays before the battle.
Also, where was the resolution at the end? Did the Elves get what they came to mountain for? Did the men get what was promised? Why did the battle end when the good guys were so clearly outnumbered…even with the introduction if the Eagles? There were just too many open questions the battle created instead of resolutions to the problems at hand. Am I also the only one that noticed the premier Orcs were played by indigenous New Zealanders’ Manu Bennet and John Tui (message?)?
Thank you for the wonderful experiences Mr. Jackson, I'm happy we went there and back again with you. Now lets just move on shall we? I’m sure Mr. Jackson has more tales to spin and this Tolkien world / franchise has been tapped out. That said, I vote ‘no’ to further Hobbit-flavored sequels. P-Man?
ARTH VADER rates The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies: The best thing I can (probably) say about this film – and hopefully the franchise – is that its over. This last film was a fun watch from a visual effects standpoint but it was a hot mess, no story and even less reason for being. I'm happy to have seen them all and I’m done. Still, the movie could have been worse (hardly a selling point) so for that, I give Battle of the Five Armies a fitting five (5) Busted Blocks.
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies 6 /10 Busted Blocks
Monday, December 22, 2014
With the next installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Katniss & company try really hard to keep audiences engaged.
ARTH VADER (AV): The numbers are in and The Hunger Games will go down as one of the most beloved movie franchises in Hollywood history. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen–heroine of the downtrodden–takes on political corruption and societal oppression in this landmark series of fiction books–and now films. As installment three in what is (presently) a four-film story arc, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is clearly the set-up for the ‘beginning of the end’ of the terror-riddled reign of the Capitol over the 13 enslaved districts. The story picks up some time after the end of THG: Catching Fire. Speaking of fire, were you burning with desire to see this flick Mr. Pontificator?
CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING
AV: You know, it would, Pontificator. It might even make the franchise more compelling. Like all modern futuristic fantasy flicks of late, the cinematography of the Hunger Games movies is terrific. The visual effects are very good. And the cast is, well, all the usual suspects. J-Law brings her normal well-presented intensity to her Heroine. Woody (I still can’t jump) Harrelson joins all the pretty young faces to reprise their classic roles. The great Donald (President Snow) Sutherland and the late (and also great) Phillip Seymour Hoffman round out the super cast of Mockingjay, part 1. Surprisingly, Vienna-born Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) who has directed such sci-fi hits such as I Am Legend, Constantine and Catching Fire, tries like heck to bring a rather boring, calculated screenplay to a better place but to no avail. Thoughts Mr. P?
AV: Oh I wish I could agree, sir. Perhaps you are a more insightful movie watcher than I am. When it comes to SFX, the visual effects in this film are decent but the story is so muddled, I found it hard to simply sit-still and try to endure the onset of wrist-watching, yawning and the fluttering ever-heavier eyelids, For me, Mockingjay just never really took off. There is frighteningly little that can be called a visual effects in this film as everything simply feels like something I've seen in the past. Would you agree P-Man?
TP: I would have to disagree, oh Dark One, about the sentiments in the beginning of your paragraph, but agree on the latter. Great special effects is what I expected, and that’s exactly what I got. There was no new ground broken here, just everything we have seen before done the same way as before. That in itself might be a detraction since with every new film we hope to find better effects than the last, but I submit that it is also a blessing to not be subjected to worse effects than previous films. There isn’t too much to say about explosions and the plethora of aircraft shots except that they were consistent to expectations…as was the set designs and costuming.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: What surprised me the most was how downright boring this film was. I watch a good number of films over the course off a year and they range from blockbusters to indie films and beyond. The film seemed to only set the stage for the next one. It served no viable storytelling purpose as the characters sort of saunter from scene to scene. Whats more, I have a ton of additional concerns that were left unanswered that leave this film hanging for me. First, no one else has called it out so I will; it is IMPOSSIBLE to bring down two advanced, state-of-the-art fighter jets with an explosive tip arrow. Could you do this to an F-35 or an F-22 Raptor? No. In one of the film’s three (yes, 3) action scenes, Katniss brings down two jet fighters with an arrow. Wha–!?
Here is the deeper issue for me. This film is targeted to young people (mostly young girls), tweens to early 20’s. This franchise speaks to political unfairness. The injustices the elite visit upon the downtrodden and social inequities of a violent caste system that forces young people to eviscerate each other for sport because the government “says so.” Are any of these young women even ‘getting’ this? Do they even care? Or is this just more “cool warrior chick” stuff like a Ripley, Sarah Connor or that dopey Twilight girl that has already faded from memory? And if not, why does this film series even bother?
And the dialogue, oh God. Listen old friend, I struggle as it is with many of this year’s films in this genre. The two Hercules films, Transformers 4, The Giver and Sin City 2. This has NOT been a stellar year for the spoken word onscreen for sci-fi flicks. This movie is no different. Katniss goes from refusing to be the voice/face of the rebellion to essentially “ok I’ll do it” inside of 20 just minutes. Here’s a hint Hollywood, we already knew she would agree. Please stop wasting our time. Help me out here, Pontificator, please tell me I'm on the wrong track.
TP: Well… clearly I wasn’t nearly as displeased as you were old friend, so I don’t think I’m going to be much help. This film departs from the disturbing subject matter of children killing children and instead gets grounded in the more palatable struggle of an oppressed society seeking to break free of their oppressors. This is a familiar story that has been seen in reality many times…and it’s just eerie how the film parallels much of the current climate of out of control law enforcement. Just as profound as that is the use of the media in the film (and similarly in reality) to paint carefully crafted pictures of what special interests want others to believe as truth. This was the draw of the film for me as watching it simply highlighted the state of the world today, although not yet to the degree that Panem is. Yes the film had less violence and action as the previous ones, but the reflection it gave was so much more interesting… and relevant.
AV: Unfortunately, the inane use of the term “Part 1” right in the title implies their are subsequent follow-up “parts.” (Sigh) That means we all have to sit through another 2+ hours of J-Law making more uninteresting speeches about rising up against the capitol, something no one in the world should even need to have to hear. The real depressing news is that we can likely expect more of the same in “Part 2.”
ARTH VADER rates The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: Audiences have already spoken with their wallets and their attendance so my review may be moot. However, if you haven’t seen this film, I would encourage waiting for it to come to HBO/NetFlix/Red Box or whatever post-theater viewing venue you prefer. For me, this film is NOT good. Its’ boring with a paper-thin plot, amateurish dialogue, and woefully poor story pacing. And while I freely admit I’m outside the demographic of this film–or even this franchise–I couldn’t stomach giving this installment of Hunger Games more than three (3) Busted Blocks.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: 5 / 10 Busted Blocks