Welcome back Beardlings to a new edition of the Weekend Box Office Breakdown! I know it’s been awhile since we’ve discussed the weekend box office numbers but the results from this past weekend was interesting enough to warrant resurrecting this series (with a new format). Without any further ado, lets get into it!
Cars 3 – $53,688,680 – New Release
Wonder Woman – $41,268,850 – 29.5% Drop
All Eyez On Me – $26,435,354 – New Release
The Mummy (2017) – $14,510,960 – 54.2% Drop
47 Meters Down – $11,205,561 – New Release
There are a number of interesting things going on here but lets start at the top with Cars 3. $53.7 million is a lot of money, like a LOT, but when looking at it in comparison with the rest of the Cars and Pixar films in general, one can’t help but draw the conclusion that the Cars 3 opening weekend numbers are a bit of a disappointment. Back in 2006, Cars had an opening weekend gross of $60.1 million and then the follow up in 2011, Cars 2, grossed $66.1 million – a decent 10% improvement over the franchise’s first entry. But then we get to Cars 3 taking a 10%+ drop over the original and that’s just not good, studios usually want sequels to make more than the original because, well, duh… Aside from being the lowest opening of the Cars franchise, Cars 3 also has the lowest gross for a Pixar movie in the last 10 years, since Ratatouille (not counting The Good Dinosaur which, while being a Pixar film, never quite felt like a “Pixar film”). Now, I’m not saying Pixar is in trouble due to a lackluster opening by Cars 3, just that maybe no one was really asking for Cars 3 and we’re all just waiting ever so patiently for that Incredibles sequel we’ve been promised (come on June 2018)!
Next up is Wonder Woman and oh my what a weekend for the Princess of Themyscira. Most big summer block busters drop around 50% or more week over week but not this one. Wonder Woman dropped only 43.3% from its first to second week and now only 29.5% from its second to its third week? That’s not just incredible, that’s down right Amazonian! (Yes, I like easy puns, leave me alone.) Just for the sake of comparison Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 dropped 55.5% from its first to second week in release and then 46.9% from its second to third week. Wonder Woman is definitely showing that it has legs at the box office and on screen (HA! Easy puns….).
As for the rest of the weekend box office, All Eyez on Me pulling in $26.5 million is rather impressive in my eyes given the 22% Rotten rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes and that I saw next to no marketing for it. Although I will readily admit that I am far from the target demographic for that particular film. The Mummy (2017) continues to disappoint domestically while staying #1 in the foreign box office. Actually, after this weekend, 80.6% of it’s $293.9 million gross box office take has been from the foreign markets. Not sure what that means for the future of Universal’s Dark Universe (interconnected movie franchise featuring updated versions of all the old classic Universal monsters) but hopefully they stay the course and right the ship.
And lastly, we come to 47 Meters Down, which made me say “Aww hell no!” when watching the trailers. $11.2 million might feel like a disappointing opening but given that it’s production budget was only $5 million this movie is probably close to breaking even as it stands, even when considering its marketing budget. Going forward, most money this movie makes is just gravy which is good for the movie but also great for the distribution company, Entertainment Studios, as this is it’s first feature film.
All in all, seems like a great weekend at the box office with plenty of life left in the summer movie season and a handful of great summer movies yet to come!
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Ok, Neill Blomkamp, as Leonardo Dicaprio said in Djano Unchained, “you had my curiosity but now you have my attention.” Blomkamp burst on to the Hollywood scene back in 2009 when he shocked the world with his first feature film District 9 (which I have yet to see but plan on fixing that soon) and then followed that up with the somewhat divisive Elysium and then the rather disappointing Chappie (which I have also yet to see but don’t have any plans to remedy that) so it’s fair to say that, within the Hollywood system, Blomkamp has faltered a bit. Well, he seems to be going for a change with his new initiative called Oats Studios where he and his team of 40 people have set out to make experimental short films free from the confines of the Hollywood studio system. The one hitch is that Oats Studios and Blomkamp doesn’t have funding for this initiative, but are hoping that by giving away the finished product online for free and then hoping people will donate to the cause or purchase the films so they can get to extra content like 3D models and the raw footage from the films, they will be able to continue this project. The only question is, will the finished product be good enough for people to donate to the cause. Having just finished watching Rakka, the first short film to be released, I can firmly answer not just yes, but Hell Yes.
Rakka is about 22 minutes long and drops the viewer into a world ravaged by alien invasion where humanity has been pushed to the brink of extinction. If you haven’t taken the time to watch it, I highly suggest you do so before reading any further, not because of spoilers or anything, but because it is well worth your time to do so.
WARNING – THIS IS PROBABLY BEST FOR VIEWING BY MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY. There is a lot of graphic and potentially disturbing imagery.
Did you watch it? Good.
I really had no idea what to expect going into watching this but I am very pleasantly surprised. I really, really enjoyed this and might even grow to love it. Blomkamp manages to build a world and present characters that are so much more intriguing and deeper than two and half hour, $200 million blockbusters can in the span of 22 minutes. The opening voice over paints a crystal clear picture of the horror that has transpired and absolutely conveys the appropriate feeling of doom that the viewer needs to have to fully understand the character motivations and the world we are seeing.
Over the course of the film, we meet three main characters: Jasper, Nosh, and Amir. Amir appears to be a test subject that has managed to escape captivity or at least survive the experiments on him. From what we get in the film, he seems like he will be a very important figure going forward (presuming that this short is just the beginning of a series of shorts set in this same world) as he seems to have the genetic predisposition required to survive being experimented on by the aliens and he also seems to have gained precognitive powers. Next up is Nosh, who is honestly kind of scary. Nosh is a man who is thriving in this post apocalyptic Earth as he is a pyromaniac and a savant at building things from junk and scraps, things like bombs and Brain Barriers which the resistance fighters use to block telepathic attacks by the aliens. And lastly is Jasper, leader of the resistance, played quite adeptly by none other than Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is undoubtedly the stand out of the cast, not only because she is obviously a very recognizable actor with a long and storied career but because of the way she carries herself and the way that you just instinctively know that she is in charge. I said it in the opening paragraph and I’ll reiterate it here – this short has more character development in it that the majority of modern block busters.
The production design, set work, and costuming in Rakka is also astounding. On the Oats Studios website, it states on their “support” page that “the creation of Volume 1 required immense resources” and I truly believe it. All of the visual effects are stunning and of comparable quality to those aforementioned $200 million blockbuster movies if not better at times. The world the designers have put together is gritty, war torn, and feels utterly real. This is truly a feat for a short film designed to just put on YouTube.
Rakka is a fantastic piece of film making that deserves your attention and your time and, if you’re so inclined, maybe a few of your dollars. A venture such as this, is incredibly bold and daring and has the potential to further break the strangle hold that major Hollywood studios have on cinema and that streaming services are already loosening as they continue to general original content. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Neill Blomkamp and Oats Studios do going forward, for as I said above – they had my curiosity and now they certainly have my attention.
A few years back when John Wick surprised the hell out of everyone as a groundbreaking action film and not just another paycheck movie for a Hollywood action star, I rented it and my wife and I sat down to watch it, my wife didn’t make it past the….. inciting incident of that movie. After I finished watching it, I made sure to tell her that the rest of the movie helps alleviate that scene by thoroughly punishing all involved. Luckily I later got her to sit down and finish watching it with me and she agreed that the rest of the movie makes up for the beginning. And it’s a good thing that I got her to watch it with me because it made sitting down to watch John Wick: Chapter 2 all the better as John Wick: Chapter 2 is a very worthy follow up to the movie that came before it.
John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up a little bit after the original film as we see John attempting to retrieve a personal item from the brother of the main mob boss from John Wick which gives us a fantastic opening action sequence, returning us to the unique style of action that we were introduced to a few years back. After the opening sequence, John attempts to get back to his retirement but, of course, that is not in the cards for him. He is approached by someone with whom he has had prior dealings and is forced back into the world he so desperately wants to leave behind.
This is probably where the movie is the weakest. The story feels like it drags as it spends about 40 minutes setting up the second half of the film, which is important work but it maybe could have been paced a little bit better. I liken it to riding a roller coaster and the 40 minutes after the opening scene being like that little bit of time you spend in the car as it gets cranked up to the top of first drop. Its not why you stood in line or why you bought a ticket but its a necessity for the thrill ride that follows and when you crest that first hill, boy howdy does this movie go off.
The action in John Wick: Chapter 2 is just as delightfully choreographed and brutally realistic as it was in the first one. The big set piece from John Wick in the nightclub is the crown jewel of that movie and John Wick: Chapter 2 ups the ante with two extended set piece, one in a series of ancient catacombs and one in a museum/modern art installation. While both are absolutely astounding examples of what we should expect from modern action movies, for me the catacombs sequence has a slight edge over the museum sequence and that really just comes down to personal preference. Both are designed, choreographed, and executed with amazing precision and care for detail.
The last line in the previous paragraph leads me to something that the John Wick series does better than any other any other movie or TV show that I know of and that’s how it portrays the function and use of guns. Full disclosure about me – I like guns, I have a few and thoroughly enjoy taking them to the range and engaging in some recreational shooting following all safety rules. So when I see firearms in movies or TV shows that I have personally handled or used, I notice it when things are portrayed incorrectly in media. For instance, in both films John carries a Glock 26 as a back up pistol and that particular model has a standard capacity magazine that carries 10 rounds so as the movies progress through the action scenes, if the film makers are attempting to achieve as much realism as possible, it makes sense that we should see John reload after firing 10 rounds. It seems like a simple task but from what little I know of making movies, it must be a giant pain in the ass to get that type of detail right in the finished product and I give every single accolade I can to the film makers for taking the time and paying attention to something like that. Whenever I watch a show or movie where a character clearly uses a firearm well past what I know it’s round capacity is and I don’t seem them reload, it bugs me and in particularly egregious cases, it takes me out of the experience. So again – Thank You, to the directors, editors, producers, whoever else for that attention to detail.
Next to the action sequences, the best thing about John Wick is the world of assassins that this film series has created. Everything we fell in love with from the first film is brought back and amplified for John Wick: Chapter 2 – everything from the gold coins, to The Continental hotel, to the rules that everyone abides by. That underground, unseen world is explored much more in this film and the rules of that world are what pushes the plot of the movie forward. However the best part, is that those rules are only ever explained in detail when the audience absolutely needs to know. Now that may seem counter intuitive, but what made the world building in the original John Wick so great is that it is merely presented to the audience as something that is and something that is not to be questioned. I love, LOVE that is is mostly left a mystery, I don’t want to know how you earn a coin, I don’t want a list of the “house rules” at The Continental hotel, I don’t want to know about how and why things are the way they are because it’s the mystery that makes them amazing. It makes you feel like you’re getting this special sneak peek behind the curtain of a world you could other wise never even get close to. As this film series progress into a trilogy (or past that) and is spun off into a potential TV series centered on The Continental, I really hope all the creative forces behind this property retain that mystery.
As for the story presented in this film, I will say that it’s not quite as compelling as it was in John Wick but if I’m being completely honest, nothing will ever be as compelling as ripping your way though dozens of disposable gangsters to get to the guy who murdered your unbelievably cute puppy, the writers were definitely backed into a corner in that regard. To get themselves out of that corner however, they very smartly rely on the aforementioned rules of the world they’ve built to give all the characters the proper motivation to get this movie rolling as hard as it needs to to live up to its predecessor. My only issue with the story, is that it is very apparent that the ending was written in such a way to leave the door explicitly open for a third movie. That didn’t necessarily hurt my enjoyment of the film at hand but when the credits rolled my wife and I said to each other “Well, I guess we know what the plot of the third one will be” versus “I hope they make a third one!”. A small thing but a very noticeable thing in my opinion.
Just like the movie that came before it, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastic action movie that relies on practical effects and real people doing real stunts versus the CGI heavy action movies that permeate Hollywood today. If you haven’t had a chance to check out John Wick: Chapter 2 or even John Wick, do yourself a favor and pick them up. They are both well worth watching numerous times.
This past weekend I again had the privilege of going to see and, this time, the honor of taking my wife. I was pretty excited to see Wonder Woman again, not just because I had a hot date, but because I always like to look for early hints and clues to the later reveals that I missed the first go around and gain added appreciation for the characters and a deeper understanding of their motivations.
Without any further ado, lets get into some spoiler talk!
One of the biggest criticisms I have repeatedly heard about Wonder Woman is about the villains and how, like many other comic book movies of late,they are very weak characters. While that maybe true for one of the three villains, I believe that the other two are stronger than they are getting credit for. Starting off with General Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston, it’s very clear that his main role in this movie is to be the bait in the bait and switch as to the true identity of Ares and while that plot thread in the movie may not always be convincing, Ludendorff is still a decent villain. Ludendorff is a man who has been completely enveloped and engrossed by war and no longer gives any regard to human life as evidenced by the callous execution of his own soldier early on in the movie. He is driven to continue the war no matter the cost, he even goes as far as killing a dozen or so German generals so he can carry out his plans to gas the front lines. All this goes to show, that he has completely given himself over to Ares’ control. Ludendorff does come off as a “mustache twirling” villain at times but I think the character serves his purpose for illustrating just how much Ares has managed to influence the world. I will admit that the vials of super strength gas that he uses a few times, comes off as silly but I think that was mostly written in as a device to allow him, a human, to go toe to toe with Diana near the end of the movie. (And that gas may also be an Easter egg to Bane, the gas being a precursor to the venom he later uses.)
Next up is Dr. Isabel Maru aka Dr. Poison, played Elena Anaya. Similar to Ludendorff, Maru is completely consumed by war and her work designing the most terrible, awful, horrific weapons ever used in warfare short of nuclear weapons and also similar to Ludendorff, Maru is a puppet of Ares’, listening to his whispers of ideas. Where Maru and Ludendorff differ though, is how they are used in the movie. While Ludendorff is the decoy Ares for much of the movie, Maru is built up to be the extreme example of the evil that is inherent in humanity and Ares presents her to Diana as that example hoping to goad Diana into hating humanity as he does. In the end, I don’t really see Maru and Ludendorff as villains per se but as puppets being masterfully manipulated by the true villain of the film, Ares.
Ares, the main villain of Wonder Woman, when taken on the surface, isn’t that big of a threat to our hero who defeats him somewhat handily after she realizes what she truly is and the power within her. However, when you start to dig into what he was trying to accomplish and the way he went about it, he becomes a much deeper, darker villain. As the movie trucks along, the audience is led to believe that Ludendorff is Ares, as discussed earlier, and Diana continually assumes that Ares would be where the fighting is the heaviest as he is the one inciting the violence but, as we discover, Diana has it all wrong. Ares is not a commanding general screaming orders on the battlefield, he is a behind the scenes puppet master, whispering in the ears of of his minions. We see a couple first hand examples of this as we get small flashbacks to Ares with both Maru and Ludendorff and he even tries to goad Diana into killing Maru by crushing her with a tank. Those three examples all show just how adept Ares is at pulling peoples strings but I think the greatest example is the Armistice.
Once Sir Patrick, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet who aides Diana and Steve and is fighting to achieve peace through the Armistice, is revealed to be Ares, its a bit confusing as to why he was calling for peace in the first place, being the god of war and all. Well, it takes some historical context to realize that all the Armistice did was stop the war for about twenty years until World War II started. The Armistice heavily penalized Germany, causing resentment which lead to Hitler gaining power and eventually the invasion of Poland kicking off, or resuming, world war. So in essence, Ares knows that by sowing peace now, he will reap even more war later. I didn’t know about, or at least remember, this very important piece of history that adds incredible context to Ares’ plans and as soon and my friend, and World War I history buff, Erin told me about it, it really blew my mind. Seriously. It elevated Ares from being another run of the mill comic book, super hero, sorta blah movie villain to the level of Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at least Loki at the end of the first Thor). It goes to show just how much of a long game Ares was playing and how masterful he is at playing the puppeteer.
David Thewlis is the perfect person to play this version of Ares. While one might typically expect the god of war to have a body style more akin to The Mountain from Game of Thrones, casting someone with Thewlis’ look is perfect for the style of character they wrote Ares to be. Someone weaselly, someone who you might be inherently wary of just based on how they carry themselves, someone you would expect to whisper evil into peoples ears. Now this opinion maybe heavily influenced by his current role on season 3 of Fargo (which is amazing if you’re not watching it) where he, again, plays some one pulling the strings from behind the scenes, in the shadows.
One thing that I was really afraid of going into this movie was it being overly preachy and heavy handed with its messaging. I love all four DC TV shows that are currently running on the CW – Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. Each has their own pros and cons that are individual to each show and for Supergirl it is its heavy handed, almost ham-fisted way of getting it’s point across. For instance in the season 2 finale (SPOILERS FOR THAT THROUGH THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH), Supergirl has to fight a mind controlled Superman and defeats him in hand to hand combat which is fantastic and it was a really dramatic scene. What undercuts that scene later on, is the way the writers feel it necessary to spoon feed the audience by constantly reminding us that Supergirl is stronger because she defeated Superman. “Who is gonna fight the big bad?” “Well Supergirl should do it because she beat Superman so clearly she is the better, stronger fighter.” Ummm yes that was clear when we saw her beat Superman, no need to remind us of that three times, we got the point when it happened. Now relate a scene of that nature to what happens in Wonder Woman in the “No Man’s Land” scene. Everyone is telling Diana that she, nor anyone, can go out over the trenches because they will get killed instantly. In this moment, it would have been insanely easy, and quite lazy, for the writers to make some sort of winky line like “No Man’s Land? Ha, I am a woman!”. But no, they are better than that. Diana says that this is “what she came here to do” and she does it. Perfect, beautiful, powerful. Don’t tell me Diana is powerful, SHOW ME and let me get to that conclusion on my own. All too often these days, I’ll watch a TV show or a movie and it will metaphorically hand me “2”, then hand me “2” more, and then TELL ME “See now you have 4”. It drives me up the wall. If you hand me “2” and then “2” more, I know I have “4” and there is no need to explicitly state that I now have “4”. The audience is smarter than that and writers should respect the audience versus spoon feeding us every little thing they wish to convey.
In my non-spoiler review, I said that all of my negatives were nit picks and that still stands after a second viewing. The pacing in a few spots is a bit off and there are a couple scenes where it is very noticeable that the foreground is a real set and the background is a green screen especially the scene with Diana and Steve in the small boat right after they leave Themyscira. It wasn’t enough to take me out of the movie but definitely noticeable.
One other small nit pick, is that this film comes dangerously close to being the spiritual sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. A red, white, and blue costumed hero with special weapons and a naive outlook is exposed to the horrors of World War as they fight evil scientists bent on world domination and then there is a heart breaking scene involving a guy name Steve in a plane. Now, obviously that is a gross oversimplification of both plots but you can see what I’m getting at. Fortunately the writers and Jenkins do more than enough to keep the two movies from being carbon copies of each other even if there are a number of similarities.
As I said in my non-spoiler review, I really enjoyed Wonder Woman. It’s a smart movie, with smart characters, that respects its audience – movies like that are in short supply and I cannot wait to pick this up on Blu-ray when it comes out so I can watch it again and dive into any and all special features it has.
I’m a parent and like any parent in our modern times, my wife and I let our kid watch entirely too much television. Although given how much TV I watched as a kid, that’s really not a symptom limited to the last ten-ish years. Anyway, because the TV is the Great Babysitter, we watch a ton of kids movies and watch a lot of the same kids movies over and over again to the point where I honestly think the true test of a kids movie is how many times a parent can stomach watching it or at least having it on in the background before finally giving in to the urge to drop the Blu-ray into the toaster and set it to dark – I’m looking at you Frozen! For me there are a select handful of movies that I have yet to get tired of – Moana, Tangled, Zootopia, and Big Hero 6 – the last of which is the subject of today’s review.
Now I’ve seen Big Hero 6 all the way through at least a dozen times and I’ve watched it in pieces more times than I care to remember, so why did I pick today to sit down and write a review on it? Well tonight my daughter picked it out to watch for our Daddy/Daughter Pizza & Movie night (my wife was out to dinner with a friend) and as the movie reached it’s climax, something struck me – the villain in Big Hero 6 is the only one that I can think of that actually gets what he wants after carrying out his big plan.
Before reading further, there will be full SPOILERS so if you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, hang on to this page, watch it, and come back!
Big Hero 6 follows boy genius Hiro Hamada as he struggles with depression following the death of his bother Tadashi, as he discovers that a masked villain has stolen his invention (microbots) and may be responsible for Tadashi’s death. As Hiro begins to investigate, he is joined by his friends who all don hi-tech super suits in an effort to fight the new threat.
Before we talk about the villain, let’s talk about our heroes because they’re all pretty cool, starting off with our main hero, Hiro. As I said above, Hiro is a robotics genius who graduated high school at 15 and got involved in the world of underground bot fighting. After getting arrested for betting on bot fighting (because not fighting isn’t illegal, but betting on it is), his brother Tadashi shows off the robotics lab at his college AKA “nerd school”. While at the school, Tadashi shows off what he has been working on – Baymax, an autonomous medical robot. Hiro immediately falls in love with the college but to attend, he has to come up with something to present at a the school’s fair driving him to create the microbots. Microbots are tiny little robots that swarm together and can be formed into any shape when being manipulated by your thoughts using a neuro-cranial transmitter.
Hiro, as a character, has a lot going for him – intelligent but young and brash and fueled by tragedy. That’s a lot for a writer to sink their teeth into and it is explored wonderfully throughout Big Hero 6. One of the most striking scenes in the entire movie, is when the masked villain is unmasked and revealed to be Professor Callaghan, mentor to Hiro, Tadashi, and all of their friends at the college. Feeling rightfully betrayed, Hiro removes the chip in Baymax that drives all of his medical programming, leaving only the “combat” chip in place and orders Baymax to kill Callaghan. This is Hiro at his absolute lowest. He has taken a machine that was designed to heal and turned it into a killing machine all to avenge his brother who created the machine in the first place. In this moment, his friends and teammates have to rally around Hiro to stop him from doing something he will regret and show him a better way. This moment, that caps off the second act of the movie, is mirrored in the third act when Professor Callaghan goes down a similar path.
Over the course of the movie we find out that Alistair Krei, CEO of a major corporation, was responsible for the death of Callaghan’s daughter, Abigail, when she was the test pilot for a new piece of tech. At the school fair, at which Hiro demonstrates his microbots, there was a fire and an explosion (that results in the death of Tadashi) and in order to escape, Callaghan used the mircobots to survive and then sees the microbots (combined with the anonymity provided by his own apparent death) as an opportunity for revenge on Krei. This brings us to the end of the third act and the climax of the movie in which Callaghan uses a benevolent machine to try and exact revenge on the person who cost him his daughter, mirroring Hiro’s action at the end of the second act. This fantastic writing as it not only shows how Hiro has risen above the need to avenge his brother but by setting it up so the two character arcs mirror each other, it make Callaghan a sympathetic villain and those are always the best villains.
Going back to Hiro, I’ve struggled to determine his contribution to the team of heroes since he doesn’t really have his own signature weapon or any distinction to his super suit. He really just attaches to Baymax (who has wings and a jet pack and karate skills and a rocket punch) and rides around on him like a kid playing piggy back. After all the times that I’ve watched this movie, I’ve realized that this is an incredibly shortsighted view of Hiro. Yes, what I said about him is true but a cool, stylized weapon or special power isn’t what he brings to the team, it’s his intelligence and leadership skills that make him and his team great. In that battle at the end of the second act, all of our heroes are just players on a team who can’t even come up with a plan of attack but in the climax of the film, in the final battle Hiro is the one that gives them that plan, gives them a direction, and rallies the team to defeat Callaghan.
As for the rest of the Big Hero 6 team – Wasabi, Honey Lemon, GoGo, and Fred – Fred and Honey Lemon are most definitely the stand outs but for much different reasons. It is very easy to over look the true nature of what Honey Lemon is doing in this movie. Her weapon is this purse that she pulls small orbs from that she can then throw to satisfy different needs – smoke bomb, explosive, create a hard protective shell, etc. – and while that is cool on it’s own, it over looks the best part. On the side of her purse is a touch screen featuring the periodic table of elements. Whenever she needs to create a new orb to handle the task at hand, she inputs a chemical formula to create exactly what she needs. Let me rephrase that – she, in the middle of a battle, runs chemistry calculations in her head, formulates the exact chemical reaction she needs, and punches it up on her purse of doom. Holy crap, that is super cool and completely glossed over in the movie.
Next up is Fred. Fred is impeccably voiced by none other than T.J. Miller, of Deadpool and Silicon Valley fame. I haven’t seen much of Miller’s filmography but he is becoming one of my favorite comedic personalities. In Big Hero 6, Fred is the non-scientist character who hangs around the scientist characters in the hopes of a lab accident turning him into some sort of monster or super hero. Of course, Fred achieves his dream of being a super hero, with out a disfiguring lab accident, along with the rest of the group and the way in which his character acts is just so joyous and pure. He is every little boy and girl that has grown up wishing to be a comic book hero and he has been granted his wish and you can feel that joy and pureness of spirit come through in Miller’s voice work. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Big Hero 6, go back and revisit it, if for no other reason that to listen to Miller’s dialogue.
Wasabi and GoGo do each get some moments to shine – specifically when GoGo takes over driving duties in the car chase scene and when Wasabi is almost crushed by the shipping container as well as many other great comedic moments – but I just don’t feel that either of these characters are quite as strong as the others.
Now, as I said in my intro, something struck me about this film and that is that the villain, Professor Callaghan, actually gets what he wants by the end of the movie. He is driven by the grief of losing his daughter and, rightfully, blames Alistair Krei for not pulling the plug on an experiment when it was clear that it might not go as planned and in his inaction, Abigail Callaghan died or at least seemed to. The experiment was designed to test transportation technology by transporting a manned capsule from one portal to another, with Abigail as the pilot. Of course the experiment goes sideways and Abigail is lost in the “subspace” or whatever dimension exists between the two portals. To exact his revenge, Callaghan wants to kill Krei by sending him into that same subspace just like his daughter was, so he gets the portal, takes it to Krei Tech HQ and with the help of the microbots, tries to carry out his plan. He is, of course, stopped by our team of heroes but that’s where it gets interesting.
After Callaghan is defeated, Baymax senses a life sign inside the portal. Realizing that it’s Abigail in suspended animation in her capsule, Baymax and Hiro go in and retrieve her. Later on, we see a paramedic talking to Abigail so we know she is alive and well, which brings me around to my point – Callaghan may have set out to get revenge on Krei but what he really wanted was his daughter back, he even says exactly that at one point, and even though he did the wrong things for the wrong reasons, he got exactly what he wanted. By the time the end credits roll, we, the audience, know and Callaghan knows that Abigail is alive and thus, for once, the villain actually kind of wins the day (even if he was “defeated”). Callaghan may be going off to prison for the rest of his life but you can be damn sure that he doesn’t care because he knows that his daughter is alive and safe. It’s a brave move by a Disney movie to kinda, sorta justify the actions of the main antagonist (and frankly that may be why its kind of glossed over in the film).
In the end, Big Hero 6 is a fantastic movie that I don’t think I will tire of anytime soon and is well worth rewatching if its been a while since you’ve seen it. In my opinion, this film earned its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature back in 2015.
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I’ve been up since 4:45 AM, I’m dog tired, and I have to go to work tomorrow. By all accounts, I should be in bed, drifting off to dream land instead of sitting at my laptop taking long blinks to keep my eyes from drying out but I’m not. I am indeed sitting at my laptop, with a fresh beer and a plate of chicken taquitos because earlier tonight I had the honor and privilege of taking my mom to go see Wonder Woman, the first movie featuring the titular Amazon as the main character and the first proper, big budget, comic book movie with a female lead character. (GTFO Elektra and Catwoman, you don’t count because you were terrible.) There were a lot of questions going into Wonder Woman – Would this be the movie to right the DCEU ship? Could Gal Gadot carry the movie? Would this be the female lead super hero movie we’ve been waiting for? In short – Yes, Hell Yes, and Yassss!
There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s get into it!
A Wonder Woman movie was a long time coming but I think part of the reason it took a while to get off the ground was Wonder Woman’s awkward origin story. It’s not quite as clear cut or well know as other DC mainstays like Batman (parents killed in alley, uses fortune to become vigilante, uses bats as a symbol to strike fear into bad guys) and Superman (alien, home planet explodes, sent to Earth, alien biology + yellow sunlight = super powers) but a bit more…. odd – Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazon warriors molds her from clay! Ummm ok then…. See? Awkward – especially when contrasted with the other big DC characters. DC being unable to come up with a good way to present Wonder Woman’s story was kind of a joke when compared to Marvel characters like Rocket Raccoon.
DC: “We can’t figure out how to do a Wonder Woman movie because she’s confusing.”
Marvel: “Eh fuck it, here’s a talking raccoon with machine guns.”
With all that being said, DC finally figured it out with the help of director Patty Jenkins and writers Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder, and Jason Fuchs. Wonder Woman does a great job of explaining that origin story which is key to understanding the character going forward in the DCEU and because, well, this movie is an origin story. Before seeing this movie, I only had a vague idea about who Wonder Woman was as a character from what little I’d seen of her in various cartoons and the animated movie that came out way back in 2009. After seeing this movie, I feel I completely get where the character is coming from, her motivations, and her reason for being who she is.
Now, we’ve already seen Gal Gadot turn in a great performance as Wonder Woman in last year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice so we knew she could embody the character well in a supporting role, but would that translate to carrying a full movie, especially when her character isn’t moving forward but going back in time about a hundred years? It absolutely did. Gadot completely sinks into being Princess Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. She is incredibly charming as the “fish out of water” and conveys a true feeling of innocence as she explores the world outside of her island home. It also hurts your heart a bit for her as you watch her begin to learn the evil that is in this world. I, for one, cannot wait to see her in this role for years to come.
Actually, speaking of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I really think that this movie elevates Gadot’s performance in BvS which I’ve only seen once in theaters. I may go back and revisit BvS to see if I like it any better after getting the added context from this movie. There’s no doubt that BvS was not a great movie but Gadot’s Wonder Woman was definitely the shiny spot on the dirt pile.
As for her physicality, she is just as amazing in the action sequences, as amazing the sequences are themselves. I love, love, love the way they designed the hand-to-hand combat in this movie and the fluid way Wonder Woman and all of her fellow Amazons move. I have a sneaking suspicion that Gadot’s two years of service in the Israel Defense Force where she served as a combat trainer, had more than a little influence on the fighting style developed for Wonder Woman. (It also looks like her time in the IDF caused Wonder Woman to be banned in Lebanon due to the ongoing war between the two countries – sucks for you Lebanon!)
Chris Pine is every bit the leading man he needs to be here, taking charge when he needs to but never taking away from Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I really enjoyed his character even if it wasn’t explored as deeply as it could have been. But again, this is not his movie.
It was also a really smart play by the writers to set this movie during the first World War as it helps set this movie apart from it’s sibling film over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Captain America: The First Avenger) and it keeps the movie from just retreading the already worn through villain in the Nazis. The type of warfare that was allowed in World War I is also a major plot point in this movie so setting in World War II would have necessitated changes for the worse.
As for negatives for Wonder Woman, all I really have are nit picky things…. The shwoing of passage of time is a bit clunky like when characters travel long distances and there are a couple green screen shots that come across looking awkward but for the most part this is an all around solid movie with no real major flaws or issues.
I really enjoyed Wonder Woman and as it stands now, it is my favorite of the four movies that currently comprise the DCEU. I can’t wait to go see this again next weekend with my wife (who hates opening weekend crowds) and to buy it on Blu-ray in a few months so I can watch it with my daughter as soon as she is old enough.
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I’m gonna get this out of the way right up front – This movie is fucking astounding. I loved every minute of it and the worst part was when the end credits rolled. I’m dead serious. 10/10. Even my wife who isn’t nearly as much of a movie lover as I am said she loved it and that Hidden Figures is one that we will be buying on Blu-ray. This movie is just that good. I will be gushing about this film for the remainder of this review, it is just that good.
There is a lot to unpack in this film so let’s get into it!
Let’s start off with the cast. Taraji P. Henderson is astounding in this film. It feels like she effortlessly sinks into this historical personality and captures what it was like to be in her role in that time period. She brings a wonderful charm to the character, bringing the audience right along with her in her time of joy, sadness, and especially when she has to confront the racism of the day. Her explosive scene in the office space when confronted about being away from her desk for long periods of time is a scene that I did not expect. A lot of this movie is lighthearted and fun but the tone turns on a dime in that scene and it is electric. Her performance in that scene alone is worthy of her Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Its one of those scenes that has so much raw power and genuine emotion in it, that it will leave you shaken. I haven’t seen much of her work but after seeing Hidden Figures, I believe I will be on the look out for anything she is in.
Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae are both amazing as well. They both give performances that make you feel for the characters, cry with them, laugh with them, rejoice with them. Monae has one scene that almost brought me to tears. Spencer, Monae, and Henderson also have an incredible chemistry with one another. The three play off of each other so well that when they are all together, you truly believe that they have been friends for years. I even had to pause the movie after one particular scene just to marvel at how great they interacted.
Rounding out the already incredible cast is Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. Just like I said about Kurt Russell in my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review, its great to see a veteran actor like Kevin Costner still be able to bring it like he does here. He gives warm and fatherly yet stern and leading performance as Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group. Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons are both solid in their performances. I’ve never been a huge fan of Dunst but she does exactly what she needs to in this role. As for Jim Parsons, its incredibly hard to separate the actor from the role with him. His role as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is so consuming of Parsons as an actor that it is hard not to see those Sheldon mannerisms and borderline whiny-ness in his role as Paul Stafford, a head engineer but as the movie rolls on the Parsons grows into the character and you can begin to separate him from his much more prominent role.
There is something else that really struck me a few times in this film and, not to put too fine a point on it, but color is used exceptionally well. Over the course of this movie, a lot of time is spent in a large, almost cavernous room where then NASA engineers and scientists work calculating trajectories and the like. The walls of the room are a very light shade and all of the men in the room wear short sleeved white dress shirts. Now when Henderson’s character is assigned to work there, she always wears a dark or vibrantly colored clothes which serves to give a deep contrast between her and the rest of the room and subtly helps the audience empathize with the unease that Henderson feels and amplifies her status as an outsider as a black woman in a room of white men in the 1960’s. Hell, even her coffee cup is brown compared to the white or beige ones seen else where in the room.
Comparing this stark white (all puns intended) to the room in which the majority of the black NASA employees work also helps to further illustrate the divide of the times. As I said, the work room for the NASA engineers is large, cavernous, and surrounded by lighter tones whereas the room where the black employees are is dark, underground, made from cinder blocks painted brown, and feels almost like a dungeon.
This use of color is further seen in Costner’s office which overlooks the work room and in his costuming. The back wall of his office is wood paneling which gives the room more life and contrast to the other walls and his character often wears a gray vest implying that he isn’t as much of an “enemy” as the rest of the NASA workers are.
Earlier I talked about Henderson’s stand out scene and how the tone of the movie changes on a dime. Normally shifts like that would be overly jarring and pull you out of a movie but not here. Director Theodore Melfi does a fantastic job of weaving the joy and successes of these characters together with their struggles in their careers and in their lives as black women in 1960’s America. There are several scenes that effectively portray those struggles and get the message across without being heavy handed or overly preachy.
Hidden Figures did exactly what I look for a movie to do – engross me for two-ish hours and leave me with something to think about for days if not weeks after. Stand out performances, coupled with an amazing story and great direction make Hidden Figures one of the best movies I have seen in years. If you haven’t seen it, go buy it, rent it, borrow it, stream it, whatever it takes. This is a one of those rare movies that I feel I can recommend to anyone and everyone and as the father of a daughter and an engineer, I cannot wait to re-watch this movie over and over again as my daughter grows up.
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