Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”

 

beyond1.jpgbeyond2The effects sparkle and the design dazzles in “Star Trek Beyond,” perhaps the best looking “Star Trek” movie ever.

And Simon Pegg — cast member and avid Trekker — has served up a pulpy and derivative script that panders to the fans, but generally pays off as it does.

Every cast member has a moment or two in the sun. Deaths are remembered. Neither Leonard Nimoy (Spock 1.0) nor Anton Yelchin (Checkov 2.0) will be around for Paramount’s just-announced fourth film in this latest iteration of the “Final Frontier” franchise.

Attention was paid to the villain, and even under makeup and effects, Idris Elba registers.

So yeah, we see another version of the U.S.S. Enterprise crash into a planet. Yes, another interstellar megalomaniac has it in for Starfleet.

Sulu (John Cho) finally comes out of the closet, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) break up (like we didn’t see THAT coming) so that he and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) can resume the Greatest Romance in Filmed Science Fiction.

Scotty, Simon Pegg’s character, lands his one-liners and may let the alien girl (Sofia Boutella) get him. For once.

And Kirk (Chris Pine)? He gets on a motorcycle and approves of The Beastie Boys, music to battle an alien menace by. Apparently.

Pandering? Yes. But pandering with polish.

Chris Pine’s Kirk is no longer wet behind the ears, so he’s contemplating abandoning their “Five Year Mission” for a desk job and promotion with two years to go. He’s a bit young to be feeling his mortality, but he’s figured out that if space and time are infinite, “What’s the point?”

His boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) understands, seeing as how “There’s no relative direction in the vastness of space…It’s easy to get lost.”

Spock is having second thoughts about his career, too.

That’s the perfect time for a fresh alien menace to arise from a planet in the middle of a nebula. A hive of tiny ships piloted by reptilian beasties lure the Enterprise in, decimate the crew and wreck the ship. As the survivors struggle to survive on a planet dusted with aliens enslaved by this Krall (Elba) and his minions, and littered with wrecked spacecraft as well, we see this “doo-dad” that motivates Khan — um, Krall — and get to the big conflict at the heart of Pegg and Doug Jung’s script.

“There is strength in unity” the United Space Alliance members believe. But their martial foe has observed them and thinks they’ve grown soft. He’s been watching “Next Generation” re-runs with all that mincing about on the Holodeck, talking about one’s feelings. Just a guess.

“Struggle made us strong,” he says of himself and his kind.

Pegg plainly took the most pleasure in writing for McCoy and Spock. The script and the director (Justin Lin has been doing “Fast and Furious” movies of late) lean heavily on “family” and “teamwork” and comedy. The action beats often work, even if it’s harder to roll your eyes at all this “Enterprise” recycling with 3D glasses on.

As trite and repetitive as these movies have become, this weary franchise is still more fun or at least easier to sit through than any of those Diesel-powered car chase pictures. But is that enough for an audience that knows it’s being pandered to, and could finally be ready to move on, to “boldly go” see something else?  I include myself in their number, and I don’t know the answer, either.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence

Cast: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, John Cho and Anton Yelchin
Credits: Directed by Justin Lin, script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:58

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Garry Marshall: 1934-2016

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I was always more of a fan of Garry Marshall the character than Garry Marshall the director. I rolled my eyes at “Pretty Woman” and had a hard time sitting through such indulgences as “Valentine’s Day” and “Georgia Rule.”

But that wonderful Bronx honk of his will be missed.

He made sloppily sentimental and popular movies (“Nothing in Common,” “Beaches”) and sloppy but sometimes amusing sitcoms (“Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy,” “The Odd Couple’).

He was a hilarious on-screen presence in films such as “Soapdish.” He didn’t so much talk as bark or bray. Hilariously. He was a thug in “Goldfinger,” and looked the part. I had forgotten that until I was re-watching it recently, and there he was.

He discovered Robin Williams, made Julia Roberts a star and gave Richard Gere, Bette Midler and many others comebacks. He was loyal to his lifelong pal Hector Elizondo, and for decades, oversaw a long-running game of shirts-skins basketball of his peers and colleagues at his home in Beverly Hills.

I interviewed him several times, usually for a movie I didn’t care for. But he was never less than entertaining, a delight to talk to. I recall asking him if he’d had any advice for his protege Tom Hanks (one of many proteges) before Tom tackled the task of directing for the first time.

“Shoo-wah,” he grinned. “‘Tom,’ I said, ‘be shoo-wah ta bring a second pair of SHOES to the set. EVERY day.’ Why? ‘You work all morning, you’re on your feet, making a thousand decisions. Lunch time, you change your shoes. The afternoon’s like a VACA-tion for your feet!'”

That’s hilarious, and true. I checked that out with Hanks some time later, “advice that I take to this very day,” he said, laughing. ‘”A VACAY-shun for your feet!'”

Garry Marshall, brother of Penny, was one of a kind. Whatever his imprint on TV and film, he was a genuine character and will be missed. RIP.

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Movie Review: Viggo lets his hippy flag fly in “Captain Fantastic”

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Viggo Mortensen gives perhaps his sweetest performance as a father determined to righteously raise his kids “off the grid” and disconnected from much of society in “Captain Fantastic,” an earthy, funny and sometimes poignant portrait of a family that could only exist in the fantasy of the movies.

Playing a dad left alone to finish what can only be called an “experiment” he started with his wife, he doggedly purses a childrearing philosophy built on utility, backwoods survival skills, Great Books and the philosophy of leftist social critic Noam Chomsky. It’s a “‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ Meets ‘Mosquito Coast'” of idealized kids and idealized “honesty” that wanders in the third act and loses its nerve. But Mortensen gives a subtle, questioning performance in a movie that is fascinating in the details actor turned writer-director Matt Ross conjures up in this First World indulgence of a lifestyle.

We meet Ben Cash (Mortensen) and his brood, camouflaged in mud, stalking and killing a deer with just their wits and a knife in their corner of forest in the Pacific northwest. The middle child (Nicholas Hamilton) does the deep.

“Today, the boy is dead. And in his place is a man.”

He must be all of 13.

The six kids, ranging in age from 5 or 6 to 18, can dress and skin a deer, defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat, both recite and analyze the Bill of Rights and read at a level well beyond their years. They meditate, rock climb, do yoga, sing and play instruments.

Every question is taken seriously and given a serious, honest answer by their (apparent) polymath dad. But Ben’s honesty is put to the test by the news that their mom, who had been off seeking treatment, has died.

“Last night, Mom killed herself. She finally did it. Your mother is dead.”

There is no comforting their grief, which includes weeping and lashing out. And since they all have survival knives — even the tykes — that’s a little scary.

But that is their way. And “Nothing’s going to change,” even as they resolve to take their converted bus/RV “Steve” to New Mexico on “a mission” to battle Mom’s disapproving father (Frank Langella) over her funeral and her legacy — her children.

The comedy in the road trip comes in their encounters with the world they’ve been sheltered from. The children note the obese Average Americans they stumble across in modern civilization and ask, “Are they sick?”

Oldest boy “Bo” (George McKay) can argue Marx and Trotsky, but is hapless and helpless in the presence of pretty teen girls who aren’t his sisters.

The children never really quarrel, though Rellian (Hamilton, with a young Edward Furlong look and haircut) is beginning to revolt. Every moment is “teachable” to Ben. Every insubordination is met with “Make your case to the group,” every hardship a reminder that “There is no cavalry coming to the rescue.” Self-reliance is paramount.

And every misuse of the language corrected.

“Can ‘unique; be modifed?” These kids know the answer, even if almost every TV news or sportscaster and the millions they influence don’t. As a result, the kids are “unique” in their realizing there is no such thing as “most unique” or “more unique.”

Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn are terrific as befuddled, over-matched in-laws raising two video-game and junk-food addicted sons getting lost in the public school system.

Missy Pyle plays the indulgent campground mom whose daughter (Erin Moriarty) is a man-trap in Daisy Dukes and fishnet stockings, at least as far as Bo in concerned.

And Langella portrays a brittle, bitter but still loving grandfather in the inevitable third act battle over values, philosophies and Real World realities that he is sure Ben is hiding from his kids. Everybody shelters their young is Ross’s message. We just do it in different ways.
Ben’s kids can stage a mass shoplifting at a supermarket, poach game when required and stage a marvelous “Jesus Loves Me” farce when a nosy cop is about to discover their dodging truancy laws. Dad has taught them that Christianity is “a dangerous fairytale,” so mockery and using it to get out of a jam with “The Man” is allowed.”Values” are more malleable than some would have us believe.

Ross glosses over much of child-rearing/growing up, and as I said in the outset, loses his nerve in grappling with the consequences of this alternative lifestyle. But Mortensen makes Ben a rational, reasonable tyrant and the kids have just enough edge to seem real, as much as they look like “hippy kids” as photographed for an Old Navy catalog.

And if “Captain Fantastic” seems too fantastic to be as homespun and “real” as some versions of this lifestyle, we’re willing to indulge it, these kids and their Rational Man dad almost as much as he does.

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MPAA Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George McKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Missy Pyle

Credits: Written and directed by Matt Ross. A Bleecker Street release.

Running time: 1:58

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Movie Review: “Little Men”

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The films of Ira Sachs always send me to the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) to remind me of his credits.

Because “an artist,” the old saying goes, “hammers the same nail over and over again.”

Knowing he did the quietly charming “Love is Strange” as well as “Keep the Lights On” and “The Delta,” character studies with a minimum of motivating incidents and gay texts or subtexts, is a help in figuring out what he’s getting at.

And I have to go to IMDb every time because, to be blunt, the films are that forgettable.

“Little Men” is an 85 minute Brooklyn melodrama about two artistically-inclined teen boys and the rental dispute between their families that threatens their friendship.

The kids are engagingly written, complicated in a quickly sketched-out way. Theo Taplitz plays Jake, the budding painter whose parents (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle) just inherited the husband’s father’s apartment, and the storefront where aspiring actor Tony (Michael Barbieri) sometimes helps out his seamstress mom (Paulina Garcia). She is a Chilean immigrant, separated from her absent husband, who has long had a dress shop there.

Leonor (Garcia) hasn’t seen an increase in rent in forever. And under-employed and pushing-50 actor Brian (Kinnear) is being pressured by his sister (Talia Balsam) to get more rent — a lot more. Brian’s moved his family into his father’s apartment, which means his therapist wife (Ehle) isn’t their sole means of support.

That move is how Tony met Jake. They bond in an instant the way kids do, and before the summer is out, they’re plotting joint admission to an arts-oriented magnet school.

But every time Brian brings up rent, Leonor (“Leo”) lashes out, about how he wasn’t a good son, about how his father considered her his “real” family, about how Brian was such a disappointment to his father.

Brian, being played by the moist-eyed Kinnear, is on the verge of tears after every discussion. Wife Kathy announces she’s trained in conflict resolution, but she gets nowhere with Leo, who runs down their family, in Spanish, to the old family friend (Alfred Molina) who checks in on her.

Meanwhile, the boys get along great, even if they face the odd blast of teen taunting, often with a homophobic bent.

“Tony has a new BOYfriend!”

Sachs includes a long, funny scene in Tony’s summer acting workshop, and nothing of a parallel nature for Jake, who plainly has a crush on Tony, who just as plainly is interested in girls.

The kids stand out, Kinnear has added “haggard” to his gang-dog persona as he’s aged, and the saddest scenes here might be Brian taking on Chekhov’s “The Seagull” for a non-profit theater company, a job that pays little and will lead nowhere, and he knows it.

Ehle has too little to do, with Garcia (“Gloria,” “The 33”) having the chewy scenes — flashes of bitterness and helplessness.

But “Little Men” doesn’t come to grips with much of anything, leaving relationships and questions of sexuality and even Leonor’s uncertain future uncertain.

It’s a collection of scenes, vignettes and character sketches, Life in Brooklyn with a hint of melodrama. Realistic enough, compelling in the mildest sense, it’s just not all that interesting.

Which is why I’ll be tracking down Sachs’ credits the next time he gets something on the big screen. I’ll have forgotten this one as well.

 

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MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language

Cast: Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Paulina Garcia, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Alfred Molina
Credits: Directed by Ira Sachs, script by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:25

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Movie Review: Herzog finds wonder in the Internet age in”Lo and Behold”

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The great Werner Herzog is the cinema’s most curious filmmaker, and his probing camera and soft spot for eccentrics make this (fiction) feature filmmaker’s documentaries stand alone.

His wide-ranging intellectual inquisitiveness is well-served in “”Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World,” in which the 73 year-old child of World War II marvels at the revolutionary changes of the Internet Age.

Change and the speed of change is what this is all about. It’s a bit all over the place, but it’s a rewarding, thought-provoking ride, which is expected every time Herzog commits to a subject.

“Lo and Behold” is a movie that starts with a history of the Internet. He visits ‘Net pioneer and enthusiast Leonard Kleinrock (top photo) in the UCLA lab where the Internet was born, in 1969.

The first communication between computers was with a lab at Stanford. They were just logging in when both ends of the conversation experience the world’s first Web Crash. they meant to type “Log In.” They only got “Lo.”

If you don’t think Kleinrock and then Herzog will lap up that word “Lo” and the wonders it foretells, then you don’t know Herzog. “Wonder” should be the man’s first name. “Behold” could be his middle one.

“Lo and Behold” wanders into Elon Musk’s office for a chat about the web future that will aid our colonizing Mars and hangs with scientists pioneering self-driving car technology (which Musk’s company is putting on the road). The “hive mind” of the web is producing cancer research and bolstering the hunt for alien life. Herzog visits robot labs and loner Web philosophers, an astronomer or two and the town of Green Bank, West Virginia, where the presence of a super-sensitive radio telescope means there are no cell phones or cell towers and not much in the way of Internet, either.

Herzog asks if one and all if they think “the Internet dreams of itself”?

And dark prophet that he is, Herzog finds a California family assaulted online with photos of their daughter, “nearly decapitated” in a car accident — photos thoughtlessly taken by a first responder who callously passed them on by email to friends, not suspecting the unspeakable cruelty of the anonymous Groupthink of the WWW.

Herzog is drawn to wise madmen, from the actors he uses in his feature films (Klaus Kinski, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale) to the odd ducks he stumbles across making documentaries (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World“). He finds a few here, including famed hacker Kevin Mitnick.

These are miraculous days, Herzog enthuses, a time when communication has never been faster nor more widespread and available to nearly all. But as he and the disparate voices he listens to warn us, it’s time to stop and consider it all, the degrees of privacy we must insist on, the unspoken perils of turning so many jobs and so much of our thinking over to machines “which can learn” exponentially faster than the fastest human mind.

If we’re going to keep a Herzogian sense of wonder, maybe we ought to start thinking about what comes after this moment of “reverie.”

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“Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.”

MPAA Rating:PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements

Cast: Kevin Mitnick, Leonard Kleinrock, Lucianne Walkowicz, and the voice of Werner Herzog
Credits: Written and directed by Werner Herzog. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:31

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Film Review — “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”

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Those “Ab Fab” Brits, Edina and Patsy, are back — decades past their TV glory, more decades beyond their expiration dates in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.”

If it can be drunk, smoked or snorted, they consume it. Because even at an age when Keith Richards feels the need to moderate, they’re as decadent as ever, darlings.

Jennifer Saunders’ riotous 1990s TV lampoon of London fashion, overage excess and social climbing in the shallowest end of the pop culture pool still packs a comic sting, largely thanks to the evergreen pairing of Saunders, as flailing and fading fashion publicist Edina Monsoon, and the fearless Joanna Lumley as Patsy, a fashion editor who walked every runway, smoked every cigarette, sucked every lime and shagged every rock star and actor who has crossed her path since the 1960s.

How’s she do it?

“Fetus blood, baby.”

They leap on every fad, try every diet and live their lives in a frantic imitation of those whose world they live in, if only peripherally. And they still call everybody “Sweetie, darling.”

Eddie is down to her last couple of miserable, overage clients, the pop singer Lulu and Spice Girl in dotage (Baby Space) Emma Bunton. The days when “the zeitgeist flowed though me” are over. She is finally, for the first time in her 60some-odder-than-odd years, facing her mortality.

She’s written — Ok, DICTATED to her ditzy assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) — her autobiography. But the one editor who will read it is as blunt as they get.

“You think your life’s interesting. It isn’t. It may be worth living, but not worth reading.”

And she’s not having it, darlings.

If only she can land Kate Moss, whom rumor has it is changing publicists.

If only she can keep her still-around, even-more-aged mother (June Whitfield) out of her hair. If only she can keep her creditors at bay. If only her common-sense divorced daughter (Julia Sawalha, the ultimate “third wheel”) can let down her guard over her own underage but runway-ready daughter (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness).

But Eddie knocks Moss, playing herself, into the Thames at riverside fashion function. All of Britain mourns and Eddie becomes the national pariah. If only she knew what a pariah was.

The jokes are broad and narrow as ever. It’s a very inside-baseball riff on fashion and fashionistas and always has been. As the cameos fly by — Jon Hamm to Sadie Frost, Stella McCartney to Jean-Paul Gaultier — you might miss the funniest and most obvious joke of all.

She’s pinning her comeback on Kate Moss?

Lumley, a not-quite-forgotten star of TV’s “The New Avengers” when the “Ab Fab” TV show turned her loose in the early ’90s, remains the Empress of Excess and would all but own the movie if writer-creator/co-star Saunders wasn’t so damned funny herself.

Patsy, pushing 70, has adapted. She flips through Tinder pages.

“Had him. Had him. Had him.”

She makes Jon Hamm blush, wears smeared lipstick and disheveled haute couture like combat medals. Lumley is, as ever, glorious in the part.

I’m not sure how this will play to anybody who doesn’t know the 1990s TV show, which only aired on cable in the U.S., and “ex Flower Children Behaving Badly” seems tailor made for the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” audience, as raunchy as it sometimes is. The slapstick is silly and slight, the cultural references (Jerry Hall sucking up all the TV interview time on the red carpet) pointedly dated.

But so many throw-away moments zing. Eddie dabbling with getting in shape by riding a Razor scooter to her waiting limo, for instance.

“Exercise, exercise, exercise, DONE” and that’s it.

Fans will find nostalgic fun in Eddie’s endless neediness, daughter Saffron’s pluck (Sawahla gets a show-stopping moment, looking for Mum in a drag queen bar), Patsy’s stoned slurrings and the return of Eddie’s equally-aged nemesis Claudia (Celia Imrie) and her harridan role model, the loud, profane working class high fashion taste-maker and troll before trolls were “in,” Magda (Kathy Burke).

So forget social mores, forget that the world has made “stars” out of a family of surgically enhanced sex tape tarts, and remember Patsy and Eddie’s were there first. In movies, as in new experiences, new fad diets, new things to buy, new spa treatments to indulge,  nouevelle cuisines or new banned substances to consume, do what they do.

“Just say YES, darlings.”

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MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jon Hamm, Kate Moss, Chris Colfer, Jane Horrocks, Joan Collins, Lulu, Emma Bunton
Credits: Directed by Mandie Fletcher, script by Jennifer Saunders. A release.

Running time: 1:49

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Movie Review: “Lights Out”

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You don’t realize how much a good horror movie depends on acting until you stumble in that rare one whose cast actually gets it right.

We need to believe that the people up there on the screen  are shocked at what they’re seeing, mortified at their mortal danger. And in “Lights Out,” we do.

It’s an elemental thriller, a ghost story told in pools of light in deep darkness, with a child in peril and that moment when the child recognizes that crazy Mommy (Maria Bello) isn’t just talking to herself and won’t be any help at all with this boogey-girl haunting his nights.

“Did we wake you?”

And that little boy, Martin, played by Gabriel Bareman? He plays that kid scared out of his wits, shutting his door, afraid to turn the lights out. Because that’s when “Diana” will get him.

Teresa Palmer of “Warm Bodies” and “The Choice” plays Rebecca, the Goth half-sister who left home, it turns out, for the same reasons Martin comes knocking at her door. She has faint memories of being menaced by Diana. But can she keep Martin safe in her tiny apartment upstairs from a tattoo parlor? Will the pink neon “Tatoos” sign shining through the windows be enough to keep Diana at bay?

David F. Sandberg, remaking his own short film and working under horror impresario producer James Wan (“Insidious”) sets up the terror, the monster and the dilemma — nobody believes them — nicely. An opening scene puts Billie Burke (“Twilight”) in jeopardy, the missing “Dad” in all this, jump-starting a brisk 81 minute fright.

The magical talismans, if you know your “Morphology of a Folktale” ingredients, are well chosen — a hand-cranked generator/flashlight, candles, a cell-phone scene. Sound effects and jolts of music heighten the effects.

“Lights Out” loses its way at times. Things are over-explained, background material we might be curious about is fleshed in needlessly. Yes, it would have been a 75 minute movie (almost unheard of these days) without this filler. Does it really matter where this night terror came from?

But Bello, Bateman and Palmer more than give us fair value as their frights become out frights, and their dilemma has us wondering how bright out cell-phone light is, wondering if the flashlight in the glove compartment still has batteries that work, wondering how long we can go without sleeping.

 

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello
Credits: Directed by David F. Sandberg, script by Eric Heisserer (screenplay), David F. Sandberg. A New Line/Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:21

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Box Office: Does “Ghostbusters'” $45 million opening make it a flop?

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OK, so the headier speculation about the rebooted “Ghostbusters” has created dashed hopes.

It won’t hit $50 million at the box office on its opening weekend, despite advance ticket sales that suggested it might.

It won’t really challenge a somewhat depleted “Secret Life of Pets” on its second weekend. “Pets” is underperforming by a smidge. It should have lost no more than 50% of its opening weekend audience, being a tiny tykes cartoon. And it did. It will hit $50 million. Maybe. It was off 60% Friday. Saturday will be the key.

So the distaff “Ghostbusters” speculation now turns to “Is $45 million (if indeed it maintains that pace) enough to warrant rebooting the whole franchise?”

The movie cost $144 million, after all. So opening at $45 means it’ll manage half that — if it is lucky — the second weekend, and fall off steeply after that. Maybe $100-$110 million in North American ticket sales. Those are “Angry Birds” numbers. Not great.

A flop? Not exactly. But close. A funnier screenplay would have helped, as they were already spending all that money on cast (NOT on the villain, NOT on the two current SNL starlets) and effects.

“The Infiltrator” opened Wed. and bombed. It will have $6 million in the bank by midnight Sunday, and that’s not enough to suggest Bryan Cranston should do anything other than prestige pictures (“Trumbo”) and cable.

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Box Office: Can “Ghostbusters” break $50 million?

boxThis weekend’s box office should revolve around a second round of “The Secret Life of Pets.” It got decent enough reviews (I was in the minority not caring for it, but not in the TINY minority). It’s packed them in all week and could pull in another $50 million+ this weekend, per Box Office Guru.

But the real question mark is how much bang is there in a “Ghostbusters” reboot?

The Guru figures the distaff pseudo-scientists should curry $47 million from audiences. Not 3D, so besting a kiddie cartoon seems out of the question. “Pets” seems to have legs.

Decent enough reviews will help. It’s a safe PG-13, stars women and seems like a “safe space” of a movie because of that. How much of an audience there is for this proven brand is anybody’s guess. Pre-sales give it a shot at surpassing “Pets.”  Box Office Mojo guesses $46 million. guesses $46 million. 

Nobody is expecting much of anything from the Bryan Cranston undercover drug wars thriller “The Infiltrator.” It’s on a lot of screens, but looks to be lost in the flurry of “Ghostbuster” attentions. Maybe $4-6 million, the Guru and Box Office Mojo project. Cranston is getting a lot of movie attention for a cable TV star. That may wind down after this. His audience doesn’t go out. It watches TV.

 

 

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Critical Mass: Most go for “Ghostbusters,” fewer embrace “Infiltrator”

ghost1So let’s read some polls — the Metacritic and Tomatometer ones — read some tea-leaves and read between the lines about what people are saying about this weekend’s potential blockbusters.

After that first trailer came out, the talk about “Ghostbusters” has been about how some “sexists” aren’t going to like it. That’s the narrative for this movie, thanks in part to the spin its director Paul Feig is giving it. Yeah, he was legitimately reacting to some extreme comments about the trailer (s). But the comments he was ignoring are the more telling ones.

Because the trailers told this one truth. It wasn’t very funny. The script doesn’t give a promising cast much to do, and if it wasn’t for Kate McKinnon’s trying ever-so-hard and Leslie Jones doing what Leslie Jones always does — teaching Tyler Perry how a REAL “Angry Black Woman” cliche acts — the leads would have landed none of the big laughs. Cameos by Dan A., Sigourney W., and Steve Higgins and Andy Garcia score. McCarthy? Not so much.

But cowed critics are giving the rebooted “Ghostbusters” a pass. Barely. So, fine. A Few laughs, a different feminine spin on the material, I hope it makes a lot of money and that maybe they spend some of it on better screenwriters if they make another. IF.

Then there’s the other wide release previewed for critics — “The Infiltrator.” It’s routine and generic and the cast is entirely too old, overall, in this “Miami Vice” era undercover drug bust drama. Most critics agree. But in reading those who raved about this mediocrity on Metacritic, I developed a theory. They’re the “Mostly, I just stay home and watch cable” crowd. Richard “Still Not a Real Movie Critic” Roeper single-handedly bent the Metacritic rating on this for a couple of days with his ringing endorsement. He’s shamelessly surfing the last few feet of America’s “Love that Bryan Cranston” wave. And he’s endorsing a dull movie.

Convicted felon and Conservative Pied Piper Dinesh D’Sousa has another “documentary” pandering to the “We hate Democrats” movie demographic. Not previewed, and it’s about Hillary Clinton. So people who mistrust foreigners and despite criminals will be led over the cliff by a race-baiting Indian with a prison record. Go figure. I’ll get to that one. Eventually.

Take away the overwhelming success of the good-not-great “Finding Dory,” the shocking opening of “The Secret Life of Pets” and the worldwide triumph of a middling “Captain America” installment, and this looks like the worst summer for summer movies in a generation. Bombs litter the landscape, little is worth having a conversation about and even the hate mail — over “Warcraft” or “Tarzan” — is half-hearted. Maybe late summer will produce some winners — “Suicide Squad,” maybe the “Bourne” sequel. No hope at all for “Star Trek.”

 

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