[Box Office Report] Secret Life of Pets and Dark Phoenix Win the Weekend in Underwhelming Openings

The new releases of this past weekend failed to make a large impression at the domestic box office. The Secret Life of Pets 2 opened to $47.1 million. To compare, the first film knocked it out of the park with a $104.3 million opening weekend, a record-breaker for original animated properties. So I didn’t expect the second film to hit that, but it is surprising how not-close it got, especially after opening on 4,561 locations, second highest theater count ever to Avengers: Endgame. I found the first film’s marketing to be much better on an underwhelming film experience. I expected the original film to be about the secret lives our pets have when we aren’t around, much as the titles suggests. Instead, it was a cheaper less-interesting version of Toy Story.

Fox’s last outing with this iteration of the X-Men, Dark Phoenix, opened to a disappointingly low $33 million, making it the lowest-opening of all the X-Men films and an absolute disaster set to perhaps even lose money, close to half the $65.7 million for X-Men: Apocalypse. News and rumors of the production nightmares as well as the reshoots and release date changes spelled potential doom for this film long ago, but I don’t think I expected it to fail on opening weekend. I had assumed that on its second weekend, we would see a higher drop-off, but this was a surprising turn of events. I checked out Dark Phoenix on Thursday night, and while I felt it was far from the worst in the franchise, it was still in the lower half of rankings, with a disappointingly soulless reinterpretation of the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Disney’s live-action Aladdin claimed third place this weekend with $24.5 million on its third weekend of release. The newest of Disney’s live-action interpretations of their famous properties, Aladdin stumbles in a few places but overall is a fun nostalgic ride that aims to try something new with the story, and I really enjoyed it. Globally, it sits at $604 million, which is currently the fourth highest-grossing film of the year behind Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and China Film Group’s The Wandering Earth.

Fourth place this weekend is Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the third film in the MonsterVerse behind Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, with $24.5 million. King of the Monsters has struggled in its release even though I felt like it was a major step up from the 2014 Godzilla, including all that kaiju which I love so much. The film has issues with its human characters but I liked them more than the blander humans of the 2014 film. It’s doing just fine globally, but its domestic run has been a rough one.

Rocketman nabbed fifth place this weekend, the musical biopic of Elton John claiming $14 million. I caught the film yesterday, and I absolutely adored it, and I hope it holds onto the Top Five for a bit longer.

Late Night opened in limited release with $249 thousand in four theaters. I quite enjoyed Late Night, and it should see some recognition for Emma Thompson’s incredible performance as an aging late-night talk-show host.

Next weekend should be an interesting one as Men in Black International drops alongside the newest Shaft sequel and Jim Jarmusch’s zombie film The Dead Don’t Die. Late Night will also open in wide-release.

So what did you see this weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Dark Phoenix (2019)

Director: Simon Kinberg

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

113 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language.

 

Dark Phoenix may very likely be the last installment of this iteration of the X-Men franchise. We may never see The New Mutants, so this is our swan song, or Phoenix song, to the franchise. It’s almost fitting that it’s the first installment to be directed by longtime franchise writer Simon Kinberg, but is he able to send out this franchise on a high note?

It’s 1992, and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Split, Sherlock Gnomes) has aged remarkably well (seriously, trace the amount of time spanned between First Class and now), and his work with human/mutant relations have made him a bit of a mutant celebrity among politicians. His team of X-Men, led by Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games, Red Sparrow) have saved countless lives. When he sends them on an outer-space mission to save some stranded astronauts from a deadly solar flare, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, Josie, TV’s Game of Thrones) is caught in the trajectory of the flare and should have been killed, but when they return her to Earth, she appears fine. At least, for a little bit. They soon learn that something is very wrong with Jean. She is unable to control her power, which has spiked significantly since her incident in space, and secrets from her and Charles’s past are coming back to haunt them both. Now, the X-Men face their greatest threat in one of their own, and it’s a fight they may not walk away from.

Reviews are hitting Dark Phoenix pretty hard, and the signs have been clear for some time that this was not going to be the big explosive finale to the Fox X-Men Saga (an entire year of pushbacks do not exactly inspire confidence, even if there was good reason), but I think the backlash is a little excessive. Dark Phoenix is not a bad X-Men movie. The biggest problem is that it’s somewhat soulless. It doesn’t really make me feel one way or the other. In a way, it feels like Kinberg and Fox dug themselves into a hole by redoing the Dark Phoenix Saga, a storyline we’d seen played out on the big screen in X-Men: The Last Stand. If you’re going to do redo a storyline that you’ve already covered in the same franchise, you better make it damn good. It can’t be just okay; it needs to show the audience why redoing it was the right call, and while Dark Phoenix is a better film and a better version of the story than The Last Stand, it still isn’t that much better. It’s a perfectly okay film.

The movie just lacks a lot of soul. The only area where its style really works is in its score from Hans Zimmer (who came out of superhero score retirement for this film), and he crafted a score that feels very apocalyptic and sets the tone of the film more separate from the extravagant scores of the previous X-Men films. Other than his music, there just isn’t anything of flair to the film. Things just happen, and plot points don’t feel very surprising or shocking. Things just happen. The best part of the film happens to be the finale, something was entirely reshot and revamped during the reshoots. It’s an excellent-looking action set piece but again, it lacks enough story at that point.

McAvoy and Fassbender do just fine with the material given to them, as does Sophie Turner, coming off Game of Thrones, as Jean Grey. It’s nice to see her get some major screen time here, but again, her scenes lack narrative tone. I also have to mention Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, Tolkien), who has the best scene in the film in a deeply emotional conversation in the kitchen. On the flipside, it was quite obvious that Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t give a shit about this franchise anymore (it was quite obvious in X-Men: Apocalypse), and it’s all the more apparent in this installment. With that, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Molly’s Game) is utterly wasted in the film as Vuk, a shapeshifting alien who, along with her cohorts, are essentially plot devices. It’s too bad, because, again, if you’re going to get Jessica Chastain, give her something to do. I feel as though Vuk is an overly-complicated villain without any backstory or reason for being in the film, somewhat of a paradox.

From all that, though, the stars of the film being McAvoy, Fassbender, and Turner, I got enough enjoyment from this installment to give it a “meh” as a recommendation. It’s neither good nor bad, but for fans of the X-Men franchise, there should be enough enjoyment in Dark Phoenix. We should also remember that, if one is marathoning the X-Men series chronologically, then Logan comes last, which is a blessing, because Logan is a far better finale to this hit-or-miss series than Dark Phoenix.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, click here.

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

For my review of David Leitch’s Deadpool 2, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s Logan, click here.

Simon Kinberg to Direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Jessica Chastain in Talks to Play Villain

Simon Kinberg will finally get his opportunity to sit in the director’s chair on a new installment of the X-Men Universe. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will reunite Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan, all from X-Men: Apocalypse.

The film will of course adapt the beloved Dark Phoenix saga focused around Jean Grey. For fans, this is both exciting and also a touchy subject, as many still hold the wounds of X-Men: The Last Stand, co-written by Kinberg himself, the botched first attempt to adapt the material. Thanks to the events of altering the timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past, we now have an opportunity to right the wrongs.

And not only that! The amazing and truly talented Jessica Chastain is in talks to play a villain! I absolutely adore Chastain (and yes, I have a boy crush, deal with it) and the work she puts out is consistenly incredible, but she isn’t known for her franchise or genre work, so I’m very excited to see Chastain join the iconic ranks of incredible actors playing X-Men villains (Ian McKellan, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon, Peter Dinklage, and Oscar Isaac).

But is Kinberg the right move here? I’m not really sure. As I said before, the franchise has already ruined this story arc before, from a script partially written by Kinberg. Granted, we all know there was studio interference and also Brett Ratner behind the lens, but has Kinberg shown capabilities to prove he’s worth the risk? At this point, I don’t think so.

That being said, I’m all for the addition of Chastain to the franchise.

So what do you think? Is Simon Kinberg the right choice to direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix? And what do you think about the possible addition of Jessica Chastain? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix rises in cinemas in 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse is proof that the internet will freak out about anything. When footage first debuted of Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) in costume as the villain En Sabah Nur, or Apocalypse, everyone started losing their minds over the look of the mutant, comparing him to Ivan Ooze of The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie fame. In the finished product, he looks and feels fine. The internet went crazy over nothing. They should have been worried about other problems that the film would actually have…

It’s been ten years since X-Men: Days of Future Past, and now, in 1983, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Wanted, Victor Frankenstein) has been running his school for gifted youngsters smoothly for years. With the assistance of Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road, Kill Your Friends), Charles has taken in countless young mutants like the brilliantly gifted Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, TV’s Game of Thrones, Barely Lethal). But when an ancient evil, En Sabah Nur (Isaac), rises in Egypt and threatens to cleanse the Earth and rebuild a better one, the young students of the school must band together to protect themselves and the world from total annihilation.

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Let’s start with what really works in Apocalypse. Once again, McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Prometheus) play perfect foils to each other as Xavier and Erik Lensherr, respectively. It is Fassbender that truly shines as the sins of his past come back to haunt him and he is forced to confront his anger over the loss of his parents once and for all. I also really liked Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. I think when seen in context, he does what he can with what he has to mold his performance. That isn’t to say that the villain is great, but that Isaac capably plays to what he can. I also liked the reemergence of Jean Grey, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan, Mud, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

I, of course, have to call out the incredible one-upmanship from the previous film in the form of another terrific Quiksilver sequence featuring Evan Peters. This time around, the soundtrack updates and the effects come flying into the 1980s for an absolutely fascinating and fun action scene that steals the whole movie.

Since the shared universe hit a reboot with Days of Future Past, it’ll be interesting to see how certain events play out. Apocalypse hit on a few squandered moments from earlier in the franchise in a fairly stylish way, paying homage to the original comic books. It doesn’t always succeed in its attempt to right the wrongs, as the film creates a convoluted mess of some of the renewed elements. For example, it makes no mention of the ending to DOFP where we discover that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games, Joy) is mimicking Stryker. Then, we get a new version of several characters who are strikingly different ages than they were in the previous timeline. Granted, this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it only seeks to the concerning question of whether this franchise has learned from its mistakes.

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Then there’s the big conundrum of setting this film in the 1980s. In doing so, I didn’t feel a lot of tension for the Earth-shattering destruction as I was fully aware that we saw present day at the end of DOFP and in this year’s Deadpool, both of which exist in the new timeline. Again, small complaints perhaps, but bothersome nonetheless.

But what I really didn’t like about the film was that in creating a new unique villain, director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Jack the Giant Slayer) didn’t really give us one worth fearing. I mentioned earlier that I liked Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur, but he is given virtually no character building other than dialogue in the film. Singer removed the space entity treatment of the character to focus on the religious connotations, but he ended up creating a flat villain to place the burden of the film on. I would have liked to have known what Apocalypse was capable of. He mostly just threw stuff around the screen and created lovely debris tornados. His horseman are further treated with no imagination. Magneto and perhaps Storm are the only one pitched with any realy interest. Angel and Psylocke (Olivia Munn, Magic Mike, Zoolander 2) were virtually wasted, Munn being perfectly miscast and her character extremely mishandled. If Psylocke was meant to usher in an X-Force film down the line, I’m more than a little concerned.

I won’t even really go into detail on the dismal work of Jennifer Lawrence because I feel like so many others have already mentioned her lack of trying. It appears like Lawrence is having blockbuster fatigue after finishing The Hunger Games last year. She spends no time in her costume, presumably from something in her contract, which ultimately leaves Mystique in a rather uninteresting situation.

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There’s a throwaway reference in the film when the young mutants are exiting a showing of Return of the Jedi. They remark how the second film is often the best and the third is often the worst. It is seen as a reference to the disappointing reviews from critics and viewers of X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006, a film Singer left to pursue Superman Returns. It seems like a bad idea to put a joke like that in a film that is essentially the final piece of a trilogy started with First Class and DOFP, especially when considering that next year the Wolverine trilogy is also coming to an end. Apocalypse clearly proves the joke to be true here, and fans can only hope that the minds behind this uneven franchise can learn and right the ship in time for Hugh Jackman’s last outing in the series in next year’s Wolverine 3.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So have you seen X-Men: Apocalypse? What did you think? And we have seen four of the six big superhero releases of the year (the other three being Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain America: Civil War). Which one is your favorite? Let me know!

 

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

Channing Tatum is the new Gambit! Solo movie gets writer!

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I have grown to really enjoy Channing Tatum’s work. Call me crazy, but he has developed himself nicely in the movie business. He isn’t perfect, but he is working his way up.

I recently saw that Channing Tatum just got the new gig as Gambit in the X-Men Movie Universe, a role previously held by Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Pretty exciting!

I also saw that there was a possibility of Gambit appearing in X-Men: Apocalypse before receiving his own solo movie. I like the idea of getting a standalone film, as the previous attempt at giving Wolverine his own origin movie didn’t do so great, and by not great, I mean fucking awful!

Not only that but the Gambit movie just got a writer. It sounds like Josh Zetumer has been hired to write “Gambit,” and it couldn’t come a moment too soon with the news of Deadpool’s new film in the works as well. With all the comic-book news coming from Warner Bros./DC and Disney/Marvel, 20th Century Fox needs to get their feet wet in the new world of NerdDom.

I’m personally excited to see some new blood in the X-Men series, and with Days of Future Past being as terrific as it was, Gambit stands a real chance at magic.

So what do you think about Channing Tatum and Gambit? Let me know.

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Channing Tatum can next be seen in 2015’s Jupiter Ascending.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

My friends, X-Men: Days of Future Past is still pretty fresh in theaters and doing very well. I happened to see it last week and wow. Just wow. It got me thinking…a lot. About comic books. About time travel. About Jennifer Lawrence…

Anywho, I thought now would be a great time to revisit some X-Men films. Where better to start than an origin story?

 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds

Screenplay: David Benioff, Skip Woods

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

After the initial X-Men trilogy came to a close, producers and execs at 20th Century Fox were really scratching their heads. How do they continue a franchise about a team when not all the players want to play? Simple enough. Focus on just one. Who better than Wolverine, right? WRONG. Wolverine is a terrible character to focus two hours on. Simply put, he is just too powerful a character. First of all, unable to die. Okay, so how do we fear for him? It is the same reason why it is so difficult to make a solid Superman film. Too strong. Secondly, we already know his backstory. We learn everything we need to know about Wolverine from X2: X-Men United. We learn about Weapon X, about Stryker, about the whole kit-and-caboodle. SO why? Why follow around Logan for an entire film. It would be easier if we knew or cared about the supporting players, but this whole film is a cadre of mutants who we in the audience a) don’t know, or b) don’t care about. What’s to love here?

I think I’m getting ahead here. The plot. Okay, so X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman returns for his fourth appearance as the clawing mutant). Wolverine before he was Wolverine. It examines his relationship with his brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber, TV’s Ray Donovan, Salt). Now you may be asking yourself “Wait! The guy from the first X-Men is Logan’s brother?” And don’t worry, because it is barely brought up and bares little to no bringing up in the actual story. We get to see Logan get his claws. We get to see Logan kill a helicopter. Easily, the plot of this film is a bunch of set pieces stitched together and designed to get us to X-Men in the most meandering way possible. And it indeed meanders.

Hugh Jackman is the reason for this film. He currently holds a record for most times an actor has portrayed a superhero on the big screen. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks the seventh time he has donned the claws, and I hear that X-Men: Apocalypse as well as a third Wolverine-centric film are on the way. He is Wolverine, so much so that leaving the role is tantamount to killing the unkillable character. Jackman surrounds himself with solid actors that have nothing to do here. Schreiber here is a terrible casting choice, more so than just because he bares no resemblance to the Sabretooth we already know. Danny Huston (21 Grams, Hitchcock) is again a very capable performer, and under a more solid script could do Stryker well, but he just becomes a half-assed villain reduced to little motivation and lots of cheese. Dominic Monaghan (TV’s Lost, The Lord of the Rings trilogy)  joins as Chris Bradley, but he gets two scenes and then is tossed aside in favor of shoving more worthless characters in. And then we get to Ryan Reynolds. Hold up, Reynolds gets his own paragraph…

Okay, are you ready? Let’s begin.

Ryan Reynolds has always loved the character of Deadpool, and really, he is a likable character. The Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool is known for his quips and one-liners, as well as the characteristic of regularly breaking the 4th wall and talking to the reader. So when Reynolds heard that Deadpool would appear in the new X-Men film, he called and asked for the part. What does he get in return? Wade Wilson/Deadpool amounts to little more than a few cameo pop-ins as a character who, get this, are you ready: When he becomes Deadpool, he doesn’t even get to talk! The Merc with a Mouth has his mouth sewn shut! What the Fu-

 

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Sorry. Yeah, sorry about that. It is angersome though, that is for sure.

Let’s talk about some of the other points in this film, because something has to be good.

The cinematography looks like someone hired director Gavin Hood to shoot a cheap music video featuring Hugh Jackman and terrible music. Once you get past the opening credits, which are beautiful, the film just starts to drag. The problem about opening credits, is that when I saw them, I saw the film I wanted to see. Forrest Gump with claws. There is something depressing about being unable to die, yet this was not thought of until the second Wolverine adventure some four years later.

Gavin Hood’s direction is boring and clumsy. It feels like he would have shown up to the theater in the middle of the film to yell out at the audience, “See, this is where he gets the claws! Hey look, it is Stryker, remember him?!?” To be fair, Hood did want to examine Logan’s PTSD at one point, something unheard of in a summer comic book blockbuster until last year’s incredible Iron Man 3.

The CG. My God, the CG. Those claws look bad. Check out the bathroom scene if you get the chance and you’ll see what I mean.

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In closing, screenwriter Benioff of Game of Thrones fame sought out to make an R-Rated Wolverine film that really examined the character’s life. This wasn’t that film, thanks to the studio. This film only wishes to confuse the timeline, and in fact it did, so there’s that for you. I’ll just say this, if you’re a completest as I am, watch the film once and burn the copy after. If you can avoid seeing it, do so. Not having seen this movie will not ruin the movie-going experience of seeing any other X-Men film, trust me.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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