Category Archives: Movies

Mockingjay Holds on to First with The Good Dinosaur and Creed Performing Well

mockingjaypostersmallThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 held on to first place in its second week at the box office. The film added an estimated $51.6 million to its domestic total. The film has earned $198.3 million in two weeks and $440.7 million worldwide. The film dropped 49.7% from its first week, making it the only Hunger Games film to drop less than 50%.

Two movies debuted this past week coming in second and third, and a third debuted coming in at number 12 for the weekend. The Good Dinosaur came in second and earned $39.2 million, while Creed debuted in third with $30.1 million. Victor Frankenstein was dead on arrival, earning $2.35 million. The Good Dinosaur did well for the time period it opened, but compared to other Pixar films, it didn’t do so well.

The Good Dinosaur and Creed bumped Spectre to fourth with $12.8 million and The Peanuts Movie to fifth with $9.7 million.

Here’s this year’s top five films domestically and worldwide so far:


  1. Jurassic World – $652.2 million
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459.01 million
  3. Inside Out – $356.29 million
  4. Furious 7 – $352.79 million
  5. Minions – $335.84 million


  1. Jurassic World – $1.6689 billion
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5148 billion
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4050 billion
  4. Minions – $1.1571 billion
  5. Inside Out – $851.5 million

Movie Review: Creed

CreedThe former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

When I saw the first trailer for Creed there were two thoughts that crossed my mind, 1) how am I just hearing about this?; 2) oh come on!

I’m a fan of the Rocky series, and other than the atrocious Rocky V, I can watch the movies over and over again, and curled up on the couch catching a marathon on television is a great way to spend the day for me. Though the films generally decreased in quality over time (with Rocky Balboa being the outlier) the franchise is one of the most enjoyable out there.

Walking out of Creed, not only have I watched the best “Rocky” film since the first (and in many ways it challenges the first), but also one of the best films of the year.

Directed by Ryan Coogler (who also has a writing credit), the film is a modern take on the Rocky myth, with Michael B. Jordan standing in for Sylvester Stallone, and Stallone taking on the mentor role. With Coogler behind the camera and Jordan in front, we also have one of the freshest films this year. It should be no surprise these two put out such an excellent film as they both shot to stardom with their first collaboration Fruitville Station.

Coogler’s choices are fantastic when it comes to direction, as well as story, with shots that modernize much of what we’ve seen. Subtle moves of the camera, especially during the boxing scenes, amp up a genre where we see mainly the same framing and use of the camera. Here a camera may start facing one boxer and in a single tracking shot back up and pivot to bring another in. We follow a knocked out boxer down, as if we’re knocked out. A face is placed low on the screen showing off the surroundings. Training is presented in a way that I feel it’s something I’ve never seen on the screen. The mitt training in particular feel like a choreographed dance with a flurry of arm movements, just beautiful and mesmerizing to watch fly through the air. It’s all masterful, as Coogler realizes the surroundings are as important as those who occupy them.

The story is almost a complete remake of the first Rocky film with some twists and turns. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, a troubled youth who gets in to fighting then boxing. He seeks out Balboa as a mentor, and eventually fights for the championship. We’ve seen this plot, but how it’s presented and with such fantastic acting, are two ways this very much differs.

Coogler as a director clearly has the ability to bring out the best in his actors. Jordan is not shockingly fantastic. I’ve yet to see him in a role where he didn’t shine. He plays the role fantastically well with an air of privilege and trouble mixed together. He also gives an emotional performance, one which I have no problem admitting got me to choke up a few times. What’s truly surprising is Stallone’s performance, who lets face it, isn’t known for his acting ability. Here though, he plays the aged mentor well. The vulnerability he shows is amazing, especially when his life is on the line. You truly feel that this is a man who is struggling to decide if he should give up and see his wife and friend again, or keep on fighting. This film is as about Johnson’s fight for the title as it is Rocky’s fight to go on with life.

Of note are two other actors. Tessa Thompson plays Jordan’s love interest Johnson. She’s excellent for the subtlety of her performance. Her character Bianca also has an aspect not mentioned in much of what I’ve seen, a character who is losing her hearing and thus struggling with a disability. It’s an aspect of the movie I didn’t expect, and the way she talks and deals with it, you can feel her struggling to cope and having to cope. It’s wonderful to see on screen. For those also familiar with the boxing/MMA world Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran is a fixture in the second half of the film bringing an air of authenticity. Duran is a real world cutman working in boxing/MMA/kickboxing, and though he doesn’t have much as far as lines, it was great to see him on screen.

Like a championship passing from the champ to challenger, we may be witnessing the passing of a franchise. If what’s to come is as good as this first film, I’m quite ok with that. One of my favorite films of the year, and possibly one of the bests, it’s also one of my favorite films in a while.

Overall Rating: 9.6

Director – Ryan Coogler
Starring – Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 133 minutes

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Gets a New TV Spot

A new television spot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives us even more new footage. The film comes to theaters December 18.

Doctor Strange Begins Production With the Full Cast Announced

With some set photos leaked over the past week, Marvel has announced that Doctor Strange has officially begun production. Along with that bit information, they’ve also announced the cast.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and  Michael Stuhlbarg with Mads Mikkelsen and Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton. The film is being directed by Scott Derrickson.

Doctor Strange follows the story of neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a horrific car accident, discovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions.

As part of “Phase 3,” the film opens U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016.

doctor strange movie

Captain America: Civil War Gets an Expanded Synopsis

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War was released yesterday and along with it an expanded synopsis for the film was released too.

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War opens in U.S. theaters on May.

In case you missed it, you can watch the full trailer here. The film comes to theaters May 6, 2016.

Captain America Civil War

Captain America: Civil War Trailer

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War premiered on Jimmy Kimmel Live, which airs on Marvel’s sister company ABC.

The movie is loosely based on the Marvel comic of the same name written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steven McNiven. The film brings together a lot of the themes that have been building and features not just Captain America, but also Bucky, Falcon, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, War Machine, and more including the debut of Black Panther and a rumored Spider-Man.

The film seems to involve the oversight of superheroes and whether they should be regulated by the government with Captain America on one side and Iron Man on the other.

The film comes out May 6, 2016.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2


So here it is at last, a conclusion to the widely popular franchise depicting Katniss Everdeen’s epic and tragic journey. Just like other popular franchises based on books like Harry Potter, Twilight and the ongoing Divergent series, the final installment has been split into two parts to maximize profits at the box office. Part 2 continues where Part 1 left off so if you haven’t seen Part 1, it would be a sensible idea to see at least the last ten minutes otherwise you’ll be left in the dark during the initial stages of the final chapter. Finally picking up some pace after the tedious, sorely-stretched penultimate Mockingjay Part 1, the final chapter of this 2-billion dollar franchise spikes up with a promise of rip-roaring adrenaline that fits for a final onslaught—a promise it could barely fulfill with its drawn out and narratively flawed set up.

It sounds fitting to call the previous installment as a storm of fire still gathering blaze, or an engine still heating up, with Katniss’ being prepped up for a deadly rebellion as the fuel filling up the gas tank of interest for this last film. It is arguably a promise that has left a very comforting thought to dwell into, in spite of the fact that Part 1 isn’t as compelling as any of the last two films. This year Part 2 promises to unleashes a storm of fire which has been building up for three years. Honestly, I never appreciated this franchise much (frankly I still don’t) I rather pick its YA counter parts The Maze Runner series & Divergent series over this whole universe. But something about finales gets me hooked on as goodbyes are usually hard. We’re saying goodbye to this story and these characters in regards to our movie screens, and producers are saying goodbye to a film franchise that has become one of the top 20 in cinema history and whose films set box office records in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Within the action of this fourth film, the main characters have to say goodbye to others who survived the first three films, but don’t make it through this one, while in real life, Movie Fans are saying final goodbyes to the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman who died in early 2014 while filming this movie, making this his final film appearance. With so many real-life and character-related goodbyes involved with the ending of this series of movies, having a strong final film to enjoy would likely soften the blow. So, did we get it? The good news: the film is much better than what many people are giving it credit for.


But if you’re among those who didn’t much care for the last film and its politically charged human drama and grim tone, you might want to prepare yourself. While the gut-wrenching conclusion to the Hunger Games saga does bring the action back (although of a far grittier kind than what we saw in the first two films), its tone and themes are a perfect continuation of Mockingjay: Part 1. The bad news: Despite the action, the slow pacing in the first & final act along with the never ending run time of 137 minutes does play spoil sport. The story follows right from where Part 1 ended, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering after nearly being strangled by her brainwashed boyfriend, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss is anxious for an end to Panem’s civil war – and obsessed with getting her revenge on the man whom she blames for it all – President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). As determined as she is to accomplish her goals, Katniss must contend with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebellion, who doesn’t always have Katniss’ best interests at heart. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is there for her (as Peeta has gradual increasing moments of clarity), and so is her sister Prim (Willow Shields), whom Katniss has always protected – at great personal risk (and whom Katniss could blame for the mess that has become her life, if you really think about it). Hunger Games mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), friend and stylist, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), fellow Hunger Games veterans, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Alma Coin’s assistant, Plutarch Havensby (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and tough military commander, Boggs (Mahershala Ali), all try to help Katniss, but there’s only so much that they can do. She has decided that she needs to kill President Snow – up close – regardless of whatever propaganda role she’s being given or what potentially deadly obstacles (as in, sadistic booby traps) stand in her way.

Ending the civil war is very personal to Katniss and she alone is uniquely able to do just that – if she can stay alive long enough. However, she soon finds out that war is rarely as black and white as her propaganda movies make it appear. This is not the good-against-evil story anymore: this is a really smart study on how propaganda works and how one fascist system is about to be replaced – albeit with the best intentions – by another. Where the first two movies show how apathy turns into peaceful protest and peaceful protest gives way to open rebellion, the last two films show how that rebellion becomes more and more radical until the lines start to blur. A very wise person once said: “War makes Fascists of us all” – I believe this film does an excellent job at getting that point across. Apart from the delightfully evil President Snow there are no mere black and white characters here; instead, we get a story that – for once – hasn’t been dumbed down and functions as a sincere and complex exploration of an escalating civil war that threatens to consume everyone. And unlike most YA adaptations, the film doesn’t shy away for a second from showing what that means: the audience is left in no doubt about the human toll this revolution will take in the end. Plus, I have to admit there are a few striking moments in here, and seeing the feline looking creature was shocking. This is one element which has always been a strong one in this series, and I think Hollywood should have been more aware of the work that goes into this type of production. There is also more drama when things really become personal, and it almost didn’t work as we see how ludicrous the last part of the plan is. It’s almost suicidal in its stupidity, considering how extra careful and Machiavellian Snow has been this far. The eventual turn is a surprise and it brings some needed energy to the movie, and the way Katniss decides the end of the empire is awesome, only to be sabotaged by the way the movie sinks again with the tortured ten minutes that lead to her “happiness”.


What hampers the film to an extent is its flaws. The film somehow doesn’t have the grand finale the franchise deserved. All the characters are back, but instead of focusing on their development and closure they just appear as some sort of cameos with nothing to do but the occasional word, battle plans, and the ones that do talk more, like Peeta and Gale are bound to speak about the same theme because the narrative doesn’t really lets them move on until the film is over. Many characters like Haymitch, Plutarch and Johanna that should be in the center of the narrative, are sidelined to the point of barely registering as cameos. Instead the focus is only on Katniss, and i could understand that, but there’s nothing really great that justifies that, and even when there is, it is addressed in such a simple way, that it barely registers. There’s tons of things happening around the districts, specialty in the capitol of course, and instead of actually show that, the battles, the tortures, the consequences of war, we only get to see Katniss underground sitting, talking, sitting, talking, resting, talking, thinking, talking, they speak on and on about the war plans but we don’t get to see nothing of that, and even when there’s an action scene here or there (there are like 3 in the entire film) the camera never gets away from Katniss’s face for us to see actually what is happening (I mean i get it, its Jennifer Lawrence, but for gods sake!).

Another issue I found was in how the movie had several deaths of main characters but doesn’t spend enough time to pay tribute to them, not as much as they did with Rue in the first film. We also never get to see Snows side, and instead of making an interesting analysis of the two sides, we get to see Snow for like 2 minutes and then they sort of make that analysis in the end but in a very sublime way, so overall we never get to see whats really so bad about Snows dictatorship aside from the obvious things that we assume and get to know in talks, but would it be so hard to actually show what the heck is happening!

The performances have always been decent in these films and everyone has definitely improved on their characters since the first movie. It’s interesting to see how these characters have grown throughout the series. Jennifer Lawrence returns as the brave and surprisingly good public speaker, Katniss Everdeen. What can I say? Lawrence is great and she does a fantastic job once again. Her character has come a long way but she’s still able to judge people pretty well and find the best course of action. Hutcherson‘s Peeta has changed a bit in this movie since he was brainwashed during the events of the last one. Hutcherson does a pretty good job showing us the much more damaged and self-loathing character that he’s become. Liam Hemsworth also returns as Katniss’s other love interest, Gale. Gale is still trying to do the right thing by Katniss and her family but he does seem a bit more bloodthirsty this time around. I guess having your friends die in a firestorm will do that to a guy. I would be remiss not to mention the talents of Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer and Donald Sutherland in this movie. Harrelson‘s Haymitch is still the voice of reason in many situations but we don’t really see his character a whole lot this time around. Moore‘s Alma Coin is fleshed out much more in this film, which was nice, but a little telegraphed also. I mean, who didn’t see that coming? Finally, Donald Sutherland as the ridiculously evil President Snow. This is one of those villains that I love to hate. Sutherland himself is grade A talent and he’s easily one of the best parts about the entire series and he certainly doesn’t disappoint this time around.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 provides a predominantly satisfying conclusion to a series that this viewer wasn’t totally enamored with. There is effective social commentary along with some finely acted dramatic scenes, interspersed with exciting action sequences, however the sum of all parts doesn’t result in a masterpiece, but more of a disposable piece of entertainment.

Overall Rating: 6.9

Director – Francis Lawrence
Starring – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 137 minutes

Mockingjay Breaks $100 million in Debut Weekend

mockingjaypostersmallThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 topped the box office with an estimated $101 million. That’s the fifth movie to open above $100 million this year. The film opened $20 million below the first part though. Of course people are calling the film a flop due to that lower opening, even though it was still above $100 million. There’s much debate as to the reason for the “lowish” opening.

Worldwide the film earned $247 million, which is $27.8 million behind Part 1’s $273.8 million. It is a bit apples and oranges comparison due to the film opening in different territories.

Spectre continued to earn, coming in second this weekend and bringing in an estimated $14.6 million. It has earned $153.7 million domestically in the three weeks its been open.

The Peanuts Movie came in third and brought in an estimated $12.8 million to bring its total to $98.9 million in three weeks.

Two new films were fourth and fifth. The Night Before was fourth bringing in an estimated $10.1 million, and fifth was The Secret in their Eyes which earned $6.6 million.

In other geeky films, Minions added $111,930 after 20 weeks.


  1. Jurassic World – $652.2 million
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459.01 million
  3. Inside Out – $356.16 million
  4. Furious 7 – $352.79 million
  5. Minions – $335.63 million


  1. Jurassic World – $1.6689 billion
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5148 billion
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4050 billion
  4. Minions – $1.1569 billion
  5. Inside Out – $851.3 million

A First Look at Wonder Woman

wonderwomanfirstlookFolks have been waiting, but the filming for Wonder Woman is under way. Warner Bros. has announced that production is underway in the UK, France, and Italy, and the film will be out in 2017.

Actress Gal Gadot has posted a photo of herself in her superhero outfit on Twitter and Facebook.

The film will be directed by Patty Jenkins and the cast includes Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as Captain Steve Trevor. Other casting without specific roles include Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Elena Anaya, and Lucy Davis.

As Gadot says, this is something almost 75 years in the making…

Movie Review: The 33

the33_banner2Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this movie when I first saw the trailers. The story sounded interesting and without much knowledge of the actual tragedy, the film instantly reminded me of the recently released Everest (Read the review here). So I thought how can anyone mess up a movie like that? Well, as soon as I saw that the film was in English I started to worry a little bit. What’s wrong with using the native tongue and giving us subtitles? If you want to tell the story in English then just have the actors speak in plain English; you’re not more convincing because you do it with an accent. Whatever the reason was, it worried me a little bit.

Fortunately, the film was more satisfying than I was initially expecting, largely because, especially in the wake of the tragic events echoing in multiple different countries and countless causalities and injuries all over the world, it’s a film that really emphasizes some element of human bonding in the wake of a tragedy. Granted, the characters in this film are pretty thin and bound together only by seriously unfortunate circumstances, but that doesn’t entirely matter. The film focuses on their bonding and their acts of cooperation in a time when survival seems astronomically unlikely. Based on a true story, this movie makes for a complete year for disaster movies. We got action packed fictional San Andreas (Read the review here), and then the based on true story Everest and then now this. Five years ago the eyes of the entire South American population were placed on a relatively unknown small mining town in Chile. When the San Jose mine collapsed in Copiapo, 33 miners were trapped under more than 2000 feet, and the news traveled fast.


It isn’t uncommon to hear about these tragic mining accidents, but what stood out here was that the family members never lost hope and established camp near the site to force authorities to not give up and continue the rescue efforts. After two and a half weeks of uncertainty and against all odds, the rescuers managed to contact the refuge in the mine where all 33 miners reported to be alive and well. That was just the beginning of a long and exhaustive rescue effort that would last more than two months, and that every media channel covered 24 hours a day. So the real question I had for director Patricia Riggen was whether or not she could make this captivating enough to hold our interest despite the familiarity of the story. Surprisingly she succeeded. Despite that pet peeve of mine, the film managed to draw me in emotionally and I found it to be a beautiful and honest tribute. I can understand those who criticize the movie because it isn’t perfect, but there were several emotional scenes where I literally had goose bumps all over my arms, and that is always an indicator for me that the movie is accomplishing its purpose. The story follows the miners a couple of hours before the actual event.

The film opens with a retirement party for one miner who is about to complete 45 years of service to the private company that owns and operates the San José mine near Copiapó, Chile. Several of his long-time co-workers are at the party with their families. Their is shift foreman Luis “Don Lucho” Urzúa (Lou Diamond Phillips), experienced miner and natural leader Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas), father-to-be Álex Vega (Mario Casas) and Elvis Presley-loving miner Edison Peña (Jacob Vargas), among others. On the morning of August 5, 2010, these men took the long and winding truck ride three miles into the mine, completely unaware that they were about to become victims of one of the worst mining disasters in Chile’s history. Luis saw it coming, but the safety concerns that he expressed to the mine’s manager went unheeded. That afternoon, a rock the height of the Empire State Building and the width of two of them fell into the mine, trapping 33 men inside. Seeing the devastating cave-in and its effects on the men and their surroundings, it seems like a miracle that none of the 33 died in the initial collapse. Although some would say that the real miracle would be if no one died in mining accidents, or at least if this collapse had occurred during off-duty hours, rather than the miners having to get trapped and suffer, while their families waited in agony for news about the fate of their loved ones. It was those families who became the impetus for a full-on rescue attempt. Although Chile’s President (Bob Gunton) is reluctant to get his government involved with an accident at a privately-owned mine, his new Minister of Mining, Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) convinces President Piñera to let him go to the site and see what he can do.


The families, led by María Segovia (Juliette Binoche), the estranged sister of trapped miner Darío Segovia (Juan Pablo Raba), had gathered outside the locked gates of the mining complex. These siblings, wives, mothers, fathers and friends demanded action, and action they got. In spite of the prevailing opinion that the miners were probably dead or would die long before they could be rescued, Minister Golborne brings in heavy-duty drills and works with renowned mining expert André Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne) to try and reach the miners before it’s too late. Meanwhile, the miners ration food and try to keep each others spirits up, even as several of them fight and suffer from various medical conditions, as hope fades that they will ever see their families again.

Based on the book Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar, the film version takes few liberties with the facts and fashions a very compelling narrative. The screenplay succinctly, but effectively sets the stage and develops its characters – both above and below ground. We feel the desperation of both the miners and their families. It’s not a faultless film though, it has it’s flaws. The are times when the movie loses it’s pace and gets slow. Also, the editing, being mostly very good, it’s evident that there where scenes in the movie that were cut from the final product, an issue that can leave some viewers confused. There’s a little bit of shaky cam as well, not a big complain, but it can get very disorienting at times. The most bizarre segment comes courtesy of miner hallucinations. It’s a fantasy-infused Last Supper sequence that plays out to the sounds of a Bellini opera, while the food and drink flow and the family members join in the joy. It’s not difficult to imagine the brain taking these poor gentlemen to such places of mental torture.

The performances are overall decent. Antonio Banderas bring the natural amount of energy in his character here as he does in every role. Lou Diamond Phillips did just enough to give his character life, particularly in portraying Luis’ guilt over the mine’s inadequacies. On the surface level Rodrigo Santoro did also well to keep the emotional side of the movie going, balancing the miners’ underground scenes. Juliette Binoche almost always succeeds in grabbing attention and giving life to her role and its story plot. I think she really made maria a unique character considering the character’s struggles and her relationship with Dario. On the whole The 33, may not be a perfect film, yet succeeds in being a hopeful and inspiring tale of the actual event. Worth a watch!

Overall Rating: 7.5

Director – Patricia Riggen
Starring – Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 127 minutes

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