Safe Haven (2013)

Safe Haven

Release Date: February 14, 2013

Director: Lasse Hallström

Stars: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders

Runtime: 115 min

A young woman, Katie (Julianne Hough), with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel), forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.

Nicholas Sparks movies (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song) attract female audiences. For critics, the name might as well mean torture. For me, he’s really rather average, but he does have a money-making formula. His movies are usually the same old song: a predictable, schmaltzy, romance, a tragic story or two, some antagonist that might be getting in the way of the main couple’s happiness… You get the picture, right?

Safe Haven manages to have a few twists that border on downright silly and somewhat smart. This is certainly more enjoyable than The Lucky One. The romance part of it all is still as predictable and formulaic as ever. The word unpredictable and Nicholas Sparks go together like grape jelly and petroleum jelly… It just isn’t right. However, I do have to admire Sparks for writing a somewhat adequate mystery. There’s an occurring sub-plot during the movie’s first half where a police officer is on Katie’s tail for whatever reason. It distracts from the romance, but that is sometimes welcome; because the romance is rather bland. The sub-plot works into the plot with a good transition, but David Lyons’ police officer character becomes more and more ridiculous as it runs along.

Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel have an okay chemistry, even if their couple is hardly memorable. They sort-of just smile a lot and they do that awkward intertwining finger dance after sex. They aren’t the most memorable couple to come out of a Nicholas Sparks story, as someone could easily forget their names a few days to a week after initial viewing.

Josh Duhamel’s character is a widow and his kids are still coping with it. The daughter, Lexi, is doing better than the son, Josh, because she only remembers the memory of her, while Josh actually remembers her. He’s annoying, but the gal who plays the daughter is tolerable. Julianne Hough isn’t a terrible actress, but she’s probably a better dancer. I think she’ll improve with experience, with movies other than Rock of Ages and Footloose. She portrays decent emotions from time to time, but she’s often just sexy eye candy. Josh Duhamel is a lackluster presence. None of his roles have really been worthwhile enough to let him be a breakout star just yet. David Lyons’ character is silly, and Cobie Smulders’ character is there for support. She’s a fine presence, even if she feels randomly placed. The petite primary cast of six carries the movie well.

Sparks writes an adequate mystery. The prime romantic story is predictable and bland. The mystery doesn’t get a true chance to shine, because it is written as a sub-plot. It’s light on the mystery, hot and heavy on the romance. This has more sap than a maple tree, and it’s sure to give you cavities. Can one expect much else from Nicholas Sparks? This is a movie that might make you blubber like a little baby, but it also might not. The movie’s strongest aspect is the beautiful beach-town setting, and the mostly crystal clear cinematography. One of the twists is really rather dumb and groan-worthy. You’ll have to see this for yourself to form your opinion on the matter, though, because it could be seen as memorable, heart-warming and sweet; and others might view it as complete, laughable hokum. It really does make me want to poke fun at the movie more, because it is silly. The twist makes it stand out amongst the other Sparks adaptations. I see the twist as memorable, laughable hokum.

54/100

May 29 – June 2 Box Office Predictions: ‘After Earth’, ‘Now You See Me’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Earth might do pretty well this weekend, but it also might suffer under the shadows of summer blockbusters. Those who see it will be seeing it for Will Smith, I’d think. No one’s going to say “I’m seeing this for M. Night Shymalan because he’s been on a real hot streak.” The story isn’t intriguing, but the creatures are pretty cool-looking. Oblivion opened to $37.04 million, so I’ll be going with a prediction around that number. Will Smith isn’t quite a big of a star as Cruise right now, mostly because Smith only made his way back to the acting game last year with MIB3 after a four-year hiatus, which he took after 2008’s Seven Pounds. Smith has an average opening of $37.7 million, and this will gross right around there, I’d think. Shyamalan’s average opening gross is $36.68 million. Movies similar to After Earth open at an average $46.97 million, but I think this will earn right around Super 8‘s $35.45 million or Oblivion‘s $37.04 million. My prediction for this is $34.3 million.

Now You See Me looks really, really intriguing, and I’m excited for it. I hope it doesn’t disappoint. (I might have to lower my expectations a little.) The cast is great; it includes Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Mark Ruffalo. I think this won’t gross as much as I’d want it to, but I think it can manage at least $20 million. It might have a hard time battling off with the big titans of the summer, though. It looks like it’ll amaze with its cool showmanship. Jesse Eisenberg’s average opening is at $21.21 million, and I think this will open right around that or a little above it. Morgan Freeman’s average opening gross is $27.25 million, and Woody Harrelson’s is $20.33 million. This makes me think of The Prestige (which grossed $14.8 million in its opening). My prediction is $24.7 million. I think this will stand out as one of summer’s most original features, and, to quote Morgan Freeman from the trailer, I really think this is “going to amaze.”

1. Fast & Furious 6: $39, 169, 000
2. After Earth: $34, 300, 000
3. Now You See Me: $24, 700, 000
4. The Hangover Part III: $23, 920, 000
5. Star Trek Into Darkness: $21, 250, 000
6. Epic: $20, 800, 000
7. Iron Man 3: $11, 350, 000
8. The Great Gatsby: $7, 525, 000
9. Mud: $1, 640, 000
10. 42: $775, 000

May 24-27 Box Office Results

Fast & Furious 6 over-performed (probably because it is awesome), The Hangover Part III underperformed (probably because it is just a bad movie), and Epic performed as many expected it would.

Title: Result Prediction Difference (Over/Under)
1. Fast & Furious 6: $117,036,995 $103, 750, 000 $13, 286, 995 under
2. The Hangover Part III: $62,051,829 — $71, 350, 000 — $9, 298, 171 over
3. Star Trek Into Darkness: $47,187,313 — $48, 300, 000 — $1, 112, 687 over
4. Epic: $42,820,971 — $42, 300, 000 — $520, 971 under
5. Iron Man 3: $24,693,407 — $23, 895, 000 — $798, 407 under
6. The Great Gatsby: $17,027,318 — $15, 675, 000 — $1, 352, 318 under
7. Mud: $2,508,660 — $1, 940, 000 — $568, 660 under
8. 42: $1,709,316 — $2, 075, 000 — $365, 684 over
9. The Croods: $1,634,258 — $2, 606, 000 — $971, 742 over

10. Oblivion$1,038,730

Total Difference for Three (3) New Releases: $23, 106, 137
Total Difference for Six (6) Holdovers: $5, 169, 498

Fast and Furious Franchise Recap (2001-2013)

As you may have noticed, I’ve reviewed the entire Fast and Furious franchise so far in the past week and a bit. I thought I’d make a post for all the reviews, and only take my best one or two thoughts on each movie, in case you don’t have time to read every review. Here we go!

The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Fast and the Furious (2001)

“The care is implemented on the cool physical appearance of the cars, and there’s not as much care implemented on the intellectual level of the movie; but who really cares?  It gets the adrenaline going, and that’s the movie’s intention.” 74/100.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

“To truly enjoy the hell out of this, you will have to turn the logical part of your brain right off. To a point where it might actually cause brain damage; and frankly, this movie just isn’t worth that. I remember this being much better; so suffice to say, this is 2 big of a disappointment.” 40/100.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

 

 

 

“The star cameo is one of the only things worthwhile about this bland endeavour. It’s a formulaic plot; but the drifting feels fresh and fun. The cinematography looks the most pristine out of the first three. It also has Han and fast cars.That’s almost all this has going for it.” 52/100.

Fast & Furious (2009)
Fast & Furious (2009)

“The racing scenes are lots of fun, and it’s an adequate revenge story. The title is really the only lazy thing about the movie. However, for a racing movie, there’s a lack of non-stop kinetic energy.” 65/100.

Fast Five (2011)
Fast Five (2011)

“Fast Five fills up its gas tank and the cast and crew bring it all to this fast-paced, energetic, compelling ride. It’s not only fun, but a good movie, as well.”  82/100.

You can just click here and read my review of Fast & Furious 6.

And so far in the franchise, the average score is 67.167.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Fast & Furious 6Release Date: May 24, 2013. Director: Justin Lin. Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Runtime: 130 min.

Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and co. are set for life with the $100 million they took from the last movie. However, they are still wanted criminals, so their family is not intact. Meanwhile, Hobbs (The Rock) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers across twelve countries, whose mastermind, Shaw (Luke Evans), is aided by second-in-command Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the love Dom thought to be dead. Hobbs enlists the help of Dom and his legendary crew to match wits against the mastermind. The payment is pardons for all crew members, an offer no one can refuse.

The earlier additions to the Fast and Furious franchise are mostly just fun movies about criminals who steal merchandise, and enjoy a lifestyle of family, fine hunnies and, of course, fast cars. I think it started to lose steam at the second. Slowly, but surely, each movie improved in terms of quality. It was a change in pace for Fast Five, because it ended up being a great action movie. Since Fast Five is such a good movie, many believed it would be a hard movie to top, as the franchise did set the bar fairly high. That is precisely the one hundred million dollar question… Is this better than the fifth?

You bet your bottom dollar, it is. In fact, buckle up for the best of the franchise. If you weren’t a fan before, you certainly will be now. If Fast Five didn’t make you a salivating fan of this franchise, though, you’re probably just an action movie Scrooge. This has the necessary components that made the fifth such a good movie; and it’s all enhanced. Hobbs is back, and the action is somehow amped up. The fight choreography is more impressive. The film-makers surprisingly make a few scenes that are almost as awesome as the fantastic scene with the vault running through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. How exactly? Well, I mean, there are TWO scenes that feel like finale extravaganza’s!

Luke Evans as Shaw is the best villain of the franchise so far. He is a worthy, ruthless adversary for Dom and his crew. It’s his value of precision against Dom’s value of family. Frankly, no matter how awesome the antagonist is, it’s not such an impressive feat in this franchise. For me, none of the antagonists have really been so worthwhile or memorable. The cast is on-key. Paul Walker is improving. It’s nice to see Vin Diesel trying his hardest to remind an amnesia-stricken Letty of her past life. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has a blast with Dom’s crew, as well. He’s still the badass he’s always been, and everyone’s probably forgotten about Snitch, where it just felt like normal ole Dwayne Johnson. Han (Sung Kang) is still one of the best characters, because he’s so cool. The chemistry is becoming even better. Justin Lin brings equally good direction to this. I admire how this has equal amounts of fun, action, and its fair share of sheer intensity.

Previously in the series, the dialogue has been pretty silly, but funny. This time around, a lot of it is almost smart – and it has some downright hilarious lines and sequences (mostly with Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson). This is not only the best in the franchise, but it’s also the funniest. The plot is actually intelligent, as well, and not just a bunch of racing scenes strung together. It’s always intense, in a few scenes where you just think they’re certain to run out of road. Some of these guys are great drivers, and equally agile in a fistfight. This is an awesome movie, even it’s often entirely unrealistic. People go places without their cellular phones, and much like that, you’ll have to go to the movie without your brain. You’ll enjoy it so much more. Because this is just pure fun!

A sequel that ends on a cliff-hanger, one that makes me gain respect for earlier installments in the franchise, and a sequel that makes me giddy with excitement for the next one is a truly great movie in my book. This is not only the best in the franchise; but also the best action movie and (arguably) the best movie of the year thus far. This runs on Nos the whole way through; the action scenes rarely stop, and when they do, it’s for a funny scene. If people want a breather from fun, intense, beautifully filmed action scenes, there’s probably a screening of The Great Gatsby over in Theater #2. We fans like our action fast, and, you guessed it, furious!

Score90/100

Epic (2013)

Epic

Release Date: May 24, 2013

Director: Chris Wedge

Stars (voices): Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell

Runtime: 102 min

Blue Sky Studios is best known for their Ice Age movies. Chris Wedge, co-director of that franchise, goes solo with Epic, the third animated movie of 2013 (after Escape from Planet Earth and The Croods). It follows the female protoganist, M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who is forced to re-locate to the home of her estranged father, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), after her mother’s death. Her father is an eccentric character, as he is convinced there are tiny people living out in the woods.

It turns out, there is. But it’s a little more complex than that. It’s a challenge of good and evil of the Leaf Men, who, by protecting the queen (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles), preserve the life of the forest; but the evil Boggans threaten them with powers of decay. Today is the day Queen Tara must pick the pod to be the heir to her throne. M.K. is mixed up with this world when she is turned from a stomper (the Leaf Men term of big humans) to a little miniature human. She must team up with a crew to help keep the pod away from the malevolent leader of the Boggans, Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz), in order to save their world, and ours.

It must be expected that a movie called Epic really won’t be so damn epic. It turns out to be a good, light-hearted animated flick that teaches kids about teamwork and that, even if you feel alone, you truly aren’t. It’s a nice message, and the way the filmmakers portray it is imaginative and admirable. The animation has a great, human look and feel to it. It might as well be an animated version of The Borrowers, just with very mild action sequences, in a very fun, but forgettable story.

It’s an old-fashioned, good vs. the forces of evil, predictable and formulaic ride. The imaginative action sequences are fun and have intensity present. There’s a lot of room for imagination at play, but there are only a few notable characters. The main Boggan, Mandrake, is often psychotic and threatening for a children’s movie, but nothing that will have kiddies waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares. He has some memorable lines, but he’s more underwhelming than anyone could believe a character portrayed by Christoph Waltz could ever be.

Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is a misfit Leaf Man who needs to learn about teamwork, and the primary Leaf Man, Ronin (Colin Farrell), is precisely the man to teach it to him. He’s a no-nonsense character, and Queen Tara desperately wants to see his smiling face. She requests this in a truly dull fashion. I don’t have much praise to hand out to Knowles, Hutchison, Seyfried or really even Farrell, but I don’t have anything to fault them for, either. They just don’t stand out so well. Many of the characters have good lines, but you’ll forget their names (most notably Bomba, Bufo, and M.K.) as soon as you walk out of the theatre.

There are four characters whose names and presences no one will forget anytime soon. Nim Guluu is the “rock-star” information keeper of the miniature world, appropriately voiced by rock star Steven Tyler. There’s also a silly, three-legged dog who mostly just runs in circles. The laid-back slug called Mub (Aziz Ansari) and his uptight snail associate, Grub (Chris O’Dowd), are the true scene-stealers of the movie. They’re hilarious in the way Mub thinks he has a chance with M.K., and how Grub is an aspiring Leaf Man. (Let that irony sink in for a second.) They’re never annoying, always funny, and the movie is at its most lively when they’re on-screen. Who thought slimy little things could be so appealing?

Epic isn’t quite, y’know, epic, but it’s a predictable and funny ride that is a blast once it really gets going. For the most part, it’s about as memorable as its generic title. The great animation and hilarious and slimy scene-stealers make this memorable, and something worth watching twice. Christoph Waltz, to his best ability, rocks his role and he shines when Mandrake is at his most psychotic. You care for the protagonists, because no one wants to see a forest rot to the ground, right?

74/100

Fast Five (2011)

Fast FiveReleased: April 29, 2011Director: Justin LinStars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne JohnsonRuntime: 130 min.

Fast Five fills up its gas tank and brings it all to the table. It’s a great heist movie, a great action movie, and lots of fun. It features the finest finale and stunt-work of any movie in the franchise thus far. The cast is ideal and everyone has a great chemistry. Paul Walker is becoming better with experience. I love this crew, and I love the way this crew of criminals are so likeable and human. They hold family dear to their hearts, just like everyone should. The plot is good, and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a great character, even if he often has silly dialogue. The fight between he and Diesel has excellent fight choreography. The runtime feels long, one of the plot holes isn’t patched up until the very end, and the dialogue is often silly, but also often funny. It’s still a fast-paced, energetic, compelling ride throughout, and since I haven’t seen the sixth just yet, this is the best in the franchise so far. It’s not only fun, but a good movie, as well.

Score82/100

The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover 3

Release Date: May 23, 2013

Director: Todd Phillips

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis

Runtime: 100 min

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms star in an original tale of bad decisions and mayhem. The movie I’m talking about is 2009’s The Hangover. The first sequel has a severe case of sequelitis (exact same thing as the first). We now arrive at The Hangover Part III, a movie that suffers from a far more common and simple occurrence: bad movie syndrome.

The movie opens at the prison where Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is now escaping, under the cover of a prison riot. He crawls in the sewer, but comes out clean on the other side. It then changes tone to follow the wolfpack. After the death of Alan’s father, the wolfpack take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a mental hospital to get his problems sorted out. On the way there, they are assaulted and Doug is kidnapped (again). They must find Leslie Chow and bring him to Marshall, Doug’s kidnapper, in order to save Doug.

This isn’t able to cut ties to the original or the first sequel. The plot afoot, where Marshall (John Goodman) kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha), in consequence to what Chow did in the first. They go to Las Vegas, again. There’s a trade-off in the desert, again. The filmmakers don’t keep some of the best components: Stu singing a song, Mike Tyson, good comedy, and worst of all, a hangover. These guys are never drunk during the movie! Frankly, these sober guys aren’t so fun to watch. Todd Phillips is so terrified of making the same movie three times; he changes the overall tone. Viewers who are expecting to cry from laughter will be sorely disappointed. It has some funny scenes, because you might laugh at Alan being his idiotic self; but most of the content is so dark, it can’t be considered funny.

Doug (Justin Bartha) has always been a secondary presence, since this Princess Peach-esque character is kidnapped so much. Black Doug (Mike Epps), honorary wolfpack member, has always been the better Doug. He is a star of one of the only hilarious scenes in the entire movie. The other humour suddenly becomes tired because we’ve seen it in the trailers already. One joke that becomes exhausting is when Alan pretends to give someone a high five, but it’s a sike-out and he grooms his hair instead. It’s a little funny the first time; and since it’s not so funny the second time, it sure as hell won’t be funny the third freaking time. Stu (Ed Helms) is relied on to make gagging noises at disgusting parts. The only characters that have should-be funny dialogue are Alan (of course), Chow and Black Doug.

The problem is, both Alan and Chow become more and more irritating as the movie progresses. Alan is more moronic than ever, and Chow is more sociopathic than ever. The hilarious content is limited. The fact that thinking of a truly funny scene in a comedy movie, especially one of The Hangover franchise, is a huge issue. This one is memorable for all the wrong reasons. The first produces a laugh-a-minute, almost, but here you’ll be lucky to laugh every ten. This is truly the most bizarre out of the three; and the plotting is ludicrous, even if if there is an evident plot.

The humour is mean-spirited and, often enough, downright despicable. These sociopathic and passive-aggressive characters only seem to care about retrieving Doug. Alan, an overweight toddler with an awesome beard, has a bit of a heart because he begins to realize his actions have a very negative outcome, and he tries to fix it. Phil is still the calm and collected one, but he’s generally unfunny, here. This will be remembered as that one movie that broke Bradley Cooper’s hot streak.

Do you want to know some really despicable and enfuriating humour at play here? (I’ll tell you anyway.) In the trailer, Alan’s car goes under a low bridge, but the giraffe doesn’t. Todd Phillips shows the giraffe’s severed head crashing into a windshield. At a later moment, Phil says, “I think it’s kinda funny. It’s a giraffe, who the f*ck cares?” Of course this is all for shock, but Phillips is definitely receiving angry calls from PETA this weekend.

This has a few forgettable laughs, but its dark tone makes this memorable for the wrong reason. This really should be excellent, because the trailers make this look promising. Optimistic fans of the franchise will not find a bigger disappointment this summer season. If you are disappointed, don’t make the same mistake I did by walking out of the theatre right when the end credits start to roll. Apparently, there’s a hilarious scene part-way through the credits. This movie is like a cruel, sad little man with a cold, sociopathic heart. The filmmakers give making a good movie the old college try; but giving something ‘the old college try’ shouldn’t mean it will feel like it’s written by mentally disturbed college students.

25/100

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast & FuriousFast & Furious

Release Date: April 3, 2009

Director: Justin Lin

Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster

Runtime: 107 min

Brian O’Conner, now working for the FBI in LA, teams up with Dominic Toretto to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation.

This tries hard to be intelligent, and it works to a certain extent. This is better than the first two sequels. I certainly don’t groan at this as much as I do with 2 Fast 2 Furious. It really shows that bringing the main cast back together returns the franchise to a fine form. This time around, Paul Walker is tolerable. Justin Lin is a really good director for this type of movie. The racing scenes are fun, and it’s an adequate revenge story. The filmmakers try to hard to give us a great one here, and they don’t quite succeed with that, this isn’t a bad movie by any means. The title is really the only lazy thing about the movie. For an action movie with lots of racing, there’s a lack of non-stop kinetic energy. The ending really does set up something special for the next movie.

65/100

May 24-27 Box Office Predictions, ‘Fast & Furious 6’, ‘The Hangover Part III’, ‘Epic’

I’m certain fans of The Hangover franchise were lost after the second endeavour. It just wasn’t good. I think the die-hard fans are going to run out to see this one. Though, if the skeptics hear significantly poor word-of-mouth, they’ll just skip this. The trailers were actually pretty great, and it seems to make a better attempt at revisiting the great alchemy of dark comedy and mystery. This won’t do nearly as well as the second in its opening weekend, especially up against Fast & Furious 6; but for the Thurs-Mon frame, I think this will earn $71, 350, 000.

Anticipation for Fast & Furious 6 is fierce. Similar movies to this open at an average $32.4 million. I truly believe this has what it takes to hit triple digits. Fast Five grossed $86.198 million in its opening weekend, and since that was great, it’s safe to assume this is going to be great, as well. I’ve been going through the franchise as of late, so I’m really excited about this one. For the Memorial Day weekend, my prediction is $103, 750, 000. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this won’t win the epic, fast-paced weekend filled with hangovers.

Meanwhile, Epic is in line for a more modest opening. I think it should do fairly well, though, because of a beneficial lack of competition. The Croods is slowly making its way out of the Top 10, and this actually looks very fun. Movies similar to this open at an average of $43. 169 million. I imagine this opening around Rio’s $39.22 million. Out of Blue Sky Studios’ productions, I’ve only seen the first two Ice Age movies and Horton Hears a Who!, and I’ve enjoyed all of those. I think they’re a great studio. I’m pretty excited for this one. The story seems average, but so far on Rotten Tomatoes, no critic has deemed it rotten. That’s sure to change, but that really makes me more excited. And who would want to miss Christoph Waltz voicing one of the main antagonists? I think on the long weekend, thanks to a lack of appealing family fare; this will have a good opening. Though, parents could opt to take their young teens to the new Fast & Furious movie… Anyway, for the long weekend, I predict this movie to open at $42, 300, 000.

1. Fast & Furious 6: $103, 750, 000
2. The Hangover Part III: $71, 350, 000
3. Star Trek Into Darkness: $48, 300, 000
4. Epic: $42, 300, 000
5. Iron Man 3: $23, 895, 000
6. The Great Gatsby: $15, 675, 000
7. Pain and Gain: $3, 000, 000
8. The Croods: $2, 606, 000
9. 42: $2, 075, 000
10. Mud: $1, 940, 000