Free Fire (2017)

 

Released: April 21, 2017. Directed by: Ben Wheatley. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson. Runtime: 1hr. 30 min.

I actually saw this at the Toronto International Film Festival last year (on Sept. 9, 2016), and this is a revised review I wrote in mid-September. I didn’t post this because I was a bad blogger back then but without further adieu, here it is…

Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, a balls-to-the-wall 1970’s gun battle, is one hell of a ride.

The premise is simple. Brie Larson’s Justine has arranged a gun deal between Irishmen Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), and gun dealers Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Armie Hammer’s Ord. It’s set in 1970’s Boston in an abandoned warehouse and is largely in this one setting, and it’s the perfect set-up for the wild shootout.

Wheatley knows how to build tension from the word go, as the characters walk into the deserted warehouse to do the deal. Some characters don’t like each other, and after some developments, you can cut the tension with a knife.

The sound design make the initial gunshots sound like an IMAX film, almost like they’re in the same room. For the characters, chances of getting out alive decrease when all hell breaks loose and it becomes a true Mexican standoff. It’s like the atmosphere of The Nice Guys mixed with tension and dialogue that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. This does feel like parts Reservoir Dogs, too, with its limited setting and tension.

Free Fire Armie

Armie Hammer in Free Fire. (Source)

This still effortlessly manages to be fresh, and makes me want to see more of Ben Wheatley’s films (like Kill List and High-Rise). His movies all seem unique and different as he tackles many different genres. Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump (they’re also married) also edit Free Fire – editing it in such a way where you can follow its quick pace, but you’re not always able to tell where some characters are hiding in the warehouse. It might be a ploy to put the audience in the same space as the characters – not knowing who they’re shooting at or where everyone’s hiding.

The ensemble created is great and each performer brings something memorable to their characters. The costume design, wigs and different accents also set everyone apart. Sharlto Copley’s a scene-stealer as Vernon and he has some of the best moments. Everyone from Brie Larson to Cillian Murphy to Michael Smiley hold their own, delivering physically demanding performances as they crawl on the dirty warehouse floor avoiding an array of bullets.

One of the film’s most pleasant surprises is Armie Hammer. I thought he was bland in The Lone Ranger (to be fair he had little to work with), but here as the calm and collected Ord, he’s badass. He’s also funny as hell, and the range he shows feels like he should be getting more comedic roles.

The most impressive thing about Free Fire is that it’s just deliriously fun. Action comedies can be hit-and-miss especially when there’s a task of finding the right balance. But director-writer Wheatley, and Amy Jump, manage to make the action consistently fresh. The people shooting at each other doesn’t feel repetitive and there are many ways to get characters out of situations. The dialogue’s sharp, witty and hilarious, and this is just some of the best fun I’ve had at the movies in awhile.

Score: 88/100

Recap of July, Most Anticipated of August

Overall, at least based on the movies I saw, July was mostly an okay month for movies. But then again, I only saw five (out of 15 of the) major theatrical releases. And out of those five I saw, I only enjoyed two. “Despicable Me 2” was the strongest of the ones I saw. “Pacific Rim” was the second best. “R.I.P.D.” was right in the middle with a score of 50. “The Lone Ranger” didn’t get a passing score because it was dull; and “Grown Ups 2” was torture. The average score for the five movies was 54.8, but take away “GU2,” the adjusted score is 65.5.

Most anticipated of August

Fifth most-anticipated movie of August: "The Spectacular Now"

There are a few releases coming out this month that I highly doubt I’ll be seeing. One of them is “Planes,” because “Cars” was a hard enough sell on me, and that’s Pixar. This is just a lame spin-off. I won’t be seeing “This is Us” because I’m not fond of One Direction. I don’t think I’ll be seeing “The Smurfs 2” because I really didn’t like the first one. I liked the first “Percy Jackson” enough to give it a pass (I’ll post my review early this week), but I don’t think I’ll be itching to watch the sequel that comes out this Wednesday. But, if I’ve seen everything and it’s at my cheap theatre, I might watch it.

Fourth most-anticipated: "You're Next"

“You’re Next”

I’ll be watching “jOBS,” but I’m not extremely excited for it. I like a good bio pic, but my expectations aren’t high. Hopefully Ashton Kutcher impresses. The horror movie called “Random” could be okay, but Ashley Greene hasn’t impressed regarding the horror genre so far.

Paranoia” looks decent because of the cast, mostly, and I’d like to see more corporate thrillers. “Closed Circuit” looks like a good thriller, as well. “We’re the Millers” could be very funny. I missed “2 Guns” this weekend, and since it looks like fun, I’ll check it out next weekend. “Getaway” looks like a good thriller, like “Closed Circuit.” “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” looks as if it could be a good movie, and I enjoyed the book. (Though, I always envisioned Alex Pettyfer as Jace while reading, not Jamie Campbell Bower.)

Third most-anticipated: "Elysium"

The Butler” looks like a great bio pic, and civil rights movies can be interesting. “Prince Avalanche” looks like my kind-of oddball humour. I’m mostly excited for “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” because of its cast.

My fifth most anticipated movie of August is “The Spectacular Now” because I love the look of it and Shailene Woodley. My fourth most anticipated is “You’re Next” because I like a good home invasion flick, and I’m hoping for a great home invasion flick to make me forget about “The Purge.”

The World's EndMy third most anticipated is “Elysium“. I haven’t seen “District 9” yet (I might check it out if I like this one a lot), but the story of this one seems really cool. Jodie Foster’s awesome. “The World’s End” is my second most anticipated because I love “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” and it seems like a great finish to the trilogy. The team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is comedy magic. “Kick-Ass 2” is my most anticipated movie of August (and one of my most anticipated of the year) because I LOVE the first one, and this one looks like a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see Jim Carrey be downright hilarious again. (“Hahaha, yeah, there’s a dog on your balls!”)

What are you excited for this month? Let me know in the comments!

Kick-Ass 2

Box Office Predictions: July 19-21

There are four big releases coming out this weekend, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each of the movies brief, so this article doesn’t become too tedious. The movies are “The Conjuring”, “Red 2”, “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo”.

“The Conjuring” will do superb business this weekend. James Wan’s movies have an average opening of $10.9 million. Supernatural horror movies open at an average $15.26 million, but 2013 horror movies have been outstanding in their opening weekend performances. “Mama” opened to $28.4 million back in January, and “The Purge” opened to $34 million last month. Those movies opened to little to no competition. (“Mama” was up against “Broken City” and “The Last Stand”, two under-performing movies; while “The Purge” was up against the modestly-performing “The Internship”.) This movie opens on a busy weekend, but it is heavily anticipated and it has critics raving. Also, since “The Purge” had such poor word-of-mouth, it plummeted from $16.7 million on the Friday to $10.4 million on the Saturday, a day where movies usually earn more than the Friday. Anyway, horror fanatics haven’t received a horror movie since “The Purge” in June, and they haven’t received a good horror movie since April’s “Evil Dead”. Since it is anticipated, has star power (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), and since it looks great, I’m going to go high with my prediction. I also think this will have phenomenal word-of-mouth, so this will go strong all weekend. I’m predicting $37.5 million for its opening.

“Red 2” is the sequel to 2010’s action comedy hit. It brings back the cast and this one looks really fun. I haven’t seen the first movie, so I’ll be watching the first one sometime this week. The first “Red” opened to $21.76 million back in October 2010, against “Jackass 3-D”, that opened to $50.3 million. “Red” has a good following, though, as it has a standing 7.0 IMDb score based on over 140, 000 user ratings. It is also the tenth-best selling DVD of 2011 (sandwiched between “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Despicable Me”). The movie has a great cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Mary-Louise Parker (who is also starring in “R.I.P.D.”).With this film’s good following, I think this sequel will beat its predecessor in its opening weekend number by a decent-sized margin; so for the three-day weekend, I’m predicting this at $25 million.

“Turbo” is DreamWorks’ latest production, and I think it’ll do well, as family audiences aren’t yet tired of animated movies. They have emptied their pockets on “Monsters University” and those little yellow minions are still dominating the market, so this could very well suffer from competition of those animated movies, and the other new releases. And families just could wait for “The Smurfs 2”. This seems like DreamWorks’ answer to “Cars” and “Ratatouille” in the way that it’s an underdog story. Kids like racing movies, but are they willing to see a racing movie that has a snail going for gold? Of course, Pixar was able to make a rat appealing in “Ratatouille”, but DreamWorks isn’t nearly as respected as Pixar. (But then again, which animated studio is?) And “Epic” had a snail and a slug as supporting characters, but they were there for comic relief, mostly. Anyway, with a decent-looking underdog story and a good voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong), this should do decent business on a busy weekend. For the three-day, I’ll predict $28.8 million; and for the five-day (Wed-Sun), I’m predicting $43 million.

Now that I’ve discussed all the ones I think will do well, this is the one I don’t have a lot of faith in. “R.I.P.D.” looks like fun, but it’s the least appealing out of all of the new releases. The 3D action comedy is adapted from a comic book of the same name, but I don’t see it doing well. Audiences haven’t been showing a lot of enthusiasm for it yet, but I think it’ll still attract a small audience somewhere in the low-teen millions. People like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (who’s going to have a busy weekend), but I don’t know if this is on many people’s radars. I think it could do decent business, but it’s going to suffer because of all of the competition. And older action fans will probably just see “Red 2” instead. It’ll break $10 million, I think, but I don’t think it’ll go past the $15 million mark. I’m going to underestimate Bridges and Reynolds’ combined popularity and say an awful $12.8 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. The Conjuring: $37, 500, 000
2. Turbo: $28, 800, 000 (5-day: $43M)
3. Red 2: $25, 000, 000
4. Despicable Me 2: $22, 473, 000
5. Pacific Rim: $19, 825, 000
6. Grown Ups 2: $19, 500, 000
7. R.I.P.D.: $12, 800, 000
8. The Heat: $9, 025, 000
9. Monsters University: $6, 000, 000
10. The Lone Ranger: $5, 800, 000

Box Office Predictions: 7/12-7/14; Monsters & Robots vs. (Apparently) Funny people vs. the Minions

I say ‘apparently funny people’ in the title because I’m not sure how funny the guys of ‘Grown Ups 2’ will be this time around…

There are two new releases coming out this weekend, and those are “Pacific Rim” and “Grown Ups 2”, the sequel to Adam Sandler’s 2010 box office hit.

Pacific Rim“Pacific Rim” looks freaking awesome (I mean, it’s monsters vs. robots – what’s not to like?), and even though the tracking has been low, I’m staying optimistic. Though, if “Grown Ups 2” wins this weekend, I’ll weep. Movies similar to “Pacific Rim” open to $44.63 million. While this film doesn’t have much leading star power, it has an intriguing and original premise, something for fanboys to feast on, a well-respected director found in Guillermo Del Toro, and supporting star power found in Idris Elba and Charlie Day. Like I said, I’m staying optimistic for this movie’s earnings and even though it’ll be a bonafide hit overseas (mostly in Asia), it’s a little harder to predict it for here, especially since the tracking is so all over the place – so I’m going to predict $45 million. (I have this lower than “Despicable Me 2”, but I wouldn’t be mad if this won the weekend. At all. But I will be mad if “Grown Ups 2” beats this.)

GROWN UPS 2The main competition of “Pacific Rim” is “Grown Ups 2”. And as much as the first “Grown Ups” is a guilty pleasure of mine, there’s only one genuine joke in the trailer. The trailer’s also very lazy to me. I think this will make a good amount of money, but I don’t want it to be… But, audiences do like their audiences simple. Though, the first “Grown Ups” that earned $40.5M in its opening weekend came before his awful films such as “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy”. Sandler has an opening average of $24.95 million. This one looks a lot less funny or fresh than the first, and a lot more noxious (the first was PG and this is PG-13). It looks like the main joke is celebrity cameos from Shaquille O’Neal and Taylor Lautner. I guess that’s the first trick in Sandler’s book: Make Taylor Lautner an obvious presence in the trailer, and attract many female pre-teens. Movies similar to “Grown Ups 2” open to $25.57 million. I’m going to predict this one at $38.5 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10: 

Title/Prediction

1. “Despicable Me 2”: $46, 350, 000 (Review)

2. “Pacific Rim”: $45, 000, 000 (My review will be up tomorrow or Saturday; I’ll try to post it tomorrow, but I’m way too tired to write it now.)

3. “Grown Ups 2”: $38, 500, 000

4. “The Heat”: $15, 750, 000 (Review)

5. “The Lone Ranger”: $13, 980, 000 (Review)

6. “World War Z”: $10, 900, 000 (Review)

7. “Monsters University”: $10, 600, 000 (Review)

8. “Man of Steel”: $7, 025, 000 (Review)

9. “White House Down”: $6, 900, 000

10. “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”: $6, 250, 000

What movies are you seeing this weekend? 

The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone RangerRelease Date: July 3, 2013

Director: Gore Verbinski

Stars: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner

Runtime: 149 min

Do you remember the days of your childhood when you’d invite some friends over, and play a good old game of Cops and Robbers? Or maybe you played Cowboys and Indians. Either way, it’s the same thing. Well, that’s precisely what Verbinski’s latest “The Lone Ranger” feels like. A 149-minute game of Cops and Robbers – only it’s about as entertaining as two friends bickering and saying “No! I shot you first!”

Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice.

This isn’t a terrible movie. I’ve seen quite a few terrible films in my day, and I would never call this a terrible movie. However, I wouldn’t say that it’s good or worth anyone’s time, either. It’s an old-school Westerner that has lots of action and humour. But the movie’s purpose is never crystal clear. It tries to be fun and serious all at once, and that muddles its themes of vengeance, justice and greed. It’s a comedy, a dull actioner, and and old-school Westerner all in one. Since it doesn’t seem that even the film-makers themselves know what type of movie they’re trying to make; it surely won’t be clear to the audience.

There aren’t many surprises in this plot. At all. It’s one of those stories that, if you nod off for ten minutes, you won’t miss a damned thing. All of the action scenes are Cowboys and Indians/Road Runner & Wile. E. Coyote styled. By the time the Lone Ranger shouts “Hi-yo, Silver!” I expected him to say “Meep-meep!” instead. This is an exhausting movie that never feels as if it’ll end. The finale could be a romping good time if it would have happened an hour earlier. But by the time the 90-minute mark comes by, it shouldn’t be called the “The Lone Ranger” any longer. “The Long and Boring Ranger” is a more appropriate title. (And that folks, is why I don’t have a future in coming up with movie titles.)

Johnny Depp delivers that same sort-of eccentric shtick he’s been handing out since his Jack Sparrow years. That isn’t saying it won’t be amusing. It’s quite hilarious and he gets some big laughs – and as much as they are wedged in, the laughs become welcome in this overly dull screenplay. The five big laughs that he produces isn’t worth two and a half hours of your valuable time, however. Depp’s performance is becoming less effective since he’s played Jack Sparrow four times, and Tonto once (but it feels like he’s just felt Sparrow five times). He breaks the fourth wall once or twice by recounting his tale to a small boy at a carnival he’s at. He’s in an Old-Western themed attraction, standing in a Native American cubby. Some carnivals like to use wax figures, but apparently others like to use real, ancient-looking Native Americans named Tonto to scare the shit out of kids.

The kid portrayed by Mason Cook (“Spy Kids 4”, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”)  is annoying. I don’t know how this kid keeps getting work. I may be biased because I’m not a fan of anyone under the age of ten (except if they’re related to me, or really cute, or animated), but when a child delivers a stellar performance, I’ll praise the hell out of it. (Like Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” or the little Pierce Gagnon in last year’s “Looper”.) But if the kid just stands there with a “Oh no mister, say it ain’t so” kinda look on his face, I’ll trash the hell outta it. He didn’t really have to be in the movie at all – and Disney could have saved a lot of money by taking a different route with the story, and not have to use the CGI-aging technology for Depp. (They could have used lots of make-up, though.)

Armie Hammer is nothing to praise. He doesn’t have enough oomph to either make an iconic character feel iconic again, nor does he have enough star power to co-carry a $215-million blockbuster. Depp helps a lot, but even he cannot make this dull screenplay come to life very well; no matter how hard he tries. James Badge Dale feels as if he’s the real star here – but he’s not in enough to make this worthwhile. William Fichtner portrays the shockingly forgettable Butch Cavendish. Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Root and Barry Pepper are ay-okay in supporting turns; and Ruth Wilson is mostly just eye candy.

Gore Verbinski needs to learn the definition of an editing room. I hate mediocre movies that dare run past the 120-minute mark. Quentin Tarantino is easily forgiven for not having stepped into an editing room since 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs”, because his movies are so, so entertaining. Speaking of filmmakers somewhat similar to Tarantino, I could have sworn Helena Bonham Carter stepped onto the wrong set. As soon as she shoots her one-shot pistol attached at the end of her ivory leg, that woman with the machine gun leg from Robert Rodriguez’ “Planet Terror” immediately comes to mind.

One last thing before this review comes to an end, here are just a few theories of where I think the hefty $215 million buckaroos went. All of the big names have to be paid; two trains get destroyed; and there’s an unnecessary usage of CGI-aging technology that could be avoided with rewrites. But I think this where most of the money went: The bird seed needed for the dead bird on Tonto’s head. Seriously, he feeds it and feeds it, and its appetite is never going to be satisfied because the bird’s pretty freaking dead. And do you know how else Disney could have saved a bunch of money? By just not making this mess of a film.

If this is good for anything it’s an eccentric and particularly hilarious turn from Mr. Depp, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen in the “Pirates” universe. There’s also a great score by Hans Zimmer. I’m struggling to think of anything better; and whenver I liked a character, they just got killed off. When this feature gallops on generic blockbuster territory, there’s no saving Reid and his fashionably-challenged pal, Tonto. This could be good fun for the casual movie-goer, but to me, it’s somewhat boring and torturous.

44/100

Box Office Predictions: ‘Despicable Me 2’ to crush ‘The Lone Ranger’

box office (1)Despicable Me is one of those universally loved movies. It’s charming, entertaining, heartfelt, and hilarious. Since Monsters University showed that families are willing to spend good amounts of money on animated flicks, Despicable Me 2 is in great condition. And, families might have held out on that – to wait for this. Movies similar to this open to $42.52 million. Despicable Me opened to $56.39 million. There is only three years between the original and this sequel, and that’s great in the animated realm – considering the movies take so long to make. (And there’s a Minions movie coming out December 2014! Woo-hoo! I love those little guys. It’s funny to think that they weren’t made into big henchmen because the studio didn’t have enough funding.) This is one of my most anticipated movies of the year – if not the most anticipated – so to say I’m excited would be an understatement. DM2 has scheduling to its advantage, because Monsters University came out 12 days ago, and that’s almost its only main competition. There’s also the PG-13 rated The Lone Ranger for family audiences and Western movies fans – but I’m not sure how many families will choose that over this. While I don’t think this will exactly manage $100 million in its first 5-day frame, I think it will get close to it; so I’m predicting a $98.3 million opening. 

The Lone Ranger

The other main film debuting this weekend is The Lone Ranger, a Western starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger; and it is from the creators and director of Pirates of the Caribbean. I think Johnny Depp will give a very similar performance to that of Cap’n Jack Sparrow – but it’ll still be entertaining, nonetheless. I don’t have many expectations for the movie – so hopefully it’ll surprise me. And hopefully it’s decent, too, because the last Pirates disappointed the hell outta me. Movies similar to this open to $43.27 million. I think the scheduling will really screw this up, though. I think this could be a decent money-maker, but the reported $250-million budget is a bit insane. And whoever thought Disney would ever earn that money back is very insane. It doesn’t seem to use a whole lot of CGI, so a good chunk of that must went to Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski. Anyway, I’m predicting $51.7 million for its first five-day frame. I think it’s more than likely Disney will be crying about this one for awhile.

Here’s how I see the top 10
1. Despicable Me 2: $76, 300, 000 (5-day: $98.3 million)
2. The Lone Ranger: $35, 700, 000 (5-day: $51.7 million)
3. Monsters University: $24, 075, 000 (my review)
4. The Heat: $23, 600, 000 (my review)
5. World War Z: $15, 050, 000 (my review)
6. White House Down: $13, 475, 000
7. Man of Steel: $10, 625, 000 (my review)
8. This is the End: $5, 600, 000 (my review)
9. Now You See Me: $3, 950, 000 (my review)
10. Fast & Furious 6: $1, 850, 000 (my review)

Despicable Me 2