Philomena (2013)

PhilomenaReleased: November 27, 2013. Directed by: Stephen Frears. Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark. Runtime: 98 min.

Today, teenage pregnancy is a commonplace. There’s even a TV show about young pregnant girls called “16 and Pregnant” that premiered back in 2009. It seems like a stupid premise to me, but it shows how accepting people are of it these days. Back in 1960s Ireland, around the time of the Magdalene sister homes, if a young girl was pregnant – a lot of parents would be so ashamed that they’d disown their children and force them to live in a convent. They wouldn’t have any other place to go, and they’d have to work their asses off to repay the nuns.

This is what happened to Philomena Lee, a 16-year-old who had a child, and when her son was about 3 years old, he was adopted. Ever since, Philomena (Judi Dench) has kept this a secret. On the son’s fiftieth birthday, Phil (now in her 60s) tells her daughter about Anthony – and with their luck, they find a political journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who was recently let go from his job, to take on this human interest story.

After fifty years of Philomena not knowing where or how her son is doing, the pair set off to find Philomena’s son, following leads and information the convent might possess; which, unfortunately, isn’t much to go on. Martin has to use his journalistic skills to find where the son might be. One reason this film is so charming is because these characters are so different. Martin is a bit more realistic thinker who thinks questions like ‘Do you believe in God’ are difficult to answer. He’s more pessimistic than Philomena; but almost equally funny. Philomena is one of those people is genuinely interested in people say, and she finds humour in the simplest of things – even if she doesn’t realize that she’s being hilarious. That’s what helps make this a simple comedy in parts. It’s lightly entertaining but it’s an effective drama, too. It’s a different sort-of road trip film, but a refreshing one.

I’m glad that there is a surprising layer of great comedy, because without it the film would be boring. That’s a reason I was hesitant to see this, because the story sounds like it could be good, but it also sounded slow to me. Judi Dench’s great performance helps; she plays a character who only wants to know how her son’s life is going, and know if he’s ever thought of her. Like I said, she is very funny, as well. She is a character who carries around this secret and its shame hand in hand. I think Steve Coogan’s performance is great here, as well, because his comic delivery is just priceless. He is considerate of Philomena’s wishes, and doesn’t always feel like a journalist in it for the money. I think he’s an underrated actor. He impressed me here as an actor and as a co-screenwriter – I’m sure he had a big hand in the witty dialogue.

The friendship that is created is charming. The characters’ beliefs are challenged throughout from what they learn along the way. This is also an ideal film for schools that might want to express the Catholics’ beliefs back in the 1960s; it seems to me some nuns still hold those beliefs. Those would be the old-fashioned ones. I think this is a film that should be experienced because of its subject matter. It’s powerful and is emotionally gripping. It’s the idea of being taken away from one’s family that gets to me. I mean, if anyone tried to take me away from my mother, heads would freaking roll!

There’s a quote commonly used by critics “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry” and oftentimes, those can only be applied to great films. Only so many directors and writers have that ability. Alexander Payne has a true knack for it, and even his co-writers on “The Descendants” Nat Faxon and Jim Rash do, too, as expressed in “The Way, Way Back.” This film’s director, Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) has a talent for it as well. I laughed a lot with this one, but for me, the “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry” line can only partly be applied.

There’s enough emotional content here to make many people cry – because this is such a powerful subject. I didn’t cry, because it takes a lot for me to cry at a film. This might sound cheesy, but even though I didn’t cry on the outside, my soul ached for Philomena in parts – because she is just such a likeable and often relateable character. I relate to her because she likes “Big Momma’s House.” She at least laughs at a preview on hotel Pay Per View (also giving an idea of what year it is, because there are more new releases then older releases, so this film is set in 2000 or 2001). I hope she got around to watching that movie.

Score80/100

Box Office Results July 26-28. (I can’t think of a clever title.)

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” did good business this weekend, but not nearly as great as everyone thought it would be. While it was tracking for a $70 million opening, it was only able to nab a $53.114 million opening. This opening should be attributed to the fact that the disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” disappointed many, so it kept some people away, and audiences are probably just fatigued of this superhero craze and all the explosions. (That makes me question how well “Kick-Ass 2” might do?) Since “Wolverine” did receive an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, that should say it’ll have good legs. More good news: It’s already earned back its $120-million budget with its $139.2M worldwide tally.

As for the holdovers, “The Conjuring” continues to scare everyone as it had a drop of -46.9% to $22.2 million. That is a great hold for a horror film, where they traditionally face drops over 50%. (“The Purge” faced a drop of 76%!) “Turbo” also held well, dropping 35.5% to $13.74 million. Its box office performance will be thrown off pace when “The Smurfs 2” gets released on Wednesday, and it will be killed by the competition of “Planes”, come August 9th. It’s a very competitive market for animated movies, as “Despicable Me 2” is still going strong with a weekend gross of $16.4 million. “Grown Ups 2” was also in the Top 5 this weekend with $11.6 million, and it’s the 14th Adam Sandler movie to gross over $100 million. That isn’t exactly music to my ears, since I have such a low opinion of “GU2.”

“Fruitvale Station” found its way into the Top 10 with $4.59 million this weekend. “The Way, Way Back” earned $3.44 million and Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” made $612, 064 at just six theatres, marking a career best Per Theatre Average for Woody Allen, and the best PTA of the year so far. Finally, “The To-Do List” grossed a miniature $1.58 million at 591 theatres, which is surprising considering I’ve basically seen the trailer before every comedy I’ve seen for the past month.

What did you all see this weekend? I didn’t get out to the theatre (well, I did last Thursday to see “White House Down”) this weekend, but I’m planning to see “The Way, Way Back” and “Much Ado About Nothing” this week. Maybe “2 Guns” on the weekend. I won’t be seeing “The Smurfs 2.” I just couldn’t take it. I’ll see what happens. I’m thinking of going through a comedian’s full filmography throughout the first half of August and posting the reviews throughout the second half. I’ll make an announcement post soon, but in the meantime, you’ll have to wonder who the comedian is. (Note: Half of their filmography is torture, and half of it I like. So I’m watching half of the comedian’s filmography for your entertainment, and half of it for mine.) Anyway, here’s how much I was off by for each movie in the Top 10:

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference

1. The Wolverine: $53.114M/$69.825M/$16.711M over
2. The Conjuring: $22.208M/$24.258M/$2.05M over
3. Despicable Me 2: $16.424M/$16.2M/$224, 000 under
4. Turbo: $13.74M/$13.5M/$240, 000 under
5. Grown Ups 2: $11.6M/$10M/$1.6M under
6. Red 2: $9.337M/$12.5M/$3.163M over
7. Pacific Rim: $7.703M/$7.8M/$97, 000 over
8. The Heat: $6.915M/$5.6M/$1.315M under
9. R.I.P.D.: $6.071M/5.5M/$571, 000 under
10. Fruitvale Station: $4.59M/$5.2M/$610, 000 over

For the one new release, I was off by $16.711 million.
For the nine holdovers, I was off by $9.87 million.

Remember to get your predictions in at Box Office Ace! You can get your prediction in for 2 Guns here, and your prediction for The Smurfs 2 here.

Remember to

Box Office Predictions: July 26-28

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” has the benefit of opening on a weekend where there isn’t any other blockbuster. Of course, there are the holdovers, but they don’t pose much direct competition.

The five previous X-Men films open to a weighted average of $76.58 million. It will earn less than that number, but not by a wide margin. There are a few bumps in the road this film must overcome.

“X-Men: First Class” showed audiences the X-Men universe can still impress. It was also the lowest-grossing film in the franchise at $146.4 domestically, mostly because of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, which faced generally negative reactions. I liked some of it, but the general memory of it leaves a bland taste in my mouth. That film might directly affect this film’s gross, as audience members hate to be disappointed twice. People will come out to see it, but not nearly as many as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, because, like I said, some people won’t take the risk. So good word-of-mouth will really help this movie out. I’m going to predict this at $69.8 million. 

I’m thinking “The To Do List” performs similar to “Adventureland” at about $4.9 million for its opening, and “The Way, Way Back” has earned $4.6 million domestically so far, so I think it’ll do $4.4 million this weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. “The Wolverine”: $69, 825, 000
2. “The Conjuring”: $24, 258, 000
3. “Despicable Me 2“: $16, 200, 000
4. “Turbo”: $13, 500, 000
5. “Red 2”: $12, 500, 000
6. “Grown Ups 2“: $10, 000, 000
7. “Pacific Rim“: $7, 800, 000
8. “The Heat“: $5, 600, 000
9. “R.I.P.D.”: $5, 500, 000
10. “Fruitvale Station”: $5, 200, 000

Remember to get your predictions in over at Box Office Ace, it’s lots of fun!

The Babymakers (2012)

The BabymakersRelease Date: August 24, 2012

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Stars: Paul Schneider, Olivia Munn, Kevin Heffernan

Runtime: 95 min

Everyone likes a good comedy that doesn’t make them think every once in awhile, right? I call them brain vacations. I love them as much as the next guy – but the keyword is a good comedy. A good comedy, THE BABYMAKERS is not.

The movie follows Tommy (Paul Schneider), a man who cannot impregnate his wife. (His sperm has fallen and it can’t get up.) He decides to enlist the help of his buddies to steal some sperm he donated a few years ago.

From the get go, I should have known this would be a tedious experience for me. I guess I was blinded by my love for the Broken Lizard crew – and their involvement in any project. They’re only slightly involved, here. They don’t have a hand in the writing. Jay Chandrasekhar directs and helps produce; Kevin Heffernan helps produce, and he is one of the supporting actors. Oscar-winning Nat Faxon brings in a supporting turn, as well – and while he isn’t part of the main Broken Lizard crew, he often shows up in their movies. He was that one villain in BEERFEST with the horrid German accent. Like that narrows it down, right? And yes, you did read *Oscar-winning* correctly; he won it for co-writing the screenplay for THE DESCENDANTS, alongside Alexander Payne and the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY, Jim Rash. (He’s actually a talented writer – and I’m quite excited for Faxon & Rash’s co-directorial debut, THE WAY, WAY BACK.) Anyway, as much as I love the Broken Lizard movies, this movie isn’t good. It seriously needs their writing.

I think I laughed a total of four or five times. The Jehova’s Witness scene feels like a very honest portrayal of their interruptions of everyday activities. The humour is shallow, and it’s mostly just a movie younger boys might enjoy. I think this movie might have worked a lot better if the whole Broken Lizard crew came aboard – but that might not even help. Chandrasekhar and Heffernan weren’t able to make me laugh a lot because of its predictable humour, inane plotting and poor writing. One of the stupidest things about the movie is the robbery itself. Honestly… If one robs a sperm bank and only takes one vial of sperm; who might the prime suspect be? Gee, I don’t know… I also don’t think Paul Schneider is a likeable enough lead to carry this film well. Nor is he very funny. He might be good in other movies, but based on what I’ve seen of him so far, I’m not impressed.

This movie just falls flat on its unfunny face. There’s an evident plot, but it isn’t a particularly good one. It’s a very stupid heist movie. You probably haven’t heard of this, but if you have, just take it off your watchlist. It’s a colossal waste of time. By the end of it all, you really just won’t care any more if they have a baby or not. The sexy Olivia Munn can’t even save this. Nor those cantaloupes. (Not her boobs. There’s a running joke of cantaloupes on a magazine cover getting everyone horny.)

30/100

My most anticipated movies of July

Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.

Red 2 (7/19)

Red 2 (7/19)

Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.

I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.

The To Do List (J7/26)

The To Do List (7/26)

Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.

This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.

Turbo (7/17)

Turbo (7/17)

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.

The Wolverine (7/26)

The Wolverine (7/26)

Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.

This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.

Now these are the ones I’m really excited for. 

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.

I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

3. Only God Forgives (7/19)

4. Only God Forgives (7/19)

Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.

Here’s all of the movies opening in July: http://www.imdb.com/movies-coming-soon/2013-07/