View Full Version : 2015 Movies

05-17-2015, 06:42 PM
Review: Singing praises for 'Pitch Perfect 2'

By Fred Hawson
Posted at 05/17/2015 12:11 PM | Updated as of 05/17/2015 12:12 PM

I was late on the first "Pitch Perfect" bandwagon when it was first shown back in 2012 and became a sleeper hit. I did not rate it too highly when I wrote my review about it, giving it only a 6/10. I cited that I did not like the lead character of Beca as played by Anna Kendrick. I thought the singing scenes were hit and miss, with the climactic final number ruined by a pitchy solo by Kendrick. However, with repeated viewings with my kids, I confess that I eventually warmed up to the movie and the Bellas. The whole family was very excited to watch this sequel the first chance we had.

In Part 2, we see the Barden Bellas on a roll after winning the Nationals three years in a row. However, during a fateful command performance in front of the President of the USA at Lincoln Center, Fat Amy had a wild wardrobe malfunction disaster which plunged the Bellas into major shame and competition suspension. In order to redeem themselves, they enlist to join the formidable World Acapella Competitions, which no US team has ever won. This film shows how they try to recover the group harmony they lost, as they face graduation and welcome a talented new Bella in their midst.

Since we all know these girls very well already, it was really great to see them all again. Anna Kendrick's Beca Mitchell is again her dour self, but she is more tolerable now than in the first film. She secretly enters an internship in a recording company in pursuit of her dream to become a record producer. This gave her a chance to interact with a very funny Keegan-Michael Key as her boss. I liked the guesting stint of Snoop Dogg in the scene where Beca got to show her boss her mixing skills.

Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy is wackier than ever, even getting herself a big solo number and an official boyfriend in this one. Brittany Snow's obsessed Chloe is still my personal favorite, deliberately flunking a required subject just to remain a Bella. The rest of the girls, butch Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), sexy Stacie (Alexis Knapp) and mysterious Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), are all still there, though not as much as the first film.

We meet a new Bella in the person of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who has a knack for writing original songs. I was more excited to see "Married with Children" Katey Sagal as Emily's mother, but too bad her part was too short.

Their rival boy group the Treblemakers, including Jesse (Skylar Astin) and Benji (Ben Platt), were pretty much in the background only this time. Annoying former Treblemaker leader Bumper (Adam DeVine) returns to Bardem as a security guard, and gets a bigger part here as Fat Amy's love interest.

The main antagonist in this film are the ruthless and joyless German team, Das Sound Machine, led by two towering Aryan bullies Pieter Krämer (Flula Borg) and Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen).

Getting much more exposure and more grating and potentially offensive racist and misogynistic remarks are the competition commentator duo of Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberg (Elizabeth Banks) and John Smith (John Michael Higgins). Higgins, in particular, was really given very sharp and controversial lines to deliver, which could be very funny -- but only if you are not in the demographic he is dissing.

The best singing scenes in this sequel was still the Riff-Off part, just as this was my favorite part in the first film. The mash-ups were seamless and the singing was dope. The first such sing-off with the category of songs about butts was made even more hilarious by the guest appearance of buff and burly football players, the Green Bay Packers, singing "Bootilicious" of all songs! You have to see and hear it to believe it.

In the international competition at the end, we see Pentatonix representing Canada and Fil-am group Filharmonic representing the Philippines, which were nice surprises.

If you liked the first "Pitch Perfect" film, I think you will like this one more. I thought the acapella song numbers were much better arranged and executed here than the first. I liked the throwback reference to "When You're Gone," the "Cups Song" which was a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for Anna Kendrick long after the film had left the cinemas. The original song featured in this one, "Flashlight," is promising potential hit as well, with its own catchy handclap routine. "We Belong" by Pat Benatar is this film's answer to last film's "Don't You (Forget About Me)".

The story had the right balance of comedy and drama to delight and touch fans, told pretty well by first-time director Elizabeth Banks, on triple duty here as producer and star as well. In spite the occasional raunchy off-color jokes or race- and gender-insensitive comments, I'd call "Pitch Perfect 2" THE feel-good good-time film for this summer of 2015. 7/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

05-19-2015, 02:34 PM
‘Pitch Perfect 2’ dominates North American box office
The Associated Press 8:48 AM | Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

LOS ANGELES — The a capella singers of “Pitch Perfect 2″ proved their box office might with a stunning $69.2 million debut. For a film that cost only $29 million to produce, the Elizabeth Banks-directed sequel is already a smash success and has earned more than the first film’s entire domestic run.

READ: Fil-Am group sings ‘Tagalized’ Journey song in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’

Universal Pictures’ homegrown franchise also sped past the other new opener, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which brought in $45.4 million. George Miller’s $150 million post-apocalyptic film performed well for an R-rated action movie. It should only grow in the weeks to come, thanks in part to the rave reviews.

READ: Tom Hardy rocks as the new Mad Max

The top 20 movies at US and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Rentrak:

“Pitch Perfect 2,” Universal, $69,216,890, 3,473 locations, $19,930 average, $69,216,890, 1 week.
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Warner Bros., $45,428,128, 3,702 locations, $12,271 average, $45,428,128, 1 week.
“Avengers: Age Of Ultron,” Disney, $38,859,900, 4,276 locations, $9,088 average, $372,030,708, 3 weeks.
“Hot Pursuit,” Warner Bros., $5,722,488, 3,037 locations, $1,884 average, $23,446,781, 2 weeks.
“Furious 7,” Universal, $3,648,980, 2,238 locations, $1,630 average, $343,782,475, 7 weeks.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” Sony, $3,543,850, 2,632 locations, $1,346 average, $62,872,860, 5 weeks.
“The Age Of Adaline,” Lionsgate, $3,129,455, 2,623 locations, $1,193 average, $37,001,624, 4 weeks.
“Home,” 20th Century Fox, $2,554,959, 2,006 locations, $1,274 average, $165,501,901, 8 weeks.
“Ex Machina,” A24 Films, $2,093,669, 1,718 locations, $1,219 average, $19,556,131, 6 weeks.
“Far From The Madding Crowd,” Fox Searchlight, $1,251,923, 289 locations, $4,332 average, $2,582,570, 3 weeks.
“Woman In Gold,” The Weinstein Company, $1,195,831, 876 locations, $1,365 average, $28,957,529, 7 weeks.
“Cinderella,” Disney, $631,608, 641 locations, $985 average, $197,231,159, 10 weeks.
“Get Hard,” Warner Bros., $602,153, 505 locations, $1,192 average, $88,823,814, 8 weeks.
“Piku,” Yash Raj Films, $595,308, 124 locations, $4,801 average, $1,801,807, 2 weeks.
“The Longest Ride,” 20th Century Fox, $548,954, 803 locations, $684 average, $36,282,735, 6 weeks.
“Unfriended,” Universal, $515,745, 657 locations, $785 average, $32,053,065, 5 weeks.
“Monkey Kingdom,” Disney, $480,177, 675 locations, $711 average, $15,340,346, 5 weeks.
“Where Hope Grows,” Roadside Attractions, $457,287, 276 locations, $1,657 average, $457,287, 1 week.
“The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” Lionsgate, $381,959, 503 locations, $759 average, $128,270,018, 9 weeks.
“Little Boy,” Open Road, $323,656, 490 locations, $661 average, $5,912,451, 4 weeks.

05-24-2015, 06:20 PM
Review: Overwrought optimism in 'Tomorrowland'

By Fred Hawson
Posted at 05/24/2015 11:58 AM | Updated as of 05/24/2015 1:48 PM

In 1964, Frank Walker was a child genius who bravely showed up at the World's Fair, bringing a crude jetpack he had invented by himself. In 2015, Casey Newton uses her own mechanical inventions to try and delay the dismantling of NASA platforms at Cape Canaveral. A mysterious little girl named Athena chooses both of them to receive a pin inscribed with a letter T, a touch of which brings them to a magical futuristic wonderland. With Athena's intercession, Walker and Newton cross paths in the present day in an effort to emancipate this "Tomorrowland" from the negative forces which control it.

From the trailer alone, we know "Tomorrowland" would be an extravagant visual treat. And that it really was. From meticulously recreating the 1964 World's Fair with its retro fashion and quaint technology to imaginatively envisioning a metropolis of the future with its outlandish architecture and snazzy hovercrafts, this film is a masterpiece of production design. An old wooden farm house becomes a high-tech ironclad fortress. A store in Houston becomes a treasure trove of pop culture memorabilia, a true blast from the past. And best of them all, the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris becomes a sparkly and spectacular rocket launch station!

Visuals alone though do not a great movie make. The way director Brad Bird tells it, the story goes through 130 minutes of convoluted loops and elaborate turns. The first act was slow and long-winded, with so many fancy stunts that led nowhere. The second act when Franky and Casey get together was the best and most exciting part of the film. I forgot my dissatisfaction of the first act, and felt the rising tension so effectively built. Disappointingly, whatever momentum was created by the second act got eroded away by an overlong and even tediously anti-climactic third act. I could not wait for it to end, but the end was not coming soon enough.

Since his two main co-stars are relative newcomers, the talent and experience of George Clooney were essential to bind this whole rather messy bundle together, and he does so effectively. Clooney plays his disillusioned genius character Frank Walker as a gruff curmudgeon, and he was charming and funny.

Britt Robertson has been acting for 15 of her 25 years and this lead role as Casey is her biggest break. I do not know if it is her acting or the way her character was written, but she did not succeed to have me rooting for her Casey. She came across as too sassy and smart-alecky for comfort. Aside from optimism, what exactly is Casey's dream? We were not clearly told. Her closeness with her father is only implied but not elaborated. It seemed too easy for her to just run off to another state without seeking her father's permission. This was bothersome from a parent's point of view.

Child actress Raffey Cassidy fares much better in her role as Athena. We had seen her delightful pixie face before as the young Eva Green in "Dark Shadows" and the young Kristen Stewart in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Here she had good chemistry with Thomas Robinson, the actor playing the young Frank Walker, as well as with Clooney as the old Frank. It is just too bad that her character was not developed too clearly. When her climactic dramatic moment came at the end, we fail to emotionally connect with it

Hugh Laurie was given the thankless role of Nix, the leader of Tomorrowland whose motivations are unclear and do not really make any sense in the final analysis. This underwritten antagonist character was certainly one of the factors why the story did not fly.

Since his auspicious animated feature film debut "The Iron Giant" (1999), Brad Bird had consistently given us top-notch films: "The Incredibles" (2004), "Ratatouille" (2007) and the live action "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" (2011) are all excellent. Audacious as it may seem on the surface, "Tomorrowland" is Bird's most disappointing project to date.

Of course, as this is a Disney movie, we are expected to approach this film with childlike idealism, flawed as the underlying message may be. Optimistic dreamers are the ultimate saviors of the world. For me, "Tomorrowland" was not able to sell that idea too well.

It concentrated too much in developing grand images guaranteed to awe and amaze us, hoping that the poorly-told story will not matter so much. Frank Walker did have a line that went, "Can't you just be amazed, and move on?" For young kids, maybe because they will not really understand what is going on. For most adult audiences though, they will see through the smoke and mirrors and feel oddly empty after the final (supposedly inspirational) scenes. 5/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

05-27-2015, 01:49 PM
‘Tomorrowland’ nets a soft $42.7-million debut
The Associated Press 8:46 AM | Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

LOS ANGELES— Disney’s original fantasy adventure “Tomorrowland” ended up earning slightly more in its debut than Monday estimates suggested with $42.7 million across the holiday weekend.

While that’s within the range of what the studio and analysts predicted going into the four-day weekend, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the film starring George Clooney to make up its reported $180 million production budget.

READ: George Clooney goes back to future in ‘Tomorrowland’

Holdovers “Pitch Perfect 2″ and “Mad Max: Fury Road” experienced modest drops in their second weekends in theaters and took the second and third place spots, while “Avengers: Age of Ultron” added another $28.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $411.4 million.

READ: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ dominates North American box office

Fox’s “Poltergeist” remake opened in fifth place with $26.3 million — slightly more than expected for horror film, which cost only $35 million to produce.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Monday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Tuesday by Rentrak:

1. “Tomorrowland,” Disney, $42,679,200, 3,972 locations, $10,745 average, $42,679,200, 1 week.

2. “Pitch Perfect 2,” Universal, $38,252,200, 3,560 locations, $10,745 average, $125,738,795, 2 weeks.

3. “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Warner Bros., $31,287,441, 3,722 locations, $8,406 average, $94,717,720, 2 weeks.

4. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron,” Disney, $28,198,906, 3,727 locations, $7,566 average, $411,369,385, 4 weeks.

5. “Poltergeist,” 20th Century Fox, $26,341,432, 3,240 locations, $8,130 average, $26,341,432, 1 week.

6. “Hot Pursuit,” Warner Bros., $4,585,038, 2,577 locations, $1,779 average, $30,030,278, 3 weeks.

7. “Far From The Madding Crowd,” Fox Searchlight, $2,992,810, 865 locations, $3,460 average, $6,155,415, 4 weeks.

8. “Furious 7,” Universal, $2,834,135, 1,653 locations, $1,715 average, $347,723,320, 8 weeks.

9. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” Sony, $2,639,058, 1,878 locations, $1,405 average, $66,456,767, 6 weeks.

10. “Home,” 20th Century Fox, $2,477,568, 1,444 locations, $1,716 average, $168,792,497, 9 weeks.

11. “The Age Of Adaline,” Lionsgate, $1,966,497, 1,643 locations, $1,197 average, $40,355,912, 5 weeks.

12. “Ex Machina,” A24 Films, $1,808,566, 896 locations, $2,018 average, $22,379,637, 7 weeks.

13. “Tanu Weds Manu Returns,” Eros Entertainment, $1,271,751, 136 locations, $9,351 average, $1,271,751, 1 week.

14. “Woman In Gold,” The Weinstein Co., $1,195,930, 662 locations, $1,807 average, $30,700,880, 8 weeks.

15. “Cinderella,” Disney, $556,356, 356 locations, $1,563 average, $197,998,802, 11 week.

16. “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” Bleecker Street, $379,411, 26 locations, $14,593 average, $454,384, 2 weeks.

17. “Get Hard,” Warner Bros., $344,367, 255 locations, $1,350 average, $89,362,050, 9 weeks.

18.”Where Hope Grows,” Roadside Attractions, $342,876, 221 locations, $1,551 average, $971,395, 2 weeks.

19. “The Longest Ride,” 20th Century Fox, $342,722, 329 locations, $1,042 average, $36,856,747, 7 weeks.

20. “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” Lionsgate, $317,368, 266 locations, $1,193 average, $128,734,480, 10 weeks.