Tag Archives: Warner Bros.

Top 10 DC films

Even though the superhero genre, with its cinematic universes and CGI moustache removal, feels like a modern invention, it’s worth remembering that DC films have been around since 1978, with the release of Richard Donner’s Superman. Since then, DC has left numerous, indelible marks on comic book filmmaking — the Academy Award-winning Suicide Squad, multiple sets of Bat-nips and this scene from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, just to name a few. Oh, and The Dark Knight too. All jokes aside, DC’s filmography includes some of the best comic book adaptations of all time. Here are ten of them.

10. Superman

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Richard Donner’s Superman defined the superhero film and its sterling illustration of optimism, idealism and sacrifice on screen has yet to be recreated in a similar comic book property, and for good reason. The genuineness with which each actor portrays their character, the reverent aura beget by Donner’s steadfast direction and John Williams’ iconically melodious score all work in cohesion to portray the quintessential cinematic take on the Man of Steel. Make no mistake, Christopher Reeve is Superman, and from the moment he exits a revolving door clad in red, blue and yellow, no one can deny that the presence he exudes is inspiring beyond belief. While Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer might think that the character needs to be deconstructed and morally-conflicted to be interesting, Donner knows that Superman is captivating in how his selflessness is innate, ingrained in his very being and staunch at the expense of a normal life. Simply put, he’s Superman because he wants to be and not solely out of a sense of duty to his adopted homeworld. It may have been released in the ‘70s, but Superman is timeless. No matter when you watch it, “You’ll believe a man can fly.”

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

9. Superman II

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What presents more of a threat to the Superman than a villainous plot revolving around the California real estate market? Three revenge-driven Kryptonians, an escaped arch-enemy and an introspective dilemma between want and responsibility — that’s what. Despite the uphill battle it was fighting after the character’s first stellar outing, Superman ll differentiates itself from its predecessor by grounding the Last Son of Krypton while upping the narrative ante. Superman’s hard to empathize with, given the, y’know, God-like powers and such, but director Richard Lester (and Richard Donner with his, arguably, better cut of the film) captures the mortality of the character by stripping him of his abilities and reminding audiences what truly makes him so super. Combine such a personally conflicted performance by Christopher Reeve as a now de-powered Clark with the mad zealotry of Terence Stamp’s Zod, and the film beautifully depicts two sides of a moralistic spectrum. Returning favorites such as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Perry White and Eve Teschmacher round out one of the few great examples of a sequel done right.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

8. Road to Perdition

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Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a young Tyler Hoechlin, director Sam Mendes and legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall? Road to Perdition is, surely, the most starry DC production ever.

Thankfully, it’s also one of the best. The film wisely uses everyman Tom Hanks against type as a ruthless mob enforcer seeking vengeance for the murder of his whole family, except for his young son played by Tyler Hoechlin. Like A History of Violence, the film asks the viewer to confront how violence becomes embedded within our families and, ultimately, creates the downfall of many people’s lives. Featuring Oscar-winning, exquisitely framed, lit and shot cinematography by Hall — this ended up being his last film prior to passing away — Road to Perdition is the most beautifully designed film on this list.

— Levi Hill

7. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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As this list makes evident, there are more great Batman films than there are canonical Robins. The Nolan films are genius interpretations of classic characters, and the Burton films helped define what a cinematic Batman could be, but only one film on this list definitively represents a truly comic-accurate version of Batman; only one film here makes a deep dive into the psychology of the Dark Knight. That film, of course, is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the cinematic extension of the classic Batman: The Animated Series. The creative team from the television show, including Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, lend their iconic art style and mature storytelling to this film, which coalesce to dramatically redefine Batman’s origin story with heaping amounts of genuine pathos. Just as he’s making his first forays into vigilantism, Bruce Wayne finds true love in Andrea Beaumont (voiced by Dana Delany), and we see a Batman who is conflicted. “I didn’t count on being happy,” he says, as he crumbles in front of his parents’ graves. In this sense, the film pits past and present against each other, each vying to consume Batman. Thematically, this film is as rich as The Dark Knight, and arguably much more emotional — whereas most Batman films are content to let the Caped Crusader brood for the entire runtime, this film translates mere gloom to a nuanced, emotional sense of melancholy. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill voice Batman and the Joker, respectively, cementing their statuses as the definitive portrayals of both characters. Much has already been said about this film by more articulate fans than myself, so I’ll just link one of my favorite analyses here. Check it out, or better yet, just go watch this absolute gem of a movie.

— Harrison Tunggal

6. A History of Violence

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Who would have thought that David Cronenberg’s best (arguably) and most humanistic (not as arguable) film would be an adaption of a graphic novel about the nature of violence? Yes, most of Cronenberg’s films tend to explore society’s obsession with violence, but typically with surreal trappings. For example, think of Videodrome’s satirical takedown of TV’s reliance on sex and murder to get audience’s invested, or the sex-crazed car crash survivors in Crash.

A History of Violence strips away most of the pretense, and focuses on how one small-town man who lives an upright life with his family can be haunted by violence. After a group of gangsters come to the town, threatening to hurt him or others, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) acts without hesitation with a stunning amount of brutal violence, killing the gangsters before they harm any innocent bystanders. While heralded as a hero by the local community, what happens after, though, is the quick realization that Tom was a former gangster himself, with a deep past of horrific crimes that are going to catch up to him. Using the deeper ruminations of the source material, A History of Violence is likely the most mature DC-adaption yet.

— Levi Hill

5. The Dark Knight Rises

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Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film has received plenty of flack, but it’s hard, in retrospect, to feel as though the intense derision is fully warranted. We don’t view a film in a vacuum; The Dark Knight Rises followed not only arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time, but also one of the most influential films, period, of its era. The lens with which Rises has been viewed is different than most, the standards higher than most.

With that said, The Dark Knight Rises is an undoubtedly epic finale, expanding the scope and scale immensely while maintaining a firm grasp on the gritty realism that is thematically central to Nolan’s take. While The Dark Knight was more about Batman/the Bruce that’s behind the mask, this final installment places a raw Bruce front and center — and Christian Bale embraces the vulnerability and pain. This Bruce wants death; we can see the weight of his life on his tired face, and, when he finally can let go of the anger, it’s an immeasurably joyous feeling to see him at peace.

On top of all of that, The Dark Knight Rises deftly avoids the pitfall of bigger-but-emptier. The thematic idea behind Bane, a sort of re-emergence of the League of Shadows, but also a slight shift in its principles, is consistently engaging, and a layered look at the political manipulations that would allow for Bane to take over Gotham as he does. And while many complain about Tom Hardy’s voice, Bane is one of the better comic book villains of recent memory. Due mostly to Hardy, he’s physically intimidating unlike most antagonists we’ve seen, and his strange, almost Eastern European accent lends an aura of gravitas to the character too.

The detractors likely won’t sway too far from their positions, and that’s their right. But, no matter how flawed, The Dark Knight Rises still succeeds in capping the arc of the trilogy and of Bruce in a thematic and emotionally satisfying way, an absolutely massive and underappreciated accomplishment that few comic book trilogies, let alone trilogies in general, have accomplished.

— Kyle Kizu

4. Batman

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When it was first announced, 1989’s Batman received its fair share of skepticism from fans and general audiences alike. Can you blame them? The director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and the lead of Mr. Mom (what a decade the ‘80’s was) aren’t the first duo to come to mind when bringing Batman to cinematic life. However, with a certain teaser trailer, Warner Bros. was able to bide time and assuage moviegoers that this was going to be a dark, epic take on the Caped Crusader: how right they were. From its visually resplendent gothic aesthetic to Danny Elfman’s classic, rousing yet somber score, Batman ‘89 established a filmic experience for the character like never before. Tim Burton’s sets a simultaneously adventurous and tragic environment, anchored with committed character work by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, which infuses the film with a larger-than-life attitude that’s both entertaining and narratively fulfilling. Burton and company don’t shy away from their comic book roots, but, at the same time, don’t simply execute fan service scene after scene. This is a movie where the Joker realizes his appearance is both an extension of his own subconscious identity and a tool with which he can shift the status quo in Gotham City. This is also a movie where the Batwing flies in front of and recreates the Bat Signal against the moonlight. This is Batman ‘89.     

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

3. Batman Begins

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Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film quickly became the landmark superhero origin story, and for good reason. Grounding Bruce Wayne in our world and committing to an intertwined idea of story, character, setting and theme — all living and breathing as one — Batman Begins is a gripping drama about grief, fear and justice. Applying his trademark sense of nonlinear structure to the beginning of the film, Nolan thoroughly impresses upon us one of the most three-dimensional characters the genre has seen, and proceeds to surround Wayne with nearly as equally defined supporting characters in Fox, Gordon and Alfred.

Batman Begins has influenced countless films after it, with many directly citing the film and Nolan in their approach. But what so many fail to understand is that the brooding darkness and gritty realism alone are not what make this film so special. It’s that both of those aspects are informed for what the story holds intrinsically. Bruce Wayne is just a man with no real powers, so of course his equipment would come from the military. He’s just a man with no real powers, so of course he would get bruised and beaten quite easily and extensively.

We’ve yet to get another origin story like it and it might be a while before we do.

— Kyle Kizu

2. Wonder Woman

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Just as Wonder Woman saved Batman from becoming bat-toast in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, her first solo film saved the DCEU (for the time being, at least) when it needed it most. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman gives us a hero that kicks as much ass as Batman, and still embodies the sense of hope that defines Superman — a combination that made Wonder Woman the commercial and critical hit that the DCEU needed.

Essentially, Wonder Woman is a film about empowerment, and it’s downright inspirational, which, ironically, isn’t an adjective that’s often bandied about when speaking of superhero films. The immense impact of the film on younger viewers is already evident — you can click here to have your heart warmed, or just rewatch the film, or do both.

— Harrison Tunggal

1. The Dark Knight

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The Dark Knight is not only the best DC film of all time, but it’s also arguably the best superhero film of all time and one of the best films, in general, of all time.

On a craft level, the film is masterful. So often do all of the elements coalesce — the score, the editing, the sound design, the cinematography and more — to create astounding action sequences that leave us absolutely breathless, like the opening bank heist and the underground police chase.

But where The Dark Knight steps to the next level is in how its craft executes its story. The film has four main characters — Bruce Wayne/Batman, Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon and the Joker — and works them all into an immensely profound narrative of morality and sacrifice, especially in our post-9/11 society. We see our heroes manipulated by the Joker, and forced to bend their rules to stop him, but we also see that something is lost every time a rule is broken. The film has no hardline stance on morality, what’s just and what’s worth it, which ends up being for the better as it truly dimensionalizes these characters in ways that other films don’t. It also ends up making the Joker such an terrifying, effective and memorable villain.

Heath Ledger’s turn is one for the ages. It is the definition of transformation; every aspect of physical, verbal and mental performance is taken advantage of to leave us with a being that feels so abrasive, tangible and real — something made all the more stunning considering that the character is offered no backstory. Ledger’s Joker is the face of terror in the 21st century, and it’s one we won’t soon forget.

The Dark Knight is one of the great films of our time. It’s a film about a guy who dresses up as a bat, but it’s also a city crime drama as epic as The Godfather. It’s a superhero film that embraces the best of its genre, but also transcends it in every way imaginable.

— Kyle Kizu

 

Featured image via New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

‘Justice League’ Review: A cleaner, but more jarring and hollow failure

On a storytelling level, Justice League is a better film than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s more cohesive, better paced and easier to follow. But it comes at a steep cost.

What the DCEU had gotten right up to this point — maybe not with Suicide Squad — was an investment in theme and how character and story both shape theme and are shaped by it. Batman v Superman is a mess of a film, but it’s an interesting story. It’s ideas of man vs. god, of the repercussions of Superman and the lengths to which Batman’s anger would take him in response, which feels like a continuation of Man of Steel, offers some semblance of narrative satisfaction.

Justice League, seemingly a continuation of Batman v Superman, a third film in this trilogy, is jarringly hollow in comparison. Superman’s death and Batman’s guilt are hardly investigated, and if they are, they’re parsed through in ways that don’t make sense with character; supposed steps taken in regard to those themes turn out to be more circumstantial, convenient and simple than actual elaboration on the story’s previous interests.

In essence, the film abandons what it was set up to be in order to be a cleaner film. It’s slightly, slightly understandable considering the position of Warner Bros. and DC, but it is such a disappointment. There’s nothing to latch onto in Superman’s character (surprise, he’s in the movie). He leans Christopher Reeve in tone, which, to some, might be exciting — but that’s not the Superman that’s been built in this universe. A short moment after his resurrection has the potential to take his character in a frightening, complicated direction, but that potential is quickly passed on and we get a one-dimensional figure that doesn’t even feel like a character.

The same can be said with villain. Batman’s visions of impending doom in the previous installment move nowhere with Steppenwolf, a monstrosity that falls flatter than the horrific CGI that creates him. He’s a typical, bland god-like bad guy spouting boring, cliched lines of fate for the “primitive beings” he’s fighting.

There aren’t many dimensions anywhere in Justice League. The Flash, while decently snappy comedic relief (which, itself, becomes tiresome), is barely two-dimensional. Aquaman’s motivations and backstory are washed over. Wonder Woman’s arc feigns at actual interest in the character — she’s dealing with the grief of losing Steve Trevor and the subsequent struggles she has with being a leader — but the timeline difference makes it difficult to swallow and, in horrifyingly gross fashion, the film sexualizes her and submits her to the filmmakers’ male gaze.

The only character that’s remotely fleshed out is Cyborg. His biomechatronic body has a brain of its own and he’s struggling to learn how to control it. But, considering that Ray Fisher gives a strong performance, it only ends up as disappointing that that arc is traversed here and not more thoroughly in a solo film.

It’s strange because one can almost feel that Justice League wants to be a cleaner movie. Too much of the plotting is expedited and, in turn, easy, leaving us with a lot that’s clean and digestible — until we realize that there’s no substance to any of it. But even in its attempts to be clean, it ends up as a messier looking film than most blockbusters in general. It’s embarrassing that we can tell where the reshoots are, not only narratively but visually. Literally, we see where actors are digitally inserted after the fact and where continuity is interrupted.

And Henry Cavill’s digitally removed mustache leaves his face as… by god, there’s no excuse.

Even the DCEU’s inarguably greatest element, its scores, halts dead with Danny Elfman’s work. We hear, perhaps, ten seconds of Wonder Woman’s theme before it never shows up again. We never hear Junkie XL’s Batman theme as Elfman opts to use his original one. We never hear Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel theme. Elfman leaves us with nothing memorable about his score. The use of original themes don’t make  auditory sense for where the characters are meant to be, which, even worse, results in music that fails to serve the narrative on any level.

The film is cheap. It inserts quirky quips here and there to induce laughter that can, momentarily, help us forget its shortcomings. But even those quips wind up yanking us out of the film. They’re infuriating. They’re tonally imbalanced and out of character — especially for someone like Batman. The film also shoves in comic book references to help some of the comic book familiar folk look over its cheap nature, most of which will be missed by audiences not familiar and create no difference as none of the nods have narrative implications.

Some of the fight sequences work and work well. Characters are clear and distinguishable, and the overall battles are well shot in regard to spatial geography.

But it’s difficult to even want to talk about that with any layer of enthusiasm. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy notably lacked well-composed action, but they’re still some of the best superhero movies of all time because of their unparalleled execution of storytelling.

Cumulatively, Justice League is overbearingly cheap. It’s a middle finger to the audience, a “course correction” that does no correcting.

Grade: D+

 

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Three films that prove that ‘remakes’ aren’t always bad

“Remake” is a poisonous word in Hollywood, one of the ones used to blast studios for their infuriating laziness. To an extent, audiences are right. Rehashes are too often misfires.

But too few realize that the idea of a remake isn’t the villain — simply the current way in which it’s practiced is — as some of the greatest films of all time are remakes.

The Magnificent Seven? A Fistful of Dollars? Two defining Westerns, both remakes of Akira Kurosawa films. Scarface, a film whose line of dialogue — “Say hello to my little friend!” — has entered the cultural lexicon, is a remake of a 1932 film. The Maltese Falcon, perhaps the defining film in the noir tradition, is a remake of a film made 10 years prior. Even Heat is a remake of Michael Mann’s own TV movie.

The best directors, such as the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, John Carpenter, James Cameron and more, all delve into remakes. There is no shame in remaking something, as long as the filmmakers are informed and committed to telling a good story — like most of these examples show.

In line with the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, a remake of a 1974 film, we decided to list some of our personal favorite remakes that also are a testament to the fact that the act of remaking something can be a brilliant idea in the right hands.

Ocean’s Eleven

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Ocean’s Eleven is truly a contemporary classic, one of the greatest heist films of all time and one of the most dynamically engaging films of the 21st century. It’s easy to write it off as simply entertainment, as director Steven Soderbergh just having a good time. But Soderbergh is at, perhaps, his most skillful here as a director. The pacing is electric and never offbeat. Despite having over 10 characters to follow, we find it easy to distinguish due to brilliant characterization. Mainly through editing, the composition of scenes occurring during the heist are, on a sensory level, as gripping as the best action scenes can be. Writer Ted Griffin’s dialogue is snappy and worthy of comparison to Sorkin. On all levels, Ocean’s Eleven is outstanding entertainment and filmmaking.

And that’s precisely what separates Soderbergh’s remake from the 1960 original. Sure, that one puts up a fight, and might honestly win, for the more steely cool cast; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are a tough trio to beat. But the original is only so entertaining — because its storytelling doesn’t allow it to be more than just that.

As the film continues to age, more will recognize the significance of Ocean’s Eleven beyond its own entertainment value. For now, though, we’ll gladly call it one of the most fun movies of recent memory.

— Kyle Kizu

Insomnia

Summit/Warner Bros/Courtesy

There are better remakes out there, like The Fly, The Thing and Heat, but out of principle, I feel some degree of obligation to bring up Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (since this site, and the internet in general, is really lacking in discourse about him). All jokes aside though, Nolan’s Insomnia — a remake of the 1997 Norwegian original starring Stellan Skarsgård — really is a gem that gets overlooked too often.

Insomnia might be Nolan’s most conventional film — it’s not told out of order like Memento, it didn’t kickstart genre trends like The Dark Knight and it’s not an art-house epic like Dunkirk — but that’s no slight against it. First off, the film’s performances are just as good as any other in Nolan’s filmography. As an ethically-compromised, sleep-deprived detective, Al Pacino broods just as well as Christian Bale would in The Dark Knight Trilogy. But like the films of that trilogy, the villain in this film also steals the show. Robin Williams shines as a crime author who gives into his most depraved instincts, and we see a side of Williams previously unknown. He’d given strong dramatic performances prior to Insomnia, but in this film, we see how his comedic chops translate into darkness. As a director, Nolan prides himself on showing audiences something they’ve never seen before, and with Williams’ performance in this film, Nolan accomplishes just that.

If nothing else, Insomnia represents Nolan’s earning of Warner Bros’ trust, and in this sense, the film is somewhat responsible for giving us Nolan’s entire filmography. There would be no The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar or Dunkirk without Insomnia, and that fact alone makes the film unique in cinema’s history of remakes.

— Harrison Tunggal

The Departed

Warner Bros.

A majority of Martin Scorsese’s films draw upon historical figures and happenings, but the director ensures each of his works has merit as a piece of original cinema first, and that it’s not merely an adaptation. That’s what makes it so surprising to learn that one of Scorsese’s best, The Departed, is actually a remake of 2002’s Infernal Affairs, a Hong Kong-produced film whose plot essentially mirrors the renowned director’s own. Despite the enormous debt Scorsese owes to writers Alan Mak and Felix Chong for crafting such an intriguing premise on criminality, his film represents the best possible outcome in remaking a film — a voice and identity not entirely dependent on the source material but rather established by its own volition. Scorsese injects an American, and specifically Bostonian-Irish sensibility into The Departed which informs each set piece, line of dialogue and character in the film. This is a movie that feeds off its blue-collar setting and mentalities wherein characters as major as undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and minor as ‘Man Glassed in Bar’ (Brian Smyj) are so indelibly real because of their American-Made attitudes and ethno-specific upbringings. What Scorsese so fantastically captures in The Departed is a moral dilemma and desperation that is autonomous and indicative of its setting’s cultures and peoples. This is not simply Infernal Affairs translated for American audiences, a whitewashed product that makes no attempt to cultivate its own social quandaries (*cough* Death Note *cough*); this is reverent of its source and an amazing piece cinema all its own.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

 

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Top 10 war films since 2010

Cinema thrives when it comes to war films. These are events that many regular civilians would never understand on any level other than statistics and classroom lessons. So, that’s where cinema’s job comes in — to transport us, to help us understand. And recently, war films have gone beyond that. But we don’t like to confine the genre to just those of generals, political machinations and battlefields involving some form of Western force. Those are outstanding, but war is more than that. War drags children into conflict in countries that can’t defend them. War is the deeply human and deeply empathetic look at those not necessarily fighting, but suffering — either those subject to enemies and without the ability to fight back, like Holocaust victims, or those struggling in the aftermath of what they’ve had to do, like PTSD victims. Even genre films, superhero or otherwise, have utilized war and wartime settings to comment, in immensely effective ways, on violence. So, let’s extend the perceived boundaries of the war film. Releasing this Friday, Oct. 27, Thank You For Your Service looks to do just that, mostly leaving the battlefield to extend Jason Hall’s investigation into PTSD that started with American Sniper. Who’s to say that that’s not as much of a war film as any? Here are our top ten war films, both traditional and subversive, since 2010:

10. First They Killed My Father (2017)

Netflix/Courtesy

While Beasts of No Nation and First They Killed My Father confront the topic of the child soldiers whose lives are consumed by the wars surrounding them, Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father is unique in how it paints a portrait of a country’s history, and how it derives such a portrait from following its young lead (Sareum Srey Moch). Beyond being an affecting historicization of Cambodian history, it is a deeply beautiful film despite the horrors that it depicts — some of the dream sequences and the film’s multiple overhead shots transcend the vileness of war, suggesting that Cambodia’s own beauty as a country triumphs against the Khmer Rouge regime.

— Harrison Tunggal

9. ‘71 (2015)

Roadside Attractions/Courtesy

Yann Demange’s directorial debut is a breathtakingly intense look at more of a guerrilla war than a typical war, following the “Troubles,” a conflict which centered around Northern Ireland’s status as either a part of the UK or part of a united Ireland. And that’s what’s so special about this film — that you can feel that distinction from the opening scene. Demange’s construction of tone through editing and cinematography that build tension in the streets of Ireland is masterful. Similar to Dunkirk, ‘71 is almost a silent film, a chase film filled with frightening stakes. It’s one of the better war films of recent times because it succeeds in spades in portraying a region under duress, not from enemies outside, but from fellow people within.

— Kyle Kizu

8. Lincoln (2012)

Touchstone Pictures/Courtesy

With a little bit of make-up, a sizeable amount of screentime and a lot of method acting, is there really any role Sir Daniel Day-Lewis can’t play? In Lincoln, the prolific actor practically becomes Abraham Lincoln as the renowned and revered president navigates a unique time period within the context of the American Civil War — its final few months and the repercussions of its aftermath on American slavery. Helmed by Steven Spielberg in, arguably, one of his best films in the past decade, Lincoln takes an incisive look at the intricacies behind not only Lincoln himself, but the president’s impact on shaping the United States’ perception of race-based politics into the modern era. Not only does Spielberg’s direction manage to entertain through a sheer cinematographic fixation on the enigmatic and truly revolutionary mind of Abraham Lincoln, but the film’s incredibly talented supporting cast, including a possibly show-stealing performance by Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, ensures that the film goes down as one of the most compelling and meticulously recreated historical war dramas to ever appear on screen. There’s a sense of artistic passion that oozes from Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the strong-willed yet holistically perceptive Lincoln, one that envelops every scene he’s in (spoiler: with a name like Lincoln, it’s a lot of ‘em) but that never grows stagnant. Leave it to Day-Lewis and Spielberg to make a high school reading requirement into war cinema royalty.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

7. Wonder Woman (2017)

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Sure, on an instinctual level, Wonder Woman is a superhero film, but it uses its wartime setting as effectively as any other film on this list. The film posits that war is a product of man’s own destructive ways, and that it’s up to a woman to bring the compassion (and kickassery) that precipitates peace. If nothing else, the film’s argument makes it a unique entry in this list of war films, but the level of craft that director Patty Jenkins brings to Wonder Woman lends the film an edge that its peers lack — Jenkins does Zack Snyder action better than Zack Snyder, the production design alone is worth the price of admission and the “No Man’s Land” scene will go down in cinema history as one of the most inspiring moments ever filmed. Truly, where most war films claim to depict heroism, Wonder Woman defines the standard to which such heroism should be held. As Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot channels Christopher Reeves’ Superman to give audiences a figure of hope they can aspire to — she is the hero the world needs and the one it deserves. But in Wonder Woman’s words, “It’s not about deserve; it’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

Harrison Tunggal

6. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

There may be less physical conflict shown in War for the Planet of the Apes than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the third Apes film is the first to truly be about war. Not every moment in war is physical conflict. Exemplified by Game of Thrones, war is often about the aura in the air and the disposition of every single person across vast regions, which, in War’s case, genuinely feels to be the entire planet. There is often silence in barren and broken landscapes that are strangely beautiful, and moments of harrowing communal strength in stake out locations. There are factions with warring ideologies, embodied by their leaders, and, most importantly, there’s a sense of history of what’s gotten us to this point. War for the Planet of the Apes holds all of that, and more, and is it arguable the most stunningly crafted of the trilogy. When it does come to physical conflict, it features some of the more viscerally abrasive battles of recent memory, especially the film’s opening. And it’s also host to some searing, haunting imagery akin to the Holocaust, as well as to any other conflict that involves mass imprisonment, such as the Japanese internment camps. War is one of the few war films, in general, to truly understand what “war” means, the implications of it, the often ignored visual and emotional impacts on both the small and wide scale, the ideological divide, the characters that perpetrate it and the characters that uphold the best of humanity — which, in this case, are the apes.

— Kyle Kizu

5. American Sniper (2014)

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American Sniper is a rorschach test of sorts. Some people see this film as a jingoistic piece of propaganda. Others see it as a sobering investigation into post traumatic stress disorder. It lands so high on our list as we mainly fall into the latter. While the film may not have a typical progression of narrative, we follow Chris Kyle, portrayed with unbelievable vulnerability by Bradley Cooper, through this growing sensory and emotional overload. Rather than use a typically inspirational score like Lone Survivor, American Sniper makes use of horrifying sound design that enhances the sounds of bullets and explosions. The film crafts this entrapment, most directly on his tours as gunfire rains down from all over and even hiding places are not so safe, but also in brief moments back in the U.S. as Kyle becomes entrapped in his own head. The brevity of his raw emotional moments shows just how much pressure and silence these soldiers dealing with PTSD feel like they have to put on themselves, making them all the more powerful — exemplified by the bar scene when Kyle arrives back to the U.S. without telling his wife and, when she calls, he breaks down and can only say “I guess I just needed a minute.” American Sniper is a war film that digs into you without you really noticing, so when you get to those points, you still feel all of what Kyle feels. It’s a necessary look at what war does to human beings.

— Kyle Kizu

4. Son of Saul (2015)

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The Holocaust is a subject that is often focused on in World War II films. There have been a multitude of movies exploring the horrors and atrocities committed during this moment of history, with notable examples being the eight-hour documentary Shoah or the Best Picture winning Schindler’s List. The topic has been explored by filmmakers like George Stevens, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kramer, Vittorio de Sica, Quentin Tarantino and Paul Verhoeven. With all of these major filmmakers being vital and their films classics, it may be hard for anyone to feel that cinema needs to retouch one of the worst crimes against humanity ever committed. Yet, László Nemes’ directing debut Son of Saul might just be the most stunning from both a filmmaking and pathos standpoint. The film follows Saul (Géza Röhrig), who is a Jewish Sonderkommando, as he goes by his day-to-day activities, which includes the truly demoralizing jobs of being both the person who leads fellow Jewish people into the gas chambers, and then being the one who disposes their bodies afterward. One day, Saul sees a child — after the fact — that resembles what his son would have looked like. From here, the film plunges into the wearied psyche of Saul as he tries to find answers to where his son is, and if that boy was his son. Filming in mostly tight close-ups, Nemes and cinematographer Matyas Erdely create an extremely subjective view on the Holocaust, forcing the audience to rarely see the violence, but instead to hear it, to be surrounded by it, to be as closely immersed in this devastatingly tragic time as any film before it. It may be a grim film, but it’s about as important and courageous as film can get — showing that sometimes in the most dire of circumstances, we can regain our own humanity.

— Levi Hill

3. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Netflix/Courtesy

Beasts of No Nation represents not just one country, but the many that suffer from the type of atrocities and conflict of war present in this film. And this is where writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga pulls off a stunning feat of storytelling — we understand that this is the tragedy of many, but we get to know our characters so deeply and so vividly. We become so connected to this idea of a larger devastation because we get such intimacy with the singular devastation we see. Much of that comes from violence. The trauma that Agu (Abraham Attah) encounters is overwhelming in every way, something that we immediately recognize as far too much for a young child. And as Agu falls into his own head, we see the potential for what he can become in the film’s juxtaposition of him next to the Commandant (Idris Elba) — a broken man forced into fighting, addicted to fighting, but only for any semblance of individuality and not for the war’s cause. That’s what makes Beasts of No Nation such a vital war film. Not only is it gorgeously rendered with some arresting cinematography and some viscerally intense filmmaking, and not only is it a film that shows conflict outside of the Western world, but it’s so invested in its humanity, in the brutality that gets us to a point like that and in the psychology of the most psychologically vulnerable during wartime: children.

— Kyle Kizu

2. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Director Kathryn Bigelow has never been one to shy away from war in cinema. Whether it be her first foray into the genre with 2002’s K-19: The Widowmaker or 2009’s Oscar darling, The Hurt Locker, (which reminded Hollywood, yet again, directing isn’t just a boys’ club) Bigelow has proven time and time again that she is the female authority on war on the silver screen. Combine her directorial prowess in capturing the governmental manipulation behind contemporary conflict along with the moral ambiguity of modern politics and a tour de force performance from Jessica Chastain, and you have Zero Dark Thirty. How does one portray the relentless hunt for the leader of the militant organization that orchestrated the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor? With an unwavering realism that produces a profound sense of patriotism that is simultaneously overpowered by a sense of conscientious repugnancy, Zero Dark Thirty earns its spot on this list not solely for the gripping fashion in which it fashions an intimate look at the minds integral behind the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but the staunch stance it takes in revealing how war affects those that aren’t on the front line, and what they, and we as a nation, are willing to sacrifice to win.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

1. Dunkirk (2017)

Warner Bros/Courtesy

Statistically speaking, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is, hands down, the film MovieMinis has written most about, by a margin wider than the English channel itself. And for good reason — beyond simply being a great war film, easily one of the best of all time, it is still the best film of 2017 (the ball is in your court, Guillermo del Toro).

You can read all about Dunkirk’s merits as a film here, but as a war film specifically, Dunkirk’s brilliance comes from its comprehensive, thorough subversion of every war movie trope ever put on screen. No character in this film pulls out a photo of his girlfriend back home, we hardly ever see enemy soldiers firing away at our heroes and, quite remarkably, the film maintains its thrills without spilling a drop of blood. In terms of war films, Dunkirk is the anti-Hacksaw Ridge — a film about evacuation rather battle, the empirical engineering of tension over mere spectacle. In this sense, where most war films are happy to indulge in hyper-masculine violence or cliched patriotism, Dunkirk intends to achieve none of it, preferring to blaze a new trail for what a war movie could be. Unlike any other film in the genre, Dunkirk is a purely experiential film, aiming to put viewers on Dunkirk’s beaches, in the skies above it and in the waters of the English Channel. The film’s IMAX format, expert editing, earth-shattering sound design and reliance on practical effects remind us how the language of cinema is a mimetic one. Speaking of Dunkirk, one feels the compulsion to pontificate about how audio and visual immersion is a quality unique to cinema, but let’s face it, such immersion is unique to Dunkirk.

— Harrison Tunggal

 

Featured image via Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros.

4 brilliant performances from actors under 15 years old

Unfortunately, young actors often stick out in films. It’s hard to blame anyone in those situations; these actors are usually out of their comfort zone in such a highly demanding atmosphere, and it’s difficult for directors to truly direct someone so young.

But children are so integral to stories, adding layers that are wholly missing in stories all about adults. So, it’s a wondrous delight when a film features a great performance from a young actor. They’re few and far between, and take extreme talent from both the actor and the storytellers.

In honor of the acclaim that 7-year-old actress Brooklynn Prince is receiving for her turn in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, which is currently in theaters, the MovieMinis staff is taking a look at some of its favorite young actor performances of recent times, from actors under 15 years old.

Dafne Keen, Logan (2017) — 10/11 years old

Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox/Courtesy

Logan might be billed as Hugh Jackman’s movie, but Dafne Keen steals the show as a young clone of Logan, X-23. She matches Jackman’s trademark intensity in every way, snarling and stabbing just like Wolvie in his prime, maybe even better (she does have those rad foot claws after all). Don’t believe it? Just check out her screen test with Jackman. More than that though, Keen is able to showcase impressive dramatic chops throughout Logan. The film’s ending, though emotional already, is predicated on Keen’s command of the scene. The way she responds to Jackman on an emotional level is stunning to behold — we really do believe that a young girl is losing the father she just recently connected with, and Keen ensures that not a dry eye is left in the theater. Her quoting of the final lines from Shane as she stands over Logan’s grave is easily the most poignant moment in the X-Men franchise. Between Dafne Keen, Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things and Ahn Seo-hyun from Okja, would it be too much to ask for an Avengers-style team-up of pint-sized, kickass actresses? Hell, set it in the X-Men universe. 20th Century Fox, the ball is in your court.

— Harrison Tunggal

Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation (2015) — 12/13 years old

Netflix/Courtesy

Beasts of No Nation is an intense film that presents a harrowing picture of war-torn Africa and the many child soldiers thrust into performing horrific acts. It’s a heart-breaking portrait of the violence committed and the dehumanization these children experience, but the film wisely puts the film’s quietly building emotional wallop on the shoulders of newcomer Abraham Attah. Attah, as a young boy who saw his family die at the hands of an invading war within his hometown, portrays the full character arc of innocence gone awry, to hate-filled violent monster, all the way back to a boy reconciling the loss he has experienced in a short time. It’s a tricky arc for any actor, let alone one who had never acted before. Yet Attah is perfect, and while was shunned by the Oscars, rightfully won the Best Actor award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

— Levi Hill

Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar (2014) — 13/14 years old

Warner Bros./Paramount/Courtesy

Without an amazing performance from Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar potentially collapses in on itself like a forming blackhole. Murph is the heart and soul of the film, the source of both its human vulnerability and its human strength. Her spark, vibrancy in a time of dust storms and food shortages is invigorating. Foy embodies all of that, from the upbeat tempo of her line delivery, to the subtle lift of her eyebrows when adventure calls. Yet, so much of that comes out of the character’s love of her father. As much as she is capable and willing to be independent, her father is her role model and her rock during such difficult times. Thus, his leaving is the greatest of betrayals.

And in that goodbye, a scene of immense tragic poetics, Foy is stunning. She has to traverse so many emotions, from quiet vulnerability to raw desperation to subtle hope to heartbreaking anger. In response to “I’m coming back,” her delivery of the line “when” shatters us. And as she runs out of the house, calling out for her father as he drives away, her tears shatter us.

It’s difficult to truly see how important Foy’s performance is at first. But she genuinely is the basis off of which Jessica Chastain works, granting each of Chastain’s most emotional moments even more weight because of how much we became invested in Murph as a child. And all of the immensely moving moments of Cooper’s guilt are just that much more moving because we found such a strong connection between him and Murph at the beginning of the film. Interstellar is about a father and a daughter, a relationship that defines the veins of the film, a beating heart that doesn’t beat without the brilliance of Mackenzie Foy.

— Kyle Kizu

Jacob Tremblay, Room (2015) — 8 years old

A24/Courtesy

In a film that focuses on psychosexual abuse, familial ostracization and guilt-induced suicidal tendencies, it’s hard, if not impossible, to perceive even a glimmer of hope in the wake of such trauma. Yet somehow, Jacob Tremblay gives an inconceivably optimistic performance in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. As Jack, Tremblay represents the only tether to humanity for the perpetually-victimized Ma (Brie Larson) — the crux of the film’s emotional weight rests on the duo’s shoulders. Tremblay masterfully combines elements of precociousness, curiosity and an indelible level of courage to convey an uneasiness of the unknown, of a world outside the eponymous room, while remaining a pillar of strength for his overwhelmed mother. Larson’s performance relies a great deal on her onscreen son’s presence, and Tremblay somehow intimately commands each scene he’s in not through long-winded dialogue or overt acting, but, rather, restrained emotion. The level of his abuse, of his victimization is just beneath the surface of his wonder with the outside world, and Tremblay hints to it but never reveals it until the moment’s right. It would’ve been easy for a child’s performance to disrupt the rhythm of a such delicately-written melancholic narrative, but when said performance actually acts as the emotional core, you can’t help but be minutely unnerved and immensely impressed.

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

 

Featured image via A24.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Review: Sci-fi sequel is a masterpiece that questions the constitution of humanity

What does it mean to be human? Is it the capacity to feel emotions? To feel sadness? Happiness? Fear? Is it the ability to live with a purpose? To die? To remember your past?

If so, then can replicants be the next evolution of mankind?

These are all questions the landmark 1982 Blade Runner wisely posed, but refused to answer in simple measures. This year’s follow up, Denis Villeneuve’s visual masterpiece Blade Runner 2049, brings all of these questions back to the forefront, only to magnify the stakes, in an event that multiple characters either say will “break the world,” or be a “miracle.”

Agent K (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with getting to the bottom of this event, slowly uncovering the hidden truths from the world. Gosling, in full Drive-mode, stoic and commanding for the entire run time, carries this complex, intellectual film with ease. With a performance that starts as closed-off from portraying emotions (a battle-hardened blade runner), he, over the course the film, sells his character’s quiet, but moving arc about a man placed in a burgeoning war between man and its closest competitor: the replicants.

In fact, all of the actors bring their A-game, with Ana de Armas (War Dogs) and Carla Juri (Wetlands) making the most of their relatively small screen-time. However, outside of Gosling, it really is Harrison Ford — reprising his role of Deckard — who steals the show. Where Ford’s performance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was pure fan service, his role in BR2049 is much more demanding, much more emotional. In every scene Ford inhabits, the camera and the other actors are as glued to him as the audience is, watching this withering, soul-crushed character coping with memories lost in time. Whether it’ll gain awards traction or not is a different debate, but seeing Ford this committed to bearing his heart and mind is stunning.

What else is stunning is the incredible craft work on display. The production design, the score, the sound and the editing, despite its nearly three hour run time, are consistently spectacular. Yet, it is Roger Deakins and his mastery of light and composition that dominate the film. It’s arguably his most showy cinematography ever, yet it’s all in service of the film’s controlled atmospherics. With straight line designs, piercing rays of light through the darkest of locations, or an extended take involving a crashing vehicle, BR2049 is inarguably the showcase for all of Deakins’ exquisite powers behind the camera. After 13 Oscar nominations and no wins, it appears it’s finally his time.

Regardless of awards though, Blade Runner 2049’s insistence on posing the biggest of big existential questions, and powerfully refusing to offer simple answers, makes this a modern science fiction masterpiece. Denis Villeneuve, much like Christopher Nolan, takes his spot alongside the pantheon of great cinematic artists who push big budget filmmaking to another level — finally making blockbusters “more human than human.”

Grade: 9.6/10

 

Featured image via Warner Bros./Columbia/Sony.

Box Office Report: Top three films within $500k of each other

After stepping down to number two the weekend prior, It is back at the top spot, taking home an estimated $17.31 million this past weekend. The Stephen King horror film has exceeded more than just expectations, sitting as the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the year in only it’s 4th weekend. Worldwide, It has taken in $555 million and will easily be one of the most profitable films of the year, on a budget of only $35 million. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema are looking in the range of a $200 million profit.

Coming in second place, and under $300k away from It, Tom Cruise’s new film, American Made, made approximately $17.016 million. While this may be on the lower end of Tom Cruise openers, the film has already made $64.83 million internationally, putting its worldwide total at $81.85. On a budget rumored to be between $50 million and $60 million, American Made looks to make its money back, but also end up as a disappointment considering the Cruise superstar — is he still? — factor.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle rounded out a competitive top three, earning an estimated $17 million at the domestic box office. The sequel to The Secret Service, The Golden Circle saw a 56% fall off from its opening weekend, greater than the 49% second weekend drop of its predecessor and something only expected to continue in the coming weeks considering the poor reviews. To be fair, the film has nearly drawn even already, standing at $193.03 million worldwide on a $104 million budget.

What’s fascinating about this weekend is that the placing could end up changing, of any of these films to any of the top three spots, when the actuals drop.

Below them, however, the order is solid. The LEGO Ninjago Movie dropped only 41% in its second weekend, a rather good number considering the poor reviews, building to a $12 million haul. However, with a budget likely in the range of $70 million — The LEGO Movie cost $60 million and The LEGO Batman Movie cost $80 million — the film has an uphill battle to face if it wants to make its money back, currently at only $58.45 million worldwide. With it still to open in key international markets like the UK, China and Japan, it has a chance at pulling it off.

Newcomer Flatliners flatlined both critically and financially, taking in only $6.57 million this weekend. The film currently sits at an abysmal 3% on RottenTomatoes.

Finally, the Emma Stone/Steve Carell-starring Battle of the Sexes expanded into 1,000+ theaters this weekend, and made an approximate $3.4 million. The tale of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ famous tennis match is in the hunt for Oscars, so it will likely see a long and solid run, even if it isn’t close to being one of the top earners of the year.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

How ‘It’ made a killing at the box office, laughed away initial expectations

We have an arm-severing, face-chomping, immortal demon-clown to thank for saving the box office. New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.’ It raked in a record-breaking $123.1 million — finalized numbers after $117.2 estimates. Like a red Derry-branded balloon floating skyward from an evil death-sewer, the box office rose from its historic slump. Considering that the film’s initial box office projections were in the $50 million range, It’s runaway success becomes all the more remarkable. But just how did It conquer the box office?

For starters, It didn’t have much to compete with. Since the other film opening this weekend was the critically-panned Home Again, the biggest threat to It was The Hitman’s Bodyguard. That film has been meekly holding up the box office since it opened three weeks ago, so the arrival of It injected some much-needed fresh energy into movie-goers. Additionally, there hadn’t been an event film arguably since Dunkirk in July, and even that juggernaut of a film didn’t have as broad of an appeal as It. Slim pickings at the marquee can create the right circumstances for an opening weekend triumph, but not necessarily one that generates $100 million. For those numbers, It needed the support of its target audience, and I’m not just talking about the demon-clown enthusiasts out there.

While that demographic is hopefully small, the appeal of It casts a wide net. Fans of the original 1990 miniseries likely came out in droves to see an updated version of the story that traumatized them 27 years ago. Then, there’s fans of the original novel, and in broader terms, Constant Readers — Stephen King’s own base of devotees, also known as the poor souls that sat through The Dark Tower. Of course, It attracted horror junkies in general, some of whom likely brought large groups of friends, as the genre entails, which accordingly gave the film’s box office numbers an extra boost. It also came hot off the heels of Stranger Things, and the film’s trailers released at around the same time that Stranger Things 2’s marketing campaign began. Both properties are 80’s-set horror stories featuring Finn Wolfhard, so fans of the hit Netflix show likely contributed to the massive opening weekend.

Ignoring the wide demographic that It appeals to, the film’s marketing was exemplary. Despite some lukewarm reactions to the first photo of Pennywise, a series of stellar trailers — creepy music and terrifying shots that tantalized without spoiling anything — ensured that It maintained a significant amount of hype. Per Variety, when footage for the film was displayed at CinemaCon last March, It started 235,000 new social media conversations, just slightly trailing behind the most talked about film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which started 251,000 conversations. Even as It’s release date came nearer, the marketing maintained its successful streak — just watch this.

And then reviews dropped. Critics were largely favorable toward It — our own Levi Hill called it “the best Stephen King adaptation outside of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.” Of course, not all critically favorable films are box office hits — look no further than It Comes at Night — but still, critic responses undeniably play a part in determining financial success. Horror films too often rely on jump scares alone, so when one like It is praised for its craft and emotional resonance, cinephiles will show up for opening night.

It’s positive critical reception points to one simple fact about the film’s box office success: It is just damn good, and audiences will pay for damn good filmmaking. The script — credited to Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman and Cary Fukunaga — deftly balances scares and character development, while Andrés Muschietti’s direction brings those scares to life. The way he directs Bill Skarsgård, who is sublime as Pennywise, makes the character hilarious at times, but always frightening. Additionally, Chung-hoon Chung proves why he is one of today’s best cinematographers — his unnerving shots amplify the terror, and he can now add It to a filmography that already includes The Handmaiden and Oldboy. Of course, the ensemble cast includes a host of incredible child actors, all with terrific careers ahead of them.

It’s financial success fits within the box office narrative of late — audiences can still parse cinematic quality, and they will pay for it. The fact remains that Michael Bay still has a Hollywood career, but Transformers: The Last Knight underperformed in the global box office — even in China, whose market made the franchise’s previous entry a billion dollar movie. Similarly, the critically panned King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was an outright flop, making $146 million on a budget of $175 million.

In contrast, original films like Get Out, Dunkirk, The Big Sick, Baby Driver and Girls Trip are all box office successes, and while they’re not pulling in cash like Wonder Woman or any of this year’s Marvel films, all of these movies show that quality filmmaking pays off in spades — Get Out made $252 million on a $4.5 million budget, Dunkirk will end up with $500 million worldwide and Girls Trip broke $100 million domestically, which is a first for a Black-led, Black-written, Black-directed and Black-produced film. It’s massive opening weekend is the latest film that speaks to an obvious message — good movies will generally make good money. Whether or not Hollywood listens is up in the air.

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Box Office Report: ‘It’ feeds on box office, floats to largest horror opening record with $117+ million

Box office tracking once again severely underestimated a film’s potential, with It blowing away initial $50 million predictions to make an estimated $117.15 million this weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. Other estimates have pushed as far as $125 million.

Not only is this a massive win for the film, but it puts It among the top of the entire year and, in certain categories, of all time. With $117.15 million, It‘s opening weekend will outgross that of Spider-Man: HomecomingWonder WomanThe Fate of the Furious and Logan (not combined). At the moment, the Stephen King adaptation, directed by Andy Muschietti and starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, only stands behind Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Beauty and the Beast, and should stay in the top 10 openings of 2017 once the year is over.

That number also marks the largest September opening ever by nearly $70 million (and possibly more so if the actuals turn out to be $125+ million) and the largest opening for a horror film ever. It falls just short of the largest R-rated opening, which belongs to Deadpool at $132.4 million.

On merely a $35 million production budget and with upwards of $60 million taken internationally, It has already made it’s money back, and then some. A sequel is in the works, but New Line Cinema (a label of Warner Bros.) will be very comfortable financing the next chapter, and perhaps offering it a larger production budget.

The weekend’s #2 is a sharp fall off from It, as Home Again, the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy, grossed an estimated $9 million. That marks almost a $110 million difference between first and second place.

After three weekends at the number 1 spot, The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls to #3, taking an estimated $4.85 million. Despite less than favorable critical ratings, the film, made for $30 million, is massively successful.

Wind River continues a very solid run after expanding wide, with its domestic total exceeding $25 million, assuredly making its money back.

Finally, after releasing in every market, Dunkirk will soon wrap up its theatrical run. It stayed in the top 10 this weekend, landing #8 with an estimated $1.95 million. Its $183 million domestic total nears Interstellar‘s $188 million, and has a chance at passing it. The film should also reach $500 million worldwide, currently standing at $492 million, which already distinguishes it as the largest grossing World War II film of all time (not adjusted for inflation).

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

Featured image via Warner Bros.

‘Suicide Squad 2’ finds writer-director in Gavin O’Connor

Gavin O’Connor has been tapped to write and direct Suicide Squad 2, as reported by Deadline.

While the David Ayer-directed first film was critically thrashed, with a 25% on RottenTomatoes and a score of 40 on Metacritic, it did end up becoming a box-office hit — making $745 million worldwide. It also won an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

It was only a matter of time before a sequel would be announced with its director and writer. A rumored list of potential directors had been circulating for quite some while, with Mel Gibson and Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) being the reported favorites to win the job.

However, O’Connor has won out both the pen and the directing chair. O’Connor comes from films such as Warrior, which garnered Nick Nolte an Oscar nomination, and The Accountant, which stars Ben Affleck and has had a sequel start development with both O’Connor and Affleck. And with Affleck appearing in a cameo role in the first Suicide Squad, many are speculating if he might return now that O’Connor is attached.

O’Connor’s scripting partner from Warrior, Anthony Tambakis, will co-write the script.

The gang of villains, specifically the Joker and Harley Quinn, have a lot in store for the future. David Ayer moved on from the sequel, prompting for the search that ended with O’Connor, to work on Gotham City Sirens, a film centering around Harley Quinn and the many other villainous women of DC. In addition, the Joker and Harley Quinn will appear together in a film from the Crazy, Stupid, Love. directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. The character of the Joker will find another actor in a origin film separate from the DC Extended Universe, which will come from The Hangover’s Todd Phillips.

No official release date for Suicide Squad 2 has been announced. The principle cast members, including Jared Leto as The Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot, will return. Warner Bros. and DC will release Justice League on November 17, 2017, which has undergone extensive reworking under the guidance of Joss Whedon, who now officially has a writing credit and may get a directing credit depending on the Directors Guild’s judgment.

Featured image via Warner Bros.

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