The Angry Birds Movie, the animated film based on one of the most popular app games in history, was the runaway winner over the weekend with a $39 million debut. Captain America: Civil War had another solid outing with a second place finish ($33.1 million) and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising also finished strong with $21.7 million and third place honors. Unfortunately, The Nice Guys had a disappointing debut, making just $11.27 and limping into fourth. Here’s the top 10:
1. The Angry Birds Movie - $39 million and it’s made over $82 million worldwide. With a $73 million budget, the film should easily turn a profit for Sony.
2. Captain America: Civil War - $33.1 million this weekend. To date, it’s taken in $1.05 billion worldwide.
3. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising - It’s another hit for Seth Rogen and crew with a $21.7 million showing
4. The Nice Guys - More like “The Average Guys,” as Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s star power couldn’t save this box office disappointment. A meager $11.27 million.
5. The Jungle Book - Mowgli is still making money with $11 million
6. Money Monster - Just $7 million for this George Clooney/Julia Roberts thriller.
7. The Darkness - Horror film remains in the dark with just $2.36 million
8. Zootopia - $1.7 million
9. The Huntsman: Winter’s War- Winter came and went, as this movie is one of this year’s biggest flops. $1.2 million
10. Mother’s Day - Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston couldn’t save this box office misfire. $1.1 million
Hard Sell is actually a rather easy sell, as coming of age movies featuring a quick witted teenager who learns a thing or two about life from a sexy young woman (think Risky Business) should draw a healthy level of attention. Thankfully, writer-director Sean Nalaboff steers clear of the raunchy sexy comedy business and instead offers an involving comedy-drama filled with solid performances.
Hardy (Skyler Gisondo) is a high school teenager who’s taking care of his mentally ill mother (Kristin Chenoweth) and attempting to find a way to pay for the family dog’s future medical bills. After befriending an ex-stripper named Bo (Katrina Bowden) while volunteering, the pair team up to make a bit of money on the side. Since Hardy’s classmates come from well to do families, the idea is to charge his colleagues for the transitory pleasure of Bo’s company.Whether it’s flashing students in a bathroom or, more importantly, giving them valuable counsel, Bo becomes an overnight hit with the teenagers. With more money in his pockets, Hardy believes he can solve his most pressing problems.
But life rarely works out that way, and Hardy is forced to grow up and rise to his respective challenges. Under lesser hands, the predictable storyline would have us follow Hardy’s growing lust for Bo, who would then teach our protagonist a few lessons in life and sex. Thankfully, this element is absent from Nalaboff’s story, as we follow Hardy’s immediate attraction towards a fellow classmate (Hannah Marks) as well as delve into Bo’s complicated past.
It also would have been easy for Nalaboff to have Chenoweth bring a ton of showiness and scene stealing work as the mother, but this performance, as well as Bowden’s subtle work, is refreshingly grounded in reality. Gisondo, who was previously seen in Vacation and The Amazing Spider-Man, also delivers a charismatic and layered portrayal of a teenager who’s perpetually in a state of flux. Since Bowden and Chenoweth are dependable vets who elevate any given ensemble, the true surprise comes from the chemistry that’s shared between Marks and Gisondo (both actors should have a promising future ahead of them).
Outfitted as a teen comedy with sexy undertones, Hard Sell is an evocative look at a teenager who, when faced with life’s inevitable tragedies, continues to push forth, searching and hoping for a better day.
Hard Sell is now playing in select theaters and is available on VOD and iTunes.
***To hear my further take on Hard Sell, check out the Hollywood Outbreak/Cold Cockle Productions podcast CinemAddicts below:
Based on the novel Manhattan Nocture, the movie centers on Porter Wren, a talented yet tabloid driven journalist who always manages to get to the bottom of a story. A mysterious, beautiful woman named Caroline (Strahovski) immediately catches his eye, and Porter’s investigation of her filmmaker husband’s (Campbell Scott) death leads him down dark terrain that may cost him his sanity and his family’s (Jennifer Beals plays his wife) safety. Strahovski is first rate as the story’s femme fatale, and director Brian DeCubillis’ love for Brian De Palma suspense thrillers (Body Double, Blow Out) and film noir is on full display in Manhattan Night.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which features the additions of Chloe Grace Moretz and Kiersey Clemons, is actually an improvement over the original hit comedy, and though it has its share of gross out moments, the picture has a ton of heart. The documentary Art Bastard, which centers on the life of New York based artist Robert Cenedella, is also covered.
For our streaming picks of the week, I discuss my love for the new indie comedy Hard Sell, a coming of age story featuring solid performances from Skyler Gisondo and Kristin Chenoweth, and Anderson discusses 24 Hour Party People, a flick directed by Michael Winterbottom.
If one were to jump to conclusions, the assumption behind Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising was it would be a rehash of the original and an innocuous cash grab from Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and company. Thankfully, that’s not the case, as the sequel actually brings a fresh take to this suburban adults versus energetic college kids scenario.
Though weed is still a prominent part of their household, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are actually setting into their roles as parents, as their daughter Stella (Zoey Vargas) seems to be a well adjusted kid (even though she’s always using her mother’s vibrator as her own play toy). With another baby girl on the horizon, the couple’s current house is now in escrow as they’ve purchased a newer home in Georgia. Their fraternity nightmares with Teddy (Zac Efron) and his fellow college buddies is long over, and things are definitely looking up for the loving couple.
Trouble comes in the form of freshmen Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Dope star Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (a scene stealing Beanie Feldstein), three ladies who are sick of pledging for sororities that depend on fraternities for most of their social activities. These independent minded women want a sisterhood of their own, where they can throw their own parties, and thus they form Kappa Nu and instantly gain popularity thanks to the re-emergence of Teddy.
As much as Mac and Kelly support girl power, Kappa Nu’s noise level is a bane on their neighborhood and could lead to a failed escrow. Meanwhile, Teddy is still in search of a place to belong and to be valued, so helping them form Kappa Nu is his temporary calling. When they eventually separate from Teddy due to creative differences on how to run the sorority, Teddy teams up with his former enemies to take down Kappa Nu.
The movie opens with Kelly throwing up all over Mac during a lovemaking session, and gross out humor fans should be satiated with some of the comedy’s most lowest common denominator moments (a Zac Efron dance scene that goes south comes to mind). Much of the film’s lasting appeal, however, comes from the likable appeal of Moretz and the women that inhabit Kappa Nu. These ladies want to create a sorority that enables each member to express themselves in whichever manner they choose, and it’s hard not to pull for them when their goals come from a pure place. Credit also goes to writer/director Nicholas Stoller for injecting a ton of humor that seems to actually come from real life (for example, Mac and Kelly’s continuing neurosis about being good parents) rather than simply low brow, raunchy humor.
One of the wonderful surprises behind Neighbors was witnessing the maturation of Teddy from a two dimensional frat boy to a caring friend (Dave Franco, who plays Teddy’s best bud Pete, is also back), and thankfully Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising gives Teddy even more space to grow as a person.
There’s a ton of humor to keep you laughing in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but there’s also a bit of heart and substance thrown in for good measure. As sequels go, this movie absolutely hits the mark and it’s actually an improvement over the original.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opens Friday.
Halt and Catch Fire: The Complete Second Season will hit DVD August 9 via Anchor Bay Entertainment. The AMC series, which centers on a group of dysfunctional yet highly motivated people working in the 1980s PC industry, has received its share of critical acclaim thanks to its crisp storylines and talented ensemble (Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishé, and Mackenzie Davis).
Season two of the series took a sharp left turn, as the PC wars of the freshman season was replaced by Joe MacMillan’s (Lee Pace) attempts to find new inspiration following his “fiery departure” from Cardiff. Gordon (Scoot McNairy) is also trying to get his creative mojo back after receiving a huge buy out check from Cardiff, and it’s his wife Cameron (Davis) who is now the driving force of the family thanks to her business partnership with Cameron (Davis).
Extras on the disc include the featurettes “Inside Halt and Catch Fire,” “History of Now,” “Joe’s Strategic Benchmarks,” “Tour of An’80s Startup,” and Set Tour with Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy.
Written and directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3), The Nice Guys centers on a private dick (Ryan Gosling) and muscle for hire (Russell Crowe) who team up to find a missing girl, only to uncover a huge conspiracy.
Although Crowe loved the nuances of this mystery-comedy upon his first read, he was initially hesitant to take part in the film. After being sent a list of proposed actors that he’d work with on The Nice Guys, Crowe was going to break the bad news to Black after he invited the filmmaker to his domicile. When Black told Crowe about Ryan Gosling’s involvement, the actor’s tune immediately changed!
Russell Crowe tells a way better story than we ever could, so click on the media bar to hear how Ryan Gosling tipped the scales in Shane Black’s favor!
The Nice Guys opens nationwide Friday, May 20.
There is no stopping the cash cow known as Captain America: Civil War as the film remained at the top spot this weekend with $72.6 million. There was a time when George Clooney and Julia Roberts would simply translate to big box-office business, but Money Monster is no Ocean’s Eleven, and its third place finish made for a decent yet unspectacular opening. Budgeted at $27 million, Money Monster should eventually turn a slight profit as the weeks progress. Here’s the top 10:
1. Captain America: Civil War - $72.6 million
2. The Jungle Book - $17.8 million this weekend and its worldwide gross has reached $828 million.
3. Money Monster - $15 million
4. The Darkness - Disappointing debut with $5.1 million.
5. Mother’s Day - $3.3 million
6. Zootopia - $2.82 million
7. The Huntsman: Winter’s War - Continues to plummet with $2.6 million. Budgeted at $115 million, the movie is a total misfire with just $153 million in worldwide business.
8. Keanu - $1.9 million this weekend and considering its $15 million budget, the comedy has under performed.
9. Barbershop: The Next Cut - $1.68 million
10. The Boss - $1.18 million
Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, Regression is writer/director Alejandro Amenábar’s (The Others, Abre Los Ojos) exploration of the psychological thriller.
Set in 1990 Minnesota, the storyline centers on Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke), a man who investigates the sexual abuse of a young woman named Angela (Emma Watson). Although her father is in jail for the crime, there may be something entirely different at play. After the discovery of an upside down cross that is marked on Angela’s stomach, Kenner suspects a group of Satanists may be the true culprits.
David Thewlis, who worked with Watson in the Harry Potter films (he played Remus Lupin), is Kenneth, a psychoanalyst who places his subjects under hypnosis, and through this “regression,” a deeper truth can be uncovered.
Though he doesn’t reach the stratospheric creative heights of The Others, Abre Los Ojos, or The Sea Inside, Amenábar continues to prove that he’s a master at his craft even when delving into B-movie level material. The editing, visual compositions, and score are all on point with Regression, and during some of its better moments the movie can comfortably reside in Alfred Hitchcock’s universe. Unfortunately, the storyline’s progression has its share of (pardon the pun) regressions, and the movie ends up being a mixed bag. Still, if you’re a fan of Amenabar’s previous work and are in the mood for a watchable thriller, Regression fits the bill.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray doesn’t come with audio commentary from the actors or Amenábar. The disc comes with four short featurettes (”Ethan Hawke - Bruce’s Obsession,” “Emma Watson - The Complexity of Angela,” “The Cast of Regression,” and “The Vision of Regression”) that contains interviews with the cast members and the director.
It’s episode 19 of the Hollywood Outbreak/Cold Cockle Productions podcast CinemAddicts, and this week we review two films that throw a bit of a supernatural and creepy element to the mix.
First up is The Lobster and it centers on David (Colin Farrell), a lonelyheart who’s recently dumped by his wife. Set in the near future, David lives in a world where people are turned into their animal of choice if they don’t find their soul mate within a specified time period! The picture, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), co-stars Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, and Lea Seydoux.
After offering up our thoughts on The Lobster, we dive into The Darkness, a supernatural horror thriller about Native American spirits who disrupt the lives of a Los Angeles suburban family (Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, Lucy Fry, David Mazouz).
Anderson Cowan’s streaming pick is Alps, a picture that was directed by The Lobster filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, and I sing the praises of the new Blu-ray release Mustang which was honored with a Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film.
To listen to this week’s episode of CinemAddicts, please download our show on iTunes.
Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, War & Peace: The Complete Miniseries is a visually sumptuous and emotionally vibrant adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. The epic, centering on five aristocratic families whose lives are affected by the French invasion of Russia, features inspired work from Paul Dano as Pierre, a man whose life is turned sideways after inheriting a fortune, and Lily James as Natasha, a woman whose gaiety and kindheartedness masks an unmatched resolve and spirit.
Hollywood Outbreak interviewed director Tom Harper, and he talked about the intricate research and journey that went into shooting War & Peace:
Had you read War & Peace as a youth and were you fan of Tolstoy’s work?
I hadn’t read the book before I started the project. I had only read the script and I immediately fell in love (with the story). So then the next step was to read the book, which I did. It’s one of those books that you always mean to get around to reading, but it just seems a bit intimidating. I had read Anna Karenina and a couple of his short stories and I had never read War & Peace. It is the most wonderful book. I absolutely loved it and I immersed myself in it for a period of time and re-reading certain sections. There was a lot of research in getting into Tolstoy’s head space and getting to know the characters.
And then the other thing that was important and made a massive difference was spending time in Russia with our co-producers and just . . . the wonderful thing about St. Petersburg is it’s all still there really. This city and these palaces that these characters have occupied are still there - and you can imagine what it would be like.
Paintings, I suppose, is another big thing. In St. Petersburg at the Hermitage there is this 1812 war room where there’s all the paintings of all the generals and the people that actually fought there. There’s something very powerful about going into that (room) and realizing that this actually wasn’t fiction and it was based on real events. These people were living and breathing. It was very powerful to see these wonderful, enormous portraits of these generals. I just tried to immerse myself in the world of literature and the arts of the time.
From your research, how did you and your cinematographer build the visual design for the film?
It started with the story and the characters and it grew from there and obviously we looked at the paintings of the time and the locations and then we tried to approach it - There have obviously been other versions of War & Peace being made over the past decades. They all, with the glory of hindsight, you look back at them and they’re very much a product of their time. And I guess that’s because visual storytelling and cinematic techniques change pretty quickly. Making it at a time after Saving Private Ryan or Fury, for example, - we’ve had a bunch of different war movies. There is a style, pace, and kineticism that people have come to expect.
I suppose if there was one, overarching goal and it was to tell the story in as truthful of a way as possible for a modern audience. There are nuances to that and we are (going out) to an audience in their living rooms in 2016. But again, trying to take that essence of Tolstoy - he really moved around his characters with a kind of God-like perspective and it feels like you’re sitting in on all these different worlds. It is inherently, just by its very title, a dichotomy. We have very rich people, very poor people. There’s war and peace, but also town and country, the difference between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Rich opulence and the splendor of the ballroom in St. Petersburg and the grit and the blood of the battle. We looked at those and observed how they all worked in different ways and how they kind of matched up with each other. That’s a long way in answering your question!!
Can you talk about casting Paul Dano in your film?
When we sat down to cast Pierre, who is one of the greatest characters in literature, he’s quite unusual because he’s quite passive and a lot of it is very internal. He’s a misfit but he’s very much an anchor and sort of our main lead within the book and our series. To find someone that can deal with that level of internal complexity but at the same time is a bit of a misfit and is charismatic enough to be a leading actor - this list is very, very small! Since there is a small group of people who can play that role, we wanted to kind of search the whole world and Paul was at the very top of that list. He’s the first person we went to. I went on a plane to meet him and he responded to the script.
Actually, it was relatively straightforward from the start because it seemed to fit. He was magnificent. There aren’t many people in the world who could have done as good of a job as he did.
In your journey as a filmmaker, what skills have you grown into?
In terms of aspects of my filmmaking that have grown, I think with experience comes confidence. When I started out, there was a degree of nervousness and I would plan everything. Now I’m more open - I still plan as much as I did - but I’m very aware that when you get on set, things change and you have to be open to all the things that are around you. For me, filmmaking is about trying to capture, to not sound pretentious, a little bit of that magic from wherever that comes from. You have to be open and responsive to the moment and you (shouldn’t be too) tied down to your preparation, specific stage directions or your shot plan, whatever it is. You learn to trust yourself as you get more experience.
Tom, thank you so much for your time!
Thanks very much.