The weekend warriors of March 6, 2015 includes Unfinished Business, Chappie, and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars, Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious.
Last weekend, the reigning titan Fifty Shades was triumphed over by Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus. However, this weekend, the future Suicide Squad members may have their work cut out for them with three new contenders with varying demographic tastes. Can a robot, Vince Vaughn, or a bunch of crypt keepers win the weekend? Number 5 is alive! This is the Box Office Battlefield:
Chappie (Neill Blomkamp) Rated R [120 min] – In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. Starring Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 30% • Audience – 68%
In school it is easier to start on a high note rather than on a low one because it’s more difficult to go up than down. However the same cannot be said about filmmaking. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp came out of the gates beautifully with District 9 and then everything went tits up when Elysium turned out to be rather lackluster. Suffice it to say, the film was a disaster, and even Blomkamp has admitted it. It’s not easy to come back from such a hiccup in your career, especially when a lot of studio dollars is riding on your promising, young career. Which brings us to Chappie, Blomkamps third romp and return to the near-futuristic world of South Africa.
Grounding the plot from anything out of the ordinary and moving away from the political commentary, Chappie is a fun, sci-fi journey through the eyes of a robot – think Short Circuit meets A.I. Artificial Intelligence meets RoboCop. But the buck doesn’t stop there as Blomkamp utilizes a lot of past storytelling queues from the likes of Blade Runner and even Pinocchio. Is this a real boy? Why would his creator make him just so he could die? What is consciousness? Chappie brings up a lot of great existential questions that Blomkamp isn’t fully capable of answering in any particularly interesting way.
The characters themselves don’t really build on any of these themes either, especially the comically generic ones played by Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver. Everyone is mostly used to move the plot forward rather than let any moment stew in our minds. And for a two hour film, Chappie is quite overstuffed and runs through scenes fairly quickly. There’s some fat that could have been trimmed, but if the movie focused a little more on the big picture and provide extra more substance, it would have delivered a more powerful message. MATINEE IT!
Unfinished Business (Ken Scott) Rated R [91 min] – A hard-working small business owner and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. But what began as a routine business trip goes off the rails in every way imaginable – and unimaginable – way, including unplanned stops at a massive sex fetish event and a global economic summit. Starring Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson, Sienna Miller, and James Marsden
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 9% • Audience – 46%
Vince Vaughn seems to be stuck in some sort of temporal vortex where he is trapped in the same movie, but with a different plot each and every time. Playing the down on his luck, straight-man that boasts some fast-talking quips and life affirming goals, Vaughn has not taken any challenging roles to differentiate his characters from one movie to the next, and the audience can see that. He’s basically typecast himself and it’s frustrating to watch. Not to say he does a terrible job here, not at all, but nothing about this role feels new.
But Vaughn is the smallest offender to this rather subpar comedy. Unfinished Business was written by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness; The Weather Man, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), and when you look at his filmography, a certain theme begins to arise of a guy looking for something more must find it in himself to become a better person for himself and his loved ones. And by no means is that a bad thing, but this is by far his laziest work.
There’s a tonal imbalance that bounces back and forth between crude, physical comedy to poignant moments of tragic figures – Dave Franco’s character has a mild form of autism. And the direction by Ken Scott (Starbuck; Delivery Man) did not help at all. All of the humanizing scenes are overshadowed by very bizarre and somewhat out of place humor. More time should have been placed on developing the relationship between the characters and their relationship to the themes rather than filling the dialogue with throwaway lines that are out of left field. RENT IT!
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden) Rated PG [122 min] – As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel. Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, and David Strathairn
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 63% • Audience – 72%
What they’re saying:
“The cast, as expected, does what they can with the thin material-which is to say, not much.” – Keith Phipps (The Dissolve)
“The Second Best Exotic Hotel barely skates by on the strength of its older cast members, which of course is “the reason for the season” anyway.” – Scott Mendelson (Forbes)
What I’m saying:
I have not seen the first film, so I wasn’t going to go out in favor of seeing the second. The cast is all there, with Marigold Hotel seeming to have a lot more energy in itself than say something like Hope Springs. But even being shot in such an exotic location like India, the movie comes off as very vanilla. I can’t believe that this story could offer anything more than a bunch of aging actors telling me to live my life. Mama Gump was able to sell that to me in five minutes. I’m sure this is completely adequate in terms of sequels to a niche franchise, but not something to jump out of my seat for. RENT IT!
Vince Vaughn hasn’t had the most successful film career, with very middling laughs that haven’t resonated with moviegoers since Wedding Crashers. But with Dave Franco by his side he might draw in a more youthful audience. Neill Blomkamp lost a lot of trust after a winning first feature, District 9, and then hitting a huge sophomore slump in Elysium. However, Chappie stands the chance to win over audiences due to the more grounded and interestingly fun premise. But don’t count out the love and admiration of an all-star cast of blue-hairs who are looking to take their second vacation in India. With Chappie and Unfinished Business both rated R and Marigold Hotel rated PG, it will be quite the battle. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:
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