Box Office Battlefield: American Ultra, Sinister 2, and Hitman: Agent 47

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of August 21, 2015 includes American Ultra, Sinister 2, and Hitman: Agent 47, along with a batch of limited releases. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Straight Outta Compton brought gangster rap back into the forefront of the pop culture conversation. Its debut earned a lot of attention and is quite the reigning champ to dethrone. With three wide releases vying for the top spot, can the boys from NWA keep rolling on their high? This is the Box Office Battlefield:

American Ultra Movie Title Logo

American Ultra (Nima Nourizadeh) Rated R [95 min] – A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace and John Leguizamo

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 47% • Audience – 56%

My Review:

Ultimately, American Ultra will be a weird throwaway film at the end of the day that no one will remember. It has a solid concept that both Eisenberg and Stewart execute well with great chemistry, but there’s hardly anything memorable about the film. It’s mostly boring, all of the other characters involved are asinine aside from Britton, and the Topher Grace is the most horribly cartoonish villain I’ve seen in a long time. The action is engaging and fun, and the relationship between Eisenberg and Stewart has a refreshing dynamic, but American Ultra doesn’t quite work as well as it thinks it does. NETFLIX IT!

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Sinister 2 (Ciarán Foy) Rated R [97 min] – A young mother and her twin sons move into a rural house that’s marked for death. Starring James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, and Dartanian Sloan

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 12% • Audience – 37%

My review:

To be completely honest, I kept nodding off and took a few power naps while watching this film. I would say I digested at least 85% of the film, and from what I saw it wasn’t hard to guess where the movie was going or how it would end. Sinister 2 is boring. The characters are underwritten, their motivations and personalities are terribly weak. Being a sequel, I expected the home movies to be far more creative and disturbing, but they were really subpar and hardly imaginative. Sinister 2 continues the odd tonal balance of humor and horror that kept me from liking the original, which didn’t need a sequel to begin with. The first 15 seconds of the first film is all you need to see. SKIP IT!

Hitman Agent 47 Movie Title Logo

Hitman: Agent 47 (Aleksander Bach) Rated R [96 min] – An assassin teams up with a woman to help her find her father and uncover the mysteries of her ancestry. Starring Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, and Ciarán Hinds

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 8% • Audience – 52%

Their reviews:

“Comes to life during the action scenes, if only slightly.” – Scott Weinberg (Nerdist)

“Hitman: Agent 47 is a second missed opportunity to translate one of the more adaptable video games into a satisfying movie experience.” – Kofi Outlaw (ScreenRant)

My take:

I picture a goblin named Franklin held captive in a cage at 20th Century Fox that the execs call on for when nothing original has sparked their interest. And Franklin has been beaten down so much, it mustered up its last bit of energy to softly whisper the idea of a Hitman sequel before his untimely demise. Because honestly, who asked for a Hitman sequel? There aren’t even enough gamers in the world who keep up with the series to even justify the creation of another flop of a movie. The action may be choreographed by the folks who helped on John Wick, but that looks like all Hitman: Agent 47 has going for it. Coming from screenwriter Skip Woods, who brought us X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, I expect a similar outcome. RIP Franklin. SKIP IT!

Grandma 2015 Movie Title Logo

Grandma (Paul Weitz) [Limited] Rated R [79 min] – Self-described misanthrope Elle Reid has her protective bubble burst when her 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage, shows up needing help. The two of them go on a day-long journey that causes Elle to come to terms with her past and Sage to confront her future. Starring Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, and Judy Greer

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 93% • Audience – 80%

Their reviews:

“This is Tomlin’s first leading role in a film in 27 years, and even though she is sharing the screen with multiple generations of fine actors, nearly every moment in this movie is all hers.” – Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

“Weitz strips everything down for efficiency in “Grandma.” The writing is relentlessly on point, and often lacks breathing room, but some films settle for being workable showcases for their interpreters.” – Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

My take:

Grandma looks like a quirky romp of a film that wants to be hip and cool, but checks off all the indie tropes you could possibly imagine. Critics have positively lauded this film, and I’ll give it a chance, but there isn’t anything within the trailer that stands out to me as something fresh or original. RENT IT!

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6 Years (Hannah Fidell) [Limited] Unrated [85 min] – A young couple bound by a seemingly ideal love, begins to unravel as unexpected opportunities spin them down a volatile and violent path and threaten the future they had always imagined. Starring Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burdge, and Joshua Leonard

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 50% • Audience – 38%

Their reviews:

“[The two leads’] heartbreaking performances imbue this familiar Austin-set narrative with a fiery edge.” – Eric Kohn (indieWIRE)

“[6 Years] too often veers toward melodramatic overstatement, inspiring little empathy or understanding despite the committed performances of promising young leads Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield.” – Justin Chang (Variety)

My take:

While watching the trailer for 6 Years I felt a few similarities to Like Crazy. I like that film to a certain extent, but it didn’t have a strong voice or opinion to get behind. And when the credits roll, you’re sitting there in a melancholy state feeling empty. I have an itch that’s telling me this is how 6 Years will end up making me feel. NETFLIX IT!

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Digging for Fire (Joe Swanberg) [Limited] Rated R [85 min] – The discovery of a bone and a gun send a husband and wife on separate adventures over the course of a weekend. Starring Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Anna Kendrick, Jenny Slate, and Brie Larson

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 67% • Audience – 52%

Their reviews:

“A happy couple’s submerged tensions come to the surface in Joe Swanberg’s tender, wildly imaginative comic drama.” – Richard Brody (The New Yorker)

“With all the pretty, vapid Los Angeles navel-gazers lounging by swimming pools and engaging in pointless (and seemingly endless) conversations, the results feel like a sub-par Henry Jaglom movie, conceived on the quick after a location became available.” – Alonso Duralde (TheWrap)

My take:

Swanberg has been on a hot streak for me lately, from the works I have seen. Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas I quite enjoyed – I haven’t seen 24 Exposures – but Digging for Fire seems a little more aimless than his typical mumblecore films. It has a stellar cast that I’d love to see in this kind of setting, but again DFF it looks a little too loose to keep my attention. And from those who have seen it seem to be a bit iffy. NETFLIX IT!

She's Funny that Way Movie Title Logo

She’s Funny That Way (Peter Bogdanovich) [Limited] Rated R [93 min] – On the set of a playwright’s new project, a love triangle forms between his wife, her ex-lover, and the call girl-turned-actress cast in the production. Starring Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, and Kathryn Hahn

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 38% • Audience – 40%

Their reviews:

“Broad, occasionally clunky, sometimes funny, scattered with poignant grace notes, and, in its own peculiar way, endearing.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (AV Club)

“Even the cinematography is ill-advised, since it’s literally off-color; warm tones meant to evoke romantic feelings come off as a jaundiced homage to Woody Allen, from whom many of this film’s tropes have been not-so-piquantly purloined.” – Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal)

My take:

I’m not the biggest fan when it comes to interconnected stories, but when executed well the tool can really heighten the experience and enjoyment of a film. She’s Funny That Way looks like it is trying too hard. Everything in the trailer looks uncomfortably forced and as if the actors are just phoning this one in for the paycheck. SKIP IT!

Learning to Drive Movie Title Logo

Learning to Drive (Isabel Coixet) [Limited] Rated R [90 min] – As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other’s company they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel. Starring Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley, Grace Gummer, and Samantha Bee

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics –64% • Audience – 64%

Their reviews:

“Learning to Drive is a richly observed, crosscultural character study that coasts along pleasurably on the strengths of its virtuoso leads.” – Michael Rechtshaffen (Los Angeles Time)

“The film seems to take its method entirely from Darwan’s quiet, methodical patter about how to move safely across lanes and through intersections. It’s good advice for driving, but less helpful for drama.” – Mark Jenkins (NPR)

My take:

I think Learning to Drive looks like a paint by numbers Oscar film that would have been recognized as an indie darling 30 years ago. NETFLIX IT!

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Some Kind Of Beautiful (Tom Vaughan) [Limited] Rated R [100 min] – A drama about a Cambridge poetry professor who begins to re-evaluate his life of Byronic excess. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba, and Malcolm McDowell

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 0% • Audience – 39%

Their reviews:

“The problem, however, is that the script by Matthew Newman doesn’t do enough to make [Richard] either lovable or reprehensible.” Chris Knight (National Post)

“Hayek swings for the fences, but none of the gags she’s tasked with delivering are funny, not even when she desperately pantomimes various breathless expressions men make when they orgasm.” – Simon Abrams (Village Voice)

My take:

LOL

The three new options this weekend are so niche and poorly reviewed that I would find it hard to believe that anyone is going to go see them. They each have such a small targeted demographic that movie goers will be spread out all over the place this weekend. Straight Outta Compton had such rave reviews and positive word of mouth that it makes a strong case to keep its competition at bay. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Straight Outta Compton

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

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Box Office Battlefield: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. vs. Straight Outta Compton

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of August 14, 2015 includes The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Straight Outta Compton, along with a handful of limited releases. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation chose to accept the impossible task of thwarting off four new wide releases, successfully completing their mission. Fantastic Four found no love while the low-budget thriller, The Gift bestowed upon its niche audience what its title infers.

Can Tom Cruise pull a three-peat or will the N.W.A. cruise down the street for a victory lap? Or will the ’60s chic spies from the U.S. and Russia get the upper hand? I got my mind on my tummy and my tummy on my mind. This is the Box Office Battlefield:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015 Movie Title Logo

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie) Rated PG-13 [116 min] – In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, and Elizabeth Debicki

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 67% • Audience – 81%

My review:

To be clear, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a prequel to the 1964 spy television series, which makes the title of the film completely useless in context of what you can expect to see. Regardless, Guy Ritchie’s flashy showmanship works to the advantage of the cast whose chemistry captures the lighthearted nature of the TV show to some degree. But that’s all this movie is: all spectacle and no substance. Adding in a little more adult tone to liven up the series, U.N.C.L.E. has a handful of good scenes stitched together within an uninteresting story.

There’s little tension and it bears very few surprises, surprises that it seems to hit you over the head with to make sure you understand what’s happening at all times. The performances are really good from Vikander (especially), Cavill, and Debicki, but Hammer’s Ilya is barely fleshed out well enough to understand his thought process and leaves the actor out to dry – he does the best he can with what’s given. The worst offender of this movie is its structure where it would prefer telling you everything that is happening or describing certain characters, rather than letting it all happen naturally and organically with the story. It’s excruciating to bear. Go in for the action, but stay for the Vikander. RENT IT!

Straight Outta Compton 2015 Movie Title Logo

Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray) Rated R [147 min] – The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood. Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., and Paul Giamatti

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 87% • Audience – 94%

My Review:

If you know me, you know that biopics are not my bag. There has to be something extra special about them to catch my interest. Seeing something great in Straight Outta Compton due to its content, I found that my expectations mostly lined up to what I was given, but I wanted more despite its two and a half hour run time. They crammed so much story in, from the inception of N.W.A. to the beginning of Aftermath Records, but the filmmakers didn’t flesh out Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube well enough beyond the scenes that server the story for any particular moment.

Straight Outta Compton focuses more on breezing through the cliff notes of the rappers’ lives than actually providing enough personality or character to fully understand their motivations and drive. With what’s provided, the direction and production is very well put together, and seeing the influence that this group had on the music industry is a fascinating watch. The performances and the casting are also on point. But ultimately the film needed to be a little more focused on what makes Dre, E, and Cube unique throughout their journey and not so much about the journey itself. SEE IT!

mistress america Movie Title Logo

Mistress America (Noah Baumbach) [Limited] Rated R [84 min] – A lonely college freshman’s life is turned upside down by her impetuous, adventurous soon-to-be stepsister. Starring Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Seth Barrish, and Juliet Brett

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 80% • Audience – 84%

Their reviews:

“At the center of the film is the interesting idea that we’re all putting on performances for each other; unfortunately, the manner in which “Mistress America” explores that theme also makes it a movie where moments of authenticity are scarce.” – Rebecca Keegan (Los Angeles Times)

“Ms. Kirke is skillful and appealing as Tracy, but Ms. Gerwig’s performance is a comic diamond, and not in the rough. Her timing is flawless, her delivery is droll.” – Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal)

My take:

Noah Baumbach has a unique vision as a filmmaker that speaks to a specific audience. In my opinion, the Woody Allen fans of this generation. His New York hipster storytelling is intimate and personal. You can hear Baumbach’s voice throughout the dialogue, where sometimes it can be profound while other times pretentious. Mistress America definitely comes across as his standard issue hipster fare, targeted to a very specific audience. But what I get most out of Baumbach’s storytelling is at least he is trying to say something compared to many of the empty films we typically get. RENT IT!

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Ten Thousand Saints (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini) [Limited] Rated R [113 min] – Set in the 1980s, a teenager from Vermont moves to New York City to live with his father in East Village. Starring Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Emily Mortimer

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 60% • Audience – 88%

Their reviews:

“A very fine film, full of quietly impressive performances and young characters who register as authentic.” – Neil Genzlinger (New York Times)

“Heart-warming, funny, and real, which means at times it can be desperately sad, this is a fantastic new development for Springer Berman and Pulcini. This one’s going to go far.” – Katie Walsh (The Playlist)

My take:

Steinfeld and Butterfield had decent chemistry in Ender’s Game together, and it’s nice to see them in something less chaotic to showcase more of their talent. Based solely on the trailer and the reviews, the plot looks OK and it’s earned mostly positive reviews. But something about the film feels like it could get muddled down or the direction won’t be as sharp based on the run time for such a small story. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

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Final Girl (Tyler Shields) [Limited] Rated R [90 min] – A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. 13 years later, at 18 she will approach a group of sadistic teens who killed blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins. Starring Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman, Alexander Ludwig

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 43% • Audience – 20%

Their reviews:

“This patchy, underwritten thriller could almost pass for a critique of any number of genre forebears in which the mere presence of a hot, ass-kicking female avenger is meant to seem subversive.” – Justin Chang (Variety)

“Breslin, whose recent resume hasn’t lived up to her Oscar nomination for “Little Miss Sunshine,” needs to find something worthy of her talents. An Oscar nominee shouldn’t even watch ‘Final Girl,’ much less star in it.” – Joe Neumaier (New York Daily News)

My take:

I like the concept, however, Final Girl looks really cheap and too campy. The dialogue is harsh to listen to and I don’t think the movie brings anything new to the table. Intent can only get you so far, but if you can’t capture it on film there’s very little point. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

People Places Things Movie Title Logo

People Places Things (2015) – [Limited]Certificate R 85 min   –   ComedyMetascore: 68/100 (14 reviews)Will Henry is a newly single graphic novelist balancing parenting his young twin daughters and a classroom full of students while exploring and navigating the rich complexities of new love and letting go of the woman who left him.Director: James C. StrouseStars: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allynne

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 74% • Audience – 87%

Their reviews:

“Rampant cutesiness, improbable spontaneous decisions, indie-movie clichés, and the occasional decent one-liner.” – Mike D’Angelo (AV Club)

“To say that People, Places, Things is a lovely experience makes it sound less challenging than it is. It provides a range of emotion, all of which it earns.” – Neil Miller (Film School Rejects)

My take:

This looks kind of cute. From the reviews, People Places Things sounds a little messy, but has the right kind of heart that won’t feel like an entire waste of effort. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

Although Rogue Nation has a strong following, I don’t think it has enough supporters to carry itself into first place for the third weekend in a row. Both wide releases make strong cases to earn that top spot. U.N.C.L.E. has two chiseled chinned leading men with a beautiful supporting cast, while Straight Outta Compton holds dear a special history to many fans. On the other side of the coin, U.N.C.L.E. is your typical action/spy adventure with some wit, but not enough to satisfy to make a strong case for top dollars. We’ve seen it all before. And Straight Outta Compton has a long run time with an R rating, limiting the availability for audiences to enjoy. Both movies bring nostalgia with them, but the one that will win is the story that holds the most relevance to today’s culture. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Straight Outta Compton

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Fantastic Four, The Gift, Ricki and the Flash, and Shaun the Sheep

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of August 7, 2015 includes Fantastic Four, The Gift, Ricki and the Flash, and Shaun the Sheep. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation took care of business and easily claimed the top seat at the box office. However, Tom Cruise has four big challengers vying to overthrow the superstar this weekend. Can a superhero reboot, Meryl Streep, an animated movie about sheep, or a creepy Jason Bateman thriller come home with the win? Excelsior! This is the Box Office Battlefield:

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Fantastic Four (Josh Trank) Rated PG-13 [100 min] – Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. Starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 9% • Audience – 29%

My review:

After Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, I didn’t think I had superhero fatigue, and after seeing the abysmal Fantastic Four reboot, I still don’t believe I do. What the Fantastic Four movie represents is the complete lack of imagination superhero films are capable of. I went in with the lowest expectations possible, and plot holes aside, I was bored to tears. There is nothing interesting or unique that this new iteration of the Fantastic Four is trying ti say or do. The camaraderie amongst the team is lackluster and uninspired; this is suppose to be a family and yet they hardly talk to one another. Doctor Doom, above all, is the flimsiest aspect of the story and one of the worst villains we’ve had in a superhero flick. This movie fails on all levels. SKIP IT!

The Gift 2015 Movie Title Logo

The Gift (Joel Edgerton) Rated R [108 min] – A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years. Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, and Allison Tolman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 92% • Audience – 85%

My take:

From the trailers, The Gift looked like a terrible straight to home video release. Nothing about the performances stood out, and the plot seemed so one-note that I felt nothing could surprise me. Boy was I wrong. Joel Edgerton has put together a fine little film that is playfully thrilling and keeps you thinking long after you’ve left the theater. All of the performances are pretty standard, but the story is so fresh that it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. The Gift will definitely be one of the most surprising movies of the year for me. MATINEE IT!

Ricki and the Flash Movie Title Logo

Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme) Rated PG-13 [101 min] – A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family. Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, and Sebastian Stan

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 59% • Audience – 57%

Their reviews:

“Streep’s latest mom role, as Ricki Rendazzo in Ricki and the Flash, has a light, Mamma Mia! vibe, but it still hits all those hot buttons.” – Susanna Schrobsdorff (TIME Magazine)

“Diablo Cody’s dispiriting screenplay is all about everyone coming to love Ricki, faults and all, and that is just not convincingly done.” – Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

My take:

Most of the review headlines I’ve read haven’t been too favorable to Ricki and the Flash, and the trailer paints every beat of the film to the point that you can see the movie without actually seeing it. So I decided to skip this one for the sake of time, and I figured Meryl Streep would obviously be Meryl Streeping. From what I understand, this movie is pretty vanilla and the emotional impact the film is trying to make is on the nose and pandering. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

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Shaun the Sheep Movie (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak) Rated PG [85 min] – When Shaun decides to take the day off and have some fun, he gets a little more action than he bargained for. A mix up with the Farmer, a caravan and a very steep hill lead them all to the Big City and it’s up to Shaun and the flock to return everyone safely to the green grass of home. Starring Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, and Richard Webber

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 99% • Audience – 82%

Their reviews:

“Plenty of bigger, more grown-up movies could learn a thing or two from its humanity.” – Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine)

“Grownups will enjoy every delicious irony and twisted sight gag that floats over kids’ heads. If the brats don’t get the shout-outs to The Night of the Hunter, The Silence of the Lambs and Scorsese’s Cape Fear, let them suck on it.” – Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)

My take:

I’ve never been a fan of the Wallace and Gromit films. Not that I hate them or anything, but the storytelling and humor has never appealed to me. Apparently Shaun the Sheep is pretty solid family fun. It looks a little more energetic and mainstream than its predecessors. MATINEE IT!

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The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller) [Limited] Rated R [102 min] – A teen artist living in 1970s San Francisco enters into an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Meloni

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 94% • Audience – 85%

Their reviews:

“The novel is life-specific, but what makes Minnie – on the page and now on the screen – greater than any one girl is how she tells her own story in her own soaringly alive voice.” – Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

“For a movie about such fraught topics, sometimes rendered with admirable and non-squeamish explicitness, Diary often eschews melodrama; when the plot turns, it does so abruptly, providing a credible simulation of real-life tumult.” – Jesse Hassenger (AV Club)

My take:

This book adaptation hasn’t been available to me yet, but I really want to see it. I haven’t seen the trailer nor do I know anything about The Diary of a Teenage Girl. All I know is that it’s getting good reviews and that I’m told it’s required 2015 viewing. SEE IT!

Cop Car 2015 Movie Title Logo

Cop Car (Jon Watts) [Limited] Rated R [86 min] – A small town sheriff sets out to find the two kids who have taken his car on a joy ride. Starring Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, and Shea Whigham

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 76% • Audience – 80%

Their reviews:

“Cop Car is a movie that prioritizes a child’s-eye view to merciless effect, even as it deals with corruption, drugs, and murder.” – Alison Willmore (BuzzFeed)

“Scenes that should take 30 seconds take three minutes. Writer-director Jon Watts does successfully channel childhood, though: He’s like a kid short of ideas who triple-spaces his book report.” – Kyle Smith (New York Post)

My take:

If you want to see how competent the director of the next Spider-Man movie will be, check out Cop Car. This is a Sundance darling that has received fairly positive reviews. The trailer has pretty wild tones that starts off light and comedic and gets dark very quickly. It reminds me of Mud starring Matthew McConnaughey in a way thanks to its two kid leads and indie sheen. Looks like Cop Car offers a good watch. MATINEE IT!

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F Movie Title Logo

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (Tadayoshi Yamamuro) [Limited] Not Rated [93 min] – One peaceful day on Earth, two remnants of Frieza’s army named Sorbet and Tagoma arrive searching for the Dragon Balls with the aim of reviving Frieza. They succeed, and Frieza subsequently seeks revenge on the Saiyans. Starring Masako Nozawa, Ryô Horikawa, Hiromi Tsuru, and Masaharu Satô

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 100% • Audience – 86%

Their reviews:

“DBZ: Resurrection ‘F’ is a fast-paced film with tons of action and great animation, but lacks any meaningful punch.” – Shawn Saris (IGN News)

“This slam-bang action-adventure will have “Dragon Ball” fans of all ages cheering with delight.” – Charles Solomon (Los Angeles Times)

My take:

Dragon Ball Z is obviously as niche as it gets. There’s definitely a formula that the DBZ producers stick to that has continued to work well into the present. Bringing back an old big bad is not unfamiliar territory, but it seems fresh enough to enjoy based on the reviews. MATINEE IT!

Dark Places 2015 Movie Title Logo

Dark Places (Gilles Paquet-Brenner) [Limited] Rated R [113 min] – Libby Day was only seven years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Twenty-five years later, she agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night. Starring Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, and Chloë Grace Moretz

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 26% • Audience – 40%

Their reviews:

“A lazy, flat and poorly written thriller that fails at grabbing viewers by the throat or by the heart.” – Rob Hunter (Film School Rejects)

“Dark Places just becomes an overstuffed, low-simmer potboiler with too many improbable detours and overly convenient twists.” – Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

My take:

From watching the trailer, Dark Places looks like a terrible straight to home video story with an A-list cast. I think the concept comes off way too cheesy and heavy handed. I think these actors accidentally signed up for the wrong film when they heard this was adapted from the author of Gone Girl. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

For some, superhero fatigue may have already set in, but I think folks will be curious about how well 20th Century Fox has rebooted Marvel’s first family. It has terrible reviews, but that hasn’t stopped moviegoers before when it comes to tent pole summer films i.e. Transformers. Ricki and the Flash is in less than 2,000 theaters and Meryl Streep alone cannot gain wide audiences outside adult demographics. While on the other side of the coin, Shaun the Sheep may get families and kids to venture into the movies, but teens may find it too childish to check out. And then there’s The Gift, a thriller that in my mind was marketed poorly but is gaining rave reviews. It’s odd roles for all teh cast involved and should make for an interesting turnout. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Fantastic Four

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation vs. Vacation

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of July 31, 2015 includes Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Vacation, and the limited release of The End of the Tour. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, thankfully, Ant-Man came out on top for the second weekend in a row, smushing the hopes and dreams of another Adam Sandler bomb to reign supreme. It’s as if the lord has answered the prayers of critics and audiences have finally seen the light. But how will Marvel stack up against the larger than life Tom Cruise? Or will a remake sequel conquer all? Toast. This is the Box Office Battlefield:

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Vacation (John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein) Rated R [99 min] – Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons. Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, and Steele Stebbins

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 23% • Audience – 60%

My review:

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues wound up being terrible and vastly unimpressive compared to the first – a nine year gap. Dumb and Dumber To was leagues behind its predecessor and very mean spirited – a 20 year gap. Could a sequel to Vacation be any good after 32 years? NOPE. The thing about the new Vacation is that it’s lacking any kind of spirit or functionality. There’s more sense of purpose and direction in the original that this version aborts. Every joke and heartfelt moment feels absolutely forced like Chris Farley in a little coat. The only thing that Vacation has going for it are the cameos. If Chris Hemsworth can outshine the entire lead cast then you have issues. I laughed a handful of times, but Vacation is not a competent film not worth its name. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie) Rated PG-13 [131 min] – Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF. Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, and Simon Pegg

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 93% • Audience – 92%

My review:

Full disclosure: I’ve only seen the first Mission: Impossible film and didn’t have time to watch II through Ghost Protocol before I went in to see Rogue Nation. And to be honest, I don’t think it even mattered. I liked Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. There’s a lot of fun to be had despite not fully understanding the relationships between some of the characters. I’m familiar with Ving Rhames and Tom Cruise’s partnership from the first film, and they’ve gone on to do the sequels together, but being thrown into the fifth movie and not knowing who Simon Pegg or Jeremy Renner’s characters are, it was easy to catch up. Other than that, the action is done really well and the story direction is sharp. There are some twists, but McQuarrie never leads you astray. There’s a playfulness and energy in Rogue Nation that makes a big difference between the Mission: Impossible franchise and a James Bond film. Rogue Nation’s quirky personality has definitely piqued my interest to see the other movies and makes for a solid standalone entry if you’re not caught up and want to check it out. SEE IT!

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The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt) [Limited] Rated R [106 min] – The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, ‘Infinite Jest.’ Starring Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, and Mamie Gummer

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 89% • Audience – 89%

My review:

I’m not going to pretend I’m a literature geek, because I’m not. Far from it. I’ve never heard of David Foster Wallace until I saw The End of the Tour. Without knowing his works or who he was as a person, there’s a lost perspective that fans of his may gain from seeing this incredible film. Although I was unfamiliar with Foster Wallace going in, The End of the Tour plays out as a rich character study that is both fascinating and mesmerizing. Jason Segel’s performance is on point, creating a flawless and beautiful dynamic against Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of David Lipsky. The two bounce dialogue off each other like clockwork, as if they’ve been old friends conversing naturally for decades. Which is why The End of the Tour is so special. The whole film would have fallen apart if not for these two great actors making words from a page sound brilliantly organic while you watch them perform on screen. SEE IT!

Ant-Man has had it’s fun. It was a good run Marvel had introducing a not so popular character into the mainstream. But now a larger franchise has entered the arena. All the previous entries of the Mission: Impossible series have received a fresh rating aside from the second film. Their box office grosses have all been stellar. And although Tom Cruise’s draw hasn’t been phenomenal lately with Edge of Tomorrow or Oblivion, coming in with a known franchise has its advantages. On the other side of the coin is Vacation, a sequel that’s pretending to be a reboot of a popular and beloved National Lampoon’s movie. No one asked for this to be made, and no one is going to see it. The comedy is so putrid that it’s going to propel audiences away. Far, far away. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Pixels, Southpaw, Paper Towns, and The Vatican Tapes

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of July 24, 2015 includes Pixels, Southpaw, Paper Towns, and The Vatican Tapes. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Marvel’s Ant-Man walked away big with the studio’s second smallest weekend gross in its plethora of superhero flicks. Second only to The Incredible Hulk. Although a respectable haul, it was nowhere near Iron Man or Avengers numbers. This weekend, four contenders are vying for the top spot. Can the incredibly shrinking superhero stop the likes of Adam Sandler, tweens, boxing fans, and horror enthusiasts? Game Over. This is the Box Office Battlefield:

Pixels 2015 Movie Title Logo

Pixels (Chris Columbus) Rated PG-13 [105 min] – When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games. Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, and Brian Cox

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 19% • Audience – 58%

My review:

As far as Adam Sandler movies are concerned, Happy Madison Productions has churned out far worse. But this particular style of comedy is becoming old hat very fast. In fact, this type of childish poop humor needs to be eradicated. It’s as if Sandler and his crew have never evolved past Billy Madison. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on and enjoy Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but Sandler’s brand has not progressed. There’s very little to resonate with and he’s become irrelevant. Granted, director Chris Columbus (Home Alone; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) does a fair job at creating fun action in the style of ’80s arcade games, but the characters, the jokes, and the story are very elementary. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

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Southpaw (Antoine Fuqua) Rated R [123 min] – Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Naomi Harris, and 50 Cent

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 57% • Audience – 80%

My review:

If you’ve seen any boxing movie before, you’ve seen Southpaw. Sure Jake Gyllenhaal puts in quite the physical performance, but every beat of this movie is as generic as it gets. The ending left me with the only surprise because you never do know whether or not they’ll come out on top or if they lose and learn something out of their defeat. So, I was enthusiastic to see where director Antoine Fuqua would take the character. It turned out to be lackluster, with mediocre action as well as performances. Even Forest Whitaker dialed in a stereotypical broken-down coach performance. RENT IT!

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Paper Towns (Jake Schreier) Rated PG-13 [109 min] – A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door. Starring Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 60% • Audience – 71%

Their reviews:

“In its considered, neatly packaged way, the film occupies a safe and solid middle-class middle ground in teen storyland, between crass gross-out comedies and mawkish romance on one side and edgy, exploratory indie fare on the other.” – Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Paper Towns is a movie that I really liked, but I probably would have loved if I’d seen it when I was 13.” – Christy Lemire (ChristyLemire.com)

My take:

Have high schoolers become this pretentious? I was a teen once, and I’m sure I would have loved this film at that age, but from my perspective now, Paper Towns is trying to be too intellectual for its own good. And its obvious pandering toward angsty teenagers or hopeless romantics is numbing. Based on the trailer, it tells me everything I need to know about what the main character will learn from his manic pixie dream girl. Paper Towns comes across too vanilla for me to care whether or not it matters. RENT IT!

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The Vatican Tapes (Mark Neveldine) Rated PG-13 [91 min] – A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman. Starring Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott, and Djimon Hounsou

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 18% • Audience – 54%

Their reviews:

“The film from director Mark Neveldine is so over the top that one can’t help but imagine how the Wayans brothers might lampoon it, then embarrassingly recall them doing exactly so in ‘A Haunted House.'” – Martin Tsai (LA Times)

“It’s the rote B-movie that Neveldine up to now has tried so hard not to make.” – Noel Murray (AV Club)

My take:

Was The Vatican Tapes even marketed to the general public? I never saw a trailer in theaters nor have I read any headlines about the film. I, for one, have had enough exorcism movies for the next ten years. They haven’t said or done anything different than the last, and in no way do they provide any kind of entertainment value. The fact that they bring in the Vatican as some kind of religious conspiracy does absolutely nothing for me too. Based on the reviews, I would say this was meant for a direct to home video release. Or maybe someone could have spent their money else where. SKIP IT!

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Unexpected (Kris Swanberg) [Limited] Rated R [90 min] – An inner-city high school teacher discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies. Starring Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, and Elizabeth McGovern

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 71% • Audience – 70%

Their reviews:

” It’s a little diagrammatic in its plotting. But there’s an easy fluency in the way Swanberg empathizes with everybody on screen.” – Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

“Unexpected is sweet and the portrait of the friendship is lovely, but it also feels too slight.” – Katie Walsh (The Playlist)

My take:

Looking past the believability that Anders Holm from Workaholics could impregnate a woman, Unexpected looks like your run of the mill, uplifting story where a student and a teacher must learn from each other. Only this time they’re both pregnant and must deal with the life choices they inevitably choose. Unexpected doesn’t feel as derivative as it could be, which gives it some heart to work with. I’m not terribly enthusiastic about its premise, but there’s definitely an audience out there for this kind of film. RENT IT!

I hope, and believe, that audiences have wised up to Adam Sandler’s shenanigans, and in doing so stop it from becoming the number one movie of the weekend. Ant-Man is a pretty fun movie, and had good word of mouth and positive reviews, so it should have some decent legs coming into its second weekend. The other releases are fairly steeped in niche markets and only attract its target demos. And The Vatican Tapes released in no more than 427 theaters. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Ant-Man

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Ant-Man vs. Trainwreck

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of July 17, 2015 includes Ant-Man and Trainwreck, as well as three limited releases. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Minions were the clear winner, overshadowing its competition with a $115 million opening gross. Jurassic World came in second with only $18 million in its fifth weekend out, and Inside Out in its fourth weekend came in third with $17 million.

The kids had their fun, but two new challengers attempt to claim the top spot at the cinemas. With how hot of a streak Amy Schumer is on, can Judd Apatow walk away with the big W, or will Marvel Studios completely dominate the weekend per usual? I know a guy… This is the Box Office Battlefield:

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Ant-Man (Peyton Reed) Rated PG-13 [117 min] – Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Peña [Watch the trailer]

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 80% • Audience – 91%

My review:

It feels like forever since we’ve had an origin story from Marvel Studios. Guardians of the Galaxy was released only a year ago, but that seemed more like a team up movie than how small and intimate Ant-Man feels in comparison – literally and figuratively. With Ant-Man, you get those origin story tropes. There’s a lot of setup, but director Peyton Reed and co. do a swell job establishing character and building the science behind a very difficult hero to market. Which is why I like the tone they’ve established to introduce Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

The biggest gripe I have is the fact that Marvel continues to provide weak villains. Not since Loki have we had a complex bad guy that we can understand their plight and reasoning behind their madness. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is such a throwaway villain in that there’s very little surprise as to how this story will end.

I do believe that this is Marvel’s best foot forward in utilizing 3D as a fun inclusion into the movie going experience. The resizing animation of Ant-Man and creating the environments to show him to scale in large environments is really cool to see play out on the big screen in 3D. Also, not since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids will you ever feel so fondly for an ant. MATINEE IT IN 3D!

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Trainwreck (Judd Apatow) Rated R [125 min] – Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy. Starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Lebron James, Tilda Swinton, and Colin Quinn

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 85% • Audience – 83%

My review:

After Judd Apatow’s lackluster attempt at a spin-off sequel, This is 40, the director has been more focused on the small screen with Lena Dunham in Girls. I have not seen an episode of it yet, but he’s been crushing it as far as I can tell. Returning to the silver screen, this is the first feature film Apatow has not written himself. In fact, Trainwreck was written by funny lady and now actress, Amy Schumer. One would assume the pairing of Schumer and Apatow would be a match made in comedy heaven, but the end result is not as progressive as you’d think.

From my experience, Trainwreck is a pretty funny movie. I laughed entirely throughout the course of its overly long run time. The story behind the romantic dramedy is too generic. I think it’s played too safe, with each plot point checking off a box from the rom-com tropes list. I was never surprised by anything I saw in Trainwreck, and ultimately despite how hilarious the jokes are, this movie is pretty unmemorable to me. The relationship between Amy and Aaron (Bill Hadar) is cute with decent chemistry and the supporting cast is good, especially Tilda Swinton. But really there is nothing I took away from this movie that differentiates itself from any other of its kind. MATINEE IT!

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Irrational Man (Woody Allen) [LIMITED] Rated R [96 min] – A tormented philosophy professor finds a will to live when he commits an existential act. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, and Joe Stapleton

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 48% • Audience – 70%

Their reviews:

“In its own strange, deliberate way the film does wind up feeling surprising, fresh even, as Allen finds new ways to explore some of his most longstanding preoccupations.” – Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a Woody Allen film that the next one will make us forget.” – Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal)

My take:

Another year, another Woody Allen movie. I am highly fond of the director and impressed that he can churn out a movie each year at his age, 79. Each of his films do feel inherently unique, but also kind of bland. They all have their own magic, which set them apart from one another to create a charming playfulness. However, the stories themselves he tells don’t feel as well crafted as the premise they’re based on. I would love to see what Woody could do if he took a little more time to knock out any kinks his films may have and give us something that we can be blown away by. I love what he can do with his actors and strong dialogue, I just would like more from his stories. And based on the reviews, Irrational Man isn’t his best work. RENT IT!

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Mr. Holmes (Bill Condon)  [LIMITED] Rated PG [104 min] – An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman. Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Hattie Morahan

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 85% • Audience – 70%

Their reviews:

“Mr. Holmes is a solid (if unremarkable) period drama that is anchored by a great Ian McKellen performance as an old Sherlock Holmes.” – Sandy Schaefer (ScreenRant)

“The film’s plots are soft and flimsy, and they don’t mesh as gracefully as they might, but they do serve as an adequate trellis for Mr. McKellen’s performance, which is gratifyingly but unsurprisingly wonderful.” – A.O. Scott (New York Times)

My take:

Now this is an interesting concept when approaching Sherlock Holmes. I find it to be refreshing to see the character beyond his prime and reflect back on his crime solving days. And given that Ian McKellen is in front of the camera makes it all the more wondrous and captivating. Based on the reviews, I would say Mr. Holmes is fairly average with a strong performance that keeps your attention drawn to the screen. MATINEE IT!

The Stanford Prison Experiment 2015 Movie Title Logo

The Stanford Prison Experiment (Kyle Patrick Alvarez) [LIMITED] Rated R [122 min] – Twenty-four male students out of seventy-five were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Starring Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, Billy Crudup, and Olivia Thirlby

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 78% • Audience – 81%

Their reviews:

“Disturbing, honest and compelling, The Stanford Prison Experiment turns a well-known story into must-see storytelling, depicting the ugly truth through gorgeous filmmaking.” – James Rocchi (The Wrap)

“Even with some familiar faces, The Stanford Prison Experiment feels like an honest-to-goodness documentary – a high compliment for a movie based on an infamous college project.” – Brian Truitt (USA Today)

My take:

Based on the cast alone I am intrigued to see The Stanford Prison Experiment. I had never heard of this true tale before, but the idea of turning it into a film does captivate my imagination. Rarely do I find these kinds of films intriguing, but the experiment and the results sound fascinating. Based on the reviews, I would expect a very thrilling, chilling, and tension-filled two hours. MATINEE IT!

As we know, Minions absolutely dominated the box office last weekend despite its very low response critically. I think that may come back to bite them in the arse after many families enjoyed such a heartfelt tale in Pixar’s Inside Out. I’m sure there will be outliers who waited a weekend to avoid crowds, but Inside Out delivered a superior product and families will return to something original and strong rather than something played out and stale. Trainwreck is a hard, Rated-R adult comedy that isn’t quite targeted toward all audiences. It’s definitely going to draw in the female demographics, but men may stray away if they aren’t familiar or do not like Schumer’s blunt and honest humor. And then there’s Marvel’s Ant-Man, which is rated PG-13. It’s pretty light and funny, a strong female supporting star in Evangeline Lily, and it has a different vibe compared to the other big movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Ant-Man

Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Magic Mike XXL vs. Terminator: Genisys

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of July 1, 2015 includes Magic Mike XXL and Terminator: Genisys, as well as the limited release of Amy. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Jurassic World barely took the top spot with $54.5 million as Pixar’s Inside Out was close behind with $52.3 million. Ted 2 opened fairly poorly in third place with $33.5 million, considering the first opened at $54.4 million. The rated R comedy did manage to put down the inspiration dog movie, Max, which came in at fourth place with $12.1 million.

Does Jurassic World have what it takes to make stay king of the castle for a fourth weekend in a row? Or will it slip out of first thanks to the body oil exuding from the male stripper sequel? But don’t count out Skynet’s ruthless ability to stay ever vigilant in its quest for domination. My saddle’s waiting, come and jump on it! This is the Box Office Battlefield:

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Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs) [7/1 Release] Rated R [115 min] – Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance. Starring Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, and Amber Heard [Watch the trailer]

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 62% • Audience – 75%

My review:

After being pleasantly surprised by Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, I was a little skeptical going into the sequel without the auteur director. As producer and first assistant director for Magic Mike, Gregory Jacobs at least had a hand in understanding the male stripper with a heart of gold coming into the sequel. Magic Mike XXL is far more commercial and less dark than its predecessor, but it still has a greater sense of drama than what many audiences are going in to enjoy. On the other side of the coin, the choreography is fantastic and even more stimulating to the senses with all the gyrations and thrusting. The comedy is more streamlined, but the jokes are built up well thanks to the camaraderie amongst the cast. Given that the first movie is more of a character study, Magic Mike XXL is a lot more lighthearted and fun; but not goofy-fun to the point that it’s breaking away from the original’s tone, more so that it brings additional flavor and continues to build the world around the Kings of Tampa. There is also an interesting dynamic of gender roles, feminism, empowerment, and a strong theme of taking pride in your sexuality, which comes across very sincere. MATINEE IT!

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Terminator Genisys (Alan Taylor) [7/1 Release] Rated PG-13 [125 min] – John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, and J.K. Simmons [Watch the trailer]

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 26% • Audience – 70%

My review:

I’m going to be on the opposite side of the fence on this one in which I decree Terminator: Genisys is not as terrible as the majority would have you believe. What really makes this decent film in my book is the characterization of Reese (Courtney), Sarah Connor (Clarke), and the Guardian T-800 (Schrawzenegger). I liked the dynamic chemistry they had going on. The action is fairly good too. However, there is a lot of exposition spewed out on multiple occasions where you have to keep your wits about you. Granted, there are a fair amount of plot holes and story elements that don’t add up, but they the filmmakers have the best intentions and nothing feels absolutely forced. For some reason I had fun watching Genisys as a popcorn blockbuster. It’s not overly convoluted, and the cast makes it worthwhile. RENT IT!

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Amy (Asif Kapadia) [Limited – 7/3] Rated R [128 min] – The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks. Starring Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and Russell Brand

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 97% • Audience – XX%

Their reviews:

“A shattering documentary about a silenced voice.” – Devin Faraci (Birth.Movies.Death)

“Amy is a celebration of its subject’s talent… But it’s also a terribly sad portrait of an addict surrounded by enablers and opportunists.” – Alison Willmore (BuzzFeed)

My take:

I’d pick a fantastical world over the real world any day, but apparently this documentary about the late Amy Winehouse has critics in an almost unanimous praise. It seems like it would be an interesting watch for anyone who likes these kinds of flicks. It’s just not for me. MATINEE IT!

Both Magic Mike XXL and Terminator: Genisys are not huge spectacle films, but they have their nuances. The Terminator franchise has run fairly dry with the last two sequels not stacking up to their superior predecessors. But maybe Game of Thrones fans will be interested to see Khaleesi outside of the land of dragons and into a different role. Genisys is also rated PG-13. Magic Mike was such a surprise hit back in 2012 that there’s not denying the anticipation of its latest sequel. However, it is a film that will draw in a very niche audience, regardless of the shenanigans to be had seen throughout. XXL is rated R though and even limits its audience even further. The top previously releases such as Inside Out and Jurassic World are still going strong and may even upset the new contenders. With limited options for children, Pixar has a great opportunity this holiday weekend to capitalize. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Magic Mike XXL


Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Ted 2 vs. Max

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of June 26, 2015 includes Ted 2 and Max, as well as the limited release of A Little Chaos. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Jurassic World continued to dominate cinemas, snubbing Inside Out and destroying Pixar’s track record for always coming in first on their opening weekends. And over the past week Jurassic World became the fastest film to gross $1 billion worldwide, breaking Furious 7’s record of 17 days and crossing the line in an astonishing 13. Will the joke be on previous contenders with Seth MacFarlane coming back with Ted for Round 2? Where’dya pahk the fahking cah Boo Boo? This is the Box Office Battlefield:

Ted 2 Movie Title LogoTed 2 (Seth MacFarlane) Rated R [115 min] – Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Sam J. Jones, and Morgan Freeman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 45% • Audience – 75%

My review:

I liked Ted. Seth MacFarlane held nothing back with his foul-mouthed teddy bear comedy that had a clever mix of heartfelt bromance and disgusting fraternity humor. After that mess of a follow-up film, A Million Ways to Die in the Westmy review, I wasn’t sure if the writer/director/star/producer could pull Ted of a second time. But when we look at comedies, it all comes down to the viewer’s sense of humor. To me, I very much enjoyed Ted 2. I believe the jokes are sharp, full of hilarious pop culture references, and built up with enough set up to where most are rewarding. Some of the humor can go over your head if you’re not a huge film or TV buff, but there’s plenty here to get you by. Sadly the message of the film gets stretched very thin and inherently lost at times. Ted 2 is cohesive and makes sense, but the emotions it wants you to feel aren’t as strong as the first. Ted is not essential viewing to understand this sequel, but there are a handful of jokes that relies on your knowledge of it. MATINEE IT!

Max 2015 Movie Title Logo

Max (Boaz Yakin) Rated PG [111 min] – A dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler’s family after suffering a traumatic experience. Starring Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, and Lauren Graham

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 38% • Audience – 76%

Their reviews:

“Though the lead performance would do Lassie and Rin Tin Tin proud, the increasingly ludicrous, cliché-packed plot generates not an ounce of suspense.” – Sheri Linden (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Mr. Yakin opts for bullets, explosions and blood vengeance when handcuffs and perp walks would do the job. Not that “Max” has any clear or coherent sense of mission.” – A.O. Scott (New York Times)

My take:

Max looks like manipulative Hallmark dribble that could have been a decent inspirational film back in the ’90s. The twist that it looks to inject into the movie looks forced and overly cheesy. Based on the reception by critics, Max does not seem like a very fun nor entertaining piece of cinema worth your dollars. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

A Little Chaos Movie Title Logo

A Little Chaos (Alan Rickman) [Limited] Rated R [117 min] – Two talented landscape artists become romantically entangled while building a garden in King Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. Starring Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, and Matthias Schoenaerts

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 41% • Audience – 47%

Their reviews:

”While he shines in his supporting role as the satisfyingly complex king, it’s hard not to imagine what the film would have looked like with Rickman as the romantic lead.” – Kate Erbland (The Dissolve)

“It’s a shame such a talented artist couldn’t create a more memorable film, but the overlong “A Little Chaos” bogs down in a lackluster love story.” – Stephanie Merry (Washington Post)

My take:

As Alan Rickman’s second time in the director’s seat, this period piece looks very polished. However, there doesn’t seem to be a solid plot worth building a story around to capture any kind of attention. I’m not big on period pieces to begin with, although some do catch my fancy, but I find no intrigue here other than the star-studded cast. And based on what other critics are saying, I think there isn’t enough here to set it apart from other similar titles. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

This past week Jurassic World continued to defeat Inside Out, but that could be due to the fact that kids are in daycare and parents are working. Families cannot attend movies together except at night. And even then, both films were neck and neck. Ted debuted in 2012 with $54 million with a similar RT score to Ted 2. The film is very similar in tone, maybe even a little sillier. I found myself laughing more often this time around. I think audiences may latch onto this one more because it’s less about Mark Wahlberg’s character and more about Ted. But on the other hand, Ted 2 is rated R, which restricts many moviegoers from seeing it. I think it will open a little higher than its predecessor, but not by much. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Inside Out


Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Inside Out vs. Dope

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of June 19, 2015 includes Inside Out and Dope, as well as three limited releases. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!

Last weekend, Jurassic World completely obliterated the competition, breaking records and taking names. Grossing $208 million domestically and totaling $524.4 million worldwide, Jurassic World is the first movie to ever cross the $500 million mark in an opening weekend. Universal even beat Marvel Studio’s The Avengers record of highest grossing domestic opening weekend by $1.4 million. Jurassic World earned can also claim the highest single day grosses for Saturday and Sunday; it broke the national per theater average with $49 thousand; and it’s the greatest PG-13 opening weekend ever. Suffice it to say Universal is very happy.

This weekend however, Jurassic World is up against some tough competition: Pixar. Having no release last year, a feat which has not been seen since 2005, and with little offerings to younger demographics in theaters recently, the latest animated feature from the studio powerhouse may bring about the second extinction of the dinosaurs. I’M IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTIONS! This is the Box Office Battlefield:

Disney Pixar Inside Out Title Movie Logo

Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen) Rated PG [94 min] – After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith [Watch the trailer]

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 98% • Audience – 93%

My review:

Although my expectations may have been far too high going in, I found Inside Out to be very, very sweet and incredibly well-developed. Compared to the Pixar’s latest, Inside Out definitely feels like a return to form for the once unstoppable animation studio. The story is more straightforward than I imagined, but its mechanics and world building are impeccably thought out, making the journey worth every second. Inventively hilarious and playfully smart, Inside Out is a touching coming-of-age story that stands up to Pixar’s finest. SEE THIS FILM! (Since this is an animated film the 3D works just fine.)

Dope 2015 Movie Title Logo

Dope (Rick Famuyiwa) Rated R [103 min] – Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure. Starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, and Kimberly Elise

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 88% • Audience – 83%

My review:

I didn’t quite know what to think about Dope going in. Coming out of Sundance, the film received critical acclaim, but it has a very different indie sheen compared to most from the festival. But after seeing Dope this week I can confidently agree with all the hype. Despite having beat-for-beat similarities to 2004’s comedic adventure through the world of porn, The Girl Next Door, Dope is far more calculating and smarter than your average bear. Dope offers a very surreal look at racial politics and socio-economic classes in the most cleverest of ways and delivers a tripod of characters worth rooting for. For a fresh young actor, Shameik Moore, puts in one hell of a performance – both sincere and confident – as the lead character of Malcolm. The only real problem I had with the film is its unique structure that made Dope seem a lot loner than it actually is. SEE THIS FILM!

Infinitely Polar Bear Movie Title Logo

Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes) [Limited] Rated R [90 min] – A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don’t make the overwhelming task any easier. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, and Ashley Aufderheide

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 82% • Audience – 81%

Their reviews:

“Mark Ruffalo is yet again a revelation in Infinitely Polar Bear, and he’s not the only one. This is a first feature by Maya Forbes, yet many of its accomplishments put far more experienced filmmakers in the shade.” – Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal)

“Though the film is choppily told and its episodic rhythm never gathers momentum, it contains well-observed moments and astute performances by Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.” – Sheri Linden (LA Times)

My take:

Mark Ruffalo always dominates in these dramatic, indie roles. The man is a force majeure when it comes to switching from genre to genre. His newest feature, Infinitely Polar Bear looks very honest and mostly sad. Another Sundance pick from 2014, from what I understand this movie is an emotional journey thanks to Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. MATINEE IT!

Manglehorn Movie Title Logo

Manglehorn (David Gordon Green) [Limited] Rated PG-13 [97 min] – Left heartbroken by the woman he loved and lost many years ago, Manglehorn, an eccentric small-town locksmith, tries to start his life over again with the help of a new friend. Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, and Chris Messina

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 38% • Audience – 35%

Their reviews:

“A movie so listlessly written and constructed that it nearly redefines tedium.” – Sam Fragoso (Film School Rejects)

“But while Pacino is, as ever, a compelling presence, David Gordon Green’s latest is simultaneously overwrought and curiously slight.” – Keith Phipps (The Dissolve)

My take:

David Gordon Green is a unique director. He can hit you over the head with films like Your Highness and Pineapple Express, but can also transplant you in some very intimate character driven stories such as Joe and Prince Avalanche. Manglehorn is a terrible title and it feels like James L. Brooks’ As Good as it Gets. I’m not a big fan of Green’s indie storytelling too much, the concepts are there, but I’ve never thought they were told fairly well. And critics do not seem very fond of the picture either. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!

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The Overnight (Patrick Brice) [Limited] Rated R [79 min] – Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family “playdate” becomes increasingly interesting as the night goes on. Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 83% • Audience – 69%

Their reviews:

“Brice manages admirably to make his comedy at once daring and earnest, outlandish and relatable, obscene and sweet.” – Ella Taylor (NPR)

“The Overnight is the movie equivalent of fuzzy handcuffs: a tame and unimaginative attempt at spicing up the overly familiar scenario of a married couple trying to get their groove back.” – Inkoo Kang (The Wrap)

My take:

It may be a bit odd to see Taylor Schilling outside the confines of Litchfield Penitentiary, but with Adam Scott by her side I welcome this comedy with open arms. Again, yet another Sundance selection from this year, The Overnight has this comedic tone about it that invites my curiosity. Just from the trailer, I am anxious to see what kind of madness there is to behold based on the situational teases it presents. MATINEE IT!

Yes, Jurassic World absolutely dominated over this past week, but reviews have been quite mixed. I foresee a decent fallout, but there will be those stragglers who waited to see if the fourthquel would be any good. I’m sure there will be many clamoring for a second round viewing because it is entertaining to some extent, but its main challenger this weekend, Inside Out, brings a hard sell. For one it’s from Pixar; second, Inside Out draws in children, so their parents must take them which means more butts in seats; third, the reviews are practically unanimous in its favor; and lastly, the studio always proves to create stories for all ages. Dope is in somewhere close to 1,000 less theaters than Inside Out and does not cater to broad audiences. And Spy, Insidious: Chapter 3, and San Andreas stand no real chance based on their poor performances. It’ll be a close one this weekend folks. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

Winner: Inside Out


Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes

Box Office Battlefield: Jurassic World

Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of June 12, 2015 includes Jurassic World as well as a two limited releases. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em?

Last weekend, Paul Feig’s Spy took first place in theaters with San Andreas and Insidious: Chapter 3 close behind. Not very franchise blockbuster-y films, this weekend promises a bigger, badder, and more shiny sequel. Can Jurassic World dust off the franchise to reign supreme? Hold on to your butts! This is the Box Office Battlefield:

Jurassic World Title Movie Logo

Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow) Rated PG-13 [124 min] – Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Nick Robinson

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 71% • Audience – 87%

My review:

I honestly had very little expectations going in to see Jurassic World, and those expectations were met. The film has some decent entertainment value, but in terms of being something bigger than its whole with strong reflective themes, you’re going to have to keep watching the original Jurassic Park. The theme park world they create and the evolution of John Hammond’s idea is very realized and fun to see, but it’s hardly experienced to be amazed by it all. The use of the classic John Williams theme is very underwhelming compared to its first use in Jurassic Park. The characters are well cast with some fine actors, but very surface level. The fact that they have to try and make someone the bad guy is really forced and feels inorganic to the story. I highly suggest skipping it in 3D. MATINEE IT!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Movie Title Logo

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) [Limited] Rated PG-13 [105 min] – High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, and Connie Britton

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 84% • Audience – 92%

My review:

The more time I’ve give to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl to sit with me, the greater the story has resonated with my emotions. MaEatDG is one of those special indie darlings out of Sundance that you can’t help but feel charmed by because of its raw honesty and well-developed characters. I was kind of taken aback by the awkward chuckles when I first watched the trailer in theaters with a crowd when the title card appeared, but I can understand how it can be a bit unsettling. But that feeling kind of plays into the personality of the film, which only strengthens its appeal and uniqueness. SEE THIS FILM!

The Wolfpack 2015 Title Movie Logo

The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle) [Limited] Rated R [80 min] – Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed, ‘The Wolfpack,’ the brothers spend their childhood reenacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes. Their world is shaken up when one of the brothers escapes and everything changes. Starring Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, and Krsna Angulo

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 76% • Audience – 76%

Their reviews:

“The sheltered world of the Angulos, informed by cinema more than the teeming city right outside their apartment windows, is a haunting and utterly unique one.” – Alison Willmore (BuzzFeed)

“At its best, The Wolfpack helps us to see the cinema in the world, and not the other way around.” – David Ehrlich (Little White Lies)

My take:

I have not seen this film, but it looks like a very good sit if you’re a lover of cinema and want to see how that affected the lives of these people.

Since Jurassic World is the only wide release this weekend, and the fact that Spy and Insidious: Chapter 3 didn’t open with outstanding numbers last weekend, there’s a pretty clear winner here. The original Jurassic Park opened in 1993 with a domestic gross of $47 million. My guess for this weekend is that it will gain at least $65 million. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:

 

Winner: Jurassic World


Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoe