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. (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%
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 (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%
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 (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%
“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)
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!
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%
“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)
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!
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%
“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)
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 (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%
“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)
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