Monday, June 26, 2017
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
Domestic Box Office: $76,423,035
For the most part, the films that I've looked at for this series have ended up being films that deserved their fate as failed would-be blockbusters. Every once in a while I'll come across a hidden gem whose failure might be chalked up to bad marketing or to being too far ahead of the cultural curve to connect with audiences, a film where the lack of box office is in no way a true reflection of its quality, but for the most part these films are lazy comedies, badly conceived action movies, or half-assed comic book adaptations and sequels. Knight & Day, a film that seems to be perpetually playing on TV the last couple of years, turns out to be one of the gems. I'm not saying that it's a great movie - it's a pretty silly movie, in fact - but it's a solidly entertaining one which reminds you just why it is Tom Cruise had such a long and sustained career as a blockbuster leading man.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Director: Lucia Aniello
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz
As it turns out, it's somewhat difficult to build a comedy around a graphic death and its subsequent cover up. I mean, if it couldn't work with this cast - Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Kravitz aren't known for comedy, but Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer have solid comedy pedigrees - then I'm going to say that it can't work, period. It's not that Rough Night isn't funny at all; many parts of it are genuinely very funny (though it's odd that in a film with so many funny women, it's one of the male actors who ends up stealing the show). The problem is twofold: 1) the dark half of this dark comedy is so brutal that it drags the comedy half down, and 2) despite committing so fully at the beginning, in the end the film pulls back with a magical resolution that renders everything just fine.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman
Domestic Box Office: $103,144,286
In the four summers that I've looked at films that failed to set the summer box office on fire, most of the films I've looked at have fallen far below the threshold of what one could conceivably consider a hit, earning $50 million or less. But sometimes a film crosses the $100 million mark, which used to be a clear benchmark of success but is less so now that some films make $100 million in their first weekend alone, and is still regarded as a financial failure. Independence Day: Resurgence is the fourth film I've looked at in this series that has made $100 million or more, but its domestic box office take falls far short of its $165 million production budget. If you believe the saying that a movie has to earn three times its production budget before it shows a profit, then even taking into account the worldwide gross doesn't bail this one out, coming to a total of $389,681,935 (for comparison's sake, Independence Day made $306 million domestically, and that's in 1996 dollars). If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that sometimes things are better left alone. Especially if you can't convince the star of the original to come back for the sequel.
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt
I see a lot of movies. As a consequence, films that are just middling tend to get forgotten. Good films and bad films I remember, but the experience of having watched them for the first time doesn’t often stick. Inglorious Basterds came out (almost) 8 years ago, but I can still remember what it was like watching it on opening day. It was invigorating, a blast of fresh air from a filmmaker who had already done much the same to the cinema landscape back in 1994. The impact of Basterds can be measured in a number of ways, but perhaps the best way to take its measure is to watch it today and discover that it still somehow feels fresh, it still somehow feels different from everything else out there. Quentin Tarantino is sometimes criticized for being an artist of style rather than substance, but done right style can be as important, as revolutionary, and as meaningful as substance and that’s part of what makes Inglorious Basterds one for the ages.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin
Did she or didn't she? That's the question at the heart of My Cousin Rachel, an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name. An ambiguous story about a woman who may, but may not, be a fortune hunter of such ruthless determination that even murder is not beyond her, My Cousin Rachel seems like a film that's bound to divide. Fascinating and frustrating in almost equal measure, largely as a result of the airless quality of Roger Michell's direction, it's not a movie that will win over anyone who isn't already inclined to enjoy a handsome period piece. However, if you're a fan of Rachel Weisz (and why wouldn't you be? She's one of the contemporary greats), then this is a must-see because she's truly wonderful here, alternately delightful and sinister, a woman who could conceivably be the vile temptress her reputation suggests or an innocent wrongly accused.