Review: Glass

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Review: Cold War

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Review: Close

Starring Noomi Rapace and Sophie Nelisse

Review: The Upside

Starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston

Review: Destroyer

Starring Nicole Kidman

1/20/2019

Box Office: 'Glass' Breaks Through With $89M Worldwide; 'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' Powers Up With $20M


1. Glass (review)- $40.5M
M. Night Shyamalan's much-hyped sequel Glass opened with a strong $40M domestic, and $89M worldwide, besting expectations. The film is a belated sequel to 2000's grounded superhero film Unbreakable, and a secret followup to 2016's Split. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and James McAvoy all reprised their roles from those films, and the opening weekend for each film is pretty comparable, suggesting there weren't a ton of curious moviegoers taking a chance here. If you dug Unbreakable and Split, you were going to show up for Glass. Reviews have been okay but hardly great, and that's probably a big reason for the lack of an expanded audience. The final point, though, is that Glass only cost $20M and it has quadrupled its budget in a single weekend.
2. The Upside- $15.6M/$43.9M
3. Dragon Ball Super: Broly- $10.6M/$20M
Everybody I know ran out to see Dragon Ball Super: Broly this week, and it looks like I may need to join them. The loyal Dragon Ball base showed up in droves to give it a whopping $7M Wednesday opening, ending the week with $20M overall. Damn.  I'd be lying if I said I understood where this particular story fits into the overall Dragon Ball narrative, it's long since left me dazed and confused. But they've clearly done something right in appealing to the die-hard base. These numbers double the domestic run of both 2015's Resurrection F ($8M) and 2014's Battle of Gods ($2M), both of which I saw and liked quite a bit. Worldwide Dragon Ball Super: Broly has $78M.
4. Aquaman- $10.3M/$304.3M
Aquaman crosses the $300M domestically and now has over $1B worldwide.
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse- $7.2M/$158.2M
6. A Dog's Way Home- $7.1M/$21.2M
7. Escape Room- $5.27M/$40.7M
8. Mary Poppins Returns- $5.24M/$158.7M
Disney's Mary Poppins Returns has done pretty well after a soft start domestically, and now has $306M worldwide.
9. Bumblebee- $4.6M/$115.9M
10. On the Basis of Sex- $3.9M/$16.8M

Henry Cavill And Alec Baldwin Could Return For Next 'Mission: Impossible' Sequels


After years of swapping out directors with each new film, Mission: Impossible has been under the reins of Christopher McQuarrie twice now, and will be for at least two more.  McQuarrie and his buddy Tom Cruise have not only raised the stakes with each new film, but they've also made the impossible look easy. And their next "impossible" feat may be bringing two dead characters back to the land of the living.

According to THR, Henry Cavill and Alec Baldwin could return in future Mission: Impossible movies, despite fatal end their characters met. The report does say it would only be in flashback that they would return, which makes sense considering how they both perished. Baldwin played IMF secretary Alan Lumley who was murdered under the streets of London by Cavill's treacherous assassin August Walker, who ended up with a crashing helicopter chained to that mustache on his face.

So who knows what could happen? It's way too early in the process for such speculation, and McQuarrie said as much in a tweet responding to the report...

The next two Mission: Impossibles arrive in summer 2021 and 2022 after being shot back-to-back.

'The Unicorn' Trailer: A Bored Couple Toy With Having A Threesome


While there wasn't a lot to like about Holmes & Watson last month, one of the standout performances was by Lauren Lapkus who made the most out of playing a mute woman raised by feral cats. Fortunately, she appears to have a lot more to do in The Unicorn, a film that earned some solid buzz from its premiere at SXSW.

Lapkus stars alongside Lucy Hale and the Good Neighbor guys (Nick Rutherford, Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Dave McCary) in a film that explores the lengths a long-engaged couple will go to spice things up in the bedroom. And as usual, the idea of a threesome takes center stage, but are either of them really ready to go through with it?  The impressive cast also includes Dree Hemingway, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Beverly D'Angelo, and Maya Kazan.

Behind the camera is the multi-talented Robert Schwartzman, actor, musician, and filmmaker as well as the younger brother of Jason Schwartzman and cousin of Sophia Coppola. I never saw his 2016 directorial debut Dreamland but it seems as if the talent to create runs in the family.

The Unicorn opens February 1st, followed by VOD on February 5th.

1/19/2019

‘The Punisher’ Season 2 Review: Frank’s Back For A Whole Lotta Shooting… And Yelling


Most of the Marvel Netflix shows, while “street level” still deal in the world of the extraordinary.  Daredevil has super senses even though blind.  Both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have super strength.  Iron Fist has the, well, iron first power.  So, they all could compete with the Avengers on some sort of level if they ever got bumped up to the big leagues.  That isn’t the case with Frank Castle though, who’s superpowers seem to be rage, and a capacity to kill bad guys with extreme prejudice.  The Punisher has been a tough character to crack.  After all, he’s pretty much Dirty Harry, just a little more Dirty Harrier.  Leave it up to Netflix to be able to crack the code and give us a very authentic version of Frank Castle in The Punisher.

The first season was pretty good.  It did retcon his origin story first introduced in Daredevil Season 2, but the sheer alpha-ness of Jon Bernthal helped deliver a strong first season.  By the end of it, Castle had embraced being The Punisher, was a vigilante operating in the shadows, and we finally got a good origin story and creation of famed Punisher villain, Jigsaw.  Even though many Netflix shows are getting a production level version of the “Thanos Snap,” fans were optimistic for the second season of The Punisher to hit streaming services.


The season begins with Frank still on the run after having brokered a deal with Homeland Security (to avoid egg on their face), to be given a pass for dismembering former friend Billy Russo’s face, and is now trying to keep a low profile in the Midwest as a grifter named “Pete Castiglione” going from town to town.  All that changes for him when he comes to a smalltown bar for a drink and meets two different women.  The first, a bartender who he showed some chivalry too, and the second, a small teenage girl who clearly is having some problems.  As that night continues into the next day, circumstances surrounding his interactions with both women bring out his Punisher persona as he tries to do the right thing and help them out, only to have the beast unleashed once again.  The teenage girl, Amy has found herself in some trouble with some extremely unsavory characters, specifically dangerous religious assassin John Pilgrim.  Castle, not wanting to see a young woman be hurt (and reminds him of his daughter), takes it upon himself to be her lethal protector.


Meanwhile, in New York, Billy Russo has somehow managed to survive his hellish fight with Frank at the end of last season.  However, he’s no longer the smooth-talking military grunt-turned-private-security contractor-executive he was, he’s a shell of himself.  He doesn’t remember anything of his past life, he only has frightening dreams of being attacked by a skull (the logo on Frank’s Punisher costume), and his once pretty face is now scarred, so to feel at home, he wears a Halloween mask.  Agent Madani, who somehow managed to survive being shot in the head by Barnes in last season’s finale, is now obsessed with Russo.  She goes to his hospital room every day, and despite being told he’s a completely changed person, she’s convinced that he’s faking it and biding his time to escape.


Slowly but surely, everyone’s paths meet up as Frank and Amy meet up with Madani and Russo in New York City and all mayhem breaks loose.  Pilgrim, still tracking Amy and Frank also follows them to New York as well.  From there on, we get some good old fashion punisher as then show moves 1,000 miles a minute full of blood, guns, and guts.  Part of the mystery this season is trying to find out why Pilgrim and his employers are after Amy.  As each episode builds, the reasons, and twists and turns continue to grow and we learn just how high up this weird conspiracy grows.


Performance-wise, everyone brings their A-game.  Jon Bernthal can now play Frank in his sleep.  No longer is he just a ramped-up Shane from Walking Dead, but he now has fully embraced his character completely and made it his own.  Bernthal does elevate the material in every scene he is in this season.  In addition to Bernthal, another standout is Jason R. Moore, who plays Curtis, a fellow vet who runs a support group.  Curtis in parallel to Amy, try to be the moral voice for Frank and try to stop him from pushing himself over the edge.  This season while helping Frank, Curtis also crosses some lines he thought he would never cross as the season progresses.  Another standout is stress Floriana Lima, who plays Doctor Dumont, Russo’s therapist, who crosses her own ethical line when it comes to trying to “save” her patient throughout the series.

This being a Netflix show, the villains always get their chance to shine.  Actor Josh Stewart, who plays John Pilgrim is a very interesting character.  He’s a dedicated religious person, who has no qualms about picking up a machine gun and murdering innocent people.  New reports about his character have been overly exaggerated.  He was first talked of as a member of the “Alt-Right,” which made many people excited to see The Punisher going toe to toe with a Richard Spencer type of person.  Pilgrim is more of a reformed Nazi who turned to God, but still has his killer instincts.  His past is brushed by as he meets some of his former “brothers” in one scene, but most of his character development is based on him knowing he (like Frank) has to unleash his wild side to complete his mission, and all he wants to do is get back to his Christian family.  If anything, he shows how Organized Crime, and Organized Religion can blend rather easily.  Russo returns and gets a chance to be a very dynamic villain.  Last season, he was calm and in control, a master manipulator.  The events of the first season really messed with his mind as we see his character go through several rounds of PTSD in the aftermath of his fight against Frank at the end of season 1.  Last season showed Curtis to help Frank and other vets deal with their PTSD problems, through Russo, we get to see how his crumbling mind works.  While he still is evil, he is very sympathetic at times.


That being said, the show is not without fault.  Like most Netflix shows, it’s a few episodes too long.  The season takes place over 13 episodes when it could have taken probably 8-10 episodes.  A few things are inconsistent as well.  Russo goes from an afraid blabbering psychopath to a criminal mastermind with ease.  While Madani believed he was faking it the entire time, it’s proven that he is a broken person and not faking it.  Speaking of Russo, he doesn’t have the “Jigsaw” look from the comics.  The Jigsaw that purists know and love is horrible-looking as his face is literally a jigsaw.  On the show, having an actor as handsome as Ben Barnes under layers of prosthetics probably wasn’t going to fly, so they let him show his pretty face (after he stops feeling shame and takes off the Halloween mask), and the cut makeup is rather tame.  The show does have the dreaded Marvel/Netflix “two villain” problem as we juggle our time between Pilgrim and Russo.  While The Punisher season two manages it better than other shows have (meaning they don’t kill a character halfway through to introduce another), it’s still a juggling act as while both villains have to interact with Frank as two separate storylines that don’t intersect.


That being said, The Punisher is still a fun ride.  While just about every other show has been canceled (cross your fingers for this one), that doesn’t mean that we don’t see a few people from all the Marvel Netflix shows.  Seargent Brett Mahoney makes his presence as he has on Daredevil and Jessica Jones as he is both hunting Frank, and also trying to figure out everything going on with Pilgrim and Russo.  Karen Page also makes a brief cameo to provide some moral (and clandestine) support for Frank.  Of course, a Marvel/Netflix show wouldn’t be complete without Turk Barrett!  The show manages to give you everything you expect from it with some strong performances throughout the show, and the action rarely lets up!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

'Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase' Trailer: 'It' Breakout Sophia Lillis Stars As The Teen Sleuth


On the heels of her head-turning performance in It, Sophia Lillis picked up a number of high-profile projects. One of those was HBO's Sharp Objects, but she also was chosen to headline her own potential franchise as teen sleuth, Nancy Drew, the heroine of the long-running series of novels by author Carolyn Keen. And now with the first official trailer for Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, I think we're seeing why this particular story was chosen because it's giving off a series Stranger Things vibe.

Directed by Katt Shea, who is perhaps best known for the Drew Barrymore flick Poison Ivy, this particular Nancy Drew episode includes a supernatural aspect as she investigates a haunted house.  The tone of this one is obviously very light-hearted and geared towards kids, which is fine I'm just not sure this is the movie for me. It's all a little too squeaky-clean for me. That said, I'm a big fan of Lillis and hope this movie succeeds in at least helping to forget the 2007 Nancy Drew with Emma Roberts which was pretty terrible.

Joining Lillis in the cast are Sam Trammell (True Blood), as Nancy's father; Zoe Renee and Mackenzie Graham as her best friends George and Bess, and Laura Slade Wiggins as her rival Helen who helps solve the haunted house mystery.

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase opens March 15th.

1/18/2019

Review: Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Is Hauntingly Beautiful But Slight


Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski is only just beginning to get his due, and it's come with a reconnect to his home country. Having spent much of his career living in the U.K., Pawlikowski returned to Poland for his Oscar-winning drama, Ida, which followed a young Polish girl on the verge of becoming a Catholic nun. His latest, Cold War, takes a hauntingly beautiful look at post-war Poland to follow the tumultuous romance between two people who are driven together and apart by forces beyond their control.

Much like Ida, the film is shot in gorgeous black & white by cinematographer Lukasz Zal, giving the feel you're watching some piece of history passed on across generations. And in a way that's true. Pawlikowski loosely based the story of music conductor Viktor (Tomasz Kot) and salt-of-the-earth singer Zula (Joanna Kulig) on his own parents, which explains why it feels like such a personal story being told. Viktor and Zula are from two different worlds; he is trying to find something redeeming in Poland by putting together a musical show featuring performances by regular, everyday Polish people. Zula is one of them, but there's something different about her. The desperation we sense in her isn't like the others; it's raw and cutthroat, rather than sad. We witness it first hand as she manipulates her way into the spotlight, not only catching Viktor's eye but becoming the act's star performer.


The cold war of the title is more the tense hostilities that have gripped much of the world. While Viktor and Zula fall in love and for a while seem inseparable, there's a fundamental schism in the way they view Poland. She has found something in Poland that she never had before, fame and appreciation. As the Polish government reins in greater control over the show, with acts performed in East Berlin in honor of Stalin and other communist leaders, Viktor feels he must escape. He sets his eyes towards Paris, asking Zula to meet him so they can go together. When she doesn't show, it tears their relationship in two, and yet they just can't quit one another entirely.

Cold War is more ambitious than its slight 88-minute frame can handle, so Pawlikowski only fills in the blanks when absolutely necessary. On the one hand, he trust his audience to understand the pressures of the outside world on this mismatched pair, expecting that we will figure out what they are going through by the nature of their circumstances. While that's appreciated to avoid a lengthy and unnecessary history lesson, it also keeps us at an emotional distance from Viktor and Zula as their repeated encounters of a 15-year stretch grow increasingly dire. He moves to Paris and struggles as a club pianist, while she grows more famous in Poland. A visit to France only creates tension between the two of them. Zula is nothing there, while she is somebody back home. She leaves accusing Viktor of being a different man than he used to be. Their situations evolve over subsequent encounters until they finally meet a grim intersection, which leads to a heartbreaking final act and the time when Cold War strikes its most affecting moment.


Part of my issue with Cold War may be that I never bought into Viktor and Zula's relationship, mainly because Kot's performance leaves much to be desired. It's not necessarily bad, but it fails to measure up to Kulig's captivating presence that makes us want to follow Zula's chaotic journey more than Viktor's dull Paris life.

Pawlikowski invests a lot into making Cold War as authentic as personal, from the tremendous musical numbers to the period details. If only Pawlikowski had given this story that means so much to him more room to maneuver it would have more of a lasting impact.

Rating: 3 out of 5



DC Readers: Attend A Free Early Screening Of 'Miss Bala' Starring Gina Rodriguez


We're happy to offer our DC readers the chance to attend a free early screening of Miss Bala, starring Gina Rodriguez and directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

SYNOPSIS: Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) finds a power she never knew she had when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime.  Surviving will require all of her cunning, inventiveness, and strength.

The screening takes place on Wednesday, January 30th at 7:00pm at Regal Majestic in Silver Spring. If you'd like to attend, go to the Sony Pictures ticketing site here and download one Admit-Two pass. Please remember that all screenings are first come first served and you will need to arrive early to ensure receiving a seat. Enjoy the show!

Miss Bala opens on February 1st!

Richard Linklater's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' Bumped To Summer


Richard Linklater's Where'd You Go, Bernadette is answering its own titular question because the Cate Blanchett-led film is headed to summer. TheWrap reports Annapurna Pictures has decided to move the film from March 22nd to August 9th, citing that month as better for female-skewing flicks.

According to an Annapurna spokesperson, moving the film to August is due to that being a great time for female-led movies, as  "Crazy Rich Asians and Florence Foster Jenkins have shown. After a summer full of action films and sequels, opening this film in August will be a refreshing change."

It's a solid point, especially with March having the queen of all female flicks on the way with Captain Marvel. I can see why Annapurna would see it as smart to get some distance. There's also Jordan Peele's Us, Dumbo, and Captive State taking up a lot of space.  A film like Where'd You Go, Bernadette could get lost in the mix, or perhaps serve as effective counter-programming? I lean towards the latter, but then I don't get paid to figure shit like this out. 

It's a gamble, really, because August is pretty packed, too. New Mutants, Hobbs & Shaw, plus Artemis Fowl are going to close this summer out with a band rather than a whimper, so maybe it would be smart to move Bernadette closer to awards season? 

'Lords Of Chaos' Trailer: Black Metal's Mayhem Descends Into Madness And Murder


Norwegian Black Metal is hardly my jam, but even I've heard the crazy story of Mayhem. The band's notoriously dark history will get the big screen treatment in Lords of Chaos, a film that has already been earning some stellar buzz on the festival circuit.

Directed by Jonas Akerlund (of Mads Mikkelsen's upcoming action film Polar) and starring Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, Valter Skarsgard, Anthony De La Torre, and Jack Kilmer, the story follows Euronymous, a founder of the Norwegian Black Metal movement. He also founded the influential band, Mayhem, which became synonymous with anarchy, suicide, and murder.

Lords of Chaos opens on February 8th, then hits VOD on February 22nd.

'The Hummingbird Project' Trailer: Jesse Eisenberg And Alexander Skarsgard Trade On A Crazy Dream


When the most interesting thing about a trailer is Alexander Skarsgard's balding head, that's a problem. The Hummingbird Project stars Skarsgard and Jesse Eisenberg as eccentric cousins, involved in the rapid-fire world of High-Frequency Trading. Sometimes winning can come down to milliseconds, but the duo have come up with a way to cut down on that time even further if only Salma Hayek would get out of their way.

Written and directed by Kim Nguyen (War Witch), the story centers on the cousins' dream to build a fiber-optic cable straight to the New York Stock Exchange to cut down on trading time, netting them hundreds of millions of dollars.  Of course, this unusual but sorta brilliant plan runs into its share of hurdles, mostly because of the eccentric pair's antics, but also because of their scheming ex-boss who refuses to let them beat her.

Other than Skarsgard's weirdo dance number I'm not really feeling this, and I don't remember it getting much buzz after its TIFF premiere. Tough to deny the casting, though, and Nguyen is a proven filmmaker with good instincts.

The Hummingbird Project opens March 15th.