CELEBRATING 10 YEARS!
Ryan Reynolds' smart-aleck superhero led some last-minute advertising for "Deadpool". The FOX action adventure will look to topple "Zoolander 2" this weekend.
Disney and Marvel presented a promising new teaser of "Captain America: Civil War", including a first look at Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.
Before the Beginning of Q1
Paramount's J.J. Abrams spinoff "10 Cloverfield Lane" has some potential. John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star.
The Mouse House's second ad of the evening highlighted Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo in the studio's live-action adaptation of "The Jungle Book". The promo also broke the format of the letterbox with a 3D-esque preview.
Between Q1 & Q2
Universal debuted the first snipits of their fifth "Bourne" installment, with Matt Damon back-in-action. And the title is simply: "Jason Bourne".
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" (a nominee for longest title of the year) promises more exciting action this June.
An Avengers-themed ad saw The Hulk chase after Ant-Man for his Coca-Cola.
At the First Half Two-Minute Warning
Big-Budget explosions dominated "Independence Day: Resurgence" football-themed presentation.
Hugh Jackman's Wolverine was completely missing from "X-Men: Apocalypse" teaser, but J-Law, M-Fas and H-Ber are ready to save the world...again.
The most surprising spot belonged to CBS' own "The Good Wife", as the network announced the Julianna Marguiles drama will end THIS season, with just nine episodes left to air.
Q4: Two-Minute Warning
Universal and Illumination's animated comedy "The Secret Life of Pets" showcased some humorous around-the-house moments.
But my overall favorite commercial of the night belonged to T-Mobile, with Steve Harvey brilliantly poking fun at his Miss Universe slip-up. #Redemption
The Coen Brothers have crafted the latest in a recent string of movies about movies with “Hail, Caesar!” - a comedy designed around a major, fictitious Hollywood studio of the 1950s.
Josh Brolin is terrific as Eddie Mannix, the head of production of Capital Pictures. Dressed more like a detective that a studio big shot, Mannix is the man who makes sure that all the shoots are going smoothly, all the actors and directors are taken care of and that they’re properly represented in the press - even if that means drastically changing their images and personal lives.
The studio’s biggest production of the year is the biblical epic, “Hail, Caesar!” starring A-lister, Baird Whitlock (played by the current king of Hollywood George Clooney). But when Whitlock is kidnapped by a mysterious group called The Future, Mannix must find a way to get him back.
While the trailers and commercials lead you to believe otherwise, this plot development isn’t really what “Hail, Caesar!” is all about. This isn’t a “who kidnapped the big star?” film. In fact, this is the weakest part of the film, as it’s awkwardly presented, oddly executed and provides no legitimate payoff. There isn’t much deep meaning behind anything in “Hail, Caesar!”, though some of it is highly creative and entertaining.
Much of the movie focuses on the daily workings of a big-time movie studio and on Mannix, the man in charge of keeping all the balls in the air. The Coens weren’t afraid to devote chunks of time to lengthy production scenes - and most of them produce smiles and even some laughs. Ralph Fiennes is great in a small role as director Laurence Laurentz. And about halfway in, we head into Soundstage 8 for a memorable Channing Tatum-led sailors dance number. This scene gives us an indication of what, I think, the Coen Brothers were going for - for “Hail, Caesar!” to be both a farce and an homage to this period in cinema.
But their script is unfocused, surprisingly safe, and not as consistently clever as it thinks it is. As for Clooney, he's actually miscast - he’s about 10 years too old to play this goofy character. Scarlett Johansson, as the starlet of the aquatic movies, isn’t very convincing, either. And Jonah Hill (seen on the poster) and Frances McDormand are in just a single scene each.
Yes, some of the movies back in the 50s were lightweight and corny and may not have had much of a point. But just because this is a movie about those movies didn’t mean it had to follow that same formula.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Hail, Caesar!” gets a C+.
I look forward to checking-out The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films every year. Normally, within the group of five, there are at least one or two standouts. However, that’s not the case this year. Instead, we have a lineup that is universally weak in story and largely unimpressive. Here are the Nominees:
"Bear Story" (Chile, 11 min.) - This short comes from Chile. It’s about a male bear who’s created a wind-up diorama of his tragic life with his wife and son. The soft animation works but the tale is slow and not nearly powerful enough. C+
"Prologue" (UK, 6 min.) - The animation is hand-drawn pencil and paper from the legendary Richard Williams. That, itself, is quite an achievement. But the thin Athens vs. Sparta battle story is so basic, and the outcome so meaningless, that it left me flat. C
"Sanjay's Super Team" (USA, 7 min.) - Pixar's nominee debuted in theaters with “The Good Dinosaur” back in November. It tells the (mostly) true story of little Sanjay who prefers watching his favorite superhero TV show to doing his Hindu rituals with his father. But he uses his imagination to bring these two worlds together. I didn’t love this the first time I saw it, but I actually appreciate it more after the second viewing, and out of this group of five, it’s by far the most positive, commercial and effective. B-
"We Can't Live Without Cosmos" (Russia, 16 min.) - The first half is largely comedic, as two life-long best friends go through rigorous training to qualify to become cosmonauts. There is a dramatic twist midway through, but I can’t say I was surprised by it or what happens next - and definitely not as emotionally invested as I wanted to be. B-
"World of Tomorrow" (USA, 17 min.) - It’s about a little girl named Emily who is contacted by a third-generation clone of herself, informing her of what is going to happen to society in the future. The sarcastic, quite dark humor is sharp, and this sci-fi satire does have a lot to say. But it could’ve been much stronger if it was shorter and tighter. B
And the four "Highly Commended" shorts shown are:
"Catch It" (France, 5 min.) - Meerkat mayhem ensues when they battle with a vulture for a delicious treat. Very basic and unimaginative, with a really goofy ending. D+
"If I Was God..." (Canada, 9 min.) - This tale of a grade-school boy and his science class frog is rough to watch. C-
"The Loneliest Stoplight" (USA, 6 min.) - For me, this is best short of the nine. Bill Plympton's comedic look at a stoplight (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is creative, quirky and memorable. B
"The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse" (France, 7 min.) - Not terrible, but it's a story we've seen before so many times (including in these Animated Shorts competition practically every year). C
Overall, On The Official LCJ Report Card, the "2016 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation" gets a C, the lowest grade I’ve given this program in the seven years I’ve been seeing/reviewing the animated shorts.
"Kung Fu Panda 3" is DreamWorks Animation's 32nd theatrical feature, but their first ever released in the month of January. A big-budget, high-quality animated film this early in the year is rare, and while this third chapter of Po the Panda, Master Shifu and the Furious Five doesn't quite live-up to the original, it's fast, furry-ous, and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
At the tail end of 2011's "Kung Fu Panda 2", a message from "The Universe" was sent to Po's biological father, living in a far-off location, alerting him that "My son is alive." "KFP3" picks-up right from there...well, sort of...since father Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) needs some time to journey from his hidden Panda village in the mountains to reunite with his long-lost son in China's Valley of Peace.
Meantime, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) has asked Po (the always highly-energized Jack Black) to take-over as teacher of the Furious Five. Po has a difficult time handling his new responsibility, as well as mastering the art of Chi, which is the foundation of the group's ancient beliefs. But when an old enemy - the bull Kai (J.K. Simmons joins the voice cast), returns with plans to wipe-out all the masters and rule China, Po's teaching and spiritual skills are put to the ultimate test.
DreamWorks continues to raise the bar when it comes to visionary animation. The action sequences are well-staged and some of the more dramatic and symbolic moments feature characters surrounded by bright and beautiful visuals. And the creation of an entire village filled with pandas, each with its own, distinctive personality, is a major success. This is the aspect of "Kung Fu Panda 3" that kids will enjoy the most. Seeing Po playfully interacting with fellow pandas in this new environment provides many of the films memorable scenes.
Directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni deal with the elephant in the room head-on: Po now has two dads. Is Po's adoptive father, Mr. Ping, jealous of the new father - and vice versa? There are some effective moments involving family and relationship dynamics that feel authentic and aren't over-done, and they allow for this third installment to have a much more fun and consistently positive tone than "KFP2".
What "Kung Fu Panda 3" lacks is a gripping story arc. There are hardly any real surprises and the climax isn't as inspiring or motivating as it needed to be. The entire A-list voice ensemble is strong, and there are flashes of smart dialogue, a few solid running jokes and gags, particularly during scenes at the panda village. However, the final 20 minutes aren't po-werful enough and the script, as a whole, is a little too basic.
But, overall, this is an impressive-looking and entertaining addition to the series, and hopefully not the last we've seen of these characters and this saga on the big screen.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Kung Fu Panda 3" gets a B.
Well, congratulations to “Dirty Grandpa” - which is the first Worst Movie of 2016. And it could hold on to that title for awhile. This film is rude, crude, offensive and wrong in so many ways - but that’s not the reason “Dirty Grandpa” is a spectacular failure. “Ted 2” was all those things and it was one of my favorite comedies of last year. (It also had a coherent story.) And “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” (an Oscar Nominee, let’s not forget) worked as well, even with such a wacky premise. But there are NO LAUGHS here - just a lame premise, stock characters and unfunny gags.
Robert De Niro plays “Grandpa” Dick Kelly. A few days after his wife dies he convinces his buttoned-up grandson Jason (played by Zac Efron) to drive him from Atlanta to his retirement home in Florida. Jason is a lawyer and is about to marry his uptight, perfectionist fiancée, Meredith (“Dancing with the Stars”’ Julianne Hough), but he sees this trip as an opportunity to re-connect with his grandfather.
It doesn’t take long for Jason to learn that his grandpa is a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed, unapologetic old timer who sees his wife’s death as the golden opportunity to get some youth back in his life. Jason can’t believe all of antics grandpa drags him into (and you’ll be stunned by what De Niro is asked to do here as well) - especially when they take a detour to Daytona Beach and into the middle of Spring Break.
This premise had potential - if “Dirty Grandpa” wasn’t so poorly written, edited and constructed. The script is filled with cheap dialogue and every situation is unbelievably phony. And no one escapes unscathed - including co-stars Dermot Mulroney, “Parks and Rec"'s Aubrey Plaza and even Danny Glover. As a “shock-comedy”, “Dirty Grandpa” tries way too hard, with the non-stop throwing of profanities, drugs use, sex references and nudity at the screen to see what sticks. Almost nothing does.
De Niro‘s got nothing to lose playing a character like this - hopefully he got well-paid. As for Efron, with “Neighbors”, its upcoming sequel, and now this, the former musical and romance heartthrob has somehow gotten typecast into raunch-fest movie roles. It’s time for him to exit this genre before his career suffers any permanent stains.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Dirty Grandpa” gets an F.