April 21, 2014

Tag Archives: Chicago Tribune

Hollywood Movie Roundup: Enter Sandman (but make way for the ladies)

By Kevin Crust
HollywoodNews.com: The summer’s first three-day weekend features a pair of films that figure to split demographically along gender lines with the women taking the top spot at the box-office. Memorial Day is traditionally one of the biggest holiday weekends at the movies, but without a behemoth to soak up most of the attention, attendance figures to be widely distributed with many people using the extra time to catch up with movies that have been out for a few weeks.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
Jake Gyllenhaal straps on sword and sandals for his action hero debut, starring as a renegade royal seeking a powerful ancient dagger.  Rising British star Gemma Arterton portrays the enigmatic princess he teams with. Sir Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are also along for the ride. Director Mike Newell (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) attempts to brings a little magic to the popular video game, while Boaz Yakin,  Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard did the adaptation.
A few critics — including Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum and the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips — found some fun in the film, but Phillips’ Windy City counterpart, Roger Ebert of the Sun-Times, fashions a more typical response, labeling the film’s leads as “not inspired” and the special effects, “irritating.” Manohla Dargis of the New York Times calls the movie, “perfectly painless mush,” while the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern finds that the pumped-up “Prince” proves his thesis that bigger is not better when it comes to the digital realm.
The movie hasn’t garnered the kind of must-see buzz to launch it into the stratosphere. Despite a fanboy base from its VG progenitor, “Prince” already looks like an also-ran at the box office, which has not been kind to action epics of late. Not only will it lose out the top spot to a bunch of well-heeled girls, its predicted take of $35-44 million may not even be enough to hold off “Shrek 4″ for second place.

SEX AND THE CITY 2
Carrie Bradshaw and company reunite for a romp through Abu Dhabi with stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon back for a return engagement. Writer-director Michael Patrick King attempts to mine more from Candace Bushnell’s stylish, sassy characters but he may have finally hit bottom.
There’s little love from critics for SATC2. Some bemoan the tired state of the franchise, while others [...]

Hollywood Movie Roundup: “Hood” — #2 with an Arrow, not a Bullet

BY KEVIN CRUST
Hollywoodnews.com: A return to Sherwood Forest doesn’t herald any type of rich-to-poor stimulus package so the Man in the Iron Suit will continue to control the box-office lucre. In more modest offerings, the new princess of romance is back and the Queen indulges in some romantic comedy hoop dreams of her own.
ROBIN HOOD
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott re-team for this origin story of how the Prince of Thieves came to be. Cate Blanchett as Marian and Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham are also onboard. Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland wrote the screenplay with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris also receiving story credit.
The historical epic, marketed as “Gladiator” meets Medieval Times, is getting mixed reviews from critics after debuting at Cannes. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times finds it “simultaneously simplistic and over-plotted, revisionist and predictable.” For the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, the film is not enough like the Robins he has come to cherish (Flynn, Connery, the Disney fox) to justify dusting off the brand. A.O. Scott of the New York Times is even less enthused, declaring the movie “long, bloody, self-serious” and, perhaps, most damning of all, “lumbering.” Several critics. including Peter Travers of Rolling Stone and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune were able to mine some popcorn entertainment from the film’s action.
Scott and Crowe are on a bit of a losing streak and pundits are all over the map, pegging RH to gross anywhere from the mid-$20 millions to as much as $45M. Regardless, the big-budget epic will fall far short of “Iron Man 2,” which should earn  at least $60M in its second week of domestic release bliss. Universal faces a tough path to earn back the rumored $155-200M it has spent on the project.
LETTERS TO JULIET
Amanda Seyfried, following her successful turns in “Mamma Mia” and “Dear John,” now stands as the poster girl for young love at the movies. Here, she acts as a facilitator of the heart, playing a young woman who visits Italy and sets out to find two long ago lovers mentioned in the title missive. The cast also includes Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. Written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan. Directed by Gary Winick.
Predictably, critical response is tepid, but there is some grudging admiration for the film’s straightforwardness and special appreciation for the presence of Redgrave and Nero. Betsy Sharkey of the LA Times [...]

Steve Carrell and Tina Fey in “Date Night” – Hollywood Movie Roundup

BY KEVIN CRUST
Following last week’s three-for-all, a David-vs.-Goliath match-up takes shape at the box office as NBC’s Thursday night comedy stars go a little screwy on the big screen and could go to #1.
DATE NIGHT
The only major studio release pairs Steve Carrell and Tina Fey as a married couple whose night on the town goes wildly awry. Critically-maligned, but über-successful comedy director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum,” “The Pink Panther”) strikes again, attempting to mine screwball gold from a script by Josh Klausner (the third and fourth “Shrek” sequels).
Reviews are mixed-to-positive with critics responding to the Carrell-Fey pairing slightly outnumbering those who’d like to tear up the script or revoke Levy’s DGA membership. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times finds humor in the couple as an atypical romantic comedy duo, while Claudia Puig of USA Today admires the film’s plot and pace. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal and Slate’s Dana Stevens also come down favorably on “Date Night,” although Stevens acknowledges that she’s grading on a curve in a weak year (thus far). The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips points out that it’s “a product substantially inferior to the material routinely finessed” by the stars on their TV shows (which prompts the question, will audiences be willing to go and fork out the bucks when they can stay home and see Fey and Carrell do something better for free?). Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times calls it ” a half-a-loaf comedy,” that leaves you wishing the better parts lasted longer and the movie as a whole was as good as its stars. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott grudgingly admits that the movie is better than most in a typically bad genre (“the marital action comedy”).
With “Clash of the Titans’ ” less than inspiring numbers following last Friday’s opening, “Date Night” has a serious shot at winning the weekend with a gross between $20 and $25 million. The Christian-themed “Letters to God” opens in nearly 900 theaters, but few reviews and figures to do modest business among the faithful .

“DATE NIGHT” TRAILER

Hollywood Movie Roundup: What a “Dragon” it is getting old

BY KEVIN CRUST
This is the week that “Alice” finally topples from her perch atop the box-office charts and folks in big cities will be paying even more for that third dimension.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
DreamWorks Animation, which had a big hit this same weekend last year with “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” stakes out the turf once more with this 3D feature that has been getting hyped all winter. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (“Lilo & Stitch”) adapt Cressida Cowell’s book about a Viking lad (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who is tasked with the titular act as a rite-of-passage. Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara and Jonah Hill also lend their voices.
The reviews are solid with most finding the storytelling conventional and workmanlike, but citing the 3D and, especially, the flying sequences, worthy of seeing in a theater (but at what cost?). Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, his city rival, Mr. Ebert of the Sun-Times, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, Claudia Puig of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times’  Betsy Sharkey and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers all come down favorably, while Ella Taylor, writing in the Village Voice, leads the naysayers, calling the film “adequate and unremarkable.”
It will be interesting to see how the bump in admission prices for 3D flicks — to a whopping $17.50 in some venues — will affect “Dragon’s” grosses. Prognosticators put its opening weekend in the $40-45 million range, enough to topple “Alice” but short of the $59.3 million that “Monster” raked in a year ago.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
Everything is right there in the title and for audiences of a certain age it screams “Guilty Pleasure.”  John Cusack stars in an homage to the kind of hormone-driven comedies that kicked off his career (“The Sure Thing,” “Better Off Dead”) and re-teams him with frequent collaborator Steve Pink (“Grosse Pointe Blank,” “High Fidelity”), who is making his feature directing debut. Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson (“Pineapple Express”) play middle-aged friends who use the liquid temporal portal to try to get their ’80s groove back, such as it was. The movie was written by the trio of Sean Anders & John Morris (“She’s Out of My League”) and Josh Heald.
Critics, for the most part, fall into the age range that might fall prey to the movie’s unabashedly lowbrow time-trippin’. It’s faring surprisingly well at both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Full [...]