E: After the anemic leftovers of January and February, March brings a happy new dawn. Actual movies to see!
M: And you’ve probably seen half of them already, since C and I have been overwhelmed with work and other life events, and have not been able to help E get this up in a timely manner. Also because of that, no trailers this month. Our sincerest apologies!
M: Let’s get this out of the way: the reviews bite. And the box office totals are disappointing. Not good.
E: Reprising their roles as, relatively, the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House and the director of the Secret Service, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Basset give Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent another chance to shine. After saving the President in Olympus Has Fallen (which featured an attack on the White House), Butler’s Mike Banning keeps POTUS safe when a terrorist blows up half of London to assassinate the world leaders there for a major conference.
M: I haven’t seen the first one, but it was a bit of a surprise hit when it came out. I still can’t get over Butler, with his heavy accent, as an American Secret Service agent. It just doesn’t pass the eye/ear test. Doesn’t mean the movies are bad, though.
E: I have to say, the trailer’s pretty decent looking for a bang up action movie. And the cast is good. I’d have rented this based on those qualities, if I didn’t know anything else.
M: Yeah, it’s everything else that’s leaning against it.
E: Tina Fey war comedy based on the true story of a reporter looking to shake up her life by going on assignment to Kabul. That’s shaking up your life alright!
M: If not for the “based on a true story” part, I think I’d be calling Bravo Sierra, as opposed to the acronym the title stands for.
E: Snort. Along the way she ditches her boring, depressed boyfriend (Josh Charles), heads off to war, and takes up with a crew of merry foreign journalists including Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman. There seems to be a sort of Spring Break attitude among the reporters risking death, finding an outlet for their stress in drunken trysts, saucy talk, and wild dancing. Way to make the West look good, guys!
M: Yes! War is fun!
E: Woohoo! I don’t think I’m making a good case for it, but I’m pretty curious about this one. Maybe that’s because I like Fey but hate most of her movies, so I’m desperate for her to be in something I might like?
M: Maybe that’s because most of her movies are lousy. And the ones that aren’t are just so so. I was looking at her track record on Boxofficemojo, and the only thing that really was a hit was Megamind, and that doesn’t really count. Seriously, after that Date Night is her highest grossing film. Date Night!
E: And that’s just sad. I’m a fan of Freeman’s as well…
M: … so say we all!
E: …and I really love the scene in the trailer where a local reporter eviscerates Fey’s “white woman reasons” (ie, a vague sense of boredom) for trucking over to a war zone. So, might be worthwhile?
M: Oooohh!! Yes!!! Finally, something I’m excited for.
E: This is the one I want to see, no reservations. The trailers are cheery, charming and bright, the characters are funny and appealing, and the entire concept is zany fun.
M: The trailer we saw (really more of a scene) before The Force Awakens was just brilliant. Sloths running the DMV? Just perfect. Everything else I’ve seen looks good, and it’s killing at the box office. So, yay!
E: As if all that’s not enough, reality seems to match the promising premise: the reviews are fantastic (99% on RottenTomatoes). Now, sure, I’ve seen so many of these previews that I can’t really laugh at the sloths at the DMV scene anymore, but I’m excited to take my kids to this story of one rabbit’s fight to be taken seriously as a policewoman (policedoe? officer?)….
M: Go with officer.
E: …in an all animal city, and figure I’ll enjoy it just as much as they will.
E: Really interesting looking anime feature about a friendless Boy…
E: …who meets a magical karate master Beast…
E: …and travels with him to a hidden world of animal-people to forge a true bond of friendship. And learn martial arts, obviously.
M: As one does.
E: As one does indeed.
E: Pretentious-looking Terrence Malick film…
M: …but you repeat yourself.
E: … *ahem* … about a screenwriter and his many loves. I swear we’ve reviewed this one before.
M: Doesn’t seem familiar to me, but maybe I just block out Malick.
E: Let me explain. Yes, probably all Terrence Malick films look pretentious. I love his artsy, poetic style when it comes to dealing with the mysteries of childhood (Tree of Life), or the experiences of soldiers (The Thin Red Line), but when it seems to be about Hollywood excess, betrayal and casual sex with a string of women? Yeah, I have a harder time wanting to see that through a misty, romantic lens. Or at all.
M: Yeah, can’t argue with the latter half of that comment.
E: Sorry, Christian Bale; topping off the unappetizing-looking trailer, the reviews aren’t great. The actors are — Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley, Brian Dennehy – but the end product? It looks Meh with a capital M.
M: Well, it only opened in 4 theaters, but it’s opening weekend numbers were great ($15k per screen).
E: That can happen with small releases from big name directors, though.
M: Certainly true.
E: Malick’s Tree of Life, by the way, brought Emmanuel Lubezki his fifth Oscar nomination for cinematography, and his last before his now three year straight, recording setting series of Oscar wins. He is in fact the cinematographer on this film, as well as Malick’s upcoming Weightless. Since Knight is technically a 2015 release (at least according to the IMDB), will it be Weightless vying bring Chivo a fourth win? We’re sure to be revisiting this question in December. Better luck to everyone with Weightless, really.
M: And by “we” she means herself. Alone.
E: Because he wasn’t busy enough putting out the most popular movie of the century and keeping that one under wraps, J.J. Abrams has another gift for the public — an underground little flick in the same vein as his monster movie/found footage hit Cloverfield.
M: Because Cloverfield was such a hit. Oh, wait…
E: Well, hit-ish, anyway. A hit relative to how much money it took to make.
M: If you say so, all I remember is lots of disappointed audiences.
E: That may be true. Back to this sort-of-sequel, the trailer is mysterious: first you see a family in a fall out shelter, but the trailer eventually lets on that the sister (or so it seemed) was actually kidnapped after her car crashed, perhaps during the alien attacks of the first film.
M: I have to say, I was interested by the mystery of the trailers for the original. However, my interest has not only not been piqued for this, but the trailer actually turns me off. I don’t know if it’s the whole kidnapping/bunker/very-bad-things vibe (I think it is) or the ambivalence to the original, but something’s not doing it for me.
E: It looks stressful to me; it’s up to you, readers, to decide if that’s a good thing or not.
E: Sacha Baron Cohen is back. Or so he hopes the box office will show, anyway.
M: You mean Oscar nominee Sacha Baron Cohen… seriously, why did anyone ever think that he was Oscar worthy? I really don’t get the Academy. Anyway, let’s move on.
E: Well, let’s just say it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be nominated for another Oscar for writing this opus.
M: Ladies and gentlemen, the Nostradamus of the Oscars predicts the unimaginable! Oh, wait….
E: Har har. Anyways, separated as orphans, Sacha’s always been on the look out for his younger brother; when they’re finally reunited, it turns out that little bro has grown up to be super secret agent Mark Strong, and is not exactly in need of help from the bathrobe-wearing big bro whose main achievement in life is repeatedly knocking up wife Rebel Wilson. (Although of course the film sets up the idea that happy dad Cohen’s rich in the things that matter, even if he’s not a worldly success.)
M: As for being back at the box office…. not so much. It opened in eighth for the weekend, behind a couple movies lower down on our list because they are limited releases. Not good Sacha, not good.
M: Hooo boy, this one does not look easy.
E: A tense looking morality play about a joint operation between the British and American militaries.
M: Helen Mirren and her team have spent 6 years tracking a group of militants, and on new intel…
E: …provided by Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips – how wonderful to see him working!
M: …she’s ready to have them captured when Abdi’s bug…
E: …literally shaped and flying like a bug, how cool is that?
M: …shows one extremist laying out two suicide vests with explosives.
E: The mission quickly turns from capture to kill.
M: Or at least it does until American drone operator Aaron Paul notices a little girl playing hula hoop mere feet away.
E: It’s like the sort of problem they give you in philosophy class. Do you shoot, even though it will likely kill the nine year old girl playing in the yard? Is her life balanced out by the hundreds of her neighbors who might die in the suicide bombing? All sorts of breathless military and civilian leaders (the late great Alan Rickman, Games of Thrones and Downton Abbey‘s Iain Glen) watch the video feed and weigh in on the answer.
M: Included is not only the moral dilemma of killing an innocent life to prevent others from being killed, but the impact it has after the fact. As one of the decision makers says, if the terrorists kill 100 people, we win the publicity war. If we kill one innocent girl, they do. As I said after watching a similar scenario in the American Sniper trailer last year, these things make me glad that there are people who volunteer to be put in these situations so that I do not have to be.
E: I have to say, it also worries me that the people making the choices might hold life cheaper than you and I do.
E: Sally Field stars as the titular Doris, a quirky, shy magazine staffer with a life-changing crush on coworker Max Greenfield. This cringe-worthy premise hits smack in the middle of uncomfortable and adorable for me. The trailer’s genuinely funny, but if the gender roles were reversed it’d be even more uncomfortable. I’m very curious to hear the reviews on this, anyway.
M: When I first saw (but did not hear) a commercial for this, I realized that Max Greenfield has now fully transformed. Originally, he was Deputy Leo. He is now Schmidt. That is all.
E: In your eyes, you mean? Like, that’s the role you think of when you think of him? Because I don’t think his character in this is very Schmidt-like. Unless you mean he’s cute now? Because Deputy Leo was pretty cute.
M: In the “that’s the role” sense. Geesh, I feel like you should have known that.
M: This opened in more of a limited-ish sense, where it was on around one thousand screens, which is not wide (usually more like 2,500 to 4,000+), but it’s also not the usual 4 or 5 screens that Eye In The Sky and Hello My Name is Doris opened on. Despite that it out-grossed The Brothers Grimsby.
E: Not a high bar!
M: Fair point.
E: In this film, a “player” finds his perfect match when he falls for a woman who doesn’t sit around waiting for him. A revolutionary story, clearly.
M: Totally. I will say, the part of the trailer cracked me up when the aforementioned guy is out with his friend (one of whom is Donald Faison, of Scrubs and Clueless) who want him to settle down, and he talks about his new relationship saying “you know that feeling you get at the end of The Notebook? It’s like that,” and as they start to go all schoolgirl on him he yells at them that he’s joking. Other than that, and the extended cast including both Moesha (Brandi Norwood, where’s she been?) and Joey Pants (Joe Pantoliano), there’s nothing much of interest here.
E: Definitely nothing new, except maybe the leads, Cassie Ventura and Terrence Jenkins. Paula Patton costars as the sister who just wants her wayward bro to find a good girl.
M: Another limited-ish opening, really bordering on wide, making it much more acceptable that it also beat Grimsby, especially since that was only by around 30 thousand bucks. Plus, it’s a story about Jesus, coming out in the lead up to Easter.
E: So, well timed!
M: Again, we’ve talked a lot over the past few years of Christian movies becoming higher and higher quality. This is another example. It’s also a bit of another trend. Last month we had Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion in Risen, chasing down the rumors of resurrection. This month our centurion is Sean Bean, chasing down rumors of a child messiah.
E: And you have to love Sean Bean.
M: I will also say, this is a period in the life of Christ that is rarely depicted in film, let alone made into it’s own story. It looks well done, and potentially quite good.
E: I’m kind of weirded out by it, to be honest. It’s like Biblical fan fiction. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.
M: I’m not sure, if they focus on the events of his birth/fleeing to Egypt, and then the one story we do know from his childhood (staying behind and preaching at the temple), then the only “fan fiction” part would be the centurion storyline, which would work for me. I’ll say, it has be intrigued.
E: Despite unimpressive reviews, this series keeps adding amazing talent to its cast as it kills off characters; this time, Naomi Watts and Jeff Daniels pick up the Kate Winslet’s slack.
M: Quick note, if they had age-appropriately cast Theo James character, Naomi Watts would have worked well as the mother.
E: Having not read the second two books, I was so boggled by the trailer that I went to Wikipedia to see if the plot bore any relation to the novel. To my surprise, it did.
M: That’s funny. I liked the first movie well enough, despite it’s, um, divergence from the source material. However, I passed on the second film because the trailers for it bore no resemblance what-so-ever to the book I’d read and enjoyed. The trailers for this one look like they may have more in common than the second, but still looks pretty far afield. And it’s too bad, because I liked the books, and quite the opposite from The Hunger Games series, which I’ve skipped the last two movies because of how much I disliked the final book, I found myself very emotionally invested in the third book, despite thematic/plot choices that I dislike (that parallel choices made in Mockingjay).
E: Well, like I say, I can’t speak to that directly since I didn’t read the books. (And I still haven’t see Mockingjay Part 2, though unlike you I plan on it. It’s tough subject matter and some of the plot choices are hard to approve.)
M: Also, apparently, this is only half the third book, as they are making another movie called “Ascendant” that will be the other half. Dear Hollywood, stop. Please, please stop.
E:Oh, for the love of God, people. Stop it.
M: This is my second “Yay!” for the month. It may not be a blockbuster, but I’m really looking forward to it based on what I’ve seen and heard so far. Based on a true story of a girl who was dealing with crazy health issues, who was cured by, wait for it, falling and hitting her head. Seriously. That, of course, is where the titular “miracle” comes in. Again, it’s true story.
E: Really, it’s a mind-blowing story. And I sobbed like a baby during the trailer.
M: The other part that’s a true story is that participating in this movie has lead lead actress Jennifer Garner back to her faith, and to taking her kids to church. First she got away from the clutches of Ben Affleck, now she’s rediscovered her faith. I’m happy for the actress we all have loved since Alias.
E: I don’t even want to think about her and Ben. It just makes me sad. I really want him to be better than he apparently is.
M: Where as I feel like her getting away from him is like Katie Holmes getting away from Tom Cruise, except with an added bit of investment because I’ve seen and like things that Jen Garner has been in.
The Little Prince (limited)
E: This adaptation turns the melancholy French tale into a friendship story between a gravelly voiced old pilot (Jeff Bridges) and a little girl training to be a grown up. In opposition to her over-scheduling mother, the grizzled pilot uses his stories about a little boy nearly alone on an asteroid to help the girl loose her imagination and live.
M: I don’t actually know the original story, but I think this looks fantastic.
E: I’ve never really been a fan of the main story — too sad, too odd — but I’m drawn to the gorgeous animation here, Bridges southern accent not-withstanding. The trailer is lovely in that way that makes adults yearn for the wonder and mystery of childhood, hoping that we are still the kind of adult who hasn’t lost that joy.
M: Yay #3!
E: So much for avoiding Ben Affleck…
M: I can stomach him when he’s portraying someone else…
E: Gotchya. Ah, the blockbuster of the spring: the first Justice League film, which begins with the chief Superfriends as Super Enemies.
M: For those not in our age group, E and I grew up watching the Superfriends on Saturday morning. So, this is big.
E: Very big. And honestly, after watching the final act of an otherwise terrific Superman movie, I can’t really blame Batman for deciding that Superman’s a total menace to the human race. By the same token, I can’t really blame Superman for deciding Batman’s a dangerous vigilant.
M: I agree, after the initial thought of “Duh, Superman would kick Batman’s @ss,” this is actually a really viable construct. Faced with the destruction of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne is right to think that Superman needs to be held to account. And Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way (or “all that stuff,” in Zach Snyder’s world, but I’ll stick with decades worth of history), and Batman sure as heck doesn’t fit that. As for the “Superman could just toss Batman into space”, it’s totally true, and totally at odds with who Superman is. He HAS to restrain himself in the fight, which is what makes it so interesting.
E: All this begs the question; how do they end up friends after such a dismal start? Maybe it has something to do with Jesse Eisenberg’s megalomaniac Lex Luthor.
M: Him, and the Doomsday creature that he creates, yeah. The only question I have is if they unite before the common enemy is unleashed.
E: And if they’re actually friends, or just reluctant allies? Now, Ben Affleck has the look of Batman, but can he hold up the cape? We’ll see.
M: What I find odd is that at 42, Affleck is the oldest actor to play Batman. Seems wrong.
E: Huh. That’s surprising and strange. And you mean 42 during filming, right? Because he’s 43 now.
M: Yes. I assume he was 42 when I heard that tidbit.
E: As for what’s most exciting to me, though I wish it hadn’t taken her so long to end up in a feature film (let alone in someone else’s feature film) I’m a total sucker for Wonder Woman. Do I like to see her trade the red white and blue for bronze and black? No. But I’m hopeful about Gal Gadot, and I’m beyond ready to see her kick some butt on screen.
M: And it’s a good sign for their plans to feature her that we’ve seen her in the trailer, and clips from her forthcoming feature film, while we haven’t seen even a glimpse of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman or Ezra Miller’s Flash, both of whom are confirmed to be in it.
E: That is odd, you’re right. Maybe they’re just cameos? But back to Wonder Woman. Now we just need to get her her own movie.
M: June of 2017, sis. DC’s summer tentpole for that year, leading into Justice League at Thanksgiving 2017.
E: YES! Rounding out the highly overqualified, Oscar nominated and Oscar winning cast are the likes of Jeremy Irons as butler Alfred Pennyworth, Amy Adams repeating her role as Lois Lane, and Holly Hunter as a senator to whom Lex opines that the greatest mistake of Americans is believing that power can be innocent.
E: I still have a fondness for Nia Vardalos and her wacky movie family.
M: That movie is so, so good. Everyone with a big ethnic family, especially a Mediterranean one, can relate.
E: And there’s just a lot of fun to it all. I mean, how much do you love that Windex is a sponsor of the film?
M: Um, a little? It’s not at the top of my list.
E: I was a bit dubious about this – why now? — but I have to admit, the idea’s pretty amusing. It’s not Toula and Ian’s teenage daughter getting married, thankfully, but Toula’s parents, who find out that through a legal hiccup their long ago church wedding wasn’t actually legal; they decide to throw themselves a huge and typically colorful bash. I won’t be rushing out to the theater, but it looks like fun.
M: Agreed, I’m hoping it can recapture the spirit and sense of humor of the original, and if it does, we all win.
E: Ooh, that could have been the title of this post. March 2016: We All Win. We’ll have to save that for later.
M: Well, we can’t go a full month without a horror movie, can we? This one stars Kate Beckinsale who, along with her young son, releases untold horrors from the attic of their supposed dream house. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
M: Exactly. Well, I will say one thing that I didn’t expect. This was written by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow), who apparently also wrote 2013’s Stoker, which was well received.
E: Good for him, irrelevant to us.
E: Ethan Hawke stars as blues legend Chet Baker, in a “re-imagining” of his life.
M: Oh yay! I love when we “re-imagine” true stories… it’s like living in 1984!
E: Yeah, that sounds dubious to me, too. There’s a decent amount of controversy about the film online, but I have to say, Hawke sounds and acts terrifically unlike himself. This is a bid for an Oscar if I’ve ever seen one, and based on the trailer, I’m impressed. Granted, it’s a tough time of year to launch an Oscar flick (March releases are easily forgotten by December) and the debate about tinkering with life events won’t help, but it’s still an achievement.
M: It’s good to hear, because Hawke has always had so much potential. I feel like he got caught up playing roles that people thought were right for him, or something, and fell into the Al Pachino school of “play yourself in everything you’re in.”
E: I can see where you’re going with that. I have no idea who her character is based on, but Selma‘s Carmen Ejogo shines as Baker’s love interest. Count me as intrigued.
M: I have no knowledge of Chet Baker’s real life, so I can’t help you there.
E: Looking for something a little different? Kevin Costner voices this documentary about the famous pitch, and who might be the fastest ever to have thrown it. A host of All Stars speak to the issue, from Derek Jeter to Nolan Ryan and David Price. It looks like a must for baseball fans, and a fascinating tribute to, and argument for the game even for those who aren’t.
M: It really does look good. Both the investigation into the fascination with the pitch and speed of it, but also the look into the dual between pitcher and hitter. I think the line in the trailer that encapsulates it greatly is “You’re not going to have that many moments in your life where you’re going to see the edge of human performance meeting the edge of human performance.” I’ll definitely watch this some day, no question about that.
E: Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen star in this Hank Williams biopic, which looks well acted, beautifully made and sad as a hound dog’s eyes. And again, if it weren’t March I’d say it had Oscar potential; the Academy eats up stories about tragic musical geniuses.
M: So, I know next to nothing about Williams, but it feels weird to see Loki and Scarlet Witch as the leads in this, and especially odd to see Hiddleston speaking with a southern accent and singing country music.
E: Ha ha ha – I totally forgot about their comic book alter egos! That makes me weirdly happy.
M: Perhaps it’s my go to because other than Hiddleston’s cameo in Muppets Most Wanted, the Marvel movies are the only things I’ve ever seen either of them in. That aside, it does look well done, and as E points out, Williams story is terribly sad (alcoholic, messed up childhood and adult life, died at the age of 29).
E: So take this as you will; if you like Hank Williams, and you like sad biopics about bright lights who burn out too fast, then this is for you.