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REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Afterlife

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronJosh for @FilmCodex

Who you gonna call? Who you gonna call to breathe new life into the classic franchise, while honoring what makes the original so brilliant? Apparently, Jason Reitman, McKenna Grace, Paul Rudd, and Carrie Coon, amongst others. Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally hits theaters after several pandemic-related delays and much fan anticipation. Following 2016’s divisive reboot, many fans of the original supernatural comedy classic have been clamoring for more proton packs and PKE meters and, thankfully, the newest film delivers on all cylinders.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife sees a passing of the torch from Reitman-father to Reitman-son as director/co-writer Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) continues the legacy of his father Ivan Reitman’s 1980s series. Right off the bat, it’s very clear just how personal this movie is to Jason Reitman. This is a movie that deeply honors its predecessors. It is (by far) the most emotional, moving, and touching installment in the franchise to date (we’ll get back to this in a moment). Easter eggs, musical cues, and references are everywhere. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is perhaps most reminiscent of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a film that similarly hoped to win back general audiences and wasn’t afraid to reimagine elements of its original. And, while this could easily be construed as misguided fan service, the film, like The Force Awakens, excels in positioning new and exciting characters at its forefront.

Afterlife tracks a new crew of characters – led by McKenna Grace’s Phoebe, her brother Trevor (played by Finn Wolfhard), and her mom Callie (played by Carrie Coon) – who move to a house in Oklahoma they inherited from their grandfather. From their very first scene, this central trio hooks us in. The chemistry between the actors is captivating, genuinely funny one-liners are exchanged throughout, and themes of family and legacy play out, in large part, due to the actors’ performances. Paul Rudd plays Gary Grooberson, Phoebe’s teacher who has been tracking mysterious seismic activity in the area. It goes without saying at this point, but Paul Rudd impresses in everything he is in and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is no exception. Rudd is a scene-stealer as he delivers some of the film’s funniest moments and plays an integral role in the plot. It’s a shame Rudd isn’t involved more, especially in the film’s latter half, but his presence is certainly felt whenever Mr. Grooberson is on screen.

Ultimately, what makes Ghostbusters: Afterlife so great is its lasting emotional impact. This is an incredibly touching, moving film (something that is especially evident in the final act). Afterlife takes its time building up its plot and emotions. The audience is given plenty of time to settle into the new environment and characters, which makes the emotional pay-offs sprinkled throughout so much more impactful. Needless to say, fans of the franchise will not be disappointed by how this film honors its legacy.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Ghostbusters: Afterlife innovates the franchise, while intelligently leaning into nostalgia. The personal touch of Jason Reitman helming his father’s franchise is resonant throughout. The new host of characters are captivating, in particular McKenna Grace, who really commands the screen, and Paul Rudd’s scene-stealing Mr. Grooberson. Overall, the newest Ghostbusters film is not only the most touching installment yet, but also the best since the 1984 original.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/25 – ‘F9’ Earns Pandemic Best Debut

The latest chapter in the Fast and Furious franchise, titled F9, finally debuted this weekend after a lengthy delay. Despite the challenges of releasing a movie right now, which have admittedly lessened as the vaccine came, the box office is still not at full strength. Still, F9 took in $70 million from 4,179 domestic theaters. Oddly enough, the pandemic is really put into perspective when one considers that this number is the most any film has made since late 2019, yet still doesn’t come close to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the highest grossing film of the last 18 months or so.

F9 has received mix reviews from critics, while still earning somewhat positive reactions from audiences (a trend in the franchise). As we wrote in our review of the film,

F9 misses the mark somewhat in an installment that takes the franchise to new heights of absurdity. The film is admittedly entertaining, in large part due to the unintentional humor that comes from the wooden performances and the incredible action directed by Justin Lin, but, ultimately, falls flat as F9’s attempts at grandiosity ultimately feel like parody.”

Elsewhere, A Quiet Place Part II took second spot once again, earning $6.3 million. This continues its strong hold and low drop offs weekend after weekend, and is poised to be one of the big successes of the year. It has already earned $136 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard earned $4.8 million, a relatively strong drop off from last weekend’s already lukewarm performance. The film has earned $25.8 million so far. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Cruella rounded out the top 5 with $4.8 million and $3.7 million respectively.

Stay tuned to @FilmCodex for more news, reviews, and more!

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REVIEW: F9

by @holocronJosh for @FilmCodex

The Fast and Furious reaches new heights of spectacle (and absurdity) in its newest installment F9. The tenth film in the franchise sees Dom (Vin Diesel) and the fast family team up once again to face a threat from Cipher (Charlize Theron), who teams up with Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) on a mission for revenge.

Few franchises have had the longevity and underwent the evolution that the Fast and Furious franchise has. What was originally a more ‘grounded’ street racing series evolved into a heist series, before its current iteration over the last several films breached into wacky, globe-trotting, spy territory. Unfortunately, it’s with the current batch of the films that the Fast and Furious franchise has seen more mixed results than ever. While Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious were absurd in terms of the plots, action sequences, and character decisions, the franchise managed to still deliver entertaining installment after entertaining installment, albeit proving to be more lackluster compared to previous films.

F9 continues this trend in the franchise with another film that, honestly, bridges on parody for most of its duration. This isn’t to say the film fails to entertain. From the opening sequence to the very end, F9 delivers scene after scene of action expertly directed by Justin Lin (a true veteran of the Fast and Furious franchise at this point). The problem, however, feels very much akin to what happened with the James Bond films of the late 1980s. Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s didn’t take themselves too seriously, but still managed to feel raw and approachable. And it’s in this middle ground between seriousness and parody that the Fast and Furious franchise somewhat delicately balanced for a while. But the scales have completely tipped in F9. The characters are invincible, a joke that Tyrese’s character makes several times in the film. Cars behave in absolutely bonkers ways. They even go to space. No, this has never been a gritty, slice of real life franchise, but there comes a point where enough is enough – and F9 feels like that.

On a more positive note, John Cena is an interesting and really natural addition to the franchise. With the much publicized feud between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, Hobbs is obviously nowhere to be seen in this film, but his absence is never really felt. The Fast and Furious films have always been ensemble pieces and this became even more evident with the fourth film and beyond. Characters come and go from film to film, and there’s a few surprise inclusions that fans of the franchise will enjoy in F9.

Also a major positive of F9 is the return of Justin Lin. This marks Lin’s fifth time in the driver’s seat of the franchise and it’s a testament to his ability as a director that he can still deliver enthralling, preposterous action set-pieces film after film. On a side note, Lin has ventured into different territory with directing stints on True Detective and in Star Trek Beyond, but it would be really nice to see a director of his caliber take on an original project outside of the Fast and Furious franchise.

At 145 minutes, though, the action does grow tiresome and, like many of the more recent Fast and Furious films, F9 greatly overstays its welcome. The film peaks early with an incredible action sequence, but loses steam throughout. Trimming a solid 20-30 minutes off this film would’ve greatly improved the pacing and made the over-the-top ridiculousness of the whole film a little more digestible.

Verdict: 5.5/10

F9 misses the mark somewhat in an installment that takes the franchise to new heights of absurdity. The film is admittedly entertaining, in large part due to the unintentional humor that comes from the wooden performances and the incredible action directed by Justin Lin, but, ultimately, falls flat as F9’s attempts at grandiosity ultimately feel like parody.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/18 – ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Takes Top Spot

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @FilmCodex

Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard dethroned A Quiet Place Part II to take the top spot at this weekend’s domestic box office. Over the three day weekend, the film took in $11.7 million, a good start, especially for an R-rated comedy in the era of the pandemic. The longer five day period took the movie’s total to $17 million.

The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson returning in their roles from the first in the series alongside Salma Hayek, has received lukewarm reviews with 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, the star power of the three leads was surely a factor in audiences wanting to decide for themselves on this comedy. It also received a B CinemaScore.

Meanwhile, A Quiet Place Part II returned to second place with a 22% drop, meaning it held extremely well again this weekend. Overall, the Emily Blunt led film earned $9.4 million and has now passed $200 million globally. This is arguably the greatest hit during the pandemic as reviews, audience reaction, and box office gross have all been exceptional, especially given the circumstances.

Unfortunately, In the Heights did not hold as well as A Quiet Place. After a disappointing opening weekend, Warner Bros.’ latest film fell to number 6 in the charts, earning a mere $4.2 million and dropping off 63%. Despite the excellent reviews and reactions from those who watched the film, it doesn’t seem to be getting the attention that other movies have recently. Whatever the reason for that is, perhaps In the Heights is bound to be a cult classic only appreciated in years to come.

Other films released in the last few weeks continued their release include The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Cruella, and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. The Conjuring earned $5.2 million this weekend, while Cruella grossed $5.1 million and Peter Rabbit took in $6.1 million.

The box office is set to be jolted into life yet again with the release of F9 next week, which is projected to be the biggest domestic film of the pandemic thus far. It’s expected to benefit from the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in many areas, such as capacity limits, which will allow theaters to seat more viewers per showing.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for more reviews, news, and more!

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Box Office Report: Weekend of June 11 – ‘A Quiet Place Part II Regains Top Spot as ‘In the Heights’ Underperforms

By @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

As movie theaters begin returning to normal once again domestically, new releases are coming on a weekly basis. Just a few weeks ago, A Quiet Place Part II landed in theaters, before the latest chapter in The Conjuring franchise came and conquered the box office. This weekend, it was In the Heights’ turn, albeit with lukewarm results that were less than what most predicted.

Directed by John M. Chu, In the Heights earned $11.4 million over the weekend, when it was predicted to make around double that figure at least. With great reviews (and a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes), this performance came to a shock to many movie audiences and those in the industry, especially as Warner Bros. funded an expensive advertising campaign for the film. Still, audiences didn’t seem too keen on returning to theaters for Chu’s film, leading to a second place finish at the box office.

In the Heights’ performance could come down to a few factors. While audiences might feel excited to go to see films like A Quiet Place Part II in theaters, they clearly didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for this, perhaps showing the strength of the horror genre, something that we’ve seen in the past few years as well. By all means, A Quiet Place was an event film, and highly anticipated by audiences since the first movie released in 2018. As much as the studio wanted to push In the Heights as a similar movie that people simply couldn’t miss in theaters, they were unable to do so, which could have hindered the box office performance. And while the hybrid release model didn’t seem to affect The Conjuring 3 all that much, it’s plausible that audiences were indeed interested in In the Heights, but not driven enough to see it on opening weekend, instead watching it at home on HBO Max. If this is the case, it could show the inherent lack of sustainability in the hybrid release model going forward, or at least for certain kinds of movies such as this. Still, there’s a good chance that In the Heights recuperated some money on the streaming service, a bright side of all of this.

In its place was, once again, A Quiet Place Part II, coming in at $11.7 million. In doing so, the film was the first pandemic movie to gross $100 million domestically. Meanwhile, Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opened with $10.4 million over four days (the film released on Thursday). Once again, this was below expectations, which signals the sheer unpredictability of the box office and that some films will do exceptionally well, but others won’t. And while this is similar to pre pandemic box office, it certainly seems to be more volatile and up and down, at least for now.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It came in fourth with $10.02 million, and Cruella rounded out the top 5 with 6.7 million.

Stay tuned to FilmCodex for more box office reports, news, reviews, and more!

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/4 – ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Beats Out ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ to Take Top Spot

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @FilmCodex

The latest chapter in the Conjuring franchise, ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’, over-performed expectations and earned top spot at this weekend’s domestic box office with an impressive $24 million. This total takes the Conjuring franchise passed $1 billion overall, an impressive number for a series with a collective budget of less than $200 million across 8 films. The latest Conjuring film is also available to watch on HBO Max.

Meanwhile, ‘A Quiet Place Part II’, another horror movie, took in $19.5 million. This adds to its impressive total last week where it had the biggest opening weekend at the box office since the pandemic began.

Disney’s Cruella also had its second weekend at the box office, and earned $11.2 million for a 10 day total of $43.6 million. The monetary performance of this film is impressive particularly when the sales on Disney+ are factored in. Audiences responded well to the Emma Stone led movie and a sequel is already in the works. Spirit Untamed and Wrath of Man rounded out the top 5.

For the second weekend in a row, movie theaters are finally showing signs of life. Audiences are also showing an appetite to see movies in the theater, even if they’re available to watch on streaming, a good sign for the recovery of theaters and the box office. With big releases like F9, Black Widow and more coming up this summer, this is expected to continue and earnings are anticipated to grow.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for next week’s box office numbers, reviews, news, and more!

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 5/28 – ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ Launches to Huge $48 Million Weekend

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @FilmCodex

Movie studios will be truly happy looking at the box office for the first time in over a year. After 12 months of closures and a lack of new releases (that resulted in a rise in streaming), along with the delaying of many highly anticipated titles, the domestic box office is finally showing signs of life akin to pre-pandemic numbers.

A Quiet Place Part II, which was originally set to come out last March (just when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S.), opened this with an excellent $48 million from 3,726 theaters. The film is expected to add another $10 million on top of that on Monday’s Memorial Day. What makes this performance even more impressive is how close it is to the first film, which opened to $50 million. The capacity restrictions and many still not feeling comfortable to visit a movie theater just yet makes this weekend’s total for the Paramount Pictures feature even more impressive.

One of the many reasons why so many went out to watch this film, beyond the great reception that the 2018 movie received, is the genuine quality of the sequel. As we wrote in our review,:

“A Quiet Place Part II is easily among the best horror sequels of all time. While the novelty of the premise and world have certainly worn off, Krasinski’s minimalist script and tight directing culminate, yet again, in a suspenseful, emotional thrill ride that will undoubtedly please fans of the first film.”

Movie goers clearly loved the first film in this new franchise and are seemingly having a similar reaction to the second.

Elsewhere, Cruella also launched this weekend, with a hybrid release in theaters and on Disney+. Although it’s available for $30 on the streamer, Cruella brought in $21.3 million from 3,892 theaters, and is expected to add another $5 million on Memorial Day. Overseas, the film has grossed $16.1 million so far, taking its current post weekend total to $42.6 million.

The Emma Stone led film is certainly worth watching, as we wrote in our review:

“Cruella is perhaps the most stylish of the recent slew of Disney live-action adaptations. Although at times it feels chaotic and uneven, the film fully embraces its era, setting, and opportunities for darker storytelling in spectacular fashion. Driven by two superb performances from Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, Cruella largely overcomes its inconsistent script and overuse of music in delivering a Joker-esque origin story of an iconic Disney villain.”

Spiral, Wrath of Man, Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top 5 on this groundbreaking box office weekend.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for next week’s box office numbers, reviews, news, and more!

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REVIEW: Cruella

by @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

Disney’s track record with live-action adaptations of animated classics is mixed to say the least. While films like Aladdin were pleasant surprises, others like Mulan fell flat. So, going into Cruella, it was difficult to expect anything more than a decent, if not somewhat uninspired, live-action adaptation. Thankfully, however, Cruella is anything but that. Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Lars and the Real Girl) creates a stylish and unexpectedly mature and dark origin story of Cruella de Vil anchored by two stellar performances.

Cruella is set during the punk rock movement of the 1970s and focuses on a young woman named Estella (played by Emma Stone), whose aspirations of becoming a fashion designer lead her down a notorious and criminal path as she becomes Cruella de Vil. Right off the bat, the question on my mind when approaching a film like this is: why is it necessary? Why do we need a Cruella de Vil origin story? Gillespie and screenwriters Dana Fox and Tony McNamara answer this question in ways that eerily evoke Todd Phillips’ Joker. There’s some intangible, almost indescribable quality of Cruella that is captivating from the start. We are firmly beside Estella as she endures trials and tribulations and becomes the notorious villain we all know. Emma Stone really makes the role her own, dispelling any suggestion that the role was made for Glenn Close. Her change in character throughout the film, growing in confidence and also danger, is is successful largely due to Stone’s performance as the script is somewhat inconsistent in tone and pacing.

Although the movie clocks in at a lengthy 134 minutes, Cruella feels like it never takes a step back to let the characters (and the audience) breathe a little. The script probably needed some trimming in order to afford this sort of much needed space in the movie. Driving the somewhat frenetic pacing is the film’s soundtrack, which will surely be a topic of discussion as more people see the film. Cruella is packed to the brim with classic songs of the era. It’s not long after hearing a song by Nina Simone than you’re thrown into iconic songs by Queen, Blondie, The Clash, and more. The music is a mixed bag to say the least – at its best, it adds a sense of grandiosity and gravity to the film, but, at its worst, at times feels like a music video. Perhaps a more apt comparison is that Cruella doesn’t utilize music with the deft hand employed by James Gunn in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but it’s a notable improvement over the jarring shifts from track to track seen in 2016’s Suicide Squad.

Perhaps the most surprising element of Cruella was its inclusion of rather dark themes and plot points. Cruella is rated PG-13 and firmly warrants that rating. The world Gillespie creates isn’t the innocent and bright landscape we’re used to seeing in many Disney films. 1970s London really comes alive in the film, with all of it’s glamor and grit. The production design is incredible and the film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis. Gillespie crafts a film that fully embraces its setting and era in ways beyond music inclusion (not to mention the jaw dropping costume design). Emma Thompson’s villain Baroness von Hellman also pushes the film into unexpectedly dark territory in wonderful ways. Thompson rivals Stone’s character every step of the way and, at times, it’s difficult to tell who is delivering the more impressive performance. Thompson really chews up the scenery and goes all out with her villainous portrayal – emphasis on villainous, because she nor the script cut back in making her a particularly empathic character.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Cruella is perhaps the most stylish of the recent slew of Disney live-action adaptations. Although at times it feels chaotic and uneven, the film fully embraces its era, setting, and opportunities for darker storytelling in spectacular fashion. Driven by two superb performances from Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, Cruella largely overcomes its inconsistent script and overuse of music in delivering a Joker-esque origin story of an iconic Disney villain.

Images courtesy of Disney

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 5/14 – ‘Spiral’ Tops ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’

By @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

The latest in the Saw franchise, Spiral, opened to relatively strong numbers at this weekend’s box office. Over the three day weekend, Spiral grossed $8.7 million from 2,811 theaters. This is a solid number given the relatively low budget of the film and the fact that roughly 45% of domestic theaters remain closed. Many of the ones that are open are still holding to capacity restrictions which are sure to have an impact on overall gross.

Internationally, the film earned another $3.3 million from 16 foreign markets. Boasting star power in the form of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson is sure to have helped its performance both domestically and abroad as well.

As we wrote in our review of the film, “it’s difficult to fault Spiral too much given that, perhaps, it falls victim to expectations of something more novel and distinct than it ultimately ended up being. It’s a shame that the film falls flat in exploring more nuanced themes and carving out its own unique sect of the Saw franchise. Nonetheless, Spiral is an incredibly entertaining film elevated by polished production design, cinematography, and trap sequences, with some unique casting choices that are bound to intrigue fans.”

Wrath of Man continued its theatrical run as well this weekend, bringing in another $3.7 million from 3,007 theaters, taking second spot at the domestic box office. The Jason Statham led thriller opened last weekend to relatively strong numbers and somewhat positive reviews.

Another new release this weekend was Those Who Wish Me Dead, starring Angelina Jolie and Jon Bernthal from director Taylor Sheridan. From Warner Bros, this film was released in a hybrid model with HBO Max, the latest to do so after Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, and others. Jolie’s latest film didn’t take the box office by storm (by pandemic standards) as those others did, however, bringing in just $2.8 million domestically and $2.7 million internationally. These aren’t great numbers, even by pandemic standards, but it’s important to keep the current global situation in mind and not judge too harshly.

Also released in select theaters this week was Zack Snyder’s latest film, Army of the Dead, which debuts on Netflix next Friday. At around 400 theaters, the film is estimated to have brought in $800,000-$900,000, though the exact number is hard to discern given Netflix’s secrecy over official box office totals.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for more reviews, news, and next week’s box office totals!

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Box Office Report: Weekend of 5/7 – Wrath of Man Tops Box Office at the Start of the Summer Movie Season

By @HolocronJosh for @Film_Codex

Guy Ritchie’s latest film Wrath of Man, starring Jason Statham, topped the box office this weekend with a 3 day total of $8 million from 2,875 theaters. Overall, Ritchie’s film took in $25.6 million worldwide. This doesn’t include China, where it is set for release tomorrow (May 10). Wrath of Man earned an impressive A- CinemaScore.

These numbers are far from disappointment overall given the current situation with the pandemic, with many U.S. theaters still closed (but have been consistently reopening for months now) and Europe’s cinema remaining largely closed. There are also a series of capacity restrictions in place in the U.S. and around the world, meaning that each showing of any film will be impacted monetarily. Although not a normal start to the summer movie season, the fact that theaters are open and releasing new films is a good sign for things to come, especially as upcoming projects like Fast 9 and Black Widow remain on the horizon.

Elsewhere, Demon Slayer continued its strong run at the box office with a second place finish, taking in $3.05 million from 2,088 theaters to a domestic total of $39.6 million. Mortal Kombat is also still playing in theaters with its third weekend, earning $2.375 million to a domestic gross of $37.8 million. Godzilla vs Kong and Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top 5 with $1.93 million and $1.865 million respectively. Mortal Kombat, Godzilla vs Kong, and Raya were released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services.

Internationally, Wrath of Man performed well with $18 million overall. It was two Chinese films that dominated the international scene this weekend, however, with Cliff Walkers and My Love adding to their already impressive totals. Cliff Walkers has currently earned $118.2 million, with My Love taking in $114 million.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for next week’s box office numbers!