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Webslinger

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About Webslinger

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  1. Crazy Rich Asians had a really good opening. Warner Bros did a great job of building and capitalizing upon hype for the film's release. It should have no trouble staying atop the box office through Labor Day and surpassing $100 million. The Meg held up decently enough and should finish with a domestic total around $125 million or thereabouts. Factoring in the overseas gross, it will ultimately be a winner for Warner Bros despite the assumptions of gloom-and-doom leading up to its release. Mile 22 did okay. It looked too generic to really break out. Alpha's opening is a pyrrhic victory: it didn't do as badly as anticipated, but it's still a far cry from an opening that would have put it in line to be in good shape against its budget. I guess the decision to abandon the more serious tone of the earlier trailers in favor of a light, family-friendly ad campaign (despite the PG-13 rating) helped it to some extent. Mission: Impossible's holds the last two weekends haven't been bad, but they've been sharper than what I was anticipating after that really good second weekend hold. We'll see whether its legs can kick in next weekend, but at this stage, it may have to settle for falling a few million shy of becoming the highest domestic grosser in the series. Christopher Robin stabilized nicely after last weekend's rough drop. We'll see whether its late legs (and some possible fudging shenanigans) can carry it over $100 million. BlacKkKlansman held up pretty well. It should enjoy strong staying power going forward. Looks like Hotel Transylvania 3 is going to make a serious run at topping its predecessor as the top grosser in the series.
  2. By any conventional measure, The Spy Who Dumped Me shouldn’t be a good film. It tells a generic story, doesn’t spend much time developing its characters despite a near-two-hour running time, and often feels like it isn’t going far enough in embracing its zanier elements. And yet… I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Chalk it up as a guilty pleasure whose ability to make me laugh supersedes all its shortcomings. The chemistry between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon carries the film. Kunis is an excellent straight woman who plays her character’s fish-out-of-water nature to strong comedic effect; it’s the kind of performance I think the Wachowskis wanted to get out of her in Jupiter Ascending, and it works better in an openly comedic context. McKinnon steals nearly every scene she’s in with the same go-for-broke aplomb she brings to every role, and her rapport with Kunis sells their characters’ close friendship despite the script’s limited efforts to establish their relationship before the action kicks into gear. As disposable entertainment goes, The Spy Who Dumped Me makes for an enjoyable two hours. B Stray Thoughts: - Dear Hollywood: You know as well as I do that Kate McKinnon is damn funny. You also know as well as I do that she's openly gay and could easily play the next big lesbian screen icon. Please stop fooling around with these ostensibly heterosexual or only implicitly homosexual (hi, Ghostbusters) roles and just let her provide the lesbian representation she's capable of doing and so many of us would love to see. K-Thanx-Bye. - I know it's dumb, but I laughed my ass off at the "best friends' secrets" routine Kunis and McKinnon rattled off while being held captive by the psychopathic gymnast.
  3. Webslinger

    BlacKkKlansman (2018)

    With BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee delivers his most electrifying film in more than a quarter-century. In adapting Ron Stallworth’s memoir of experiences that prove truth to be far stranger than fiction, Lee crafts an extremely entertaining dramedy that also keeps a keen eye on parallels between its period setting and today’s racial and political tensions. Lee walks the line between effective comedy and searing drama so well that no tone shift feels inorganic and the film succeeds in being enjoyable, riveting, and moving all at once. Despite knowing that Stallworth will survive, the narrative is still packed with surprises and genuine white-knuckle tension as it approaches its climax. Despite taking some slight creative liberties (including setting the film several years earlier than the true events it depicts), it remains true to the spirit of Stallworth’s story and makes razor-sharp eviscerations of the irrationality and misguided volatility that undergirds racist ideology; it successfully portrays the organization alluded to in the title as both hilariously inept in their blind hatred and dangerous in the violent proclivities of their most unstable and radicalized members. There’s also a virtuoso sequence that cross-cuts between “power” chants at a white supremacist faux “baptism” and a Black Student Union meeting that does a sublime job of differentiating the former’s desire to deny power to others from the latter’s cry for recognizing power that racists have long tried to deny them. In front of the camera, John David Washington radiates charisma in the title role; his swagger and screen presence are reminiscent of those of his accomplished father. As his physical surrogate, Adam Driver does the most dramatically and comedically effective work of his career to date; the two actors share such excellent chemistry with one another that their characters’ seamless collaboration in the film feels natural. Little-known Jasper Paakkonen does chilling work as an especially volatile white supremacist who constantly ups the narrative’s dramatic stakes. Topher Grace also contributes revelatory work as an organization leader who remains active and dangerous today; he succeeds in couching reprehensible rhetoric in a deceptively affable tone, and his humiliation in his final (dramatized) scene feels cathartic. Viewers are bound to be split on the film’s nonfiction coda – which stitches together footage of the Charlottesville tragedy and the president’s “both sides” response – but I found it to be a fitting reminder of the continued resonance of the film’s themes and the need to continue to combat white supremacism in all its forms. As both unconventional entertainment and a pointed repudiation of past and present racist rhetoric, BlacKkKlansman is an incredible accomplishment that – for my money – surpasses even the likes of Get Out, Mudbound, and Sorry to Bother You as the most powerful cinematic statement for black empowerment and against the present resurgence of racism at the highest level of political power. A Stray Thoughts: - That cross-cutting sequence: Seriously. Holy hot damn. I don't think I've ever seen a better visual and aural example of why saying "black power" is inherently different from saying... something else - and, by extension, why "black lives matter" is inherently and significantly different from "all lives matter," or why "both sides-ism" is untenable. Assuming that this film takes off as an Oscar contender (and with all the contemporary relevance it has and the fact that Spike Lee's work has never been recognized in Best Picture or Best Director, I think it will be in the running), it had better land that well-deserved editing nomination. - I had no idea that Denzel Washington had a son who acted, let alone one who channels Denzel's distinguishing qualities so well. - I have no idea how the actors playing the Kendricksons committed to playing such reprehensible characters and finding some twisted degree of humanity in them; they're evil people, but the scene where they're in bed reflecting upon their planned bombing acting as the pinnacle of all their hard work highlights the idea that they're so far gone that they're incapable of recognizing their evil and they see themselves as the heroes of their own story. It's a disturbing scene, to be sure, but it's also quietly masterful in illustrating how extremists rationalize and normalize their positions. - I'm still mulling it over, but this might displace Black Panther as my favorite film of 2018 to date.
  4. Agreed on all fronts. My audience - which was mostly non-Asian (not surprising given the demos in my area) - ate it up. Between this and Ocean's 8, I really want to see Awkwafina in more movies.
  5. Webslinger

    Classic Conversation, now with added Teen Angst

    Warm take: "No Tears Left to Cry" is the real song of the summer. I've really liked most of Ariana Grande's output, but this is one of the admittedly few songs that actually feels big enough to match up with her.
  6. It's nice to see Crazy Rich Asians breaking out and overperforming to such a high degree. There shouldn't be much of a race for the top spot, but I imagine Warner Bros has to be happy with having two films over $20 million in the latter half of August. Mile 22 and Alpha are both doing okay relative to muted expectations. I guess the blatant shift in marketing approach helped Alpha after all.
  7. The Meg broke out far higher than I thought it would go in even the best of circumstances. Clearly, Warner Bros did a surprisingly good job of striking viewers' interest with their sizable campaign. The relatively soft release schedule in the coming weeks should allow it to display at least decent staying power. Mission: Impossible didn't hold up as well as I had anticipated it would, though that's probably due in no small part to The Meg's breakout performance. Even so, it should still be on track to top Mission: Impossible II as the top domestic earner in the series. Christopher Robin got hit hard, but its hold is only a little weaker than the one Pete's Dragon posted two years ago (though that film had to face competition from Kubo and the Two Strings). It still has a kind schedule with limited competition ahead of it, so it should still be able to leg its way to at least something in the range of $80-85 million. Slender Man did okay - not a breakout, but not the disaster it could have been amid the report that Netflix (Netflix!) declined to buy it from Sony. The coming weeks will not be kind to it if the D- CinemaScore is any indication. BlacKkKlansman is off to a really good start. It's such a topical film that will get its target audience excited, so I'd bet on it displaying strong staying power.
  8. The Meg performed far better than I ever thought it would. The comparisons with The Legend of Tarzan - a big-budget movie breaking out after looking like it was going to bomb - are apt.
  9. Webslinger

    Best films of 2018!

    A Black Panther A Fantastic Woman A- Annihilation Avengers: Infinity War Eighth Grade Hereditary Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Leave No Trace Mission: Impossible - Fallout A Quiet Place Sorry to Bother You Paddington 2 Thoroughbreds B+ Blockers Deadpool 2 Disobedience Game Night Love, Simon Tully Unsane B Ant-Man and the Wasp Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Ocean's 8 Ready Player One Red Sparrow Solo: A Star Wars Story Upgrade A Wrinkle in Time B- The Equalizer 2 Sicario: Day of the Soldado C Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Tomb Raider 12 Strong D+ Fifty Shades Darker D The Cloverfield Paradox Nonfiction Corner Won't You Be My Neighbor? - A/A-
  10. Webslinger

    Eighth Grade (2018)

    Middle school is a nigh-unbearable stage of awkwardness, and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade captures it with raw honesty that registers as hilarious and heartfelt simultaneously. The film consistently feels like both an accurate window into the electronically-connected world today’s teenagers navigate and a more timeless reflection upon craving self-assuredness and a place of belonging at a vulnerable stage of life. At the center of it all, newcomer Elsie Fisher does terrific work as Kayla, the insecure protagonist. Her honest, vulnerable work highlights Kayla’s ongoing tension between developing a stronger sense of self and creating a different persona in the hope of appearing more confident and worldly. She also has just the right degree of naivete to make some of the film’s racier jokes and its more serious scenes work perfectly. While the nature of the narrative allows Fisher to carry most of the film on her shoulders, character actor Josh Hamilton also gets several opportunities to shine as an all-too-believable caring dad who nimbly straddles the line between embarrassing “dad joke” humor and tear-jerking devotion; one of their last scenes together is an especially moving one that highlights the admirable qualities Kayla overlooks in her immature perception of what makes a person worthy of love. The film admittedly has an episodic feel, but the approach fits with the short timeline (a week or thereabouts) and eschews tropes and clichés that wear many other teen comedies down in favor of more authentic, organic moments that gradually reveal the protagonist’s layers and carry her – and viewers – toward a joyful conclusion that feels earned rather than obligatory. Debut writer-director Bo Burnham takes a big risk by setting the film in the present day rather than evoking the mid-2000s setting of his own adolescence (a fact that his script seems to address implicitly when a high school student comments upon Kayla effectively belonging to a different generation than him), but he delivers upon that risk by portraying technology as an essential part of the young characters’ lives in an organic, non-judgmental manner. While his YouTube fame doesn’t appear to inform the low production values of Kayla’s videos, it does inform an intriguing commentary on public and private selves via the confident front Kayla displays in her videos versus her awkward, self-conscious off-camera behavior. It’s a sublime accomplishment in its genre, certain to join Lady Bird and The Edge of Seventeen as one of the definitive teen films of the decade. A- Stray Thoughts: - The R rating is such bullshit. Going in, I assumed that it must have had characters who swore as frequently as I did in eighth grade. Unless I'm mistaken, there were only two f-bombs. Admittedly, it's pretty direct about some of its racy humor (though it doesn't show anything especially objectionable), but I feel like I heard worse in PG-13 Adam Sandler comedies when I was a teenager. (And that's to say nothing of the fact that teenagers will hear way worse in the hallway on any given day of middle or high school, even in a private school.) This is the silliest R since the hullabaloo surrounding Bully's rating in 2012. - I loved how Kayla's voice when handing the thank-you note to Kennedy sounds almost exactly like the voice she uses when she makes her videos. It's a nice, subtle touch that shows how the self she tries to project to the popular girls is carefully calibrated in the same ways her videos are. - Gabe needed more scenes, if only to sell their last scene together a touch more effectively. That said, I love that Rick & Morty is the thing they end up bonding over. - I still can't believe that the guy I remember best from watching "Oh Bo" in a friend's dorm common space when I was in college made a movie this good. It's also surreal to think that someone my age is writing and directing movies that get wide release.
  11. Webslinger

    Classic Conversation, now with added Teen Angst

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Or, Proof That Art Films Can Be Style Over Substance Too. I applaud the balls on Gilliam, Depp, and Del Toro for committing to making every scene as surreal as possible, but it just did nothing for me outside of my admiration of its style. I also have no idea how the good folks at the MPAA could defend giving Eighth Grade the same rating as Fear and Loathing. Like, what the actual hell? (And Eighth Grade was terrific, by the by.)
  12. I've always gotten the sense that billing it as an "action" movie leads people to expect a more conventional war film rather than an unbearably tense thriller. I've also heard some viewers complain about the repetitive structure, but given the setting and the fact that even a seemingly mundane op that looks and feels like countless others could turn out to be fatal at a second's notice, that's kinda the point. With regard to the Avatar conversation, I don't think it would have won without a preferential ballot either. The buzz for Hurt Locker was deafening that awards season; it didn't just conveniently squeak out a narrow win. The low box office gross is somewhat deceptive in that Summit released it in the summer and made only a half-hearted attempt at taking it semi-wide and then released it to DVD several weeks ahead of nominee announcement. If I recall correctly, it did perform somewhat well on home video leading up to the Oscars.
  13. Really solid preview number for The Meg. At the very least, it won't have any trouble landing at #1 for the weekend.
  14. At risk of stating the obvious, maybe - just maybe - most of the voters actually liked The Hurt Locker better than Avatar and voted accordingly? Just a thought.
  15. This looks... really unfocused, to say the least. It feels like the trailer is racing breathlessly to cram in glimpses of all the resistance's greatest hits from the last 18 months. I could see it finding a small audience if the marketing is there, but the political commentary landscape has shifted so much since Fahrenheit 9/11's mid-2000s breakout that I'm surprised Moore is still taking his work to theaters rather than trying to reach a wider audience through streaming. It would catch far more eyeballs on Netflix, methinks.
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