Category: Movie reviews


There’s nothing quite like the start of May. Yes, the movie release schedule has become much more varied in recent years, with blockbusters invading all parts of the calendar. But there’s nothing quite like the start of the summer movie season.

The moments before the summer movie season begins are among my most hopeful. The time when all the would-be blockbusters seem like they could surprise, entertain and wow us. When the hype, excitement and hope is at its highest point. When a quick look at the movie schedule over the next four months brings questions on just how am I going to see all these movies? As a movie fan, there are few times that rival the start of May.

What will this summer bring? Let’s take a quick look. Part one will look at Superhero films and animation. Part two will hit this weekend and look at big sequels and potential breakouts.

Superhero showdown

Possibly the biggest film of the summer will also be its first. “Captain America: Civil War” is essentially an Avengers film. And both of those can lay claim to two of the top five opening weekends of all time. The buzz has been high and the reviews have been strong. Add in seeing the appeal of Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Tony Stark) face off, as well as several of the other heroes in the Marvel universe, and this is a slam dunk. Marvel can do no wrong so far and the hype on this one seems higher than even “Age of Ultron”. It won’t be “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”-type numbers, but it may be the highest Marvel opening ever.

Opening weekend: $210 million.

Total: $550 million.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” seems like it should be set to enter the upper echelon of franchises. Yet, “Days of Future Past”, which performed strongly with critics and holds a very strong rating on IMDB, topped out at $233 million, essentially tied with “The Last Stand”. Only one X-Men film has grossed more than $300 million: Deadpool.

Given this track record, it’s hard to see Apocalypse doing significantly better, even if this is a great film.

Opening weekend: $115-120 million (four-day).

Total: $240-250 million.

“Suicide Squad” will be among the most interesting to watch from a box office perspective. It’s being released in August, which normally isn’t a great time (though “Guardians of the Galaxy proved a film can thrive in this timeframe). Will Smith provides a huge name, though everyone remembers “After Earth” don’t we?

The biggest question is how, if at all, does “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” affect this film. It is a connected universe, after all. And that film’s bad reception has caused a very different trailer to come out, one that makes the film look far lighter than all previous trailers. I wonder if that will dent this film’s long-term prospects.

Opening weekend: $85-95 million.

Total: $260-270 million.

Animation overload?

In a somewhat unusual situation, there could be a major animation overload this summer. “Finding Dory” will likely be the cream of the crop. Pixar unleashes a sequel to one of its most beloved films. It should improve significantly on “Finding Nemo” in terms of opening box office. The first film hit theaters with $70.5 million. This one should flirt with $100 million. The overall quality will determine its legs, though. “Toy Story 3” was great. “Monsters University” fell off rather quickly by Pixar standards.

Opening weekend: $90-100 million.

Total: $290-310 million.

I’m still not sure if I’m excited for “The Secret Life of Pets”. But thanks to a stellar marketing campaign, this one could be one of the summer’s breakout hits. The premise seems fun and one that, surprisingly, hasn’t been explored yet.

Opening weekend: $70-80 million.

Total: $230-270 million.

“The Angry Birds Movie” is one of those that could be hard to predict. I don’t know a single person who is excited for this film, but it should do well drawing the millions and millions of kids out to theaters. “The Lego Movie” taught us that films like this can surprise. But my guess is if “Finding Dory” is up to Pixar’s lofty standards, this one may struggle to find its audience.

Opening weekend: $35-45 million.

Total: $130-150 million.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” sees the band getting back together .. again. The series has had diminishing returns in the U.S. And coming hot on the heels of “The Secret Life of Pets”, this one smells bomb to me.

Opening weekend: $30-40 million.

Total: $110-130 million.

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“Interstellar” review

Director Christopher Nolan is back with his first film since “The Dark Knight Rises”. Does “Interstellar” live up to the hype? Or is this 2014’s version of “Prometheus”?

The Good: This film is not for everyone. But when this movie clicks, it absolutely soars. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and everyone in between is absolutely superb with their performances.

Of course, the special effects are truly spectacular. But the real moments are those moments when the film hits a home run with some emotional moments. You can feel what the characters are going through right along side them. And the film takes a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

The film’s scope is epic and ambitious. And there are ideas at play that are at once recognizable and yet new and thrilling at the same time.

The Bad: I wanted badly to say this was a masterpiece. Alas, it was not. The film gets a little … unique near the end. And more than a few people groaned as this film seems to suffer from “Return of the King” syndrome where there’s about three or four spots where the film could have ended.

I’m also not sure the film’s primary driving human relationship is hitting home with audiences. I’d say more than half of the crowd I saw it with were yawning and growing restless midway through the film.

The film reaches high, but it definitely doesn’t reach those heights all the time. And when it doesn’t, the film can feel overly long and tedious.

The Final Word: This is not the next “2001: A Space Odyssey”. What it is, however, is a beautiful, good film. At times, you catch glimpses of an instant classic. At others, a film that slows to a crawl. Yet, I’d say this is a film worth checking out. Because you if you like it, I think you’ll love it.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

“John Wick” review

Keanu Reeves is back in action mode with “John Wick”. Is this movie worthwhile or a misfire?

The Good 

This movie is a blast. Action-lovers will have a lot of fun with the shootouts, and there are plenty. Reeves is in full a@@ kicking mode and there are several set pieces that are some of the best of the year.

There’s a lot of humor in the film as well, which helps keep the film moving along and entertaining. The supporting cast, including Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, and Adrianne Palicki all do a fine job with their respective roles. And it never takes itself too seriously, which only adds to the film’s enjoyment.

The Bad

Well…realism isn’t exactly this film’s strong suit. And, there are a few confusing choices made with some of the characters that could make a potential sequel a little hard to imagine.

The Final Word

A fun, funny and entertaining ride, “John Wick” is probably my favorite straight-up action film of the year. It’s a blast that is definitely worth checking out.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Michael Bay is back with a new “Transformers” movie. Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer head the human cast. Is this film the best in the franchise? Or is time for this series to roll out.

The Good

Let’s face it. We know what’s good about a “Transformers” film. There are those money shots that are indeed glorious. But there are also long action scenes involving the humans that aren’t the military. And it’s a breath of fresh air … at first.

Perhaps more surprising is that, even though the film’s run time approaches three hours, it didn’t feel like the longest of the series to me. That may not be high praise, but hey, it’s praise all the same.

There’s way more focus on the human characters this time around … which isn’t always a good thing. But, the characters aren’t nearly as annoying as some of the characters who appeared in past installments. And, Tucci is entertaining throughout while Grammer does his best with his limited character.

The Bad

With the focus so much on the human characters, there’s surprisingly little robot action in this one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of action scenes. But, never the all out robot vs. robot battle the film was seemingly building up toward. Focusing on story may seem like a step in the right direction … Except when the story is pointless, dumb and with characters who don’t think or act like a rational human being in parts.

Also, none of the characters rank as overly annoying, but they all have their moments. And there are absolute throw away characters who serve almost no purpose in the film (though I’m sure some would make the argument all the human characters in this franchise serve no purpose).

The Final Word

At times, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” seems to bring the franchise into new directions that could be genuinely interesting. At other times, you’re reminded that this franchise has some really bad moments in them. If you’re looking for a lot of action, you won’t be disappointed. But those hoping a new cast meant a new start will be disappointed.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back for “22 Jump Street”. Is this a rare comedy sequel that outdoes the original or a “Hangover Part II” sized miss?

The Good: Fear not. “22 Jump Street” is very good. Tatum and Hill are dynamite. The chemistry they have on screen is absolutely hilarious and fans of the first film will undoubtedly love them for the second go around. There are a lot of “in” jokes in this one, specifically on movie sequels that do the same thing all over again. It’s quite funny to see them poke fun at that idea, although there’s a few too many of those for my liking.

I really enjoyed Ice Cube in this one. He has a few particularly memorable scenes and easily the best supporting character of the bunch in this film.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller already had one hit on their hands in 2014 with “The Lego Movie”. And that irreverent humor shows up again here and once again, they are mostly spot on. They are quickly rising near the top of my list of favorite comedy directors out there, bar none.

The Bad: The film mostly hits its mark, but there are a few moments where the humor seems a little too forced. And some of the supporting characters, while they have their moments, don’t really stand out to me. The villains all seemed, just kind of rushed into the film as a matter of necessity and were missed opportunities to mine for more comedic gold.

The Final Word: I enjoyed “22 Jump Street” a lot. And out of the big comedies so far this summer, this is my favorite ahead of “Neighbors”. Fans of the original will love the sequel. And while it won’t win over any new converts, its target audience will find this film to be an absolute hoot.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in this sci-fi blockbuster. Will you want to see Cruise’s latest or is this a misfire.

The Good: This summer has been an overall positive one for action films. And “Edge of Tomorrow” is another pleasant surprise. Director Doug Liman takes a more light hearted approach to this film, and it was a definite smart move. Contrary to the tone of the trailers, there’s quite a lot of humor in it, and it all works.

Cruise gives a strong performance. Sure, he may not be on his “Collateral” level, but he shows he’s still capable of leading a summer tent pole. Blunt is also strong, along with a surprisingly fun performance from Bill Paxton and the cast has a lot of chemistry together on screen.

But just because it’s more light hearted than films like “Looper” and “Source Code”, doesn’t mean it’s without its share of thrills. The beach scene teased in the trailers is truly a spectacle to behold.

Seeing Cruise relive the same day may not seem exciting, but it is as he tries his best to prevent the chaos that is happening all around him.

The Bad: There’s a lot to like in “Edge of Tomorrow”. But it’s not without faults. Most notably is the ending, mainly because it feels a little like a cop out. Some of the supporting cast doesn’t get nearly enough screen time to get the emotional reaction they’re going for in a key sequence.

The Final Word: A fun, entraining thrill ride, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a blast. Thanks to some strong visuals and an impressive set piece, this is summer sci fi popcorn entertainment at its best. It may not be as serious as previous time traveling films, but it’s a fun romp.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise. Is this the mutant extravaganza audiences are craving for?

The Good: There’s a lot to like in DOFP. From the opening sequence, the action scenes are the best in the series. And it is nice to see Ian McKellen (Magneto), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Halle Berry (Storm) and more reprise their roles. James McAvoy (Young Charles), Michael Fassbender (Young Erik), Nicholas Hoult (Young Beast) and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique)  are the standouts from the “First Class” cast.

The real joy here is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. He’s easily the most memorable new character and is a blast to watch. By now, if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know the basic plot revolving around Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). And seeing the sentinels in action is fantastic, though at least one of the designs looks and acts very similar to the robot from “Thor”. The film is a slick, fun thrill ride and a blast to watch.

The Bad: Honestly, with so many mutants, some characters were going to get the short end of the stick in terms of screen time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the mutants serve as nods for fans, but I wish Page got more screen time. I understand why she didn’t given the size of the cast, but she’s such a strong actress, it would have been nice.

No plot spoilers here, but given the story they went with, it does raise some questions, given there are six other X-Men films in the universe. But, it’s not too big of a deal.

Speaking of the plot, Peter Dinklage is, unfortunately, the weak link of the new characters introduced. He’s not terrible, but he gets a little lost in the film and the script doesn’t give him a lot to do.

The Final Word: It’s a fun, and at times thrilling, mutant adventure. This just may be my favorite X-Men film yet and breathes new life into the franchise.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Godzilla is back! Does his latest film return him to the top of the movie monster universe or is this another misstep in the legendary creature’s history?

The Good: Let’s get this out of the way. The money shots in “Godzilla” are amazing. It’s everything you expected and with some especially brutal fight moves, Godzilla has his moments to shine. Also, after “Pacific Rim”, which took a much more light-hearted summer approach to its tone, it was nice to see “Godzilla” take a more serious, darker approach. Bryan Cranston is solid in a limited role.

The Bad: Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this film, it falls flat in a lot of areas. First, while Godzilla does shine in moments, he barely gets more than those moments on screen. If you thought it was odd to only see Batman for a fraction of the runtime of “The Dark Knight Rises”, it’s far worse here. In fact, Godzilla barely makes an appearance for the first half of this film. It’s a cardinal sin to have the the character a movie is named after be reduced to what feels like an extended cameo in my book.

The human characters are the film’s real weak points. With actors like Cranston, Aaron Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and David Strathairn anchoring the cast, you have great talent here. But frankly, we’re given very little character development, some cliche movie tropes and even less reason to care about these characters. That wouldn’t be a huge problem for me in a summer blockbuster, but once the decision was made to put these characters front and center, the movie suffers greatly.

There’s also quite a lot of … questionable logic used by numerous characters. And I mean questionable by summer movie standards.

Frankly, I was bored by this movie. Being forced to watch characters we care nothing about all the while talking about Godzilla without actually showing him makes this movie a chore to get through in parts.

The Final Word: What looked like the breakout hit of the summer after its marketing campaign is a dull summer misfire. While Godzilla does have his moments to shine they are so few and far between it can’t compensate for weakly written characters making silly decisions.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

So it’s been a while since I’ve updated this. But, I’m back! Let’s kick this off with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. It’s been two years since the needless reboot of the Spidey franchise. Does this sequel kick the series into a new level?  Or is franchise fatigue setting in?

The Good: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey make this movie go. Their chemistry is undeniable and almost all of the film’s best lines come from the two characters’ banter. I came away especially impressed with Garfield. He’s really settled into this role nicely and, frankly, I think he’s becoming a better Spider-Man/Peter Parker than Toby Maguire was. Also, Dane DeHaan is the best of the new actors to the series. He walks the line perfectly between creepy, yet strangely charming as Harry Osborn and, much like Garfield, I actually greatly prefer his portrayal to James Franco’s from the original trilogy.

The action has been stepped up from the first film, although that’s not saying much. But there are a few set pieces that look great and are fun to watch.

One of the greatest weaknesses of the first film was a story that just seemed too much of a retread from what we had already seen. That’s not quite as much the case in the sequel. The film goes down a couple of interesting paths and there’s a couple moments that have some genuine emotion attached to them. It was refreshing to see a comic book film take something you assume is going to happen and turn it on its head a little bit.

The Bad: Unfortunately, while this film is unquestionably better than its predecessor, it still has a long ways to go to join the genre’s best. The action may be better, but it’s also entirely too short…a big sin in a summer action movie.  Jamie Foxx is forgettable as Electro. I understand what they were going for with his character but, they take it way too far and his character seems way too cartoonish…even in a comic book movie. He also has some of the dumbest lines of dialogue I’ve heard this year.

There’s no villain overload in this film. But, I was particularly disappointed that Paul Giamatti has a glorified cameo and Harry Osborn really should have had a bigger role in this one and, for all the build up about the secret of Peter Parker’s parents…well…I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

The Final Word: This film may not compare to the genre’s best, but “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a fun, energetic and surprisingly emotional movie and a good way to kick off the summer. It’s a step up from the first film and does just enough to keep you invested into the film’s universe.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Gru (Steve Carrell) is back in “Despicable Me 2”. Does this one live up to the original? Or is this a big disappointment?

The Good

Universal played it relatively safe with this sequel. Not that it’s a big problem. The minions are back in full force, which have become icons in pop culture already, so if you love the minions, you won’t be disappointed. They play a big role this time with some hilarious nods to classic films.  I did wonder while I was watching how the supposed minions movie will hold up. You can only take so much minion mayhem right? There are some clever moments here, especially in the beginning as the plot is getting set up and the new additions to the voice cast, mainly Kristen Wiig and Benjamin Bratt, are a hoot. And, Gru’s relationship with the girls tries to pull on your heart strings.

The Bad

Unfortunately, The end of “Despicable Me” meant Gru is a far less interesting character in this film than before. He’s the most boring character on screen, never a good thing when he’s your main character. For every great line of dialogue, there’s some ones that don’t work. This is a very unevenly paced film and, frankly, this film fails to equal the original in almost every department.

The Final Word

This isn’t a bad film. But it’s a completely unnecessary one that fails to match the first film in every regard. You could do worse, but this one is a big disappointment in my book, despite some positives.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.