The box office has been in a bad place lately. Last week didn't bring much in the way of new wide releases other than the pathetic "Leap!" This week there were no new wide releases at all. Nada. Nothing wanted to open on Labor Day weekend. This lack of competition allowed the slowly-growing "Wind River" to mosey its way into the Top 3 at the weekend box office. The movie isn't some skyrocketing small-time gem, but it's one of the better options from the doldrums of August.
"Leap!" is an animated kids' movie that teaches the lesson that if you work hard and practice every day for years... you're a sucker. Just be a natural and cut to the front of the line. Elle Fanning voices Felicie, an aspiring ballerina in 19th-century France. She and her inventor best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) escape their rural orphanage and its surly supervisor (Mel Brooks) and run off to Paris so they can follow their dreams.
This movie didn't need to work very hard to gain my favor. It's an R-rated movie starring three actors who are really good at swearing. Ryan Reynolds brought crude humor to new heights last year in "Deadpool." Salma Hayek always sounds exquisite and exotic when she goes on profanity-laced tirades in English or Spanish. Then there's Samuel L. Jackson, who is widely considered one of the best cussers in cinematic history, particularly when it comes to a certain word that starts with M and eventually contains an F.
We were first introduced to possessed doll Annabelle in 2013's "The Conjuring," where she was freaky, but inconsequential. She was spun off into her own prequel movie in 2014, which I didn't see, but I'm told couldn't scare a cockroach away from a spotlight. Now she's getting another movie, a prequel to the 2014 one, which means the series is essentially going in reverse. We're being told the story of how the doll first came to be possessed, as if it's not obvious she's evil based solely on her unsettling appearance.
My understanding is that this film is not a straight adaptation of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" book series, but rather a sort of sequel that cherry-picks elements of the anthology. I'm convinced the film was conceived as a writing exercise by at least one of its four credited screenwriters who wanted to tell the story of how a cowboy with a revolver could defeat a demon with one of the greatest arsenals of powers ever created. Now we have to suffer the results of that fan fiction gone wrong.
Last week I reviewed "Dunkirk" and I talked about how early reviews had set the bar impossibly high, which prevented me from appreciating the film more. This week brings us "The Emoji Movie," and the scales are shifted the other way. This film has been a critical whipping boy since the day it was announced due to the faddish nature of its subject matter. And that prejudice seemed to be justified, with the film scoring a 0% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes when I saw it Friday afternoon (that number has since beefed up to an 8%).
Entertainment Weekly killed "Dunkirk" for me. Not because the review written by Chris Nashawaty was negative or turned me off in any way, but because it went too far toward the other extreme. On Tuesday afternoon, the headline on EW.com proclaimed the film to be "Easily the Best Movie of the Year So Far." So I went into the film expecting nothing less than unquestionable excellence, something that would make me forget all about "Logan" and "John Wick: Chapter 2" and all my other favorites of 2017.
In this era of remakes and reboots and other words to describe digging up long-dormant franchises, the revival of "Planet of the Apes" has turned out to be one of the best surprises. It would have been so easy for things to go wrong with these movies: they could have been too silly, they could have taken themselves too seriously and become unintentionally silly, the special effects could have been unconvincing, the special effects could have been so convincing that they fell into the Uncanny Valley.
For most of "Spider-Man: Homecoming," I didn't see why the movie was getting so much praise from critics. I didn't like Tom Holland's take on Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, I was underwhelmed by the villain Vulture (Michael Keaton), I was annoyed by almost all of Peter's friends and classmates, and the action, development, and conflicts were completely standard for the superhero genre. In fact, they were overly familiar because we've had so many Spider-Man movies already and we have a good idea of how the character operates.
"Despicable Me 3" barely contains any of the franchise's trademark Minions, and the little we do get isn't really related to the rest of the movie. It's as if the people at Illumination Animation almost let a "Despicable Me" movie into theaters without any Minions - the horror! I personally can't stand the Minions, mainly because of the way they talk, and was glad to see them kept to a minimum this time around. Just my luck, the movie in this series that uses them the least is the one that is most lifeless otherwise, which implies that they should have been used more to punch things up.