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“Aquaman” is a Tidal Wave of Dumb Fun

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Much like Aquaman’s role in 2017’s Justice League, director James Wan is having too much fun trying to find a direction for Aquaman in his first movie. One moment he’s showing off a deliriously wondrous underwater city, the next he has our heroes scurring from armored bad guys on European rooftops. While his hunt for the perfect tone of Aquaman is a patchy one, he does choose the best segments of a pleasingly fast-paced fantasy epic.

While the film runs over 140 minutes, Wan makes sure not to waste our time. He knows we don’t need every spec of detail on the origins of Aquaman and Atlantis. We’re still going to get them but there’s no reason it can’t be diced up in a non-linear fashion, interspersed with great action and visuals. We start with the tale of an Atlantian princess (Nicole Kidman) that came to the surface world to bear her child of Arthur Curry. Fast-forward to present day where Arthur has evolved into a water-friendly and super-strong half-Atlantian played by Jason Mamoa, having as much charisma as he does muscles and tattoos. Later we’ll learn of his training but first a battle inside a submarine where Arthur takes out pirates as though he were at a bar brawl.

Wan takes care never to wink too hard with this material and treat it with an earnest commitment to the fantasy. Most of the film takes place underwater where the many underwater kingdoms are trying to set aside their differences to launch an assault on the surface world that has polluted their home. King Orm (Patrick Wilson) of Atlantis is hoping the other kingdoms will join him but he has a sinister plan as made evident by his Malfoy-inspired haircut. He knows that if the other kingdoms of odd mer-people and sea creatures can join him, he’ll be crowned ocean master, free to control all. Arthur has to stop him but he’s not too keen about ascending to the throne of a kingdom that attacked his mother. But when the lovely underwater princess Mera (Amber Heard) comes to ask for help and realizing his surface home is in danger, Arthur takes on the mission of uniting the underwater kingdoms and get into some brawls along the way. Mera can join too with her great powers of manipulating water to her bidding, adding or taking it away from other organisms.

The film is loaded with so many lavish set pieces but they each feel like different movies. Take Atlantis for example. When Arthur and Mera venture into the underwater metropolis, it’s a neon wonderland of vividly cool colors, structures inspired by sea life, and boasts a 1980s synth soundtrack. It’s quite the sight and the film gives us time to enjoy it. But when Arthur and Mera find themselves in the desert for treasure hunting, the cinematography and soundtrack shift to that of a bouncy adventure film. And the inevitable underwater battle climax is staged with the epic nature of Lord of the Rings. There’s so much going on in the shifting tones that there’s barely any time to mention Aquaman’s nemesis of Black Manta, played by an iron-faced Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

Aquaman has all the makings of being a lame superhero film with its standard action-adventure story and a lot of easy gags the film could have had at the expense of the hero’s public image. Yet the film succeeds in being an entertaining enough superhero flick for all the little elements holding it up, from the spectacular special effects to the very strong casting that includes the likes of Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, and Julie Andrews. And much like last year’s Wonder Woman film, it’s a superhero story that stands on its own, never relying on Justice League Easter Eggs or shying away from the sillier aspects. When Jason Mamoa finally puts on the orange and green of the classic Aquaman outfit, he doesn’t make a dorky joke or comment on the color. He’s ingrained enough in the fantasy to make it believable and exciting when giant seahorses attack giant crabs.


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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.


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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.


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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.


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