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Movie Review: ‘Only The Brave’ Brings Tension and Tears

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Only The Brave

Director Joseph Kosinski takes the heartbreaking tale of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in his late that fought to contain wildfires and gives it the most appropriate of tellings. He never favors heavily on the melodrama, technicalities or patriotism that could ooze from such a story. This could have easily been a soft drama for families and an appropriate tribute to the many firefighters that attended the preview screening. Despite keeping the film on its expected track, Kosinski earns the tears that come with this tragic story.

The film treats the Arizona based Hotshots as men that are devoted and heroic, but still rowdy and flawed. They’re led by Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), dedicated to making the tough call more than adequately communicating it. He struggles to get his group of hard-working firefighters approved to be Hotshots but has to keep his attitude in check. He has a loving relationship with his ranch-owning wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), but their relationship turns rocky with extended hours and the debate over having a baby. Only with a little cheerful encouragement and strategy from the former fire chief and family member Duane (Jeff Bridges) can he finally make a difference.

josh brolin only the brave

Josh Brolin as Eric Marsh in Only The Brave

There’s a lot of stories to take in with the many men of this unit, and we only follow a handful. The most prominent is Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller), a loser of a pot-smoker that with a pregnant girlfriend that wants nothing to do with him. He’s rough, but Marsh thinks he can mold him. Sure enough, he keeps up with the rowdy bunch and gets his life together enough to be a dad. The rest of the crew just seem like decent and average guys, chatting about ladies and boasting about their band.

It’s the little details that make Only The Brave stand out from the pack of other heroic and tragic tales. I didn’t expect much from Brendan and his baby, suspecting we’d only see him holding his daughter a few times. But there’s a surprisingly sweet sequence where he and another Hotshot struggle with the baby running a fever and they scramble with how to handle it. One of the Hotshots happens to know a nurse and the crisis is averted, with Brendan admitting that was the most frightening moment of his life. Amanda also has her own experience of frustrations, struggling to maintain the ranch on her own and push her new business of shoeless horses to local farmers. She may have to share her man with the fires, but she gets equal enough time in this story to be more than just the worrying wife back home.

The fires these boys combat are as terrifying as they are believable. They approach their strategies with a calm demeanor, committed to digging trenches and cutting off the path of flames, but are aware that one miscalculation could lead to a swift death. There’s a moment when they start spreading flames with a device that spits out embers, only for it to turn into a flamethrower when the mixture gets too hot, forcing Brendan to launch it into the fire. Brendan is slightly panicked about what went wrong, but Eric brushes it off as just being a bad batch. He’s more concerned about promptly leaving the area before the flame spread faster. And when the team tackles the massive Yarnell Hill Fire, the mission turns dark and harsh, all of them striving to be brave amid the most horrific of disasters.

Hotshots: Only The Brave

Hotshots: Only The Brave

While I didn’t feel as though I genuinely grasped the detailed technical aspects of firefighting, I was never out of the loop with these characters. They speak plainly and to the point, rarely taking moments to deliver some overly dramatic line. The film isn’t devoid of these, however. I set my expectations a little low in the first shot where Eric has a dream about a bear made of flames, running through the woods as it growls and leaves a blaze in its wake. This vision is seen at least three more times, and the movie must stop at one moment so Eric can spell out this imagery for the audience. There are also a few scenes in the third act that are a little too on-the-nose with the themes at play. Eric doesn’t want to let Brendan transfer for a safer gig with his family but realizes that it’s Eric’s hangups bringing this distaste.

There’s no significant surprise with how Only The Brave plays out. We watch the tragedy unfold with dignity, the tears flow in the aftermath and are treated to photos of the real Granite Mountain Hotshots to close the film. It’s built to be a tear-jerking tribute but assembled with great care to make a movie of character and courage, so the inevitable event that claims many lives carries a more substantial impact of heroism than the apparent acknowledgments.

Kosinski could have favored more comfortable melodrama and emphasize the wildfires, but he manages to avoid the many pitfalls of adapting such a story. Much like the Hotshots, his film manages to make the quick calls of where to take a tale about family, fire, and frustration. I’ve sat through so many of these real stories of tragedy and heroism meant to evoke tears, most of the audience was quickly won over to weep by the simplest of drama. This film earns its watery-eyed audience and nearly brought me to that emotional pique as well, thanks to Kosinski’s moving portrayal of these people and events. Calling the film moving is a given for those invested in the lives of firefighters, but it carries a more critical impact and grander surprise for those not as involved or aware of these events.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


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Box Office

Another Astounding Weekend at the Box Office for Avengers: Infinity War

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Box Office Weekend 5/4/18-5/6/18

Not the least bit surprising, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has dominated the weekend box office with another massive gross. In its second weekend, the grandest superhero ensemble to date brought in $112.4 million. This brings its domestic total up to $450 million, and its worldwide take well over $1 billion. Time will tell if it has the legs, however, to hold its own against Marvel’s other superhero epic this year, Black Panther. Considering Black Panther is still in the top 10, and has almost passed $700 million domestic, it’ll be a close race between the two Marvel movies.

Of course, the success of the Avengers is due in no small part to this being a rather sparse weekend of premieres appearing in fewer theaters. Braving the Marvel storm to come in at #2 was the romantic comedy remake, Overboard, starring Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, making $14.7 million domestic. And if that’s the gross of the #2 spot, you can imagine how lower the other films are. Tully, a new comedy Jason Reitman and starring Charlize Theron, came in at #6 with a domestic gross of $3.1 million. Further down at #10 is the new David Tennant starring thriller, Bad Samaritan, making $1.7 million for the weekend.

There were expected dips all around with no huge surprises, but many of the successful films that have hung around are growing a considerable gross. John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place had the lowest drop and is currently sitting at a robust $159 million domestic total. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has already blazed many records, but it’s only $7 million away from clearing $700 million domestic.

See the full top 10 box office results below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($112,474,000)
  2. Overboard ($14,750,000)
  3. A Quiet Place ($7,600,000)
  4. I Feel Pretty ($4,900,000)
  5. Rampage ($4,620,000)
  6. Tully ($3,186,000)
  7. Black Panther ($3,146,000)
  8. Truth or Dare ($1,885,000)
  9. Super Troopers 2 ($1,815,000)
  10. Bad Samaritan ($1,758,000)

Next weekend, Avengers will be battling against the Melissa McCarthy starring comedy Life of the Party and the Gabrielle Union starring thriller Breaking In. Considering that Life of the Party will have the most significant theater count, McCarthy has the only real shot at being the first film to knock the superhero giant down from the top 10, though it’s doubtful of the Avengers hype will have died down by then.


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Life of the Party and Breaking In Dominated by Avengers

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Box Office Report 5/11/18 – 5/13/18

In its third weekend, Avengers: Infinity War is still going strong with a beefy #1 spot that has yet to be bested. Marvel Studio’s latest superhero epic amassed $61.8 million for the weekend, soaring its total domestic gross up to $547 million. The film has managed to make more than Marvel’s other 2018 hit, Black Panther, in the same amount of time, but whether it’ll reach the same domestic gross remains to be seen. With the oncoming superhero film next week and a Star Wars film following, it’ll have some fierce competition.

The two newest films this week slid comfortably into the slots just below. Life of the Party, the new back-to-school comedy with Melissa McCarthy, predictably hit the #2 spot for being a female-centric comedy released on Mother’s Day weekend. While it didn’t exactly take the cake, the film did make $18.5 million to earn its spot during another Marvel cinematic snowstorm of a weekend. Just below it was the new thriller Breaking In, grossing $16.5 million, which is not too shabby for a film debuting in only 2500 theaters.

There were surprisingly low dips all around in the top 10. The smallest drop was for A Quiet Place, still hanging in there as the surprise horror hit, earning $6.4 million to boost its domestic total to $169.5 million. It’s not too surprising that the most significant drop was for Black Panther, grossing only $1.9 million. It’s a predictable drop considering the movie has been out for thirteen weeks, is already available to buy digitally, and will be out on DVD and Blu-ray by this Tuesday. It’s still a considerable feat for a film that has domestically grossed $696 million so far.

One film worth mentioning that snuck into the top 10 is RGB, the documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expanding for the weekend into 180 theaters. That’s very impressive for such a small film to conquer the #10 spot on Mother’s Day weekend with a $1.1 million gross.

View the full top 10 list below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($61,817,000)
  2. Life of the Party ($18,500,000)
  3. Breaking In ($16,500,000)
  4. Overboard ($10,100,000)
  5. A Quiet Place ($6,400,000)
  6. I Feel Pretty ($3,710,000)
  7. Rampage ($3,380,000)
  8. Tully ($2,240,000)
  9. Black Panther ($1,932,000)
  10. RGB ($1,165,000)

Next weekend, Infinity War will be going up against a real contender with Deadpool 2, the sequel to the Ryan Reynolds starring superhero comedy that broke records in 2016. Also vying for the box office will be the dog comedy, Show Dogs, and the aged female-oriented comedy, Book Club.


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Marvel

Review: “Deadpool 2” is Reheated Chimichangas That Mostly Hold Up

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Deadpool is third-wall breaking anti-hero that feels more needed than ever in the current crop of amassing superhero films. His self-aware satire made his 2016 film a hoot with commentary on the messy timelines, the lack of casting, and even mocking Ryan Reynolds himself. And while his sequel film does maintain that fast-paced and joking nature that made the character a breath of fresh air, it’s mostly the same brand we’ve come to expect from the merc with the mouth.

All the familiar scenes are present, even with the same bits of dialogue repeated from the previous film. There’s an opening fight where Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) narrates how this isn’t a superhero movie for the kids. There’s an extended bit where he trots around the X-Men headquarters where there are little to no mutants present. Hugh Jackman isn’t present in the film, but he always seems to find his way into the script in one form or another. Deadpool even rides up to the finale in a taxi and mentions chimichangas once again. While these segments still garner a laugh, there’s a lingering notion with each smirk that this superhero is running out of originality.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Karan Soni (Dopinder) in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

One of my biggest complaints about the previous film was that there needed to be more actors for Deadpool to play off so that his fourth-wall narration doesn’t overwhelm the screen. The sequel features the opposite, amassing too many characters for Wade to rib that they struggle to work their way into the script. Cable (Josh Brolin) is a soldier of the future that travels back in time to kill a mutant kid and becomes bitterly frustrated with Deadpool being an obstacle. This would’ve been enough for a buddy picture, but the film keeps stuffing in heroes. Deadpool takes a liking to Cable’s target of the overweight teenage mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison), but the kid is so cocky and stand-offish that their chemistry doesn’t have much time to develop. Not when Deadpool must also ally himself with Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero whose superpower is plot armor. And while Colossus and Nega return from the previous film, their roles are so standard that they naturally become lost in the shuffle.

There’s a tightrope of typical superhero staging and self-aware silliness that Deadpool walks once more, and there’s a larger wobble this time around. There’s a bitter pathos to push Deadpool forward in his plight, but it comes with knowledgable spite for last year’s Logan pulling the same strings, of which Deadpool curses outright. A change of pace for the character is his desire to embrace the X-Men philosophy of no killing, but Wade still plays fast and loose with this logic, counterintuitive of his journey to better carve out a family.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Deadpool in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

And, wow, does the diversity angle feel so much like bullet-point lip-service, where the black Domino has no flaws, and the lesbian Nega has no character. It’d be nice to have a film where Deadpool coordinates a diverse collective, but everything is so tightly packed with little room to breathe that the inclusivity feels more like a quota, trying to appease everyone without exploring any one angle deeply. Let me know more about Domino’s tragic past without wedging it in at the last minute. Give Nega some better lines considering that her girlfriend, whose only interactions are saying hi to Deadpool, has more dialogue than she does. You wouldn’t even know Firefist has a problem with the perceptions of his weight if he hadn’t brought it up in conversation.

Yes, Deadpool 2 is still funny, especially with one of the most hilarious mid-credit sequences in recent memory. But most of the laughs are familiar ones, reiterating previous jokes and not landing as many original ones past the update of commenting on the current state of superhero cinema. It’s a bit sad that a film this satirical of the genre doesn’t realize it’s coming down with a severe case of sequel-itis, throwing far too many characters at the screen and hardly balancing any of them. There is levity and life in Deadpool, but it needs to start going that extra mile of absurdity in its awareness if it doesn’t want to become one of the lesser superhero franchises it loves to mock so much.

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Colossus in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.


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