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“Stan & Ollie” is a Sweet Ode to the Slapstick Duo

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Boasting a stellar visual replication of Laurel & Hardy with John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan in the roles is something special that Stan & Ollie doesn’t want to waste. You want to see them take on the legendary on-screen comedy duo in their numerous films to see how well they can embody the actors but you don’t want it to just be a series of retrospectives without much drama. You want the film to not shy away from their drama but you don’t want it to be too somber to waste the comedic potential. It is with great relief that I can state director Jon S. Baird has found a balance unique enough to be as robust as the duo’s act sustained itself over time.

A bold choice in time periods, most of the film takes place out of the glory days when the two actors were on top of the world. We see glimpses of their rise but the film is mostly interested in their twilight years of the 1950s. No longer major stars, they tour the country as a struggling comedy act, though they always seem to put maximum effort into their performances to small audiences. They still have their fans and they still have their knack for garnering laughs, constantly thinking up of new bits and dreaming up a new movie project for the two of them. They still move at the same speed, even if the world won’t move for them.

Reilly and Coogan have such ease to these roles that even if we don’t believe them fully as Laurel & Hardy, we buy them as real characters. Reilly all but disappears into the role of Oliver Hardy, looking larger than life with a big chin and behaving as kindly as a kitten with his waving of fingers and tie. Coogan is a delight as Stan Laurel with a smile to match and an effortless display of expressions. These two have not only gone out of their way to nail the look of these characters but also their act as it would’ve appeared on stage. Their comedy bits have been so greatly defined that they’re able to pull the usual routine off multiple times with the same audience-pleasing mannerisms.

What holds the film back from being all the more engaging is shying away from the drama. A lot of the darker aspects are glazed over just before things get too heated, from Laurel’s bitter stepping away from the studio come contract time to Hardy’s heart problems that threaten to end their comedy partnership. It’s addressed but never delved into deeper but there’s appropriateness that comes with its distancing. The film presents the two prolific actors as they like us to remember them best, more for the uproarious slapstick than the money shot of Hardy’s bad knee. We don’t need to see a vicious display of red flesh to get the idea; we can see the strain on his face and the desire to keep going. He’d rather be on a stage doing a hospital bit than remembered as the man who spent his final days in a hospital bed.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a lot missing from this tale of the final acts of the comedy team. But considering this is intentionally not telling their full story, leaving the lesser origins of their coupling in the background, the film succeeds at showcasing what happened to Laurel & Hardy when their names left the movie theater marquees. It’s also one of the finest biopic portrayals of 2018, where Coogan and Reilly are in forms so golden I almost wished they’d go ahead and finish that Robin Hood film that would’ve starred Laurel and Hardy. A brief dream sequence reveals what could’ve been and it’s a remarkably faithful vision of a 1950s adventure comedy, vivid and vivacious. Therein lies the film’s greatest achievement; leaving the audience wanting more, where the exuberance of Laurel & Hardy prove to be alive and well in these two accomplished actors.


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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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“Alita” Fights For First, Romance and Horror Behind in Box Office

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Valentine’s Day weekend wasn’t exactly the weekend where the romantic comedy took the top spot. But, surprise, the top spots were taken by a sci-fi action picture and an animated comedy about toys. #1 for the weekend was Alita: Battle Angel, the cyberpunk tale based on the manga and directed by Robert Rodriguez, premiering to a debut of $27 million. Though at the top spot, the film cost $170 million so it remains to be seen how well the film will do over the course of the next few weeks when it goes up against other blockbusters.

At #2 in its second weekend is The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, the animated sequel to the 2014 surprise hit, making another $21 million. Though not terrible for its second weekend, the film has only made $62 million so far, way less than the previous film. It, too, remains to be seen if it can weather the storm of new films on the horizon.

We now come to the romantic comedy for the weekend, Isn’t It Romantic, a satire on rom-coms starring Rebel Wilson. Debuting at #3, the film made $14 million, not as strong even when considering that it debuted on the 13th for a box office total of $20 million. The other new film, Happy Death Day 2U, didn’t fare much better with an early debut and a weekend total of $9.8 million. Although it should be noted that Happy Death Day 2U was a somewhat cheap production at $9 million so the film has already made its money back.

Though the box office was pretty low all around, the drops were fairly low, with the thriller Cold Pursuit and the horror The Prodigy taking the biggest drops of 45% and 46%. With the lowest drops, no surprises, were the soft dramas of The Upside and Green Book, both proving to have the legs to carry themselves over months in the box office.

Take a look at the full top 10 box office results for the weekend below:

Alita: Battle Angel ($27,800,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($21,215,000)

Isn’t It Romantic ($14,210,000)

What Men Want ($10,920,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($9,816,000)

Cold Pursuit ($6,000,000)

The Upside ($5,590,000)

Glass ($3,859,000)

The Prodigy ($3,150,065)

Green Book ($2,751,000)

Next weekend is all about the dragons and warriors. How to Train Your Dragon 3, the animated fantasy adventure of the on-going saga, will hit over 4,000 theaters. Fighting with My Family, a comedy about a family of professional fighters, will debut in over 2,500 theaters.





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