news//'DUMB AND DUMBER TO' OPENS PRETTY GOOD; 'BIG HERO 6' PASSES $100 MILLION

BOX OFFICE



Harry and Lloyd returned in force this weekend as the Dumb and Dumber sequel, Dumb and Dumber To opened to $36 million. This marks a great return to box office glory for star Jim Carrey, who's seen a pretty dismal string of box office disappointments in the past few years. The sequel went into the weekend with expected mixed-to-negative reviews. It wasn't enough to keep the film down, though, partially thanks to the cult-like following the original 1994 comedy classic has maintained over the years.

The other major wide release of the weekend, Beyond the Lights, didn't see as strong of numbers. The musical drama stars Gugu-Mbatha Raw as a newcomer hip-hop star struggling between finding who she is and the fame she has created. The film earned a paltry $6.2 million, playing better in urban theaters.

Interstellar and Big Hero 6 both continue to show incredible numbers. The former added $28.3 million to its haul. The latter almost grabbed the top spot for the second weekend, ending with $34.6 million. The Disney film officially crossed the $100 million mark over the weekend. Could this be the next Frozen? Time will tell.

In limited release, Oscar hopeful Foxcatcher opened on six screens, pulling in $288,113. Rosewater, directed by Jon Stewart, had a slow start in limited release. The film about the Iraq conflict earned $1.2 million from over 300 theaters. The Theory of Everything expanded to 41 screens, earning $738,000. And, Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, finally broke into the top ten after expanding to over 800 theaters.

Here's a look at the complete Top Ten:

1. Dumb and Dumber To, $36.1 million (NEW)

2. Big Hero 6, $34.6 million (Total: $110m)

3. Interstellar, $28.3 million (Total: $96.9m)

4. Beyond the Lights, $6.2 million (NEW)

5. Gone Girl, $4.5 million (Total: $152m)

6. St. Vincent, $3.768 million (Total: $33m)

7. Fury, $3.761 million (Total: $75.8m)

8. Ouija, $2.96 million (Total: $48m)

9. Nightcrawler, $2.91 million (Total: $24.8m)

10. Birdman, $2.4 million (Total: $11.5m)

review//THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Grade: A+

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Directed by James Marsh
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox

Every year there's at least one performance that goes on to define a certain performer's career. This year it will undoubtedly be the case for Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The movie alone is powerful. Add in Redmayne's unflinching and vulnerable portrayal and what you're left with is a piece of brilliance.

Stephen Hawking continues to pave a legacy of intelligence and perseverance. Despite being crippled by ALS, the cosmologist has become a scientific genius often mentioned in the same breaths as predecessors like Einstein. In The Theory of Everything, Hawking's story unfolds as the science major explores his first forays of college, offering glimpses of his genius straight from the beginning. Not long after he begins unraveling some of physics' greatest questions, the young Hawking finds out he is suffering from ALS and has only two years to live. This rips at his core and leads him to a bout of depression. Only through the determination of Jane, a fellow co-ed, does Hawking power through. The two end up marrying and starting a family, despite the physical difficulties the disease presents. It's in the years after Hawking loses most of his normal motor skills that emotions run high and the end seems like the only answer.

When telling the true story of someone's life, a director has to be careful in how they approach the subject. Sometimes, the story becomes desensitized by overindulgence. Other times, the story ends up feeling choppy. It's the rare occasion when a true story reaches the silver screen with such sincerity and rawness as in The Theory of Everything. Director James Marsh treats Hawking's life with such care that it's hard to imagine the real story was any different than what we see. There are beautiful filmmaking choices that enhance the senses while never taking away from the heart of the story. Marsh is also careful not to allow the science to ever become overwhelming. While Hawking seemingly devoted his life to science, it's the pursuit of love and happiness that is really the most inherent and, in some ways, heartbreaking.

What works the best in The Theory of Everything is the incredible chemistry and dedication given in the performances by Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Redmayne literally melts into Hawking's shoes, mastering everything from the clumsy gate of his walk to the deformed maneuvering of his hands as his body is taken over by the disease. There are many scenes where Redmayne isn't even talking, but the earnest emotions coming through his eyes are enough to move you. Jones delivers her finest work to date as the compassionate and overwhelmed Jane. Her love is unconditional as she goes through the motions over and over again. It's the story of unrequited love despite circumstances. Even when the two seem to drift apart and find new partners, there's a quality of true love that remains. Not a single one of these honest moments appear without seamless work from both actors. It would be a shame for either Redmayne or Jones to be left off of any awards list in the next coming months.

I seem to really like movies that with stick with me for longer than the car ride home afterwards. The Theory of Everything is one of these movies. It's difficult to portray disabilities without coming across as trying to hard or as overly-saccharin. Neither of those apply here. There's a perfect amount of grace given to each and every image seen on screen. It is truly a work of encouraging and empowering art.

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 123 minutes

review//BEYOND THE LIGHTS

Grade: C

BEYOND THE LIGHTS
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver

Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love and Basketball has become somewhat of a cult hit over the years. It's a raw telling of a romantic story that defies genre stereotypes. In her newest film, the pop music drama Beyond the Lights, Prince-Bythewood has created a story with hints of originality and star-making performances, but overshadowed by clich├ęs.

The film begins as a seemingly innocent tale of a talented little girl and a fame-starved stage mother bent on finding perfection no matter what. Noni, a biracial girl from the London suburbs, has a natural musical talent and surprisingly empowered taste in music. After singing a likeable rendition of Nina Simone's "Blackbird" at an area talent show and coming in second place, her mother, the irrational Macy, forces her to destroy the trophy with the intentions of never settling for second best. Fast forward to today and Noni is an underdressed vixen making appearances in hit hip-hop videos and leaving her natural talents at the door with her natural beauty in favor of quick fame and an overproduced look. On the night of winning her first Billboard award, Noni attempts to jump from her hotel balcony only to be saved by a handsome police officer who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Just like it sounds, the film delves into a fight for fame and love with Noni trying to get everything she wants, knowing that's an impossible endeavor.

Newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw takes a strong approach to the adult Noni. If you didn't know any better, you'd think they hired a real hip-hop star as Noni instead of a classically trained actress. She was already building awards buzz for her work in Belle earlier this year. Noni could be her coming out role as a serious film and box office contender. Minnie Driver delivers a great performance as Noni's mom. She's the right mix of evil and endearing that makes her sly decisions that much more disgusting. There's a scene between the two that is so perfectly over-the-top, it'll make the rounds at the awards shows should either be nominated. Sadly, this is where the great performances end. Nate Parker, as the hero cop Kaz, isn't necessarily terrible. In fact, it's the character of Kaz that is so overly-charming that he becomes super annoying. Noni tells him at one point to stop trying to be the hero all of the time. That is my sentiment as well. The other supporting players didn't really offer anything special to be regarded. This is Mbatha-Raw's movie and she keeps it the whole time.

There is only a small amount of things that separate Beyond the Lights from being a very well-produced Lifetime movie. The music is one of them. There are a few great music choices made throughout the early parts of the film and then, once we begin to hear Noni's original music, some honest moments of greatness appear. Prince-Bythewood has a very clear vision for the type of film she's trying to create and that seems to involve a story that meets criteria across several genres.

Noni's story of the rise and fall of fame and its price on a life is an interesting one. There are moments of great conviction in the piece, but overall it's hard to feel completely sorry for someone living out the dream. There's a message hidden in Beyond the Lights somewhere. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to ever surface.

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 116 minutes

review//WHIPLASH

Grade: A+

WHIPLASH
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

You know that feeling you get when you're watching something and the longer you watch the more you realize this is something very special. That is the experience of watching Whiplash, the Sundance Film Festival winning film by director Damien Chazelle. The movie is intense and mesmerizing, literally thrusting you into a world of crazed energy and extreme inhibitions. Carried by awards-worthy performances, Whiplash is, without a doubt, one of the year's best movies.

Andrew (Miles Teller) isn't your average college freshman. While most are lost climbing the social ladder, Andrew has his sight set on becoming one of the greats. A talented drummer already, Andrew dives headfirst into disciplining himself into further greatness after a run-in with the music department's resident tough-as-nails professor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). The school, a sort-of Julliard level college, hosts an array of talented young people. But, it's Fletcher's studio band that offers the most promising of future careers. When Andrew is drafted into a second-string position as the drummer, the true identity of just how abrasive Fletcher can be is revealed. He writes it off as tough love and pushing students to reach beyond what they believe is their best. From an outsider's perspective, it's a mix of unrelenting pushing and crossing the line. Despite tears, blood, and sweat, Andrew proves himself beyond all measure until a laughably genius moment brings the two to a level never expected.

The atmosphere Chazelle has created throughout Whiplash is equal parts modern day drama and classic film drama. Like the music, which is a throwback to great jazz standards and big drum solos, the film feels like any number of great classic character studies set in the modern world. The key to this greatness is, in fact, the performances by Teller and Simmons. As the young drummer, Teller is impressive on multiple fronts. His musicianship is nothing short of incredible and his knack for believable portrayals sets him apart than other young actors. He's proven himself time and time again. Simmons, as the asshole professor, is nothing short of brilliant. He's crafted himself as a sarcastic everyman in countless roles, whether they are determined detectives or loving fathers. Here, though, there's a different type of devotion given. Simmons is the king of delivering great lines. The moment when he taunts Andrew and makes him cry is all things embarrassing and awesome. "Don't tell me you're one of those single tear people." It's amazing what great actors can do when given a good script and led by a great story.

The music is craftily mingled throughout the story, becoming almost a third leading character. We begin to recognize missteps, which only adds to the excitement when a piece is finally brought to fruition. We also agonize with Andrew when trying to get it right becomes a literally painful experience. I was holding my breath the same way I was during the almost-lynching scene in 12 Years a Slave. I was afraid of the pain and I was afraid of Fletcher.

I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this movie. It was everything I look for in a great film. Very rarely do I get excited to see movies over and over again, but this is one I can't wait to watch for a second time. The idea of a movie about a jazz drummer may sound mundane, but Whiplash is not a movie about a jazz drummer. It's about ambition and not letting anything get in your way.

Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

review//BIG HERO 6

Grade: B+

BIG HERO 6
Directed by Don Hall, Chris Williams
Starring Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr, Maya Rudolph

When the name Walt Disney is attached to anything you know you're in for a treat. Even if the film isn't quite as memorable as Sleeping Beauty or The Lion King, it's still a fun time at the movies. There's a reason people refer to a thing as "Disney magic" when it leaves you feeling emotional and special. With Big Hero 6, the Disney magic is mostly there. It's a fun ride that kids will definitely appreciate and parents can enjoy.

The film is set in the melting pot city of San Fransokyo where the world of robotics is cool and the people that build them are even cooler. Hiro, our appropriately named hero, is a young teen set on becoming a master robot-builder. It's his passion and he isn't letting anything get in his way. His older brother is just as brilliant as he is and has created an robot named Baymax intended to revolutionize healthcare. Quicker than expected, Baymax becomes the driving force for all things endearing in the film. He is hilariously large like a giant marshmallow man and patiently polite and kind. Tadashi, Hiro's brother, specifically programmed Baymax to help people. A few plot lines later and Hiro is in charge of Baymax and enlists the help of Tadashi's friends to save San Fransokyo from an evil nemesis. The Marvel tones show up here as things get outlandishly crazy and one of our fearless saviors must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel story, which is a little bit of a hindrance in the overall arc of the film. The action and peril work way better here than other Marvel flicks because the over-the-top scenarios play better in an animated world than in one that is supposed to be believably real. But, there's a certain heart tug that doesn't happen here like we've seen in other recent Disney projects. In all fairness, though, I'm probably comparing recent Disney animation to that of Pixar, Disney's sister. Last year's tour de force Frozen didn't necessarily pull at heartstrings (though Olaf's speech about melting for people was a close contender), but it did give a different kind of anticipation and overwhelmingly good vibes. Big Hero 6 is a lot of fun, tries really hard to be moving, and even comes very, very close, but it's more about the action sequences here, which quickly disintegrates  any almost-feels.

The animation is top notch and the characters are all interesting. Hiro is a great addition to the Disney canon of leading characters, especially for the boys in the crowd. I have a feeling Disney will be making a fortune from Hiro-inspired wardrobe similar to the rush for Elsa styles after Frozen. While Hiro might be a great hero, it's Baymax who steals the spotlight every single time he's on screen. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants a Baymax for my own personal healthcare and friendship.

If I was a kid, I think I would definitely find Big Hero 6 enthralling and emotional. It's more clever than it should be and is a great sign of things to come from Walt Disney Animation. It's worth seeing and will probably end up in a couple Oscar categories. Parents, don't worry, this one will be fun to watch over and over again.

Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes