Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Friday, 14 October 2016

'Doctor Strange' To Defeat 'Ant-Man' (At The Box Office)

Doctor Strange is likely to gross more in its opening weekend than 2015's Ant-Man, industry experts say.

The super-hero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch opens in North America on the 4th November, and on Thursday a major tracking service projected a first weekend total of $64 million or higher.

This is a noticeable improvement on the debut of Marvel Studios most recent new franchise Ant-Man, which opened with $57 million in mid-July of last year.

The film sees Cumberbatch in the role of Stephen Strange, a former neurosurgeon who seeks the healing power of mystical figure The Ancient One, after a car accident leaves his hands seriously injured.

As the 14th feature film from juggernaut Marvel Studios, Doctor Strange is expected to become yet another franchise for their so-called 'Cinematic Universe' which also includes such characters as The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and also stars Tilda Swinton (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal).

Monday, 26 September 2016

Box Office Breakdown: The Magnificent Seven

It is telling just how dire a position the western genre is in that The Magnificent Seven's $35 million debut has been announced by many as a great victory. With a $90 million budget not including advertising costs, this debut would be considered the bare minimum needed from a film of a more commercial genre. Frankly though, the western can be considered anything but in this day and age. With a few notable exceptions such as Quentin Tarantino's 2013 hit Django Unchained, the western has produced a string of flops in recent years that count the likes of The Lone Ranger, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Cowboys & Aliens among their number.

With this in mind, even with box office heavyweights like Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington attached, The Magnificent Seven was far from a safe bet for box office success. Therefore, I would speculate the warm congratulations the film has received for its frankly bog-standard debut over the weekend, a product of industry relief that they can again declare a blockbuster to be not an outright flop -- something they didn't get many chances to do over the summer movie season.

And to be fair, The Magnificent Seven  cannot be considered a flop at this point in time. This debut is unremarkable but not necessarily bad, however the executives at Sony and MGM should pause for thought before they prematurely raise any celebratory banners. With a predicted final domestic gross for The Magnificent Seven looking to be somewhere between the $110-$130 million mark, this feature will need significant support from overseas audiences to turnover any major profit (or indeed any profit at all). This is something that few Westerns have been able to gain in recent years, with most struggling to get past $100 million internationally, meaning in a best case scenario The Magnificent Seven is currently looking at a total worldwide gross under $250 million (and we can assume it will need at least $225 to start making profit).

All things said then, The Magnificent Seven is shaping up to be the most modest of hits for Sony and MGM, but as we leave a summer dominated by financial disappointments (at best) and huge disasters (at worst), a film making any profit whatsoever appears to be newsworthy.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Thoughts on John Campea's Deleted Ben-Hur Review

This article contains spoilers for both the 1959 and 2016 Ben-Hur movies.

Yesterday, film critic and reporter John Campea uploaded his review of this week's Ben-Hur remake to his self-titled YouTube channel. Intrigued to see how the film was faring with critics, I was one of the many who clicked on the review and was left subsequently puzzled.

Campea had some positive remarks for the Ben-Hur remake, but ultimately gave the film a negative review largely due to how it ended. The critic took issue with how the sister and mother of main protagonist Judah Ben-Hur -- Miriam and Tirzah -- were miraculously cured of their leprosy after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, particularly as he claimed that this did not happen in the 1959 Ben-Hur movie (the most famous of this story's many adaptations).

This was immediately confusing to me as having watched the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur movie only last year, I remember quite clearly that this did indeed happen in that adaptation of the story, while Jesus cured the two women in a similar fashion in Lew Wallace's original novel from 1880. I wasn't the only one to recall this detail of the iconic story, and soon the comments section of the review was filling up with people pointing out Campea's error.

What was most confusing to me about this situation was that throughout his review Campea spoke as someone who had seen the 1959 cinematic landmark, at one point even imploring his viewers to seek it out themselves if they haven't already. Yet if he had actually seen the three and a half hour epic, wouldn't he have remembered one of the most pivotal scenes in its closing act?

The only other option is that Campea saw the film so long ago that he had forgotten how it ended, but I don't believe that excuses this behaviour. 

If he was pretending he had seen the original film in order to boost the credibility of his opinion on the matter, then that is very deceitful of him. If he hadn't seen the film in so long that he'd forgotten how it ended, he should have refreshed his memory either by watching it again or by simply reading through the Wikipedia plot synopsis, before using a non-existent change as a major criticism of the remake. The fact he chose not to I feel was inexcusably lazy for one of YouTube's most prominent film critics.

Whatever the reality of the situation, the review has since been taken down which seems to suggest Campea is aware of the error he made. 

This video frustrated me personally as it was such a large mistake that was so easily avoidable, and it's a kind of sloppiness that would only be deemed excusable on YouTube. As much as I enjoy the thriving film criticism community on the video-sharing site, it is in situations like these where you see quite vividly where it falters in comparison to more traditional film reviews from outlets such as the Guardian or the BBC. Such major mistakes from paid film critics would not be accepted on those sites, which makes me wonder why we're more willing to accept them from paid film critics on YouTube?

This is not intended as an attack on John Campea, I'm sure he works very hard to produce as much content as he can. I just feel that mistakes like these shouldn't be brushed off, as all they do is make YouTube seem less credible than other film criticism sites, and that could cause long-term problems.

Friday, 12 August 2016

TEN Film and Television Awards 2016: The Winners

It's finally here! Long overdue, the winners of The Entertainment Network Film and Television Awards 2016 have been announced, although the previously planned video ceremony has been cancelled. These are sad times indeed.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Winner: Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)
Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jason Statham (Spy)
Michael Pena (Ant-Man)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Winner: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)
Rachel Weisz (The Lobster)
Rebecca Hall (The Gift)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Scarlett Johannson (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture

Winner: Andrew Garfield (99 Homes)
Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture

Winner: Emily Blunt (Sicario)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Maika Monroe (It Follows)
Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak)

Best Director

Winner: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
Guillermo Del Toro (Crimson Peak)
Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)

Best Picture

Winner: Ex Machina
99 Homes
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian


Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

Winner: Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil)
Aaron Paul (Bojack Horseman)
Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
David Tennant (Jessica Jones)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

Winner: Yael Grobglas (Jane the Virgin)
Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Jean Smart (Fargo)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil)

Best Lead Actor in a Television Series

Winner: Patrick Wilson (Fargo)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Jesse Plemons (Fargo)
Terrence Howard (Empire)
Will Arnett (Bojack Horseman)

Best Lead Actress in a Television Series

Winner: Kirsten Dunst (Fargo)
Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)

Best Television Series

Winner: Fargo
Bojack Horseman
Jane the Virgin
Jessica Jones
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Box Office: 'Nine Lives' is Dead on Arrival

Yesterday we discussed Suicide Squad's impressive opening weekend, and our projections for next week's box office results. Now though, it's time to take a closer look at the older films that aren't making so many headlines, but are still kicking around in the top ten.

For starters, there's Jason Bourne; the Matt Damon franchise revival opened relatively strong last week with just shy of $60 million, the second highest debut for this franchise just behind 2008's Bourne Ultimatum. Unfortunately, the story isn't quite so positive going into week two, as the release of Suicide Squad almost certainly took the wind out of Bourne's sails. The film suffered a 61% drop pulling in a little over $20 million in its sophomore weekend, not a  disaster by any means but perhaps an indication that this film won't have the legs of last year's Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

While you could put this down to Bourne's lukewarm critical reception, this is a recurring theme that has haunted the entire summer movie season this year thus far. WIth a new tentpole blockbuster hitting theaters almost every weekend, few films have been able to find their footing before losing the attention of movie-goers; Suicide Squad cannibalized Jason Bourne, just as Jason Bourne cannibalized Star Trek Beyond one week prior.

As we discussed yesterday, Suicide Squad seems to be one of the only films that will prove an exception to the rule. The film has relatively little competition on the horizon, and that should put it in the best position possible to hold steady in the face of bad reviews -- something March's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not able to do.

One film that has been holding remarkably well is Mila Kunis comedy Bad Moms, which managed to hold its number three position following its solid debut last weekend. Falling just 41%, the $20 million picture now boasts a domestic haul of over $50 million. This is a real boost for Kunis who seemed to have lost some of her star power following the one-two punch of critical and commercial flop Jupiter Ascending and her surprising replacement in Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2 (although that can be seen as Kunis dodging a bullet, depending on how you look at it). Bad Moms can also be seen as a win for newbie distributor STX Entertainment, this being their highest grossing film to date by a significant margin (their previous record holder being Joel Edgerton's The Gift which reached $43 million domestic late last year).

Also holding well is Illumination Entertainment's animated offering The Secret Life of Pets, which is now up to a domestic total of nearly $320 million from a relatively small $75 million budget. A sequel to the film has recently been greenlit, giving the fairly young animation studio a third successful franchise after the Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss movies.

If the stories of Bad Moms and The Secret Life of Pets are evidence of anything, it's that keeping your budget reasonably low is in most cases a wise thing to do; this is a lesson those behind the latest Star Trek film should have learned sooner. Indeed, in spite of the fact that 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness was something of a financial under-performer, Paramount chose to invest a similarly colossal budget into the franchise's third entry: $185 million. After opening with the lowest debut to date since this rebooted series began, Beyond has seen its takings drop alarmingly quickly over the last two weeks. At this point its domestic total is unlikely to get above the $150 million mark, and worlwide the film is only at about $195 million.

If Into Darkness' disappointing performance wasn't enough for Paramount to reassess their investment in this franchise, this surely will be. At this point it wouldn't be surprising if the previously announced fourth entry in the franchise (which would see the return of Chris Hemsworth in a much larger role) was scrapped entirely, at the very least you can expect the film to be significantly cheaper than its precursors.

Bizarrely positioned against DC's juggernaut Suicide Squad movie was Europa Corp's utterly ridiculous Nine Lives, starring Kevin Spacey as a man who swaps bodies with his house cat. The first trailer was met with bewilderment and some outright disbelief by the people of the Internet a few months back, and after all hopes of the film achieving "so bad it's good" status were extinguished last week it's unsurprising that the feature failed to find an audience.

Debuting at number six with a minuscule haul of $6.2 million, the only comforting part of this whole situation is that at least the film won't be a hugely expensive flop with a budget of just $30 million -- which still seems surprisingly high in this reporter's opinion. In a world where the likes of The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory are currently in theaters, you can't blame most families for passing on Nine Lives. Europa Corp. should have seen this coming and pulled the plug on this picture before the cameras even started rolling.

The James Wan-produced micro-budget horror film Lights Out continues to impress, now holding a domestic total of $54 million from a budget of just under five. Less impressive are the three films rounding out the top ten, starting with the Emma Roberts/Dave Franco thriller Nerve which dropped 48.5% in week two sending it down to number eight. This isn't a terrible hold but as the film didn't open with very much to begin with it seems to paint a fairly dismal picture for the feature going forward.

Ghostbusters is next up at number nine, now heading into the closing weeks of its theatrical run the film has only managed to make $116 million domestically, with a worldwide total of $180 million. This is not a good sign for what was intended to be a new series of films, with director Paul Feig having said some weeks ago that the film would have to make it to $500 million to get a sequel. That isn't going to happen. Where the franchise goes from here is tough to call, with a direct follow-up to this reboot seemingly unlikely.

Finally, Ice Age: Collision Course is at number ten. The film's domestic box office numbers have been meager, but this is a franchise which for many years now has relied on overseas audiences to keep itself afloat. With just $54 million racked up in the States, the film is up to $288 million worldwide thanks to those foreign box office numbers, but still it's looking to be one of the weakest entries in the long-running series to date.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Suicide Squad - $135 million
2. (1) Jason Bourne - $22.7 million
3. (3) Bad Moms - $14.2 million
4. (4) The Secret Life of Pets - $11.5 million
5. (2) Star Trek Beyond - $10.2 million
6. (-) Nine Lives - $6.5 million
7. (6) Lights Out - $6 million
8. (8) Nerve - $4.9 million
9. (7) Ghostbusters - $4.8 million
10. (5) Ice Age: Collision Course - $4.3 million

Monday, 8 August 2016

Box Office: Suicide Squad Brings New Meaning to 'Squad Goals'

A barrage of bad reviews simply wasn't enough to slow the momentum of Suicide Squad going into its opening weekend, where the film performed as projected bringing in $135 million over the weekend and breaking several records in the process. The DC Comics adaptation can boast not only having the largest August opening day to date ($62.5 million), but also the largest August opening weekend of all time dwarfing Guardians of the Galaxy's $94 million from 2014.

There was never really any doubt that Suicide Squad would open big, but what these reviews have called into question is the film's long-term performance. No matter what your personal opinion of the film is, there's no denying that Batman v Superman's critical reception did impact its box office takings, and can be considered at least partly responsible for the film's hefty 69.1% second week drop. That film ultimately went on to gross $872 million worldwide, a figure which Warner Bros. saw as disappointing. This isn't hugely surprising when you consider that the combined cost of Batman v Superman's production and marketing was a colossal $415 million, and film studios usually only see about half of a film's box office gross returned to them (in this case that would be about $436 million).

It's hard to say for sure whether Suicide Squad will suffer the same rapid decline as BvS, but at this point it seems like there's a solid chance. Some analysts are expecting Suicide Squad to drop by about 67% next weekend, a slightly better hold than DC's previous feature although BvS did open higher so perhaps that's an unfair comparison.

One thing that Suicide Squad does have in its favour is a relative lack of competition. The widest release next weekend is Disney's Pete's Dragon remake which seems to have a general lack of buzz surrounding it. The Mouse House has had a lot of success with previous live-action remakes Cinderella and The Jungle Book, but at this rate Pete's Dragon is unlikely to perform on those levels. I would predict a debut between $30 and $35 million, performing more in line with the likes of Alice Through the Looking Glass and TMNT: Out of the Shadows than those bigger Disney juggernauts. However, even if the film was to open higher it doesn't seem to share an audience with Suicide Squad and the two could still conceivably co-exist.

Animated comedy Sausage Party could eat into more of the Squad's target audience, but the film's R rating should keep it from overtaking the DC flick. At this point, it's difficult to predict whether Sausage Party will perform on the level of recent Seth Rogen comedies This Is The End and Neighbours 2 (both of which opened with around $20 million), or if it can wrangle in a greater audience with its unique premise in the same way Seth McFarlane's Ted did back in 2012 (which opened with over $50 million). I'd say its most likely to fall somewhere in between, but land closer to a Rogen debut (especially considering Ted 2's under-performance seems to suggest audiences only have so much time for these kinds of comedies).

Meryl Streep biopic Florence Foster Jenkins also opens next week, but with a smaller theater count could struggle to make an impact. A performance on-par with last summer's Ricki and the Flash seems a reasonable expectation, that would give Jenkins a debut between $5 and $8 million.

We'll have more box office coverage coming later today, in the meantime here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Suicide Squad - $135 million
2. (1) Jason Bourne - $22.7 million
3. (3) Bad Moms - $14.2 million
4. (4) The Secret Life of Pets - $11.5 million
5. (2) Star Trek Beyond - $10.2 million
6. (-) Nine Lives - $6.5 million
7. (6) Lights Out - $6 million
8. (8) Nerve - $4.9 million
9. (7) Ghostbusters - $4.8 million
10. (5) Ice Age: Collision Course - $4.3 million

And here's our final predictions for next week's chart:

1. Suicide Squad - $50 million
2. Pete's Dragon - $33 million
3. Sausage Party - $28 million
4. Jason Bourne - $12 million
5. Bad Moms - $9 million

Outside of the top five, we're predicting a $6 million debut for Florence Foster Jenkins. Be sure to come back next week to see how our predictions compare to the real results!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Box Office: Finding Dory Dominates, Warcraft Doesn't Respawn

In a summer that has been somewhat unkind to blockbuster sequels, Finding Dory has managed to break the trend to become yet another smash hit for Pixar animation. The film opened with $136 million over the weekend -- the largest opening weekend for an animated feature ever -- and close to double the $70 million the first film debuted with back in 2003. Pixar are moving ahead with numerous other sequels including Toy Story 4, Cars 3 and the long-awaited Incredibles 2 and looking at these numbers it's not hard to see why. This opening is a far cry from the rare misstep the studio made last winter with original film The Good Dinosaur, which went on to become the lowest grossing feature Pixar has made to date. Finding Dory more than makes up for that film's shortcomings and proves that audiences young and old still have a lot of time for Pixar movies.

The other big new release over the weekend was Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart's action-comedy Central Intelligence which came in at number two with an opening of $34.5 million. This opening matches that of Hart's previous starring role (January's Ride Along 2), and has generally been seen as a solid if unremarkable start for the movie which is projected to finish with a domestic gross of around $90 million.
Still, while Central Intelligence's opening may not be turning any heads at least it isn't shocking people Warcraft-style, as the videogame adaptation continues to be rejected by American audiences. Indeed, after the film's meagre $25 million opening it was all but guaranteed to flop in the US, however a miniscule second week drop would have done at least a small amount of damage control. Sadly, the film had no such luck falling a huge 73% and making just $6.5 million on its second weekend. That's the third highest second week drop ever for a film screening in more than 3,000 locations, behind only 2009's Friday the 13th and last year's Fifty Shades of Grey. The film's fate now weighs even more heavily on Chinese audiences, with whom it continues to be a smash-hit.

The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 both suffered from greater second week drops than their respective first entries, although nothing quite as brutal as Warcraft. The Conjuring 2 fell 61.5% in comparison to 2013's The Conjuring which fell a more reasonable 46.9% in its sophomore weekend. This is only slightly disappointing as thanks to the affordable nature of these films, The Conjuring 2 is still a big success and this is a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down.

One franchise that might put the brakes on just a little is Now You See Me, as the more expensive second film continues to underperform. The film's 56.9% drop leaves it with a ten-day domestic total that is nearly $20 million less than the original film had at this point in its run. Whether or not the third film still goes ahead is unclear, but if it does don't be surprised if its given a smaller budget.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Finding Dory - $136.1 million
2. (-) Central Intelligence - $34.5 million
3. (1) The Conjuring 2 - $15.5 million
4. (3) Now You See Me 2 - $9.6 million
5. (2) Warcraft - $6.5 million
6. (5) X-Men: Apocalypse - $5.21 million
7. (4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $5.2 million
8. (6) Me Before You - $4.1 million
9. (8) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $3.6 million
10. (9) Captain America: Civil War - $2.2 million

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Donald Glover Joins Spider-Man: Homecoming, Probably Isn't Miles Morales

Industry trade Deadline reported yesterday that Donald Glover (also known by the stage name Childish Gambino) has officially joined the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming. To those who have been following the 'Donald For Spider-Man' campaign this is big news, for those who haven't allow me to fill you in.
Back in 2010 when Sony's Amazing Spider-Man reboot was still searching for its lead, a fan of Glover's work suggested that he should be one of the actors in the running for the title role. The actor, then starring in NBC's Community, embraced this idea asking his fans to tweet the hashtag #Donald4SpiderMan in order to see how far they could spread this fan-casting. The campaign soon gained a large following, although ultimately the role went to Andrew Garfield with Glover claiming he was never given the chance to audition.
The idea remained in people's minds long after the release of the 2012 reboot regardless, with the creation of the black-Hispanic Spider-Man Miles Morales in 2011 only adding more fuel to the fire. Glover's casting in this latest instalment in the wall-crawler's film history (which stars Captain America: Civil War's Tom Holland in the lead), is a knowing wink to all those fans who had championed the actor for the role -- although it should be noted that Glover is almost definitely not playing the aforementioned Miles Morales.
In the comic-books, Morales gains his powers at the age of just thirteen years old and so if the character was to make his way to the big screen -- something which isn't out of the realm of possibility -- it's likely that they would cast someone far younger than the now thirty-two year old Glover. Indeed, Glover's role in the movie is currently unspecified but we can only hope that he'll be playing a character with some depth and importance, as it would be a shame to waste such a talented actor in a role only included to provide fan service.
Glover joins Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in the upcoming MCU Spider-Man flick, which is directed by Jon Watts and set for release on the 7th July 2017.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Review: Martian Comics #1

Julian Darius' Martian Comics is one of the most interesting super-indie titles I've read in some time. The majority of the book's page count is devoted to telling the story of Izzy Montoya, a young woman whose dreams about Mars are soon revealed to be the result of her body being possessed by an alien. In an interesting twist, the Martian character who takes control of Izzy's body is no evil emperor plotting to kill or conquer, rather she is just a woman who has grown disillusioned with Martian society and makes the decision to leave her body out of a desperate desire for a break from it all.
In this sense she's a character we can all relate to at least to some extent. Most of us have dreamed of a break from the stresses and strains of daily living, and Izzy's possessor faces those same struggles only on the face of a different planet. With her narration guiding almost the entire issue, by the final page writer Julian Darius has built a likeable protagonist with the potential to tell great stories with. One scene in particular sticks out in my mind in which Izzy tries to understand Earth humour and impress people at a party with hilarious results. Unfortunately, in this issue a well-developed lead comes at the expense of any well-developed supporting characters. Indeed, Izzy is very much front and centre this entire issue, which doesn't give the book's other characters much chance to grow.
The most prominent supporting character would be Izzy's sister Rita, who in the second half of the book is introduced as a loyal and loving sibling to the lead character. Still, her time in the limelight is limited and dominated by Izzy who spends most of these scenes trying to convince Rita of her extraordinary predicament, while also shedding some light on the history of Martian's interactions with Earth. Ultimately, it would be nice to see Rita given something pivotal to do herself throughout the duration of this story, something which could better define her personality and extend her beyond the bewildered but supportive sister archetype.
The only other memorable character introduced in this issue is the villain, known only as the Devil at this point. His appearance is brief and clearly just a hint towards things to come, so it would be unfair to complain that he isn't better developed. Judging from the cover, the next issue will give us a greater insight into this sinister figure, something I await with anticipation as his entrance here made quite the impression.
Although I had some gripes with the absence of a supporting cast, I did very much enjoy Martian Comics #1 thanks in large part to the creative mythology Darius has built around the series even at this early stage. Glimpses into Martian culture and even the method in which these creatures take control of a human host, as well as the effects a possessed person can have on those around them are all ideas I haven't seen before. There were a few things about life on Mars that I feel weren't explained terrifically well and bordered on confusing, but the ambitious world-building on display here is still impressive to watch unfold.
Where this issue falters is in its back-up story which explores the idea of Jesus as a human who was possessed by one of the book's Martian characters. This was an idea referenced mid-way through the book, and worked in passing as a fun line emphasising the expansive secret history Mars has with our planet. However, when elaborated on in the form of this short story it doesn't work quite as well. The whole five-page story feels disjointed and fails to capture your attention in the same way as the main plot, which ultimately I would have preferred to see more of in this slot. I understand that Darius is trying to expand his universe in these back-ups, but I feel like more interesting things could have been presented than a rushed recap of Jesus' life from the Martian perspective.
The artwork is carried out by Sergio Tarquini with colours from R. L. Campos; together this team provide the book with an appealing style in which each character has their own very distinctive look. Tarquini's designs of Mars and the aliens which inhabit it are memorable, and he shows a good understanding of portraying character's emotions on the page, an important factor in selling any scene. There are a few backgrounds that feel a little bland, but mostly the artwork is strong and nicely finished by Campos whose colours breathe life into the high-concept and futuristic Martian society, just as they also bring a realism and familiarity to our less impressive planet.
While not without its flaws, this is a strong debut for Martian Comics that science-fiction fans should really enjoy. This story shows great potential, and if it can correct its flaws in subsequent issues could prove to be a real hidden gem.
Martian Comics #1 is out now on ComiXology, with a Kindle edition also available.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Box Office: The Conjuring 2 Takes #1, Now You See Me 2 Underwhelms

James Wan's return to the horror genre in the form of The Conjuring 2 impressively managed to avoid the worrying trend that has been facing many sequels this summer, that of a debut significantly lower than the previous film. The Conjuring 2 now joins an exclusive club of movies that have been exceptions to that rule, a club whose only other member at the time of writing is Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War. The Conjuring 2 did debut ever so slightly lower than the first film in the series (bringing in $40.3 million to the first film's $41.8), but given just how unforgiving this summer's box office has been so far most Hollywood trades will likely ignore this difference in favour of finally having a positive headline to print. It's been a little while.
The Conjuring 2 was likely helped along by some strong reviews (something many sequels have been lacking this year), with an A- CinemaScore implying most audiences have walked away from the feature feeling satisfied. This gives James Wan an even stronger filmography going into his next project, an ambitious film adaptation of one of DC Comics' most famous characters: Aquaman.
Videogame movie Warcraft performed as expected over the weekend, unfortunately expectations weren't high. The film brought in just under $25 million, enough to take the number two spot but not enough for a film with a $160 million price tag. As we discussed here a few days ago, the key to a Warcraft sequel is held firmly in the grasp of the Chinese box office, the only place in the world where the film is pulling in huge numbers. The film is estimated to have brought in over $150 million in China alone after only five days of release, thanks in large part to the huge fanbase the Warcraft videogames have maintained in China for many years.
If Warcraft can keep up the momentum it has gathered in China then the Middle Kingdom could single-handedly get a sequel greenlit, and in the process win the hearts of the many Western fans who have insisted the film isn't as bad as its harshest critics would have you believe.

Magician-thriller sequel Now You See Me 2 couldn't avoid audience's sequel aversion in the way that The Conjuring 2 did, instead having to settle for the number three spot and an opening of $23 million ($6 million lower than the first film's debut back in 2013). This isn't good news for Lionsgate and Summit who were hoping this could be a new big franchise for them, showing dedication to the property by gifting this sequel a budget $15-25 million higher than the first film had while also prematurely starting production on a third entry. This isn't a disastrous debut by any stretch but given this inferior opening weekend and an as of yet unremarkable international performance, the film is looking likely to finish with a lower worldwide gross than the original.
Last week's number one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows drops three places to number four to accommodate the new releases, taking a drop of about 58%. This isn't far off the second week drop the first film was dealt two years ago (55.7%), but it's worth noting that the 2014 entry opened with a lot more than this sequel to begin with. Overall, Turtles 2 is another sequel that is significantly underperforming this summer, but given that these kinds of films often make a lot of their money back in product placement and merchandise sales this doesn't necessarily spell the end of this franchise.
Rounding out the top five is X-Men: Apocalypse, another sequel which at this point has no chance of matching its precursor in terms of box office figures; the kindest headline that can be found for Fox's Marvel sequel this week, is that it is now the eighth highest grossing X-Men film domestically -- not all that impressive when you consider there has only been nine.
The harshest weekend was suffered by Andy Samberg's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping which dropped 63% from its already abysmal opening, plummeting straight out of the top ten to number thirteen on only its second week. The film made only $1.7 million over the weekend, despite still playing in over 2,300 theatres. In stark contrast, Disney's The Jungle Book is still clinging onto its spot in the top ten after nine weeks of release, crossing the $900 million mark worldwide last week.
US Box Office (weekend of 10th-12th June 2016)
1. (-) The Conjuring 2 - $40.3 million
2. (-) Warcraft - $24.3 million
3. (-) Now You See Me 2 - $23 million
4. (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $14.8 million
5. (2) X-Men: Apocalypse - $10 million
6. (3) Me Before You - $9.2 million
7. (5) The Angry Birds Movie - $6.7 million
8. (4) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $5.5 million
9. (6) Captain America: Civil War - $4.3 million
10. (9) The Jungle Book - $2.7 million