Tony’s Reviews: ‘Free State of Jones,’ ‘The Shallows,’ ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

Photo Courtesy: TP Productions

SALT LAKE CITY, June 24, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Three films are opening wide release today, but does the standing box office champ, “Finding Dory,” have anything to worry about?

Box Office Mojo is predicting that “Dory” is most likely swimming in calm waters this weekend. The Disney/Pixar animated hit is estimated to earn somewhere between $70 million and $80 million its second weekend in release.

It’s closest competitor will be “Independence Day: Resurgence,” with an estimated weekend box office of about $48 million its opening weekend. The sequel to the 1996 smash hit might have come too late to build interest and momentum for the film.

Experts are predicting a dourth place opening for “The Shallows,” starring Blake Lively. The film is tracking well with audiences, and will bring in an estimated $12.5 million its first weekend.

Matthew McConaughey’s Civil War film, “Free State of Jones,” is expected to open in fifth place. The film is getting some backwash because of its length (139 minutes). That coupled with it opening in only 2800 theaters will hinder its earning capacity to $9.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Here’s a breakdown of the predicted weekend box office:

Finding Dory – $81 million
Independence Day: Resurgence – $48.41 million
Central Intelligence – $18.5 million
The Shallows – $12.5 million
Free State of Jones – $9.29 million
The Conjuring 2 – $6.45 million
Now You See Me 2 – $4.31 million
Warcraft – $2.75 million
X-Men: Apocalypse – $2.55 million
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – $2.42 million

The Reviews:

Free State of Jones
Starring: Matthew McConaughey
Rated R

Based on a true story, “Free State of Jones” follows a defiant Southern farmer, Newton Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy.

Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a “Free State of Jones.”

Knight continued his struggle into reconstruction, distinguishing him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.

“Free State of Jones” is a movie that simply bit off too much. The film makes the crucial error of trying to tell the whole story of Newton Knight, causing the film to jump back and forth between timelines and ultimately creating an unnecessarily complicated film. Also, some of the battlefield scenes are a bit gruesome and on the edge of gratuitous.

On the other hand, Matthew McConaughey is passionate in the role and the film is well shot and acted. But the problem of telling three stories at the same time hinders the film’s watchability.

“Free State of Jones” gets a C and is rated R.

The Shallows
Starring: Blake Lively
Rated PG-13

Blake Lively is Nancy, a young woman dealing with the recent death of her mother. As she surfs on a secluded beach, she is attacked by a great white shark.

Stranded on an outcropping of rocks only 200 yards from shore and bleeding badly, she must pull together all of her ingenuity, resourcefulness and fortitude before the tide comes back in.

It’s so easy to compare any shark film with “Jaws” and that is certainly true with “The Shallows.” The film does tip its hat to the Steven Spielberg film enough for the audience to understand the producers know you’re going to make those comparisons.

But those parallels disappear quickly as soon as the film takes off and the audience begins to feel the tension building.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who is no stranger to tense action having helmed “The Orphan,” “Non-Stop,” “Unknown” and “Run All Night,” Collet-Serra takes his time to properly build the film into a white-knuckle ride.

But it is Blake Lively that makes “The Shallows” work. The actress conveys the right amounts of fear, inspiration and humor to make her character believable and very human.

“The Shallows” won’t make you forget about ‘Jaws,’ but it will get you on the edge of your seat.

It deserves a B and is rated PG-13.

Independence Day: Resurgence
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth and Brent Spiner
Rated PG-13

We’ve waited 20 years for the next epic chapter in the “Independence Day” franchise. Now our heroes are using recovered alien technology to help the nations of Earth with an immense defense program to protect the planet.

But can we prepare for the aliens’ ultimate attack? Can the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction?

“Independence Day: Resurgence” is a sequel coming a bit too late. In fact, it’s about 15 years too late. The highly anticipated sequel to 1996’s blockbuster film has no teeth and is an anemic attempt at recapturing the vitality of the original.

The film is slow-moving from beginning to end, even the battle sequences are a bit under enthusiastic. The film, directed by Roland Emmerich, who helmed the original film and many others including “Stargate” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” keeps the story at arms length and never lets the viewer get involved.

Back for seconds are Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner. But each character has become more and more annoying over the past two decades, making their appearances frustrating at best. Not back are Will Smith (who chose wisely), Margaret Colin and Adam Baldwin.

The film is also replete with subplots that are never quite flushed out including a ‘feud’ between Liam Hemsworth’s character, Jake Morrison, and Jessie T. Usher, who plays Dylan Hiller, the now adult son of Will Smith’s character. The feud never quite goes anywhere or moves the plot enough to justify it being written in in the first place.

In the final reel, everything is wrapped up with a nice bow, including a little nod at a third film (which is in pre-production now).

For getting our hopes up after 20 years and then dashing those hopes like a falling spacecraft by wasting the audience’s time, “Independence Day: Resurgence” gets a D.

It’s rated PG-13.


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