Hustlers Movie Review

Designer clothes and designer drugs fill the screen in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, inspired by a true story adapted from a New York magazine article. Focusing on a group of strippers who must figure out creative ways to make money after the 2008 financial crisis, this is a crime saga that often feels like a Mob movie trading tailored suits for Juicy Couture  and exotic heels. There are dramatic drawbacks and a lack of character depth in the director’s screenplay. It also features a dynamite performance from Jennifer Lopez and a pounding music score that renders this mostly gratifying.

Constance Wu is Destiny, who’s just nabbed a gig at NYC strip club Moves. She’s a novice in her new trade, but life perks up when she falls under the mentorship of fellow dancer Ramona (Lopez). They form a strong bond (Ramona is a mother figure that Destiny never had) and are a financial force among the Wall Street types that frequent the establishment. This turns out short-lived as the bottom drops out of the economy within a few months.

Destiny leaves the business and has a child from an unhealthy relationship. A lack of income brings her back to Ramona. However, the dollars aren’t rolling in like they used and Ramona is singularly focused on ways to keep the coffers filled. That’s when the duo enlist fellow employees Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and the weak stomached Annabelle (Lili Reinhart). The quartet takes on scores away from Moves and it involves drugging deep pocketed gentlemen and running up those black cards.

Hustlers is told in flashback as a journalist (Julia Stiles) interviews Destiny, who’s conflicted and guilt ridden about her actions. That trait does not apply to Ramona as she feels little sympathy for their marks. The picture is filled with energy when Lopez is onscreen, even if the script shies away from what motivates her (beyond the obvious monetary considerations). Destiny’s story and Wu’s portrayal is less captivating.

It is rather refreshing to watch something that has a Scorsese influence, but filled with much different looking glamorous law breakers. There’s no traditional score in Hustlers as the soundtrack is turned up loudly with primarily pop and hip hip hits from 2007 to 2014. A woozy sequence set to Scott Walker’s late 60s track “Next” turns out to be the musical highlight. We also hear a lot of Janet Jackson, who Lopez herself used to dance for. Other than some occasionally effective bits extolling the virtues of this odd family, don’t look for too much substance here other than the ones up a patron’s nose or mixed in their drink. Yet this is undeniably a pleasurable experience while it lasts.

*** (out of four)

Bombshell Box Office Prediction

The true story of the sexual harassment claims took down Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is dropped in theaters next weekend with the release of Bombshell. Jay Roach directs Charlize Theron in the role of Megyn Kelly and Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson. The supporting cast includes Margot Robbie, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, and John Lithgow as Ailes.

Bombshell, just today, was a surprise multiple nominee for the SAG Awards. It garnered four nods – Ensemble and the performances of Theron, Kidman, and Robbie. Whether or not Oscar nods follow remains to be seen, but it’s certainly in the mix. That buzz should help it gather some eyeballs, but it could experience a gradual rollout like many adult oriented holiday titles do.

The film opens directly against Cats, which will be going for much of the same demographic. There’s also Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which appeals to pretty much everyone. I believe this will be lucky to reach $10 million for its start. Yet this stands a solid chance at legging out positively in the weekends ahead.

Bombshell opening weekend prediction: $6.5 million

For my Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/10/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-box-office-prediction/

For my Cats prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/cats-box-office-prediction/

Cats Box Office Prediction

One of the longest running Broadway musicals of all time gets the big budget screen treatment next weekend with the unleashing of Cats. The rendering of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work comes from the Oscar-winning director of The King’s Speech Tom Hooper, who also made the Les Miserables adaptation in 2012. Performers donning the fur include James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, and Francesca Howard.

When the Cats trailer was posted a few months back, it was greeted with a certain amount of derision. Even with that negative buzz and a review embargo that doesn’t lapse until right before its release, these musicals with hefty price tags have shown their muscle before during the holiday season.

In 2017, The Greatest Showman was met with mixed reviews. Its $8.8 million opening on the same pre Christmas weekend was a disappointment, but it legged out to an amazing $174 million domestically. Five years back, Into the Woods took in a joyous $45 million over its extended Christmas rollout.

This is not expected to reach the highs of Woods or lows of Showman out of the gate. Competition is fierce with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiering on the same day. That said, Universal Pictures has perhaps smartly scheduled this as counter programming for female and older crowds. On the other hand, Bombshell (also out next Friday) is searching for the same audience.

I believe this manages low to mid teens haul for starters as it hopes for positive word-of-mouth afterwards and nine lives of profitability in subsequent frames.

Cats opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million

For my Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/10/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-box-office-prediction/

For my Bombshell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/bombshell-box-office-prediction/

2019 SAG Awards Nomination Reaction

The Screen Actors Guild voters definitely had some surprises in store this morning as they unveiled their nominations for the ceremony airing on January 19th. And the biggest bombshell was… the performance of Bombshell itself, which led the major nods with four. This was followed by The Irishman, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at three.

Some quick takes before I break it down race by race. It was a bad morning for Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, Little Women, and The Two Popes as they received zero nominations. For Dolemite, I thought this might be the branch that would give it some attention. It wasn’t to be.

The nominations today have made Best Actor more confusing and opened up even more the possibility of two actors that I didn’t have listed as alternates factoring into the Oscar mix. All in all, on a morning that had genuine surprises, I went 16 for 25 on my picks. Here’s how it happened:

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Bombshell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: The absence of Marriage Story here is unexpected. Less so is the omission of the aforementioned Dolemite. I didn’t have Bombshell or Parasite named here. The Parasite nod could be construed as a strong sign that it’s a real contender for Best Picture for that other awards ceremony. This race probably comes down to Irishman or Hollywood and the latter likely has the edge.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: It was Bale and Egerton that I didn’t have listed as my first or second alternate. Those spots were instead designated for Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory and Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. This opens up Bale and Egerton to greater Academy attention. It’s also worth noting that Robert De Niro’s work in The Irishman has now been snubbed by the Golden Globe and SAG voters. This makes his road to Oscar considerably bumpier. As I suspect it will be with the Oscars, I suspect it’s Driver vs. Phoenix with this category.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renee Zellweger (Judy)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: No 5 for 5 projections for this blogger today and this is the only one where I named four correctly. It’s Nyong’o in over Awkwafina in The Farewell and that could assist with her Oscar cred after already picking up some critics awards. While Zellweger might be called the soft front runner, the Bombshell love certainly increases the possibility of a Theron win.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: I mentioned yesterday in my predictions post that it might be foolish to leave out Hanks and I was proven right. The genuine surprise here is Foxx, who has been falling under the radar screen as of late (I didn’t even have him in my top 10 of possibilities in my Oscar estimates on Monday). Expect that to change. Hanks and Foxx are in over Willem Dafoe for The Lighthouse (he missed the Globes too) and Anthony Hopkins for The Two Popes. As I said with the Globes, a Pacino/Pesci split could clear the way for Pitt’s trip to the podium.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: One item I did call was the double nomination for Johansson. I did not anticipate Kidman getting in along with her Bombshell costar Robbie. In fact, I didn’t predict either of them as I went with Florence Pugh in Little Women and Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell. Both of those actresses also missed Globe nods. Dern and Lopez could find themselves in a battle for this one. I also wouldn’t totally rule out the chance for a ScarJo upset as voters may want to honor her double nod (as they did here with Emily Blunt in 2018 for A Quiet Place).

I imagine these SAG Award announcements will impact my thinking when I update my Oscar projections on Monday. Stay tuned…

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Box Office Prediction

The ninth episode in the galaxy is not far, far away as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in a theater near you next weekend. Capping the third trilogy of the landmark franchise, the film finds J.J. Abrams returning to the director’s chair after Rian Johnson (currently having his own box office hit with Knives Out) handled duties on previous entry The Last Jedi in 2017. The familiar faces introduced four years ago in The Force Awakens return with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac headlining. Stars from the original trilogy are back including Carrie Fisher (via unreleased footage from previous efforts), Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and two cast members making their respective first appearances since 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. Other notable performers returning include Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Marie Tran. Newcomers to the series are Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, and Richard E. Grant.

Disney took over the reigns of George Lucas’s creation a few years back and the results have been billions more into the Mouse Factory’s considerable coffers. That said, the last two years have shown some chinks in the once impenetrable armor. The aforementioned Last Jedi divided audiences and critics and came in $300 million under Awakens. A few months later in May of 2018, prequel and spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story was the first picture in the series that was a genuine disappointment and actually lost money.

In Star Wars world, “disappointing” numbers are relative. The Last Jedi took in $220 million for its start on this same weekend two years ago, ending its run at $620 million domestically (that’s still good for #9 all-time). Yet, as mentioned, that’s considerably below the $936 million that Awakens achieved. It continues to stand at #1 overall in terms of stateside dollars.

Estimates for Skywalker show a pretty wide range. Some are as low as $175 million. Only in this franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe would that number be called low. Despite the mixed Jedi reaction and Solo grosses, I have a hard time buying that this last entry of the trilogy could come in with $45 million less than its predecessor.

The more reasonable anticipation is that this manages to top $200 million. There is certainly more serious family competition than Last Jedi had with Jumanji: The Next Level being in its second frame (it was the inverse in 2017 with predecessor Welcome to the Jungle arriving the week after Jedi).

My projection here gives Skywalker the seventh biggest debut ever, in between MCU titles The Avengers and Black Panther. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening weekend prediction: $206.4 million

For my Cats prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/cats-box-office-prediction/

For my Bombshell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/11/bombshell-box-office-prediction/

2019 SAG Award Predictions

In a week filled with Oscar precursor activity, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominees will be announced tomorrow morning. This comes just two days following the reveal of the Golden Globe nods.

As you’re likely aware, this particular ceremony is made up of voters from the card carrying acting community. The top race is not honoring the Best Picture of the year. Instead, it’s bestowing the trophy for the favorite ensemble cast. This explains why, in this decade, the Oscar winner for BP and the winner here have matched only 4 of 9 times.

Let’s break it down in each category as I reveal my anticipated nominees with a first and second alternate. I’ll have a post up tomorrow recounting how I did and how the nominations could impact the Academy’s thought process.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture

The SAG voters are a tricky bunch to predict and the Ensemble race presents at least a dozen pictures that I feel could make the cut. When predicting the nominees, I’ll divide into three tiers that relate to the impending Oscar nods:

Our first tier consists of movies that are widely expected to be Best Picture nominees and contenders that might potentially win. That list would be The Irishman, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Parasite. I believe the first three here are close to guarantees for attention here. If any of them miss out, it’ll be widely reported as a surprising snub.

Our second tier consists of movies that are legitimate players for Best Picture nominations, but are unlikely to win. This list includes Bombshell, The Farewell, Jojo Rabbit, and Little Women. An argument could be made that Women would be most obvious to get in. Yet I think this could give Jojo the boost it needs for greater Academy attention.

Our third tier consists of movies that are long shot contenders for Oscar attention. We usually see one of these get a SAG nod. This list includes Dolemite Is My Name, Downton Abbey, Hustlers, Knives Out, and Waves. The trendy pick here is Knives as it should be quite fresh on the minds of voters. Waves would be the largest beneficiary since it’s received scant awards chatter lately. I have a hunch that Dolemite could register with the actors branch here.

Predicted Nominees

Dolemite Is My Name

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

First Alternate – Little Women

Second Alternate – Knives Out

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

The last five years of nominees have shown one 5 for 5 match with Oscar in 2016. The other four years gave us 4 out of the 5 eventual Academy nominees. In other words, this race is a massive indication of where voters may go.

2019 presents a challenge as there are nearly dozen legit contenders in the mix. Adam Driver and Joaquin Phoenix feel safe. The rest is a free for all.

Keeping with my Dolemite theme, the SAG branch may feel tempted to name the legendary Eddie Murphy here. I feel more confident about his inclusion than Adam Sandler, despite his early precursor attention.

Then I’m picking two spots between Christian Bale, Antonio Banderas, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, and Jonathan Pryce. Not an easy task. The Globes notably snubbed De Niro. If that occurs here, expect lots of talk about his dwindling Oscar chances. I’ll say he makes it in along with Leo.

Predicted Nominees

Robert De Niro, The Irishman

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

First Alternate – Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Second Alternate – Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

Renee Zellweger and Scarlett Johansson feel like shoo-ins. The rest is uncertain. While Charlize Theron in Bombshell looks good for Oscar, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk she’s named here. My feeling that Little Women gets snubbed in Ensemble could filter down to Saoirse Ronan and her chances. Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo, and Lupita Nyong’o are all in the mix.

SAG has given us surprise contenders before, like Sarah Silverman in 2015’s I Smile Back. Could we see something in that order with Mary Kay Place (Diane) or Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell)?

Predicted Nominees

Awkwafina, The Farewell

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renee Zellweger, Judy

First Alternate – Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Second Alternate – Lupita Nyong’o, Us

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Brad Pitt and The Irishman double play of Al Pacino and Joe Pesci should see their names called. Here’s a category where a non Oscar nominee can get in – think Hugh Grant in 2016’s Florence Foster Jenkins or Steve Carell in 2017’s Battle of the Sexes. That spot could go to someone like Wesley Snipes if my Dolemite love turns out real. There’s also Shia LaBeouf in Honey Boy, Song Kang-Ho in Parasite, or Sterling K. Brown for Waves. 

Yet I suspect the final two slots will be between Willem Dafoe, Tom Hanks, and Anthony Hopkins. I’ll readily admit it feels awfully strange to predict actors will leave Hanks out, but I’ll go there with trepidation.

Predicted Nominees

Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

First Alternate – Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Second Alternate – Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

SAG threw everyone for a loop last year when they didn’t nominate Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. She ended up taking home the Globe and Oscar. Prior to that, the previous nine SAG winners here also were victorious with the Academy.

Truth be told, this is the category I fear I could go 2 for 5 in. Laura Dern and Jennifer Lopez seem relatively safe. And then it’s picking three slots among Kathy Bates, Annette Bening, Scarlett Johansson (I do believe this is her best opportunity for a double nod), Florence Pugh, Margot Robbie, Zhao Shuzhen, and Maggie Smith. Good luck cracking this one!

Predicted Nominees

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell 

First Alternate – Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Second Alternate – Annette Bening, The Report

That does it for now! Expect a recap coming your way at some juncture tomorrow…

December 13-15 Box Office Predictions

The holiday titles begin to roll in this weekend as family adventure sequel Jumanji: The Next Level, horror remake Black Christmas, and Clint Eastwood’s true life drama Richard Jewell debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on that trio here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/04/jumanji-the-next-level-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/05/black-christmas-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/06/richard-jewell-box-office-prediction/

There’s no doubt that Jumanji will end the three-week reign of Frozen II atop the charts. The 2017 predecessor became a phenomenon for Sony and eventually legged out to become the studio’s highest domestic earner of all time. Estimates have the inevitable sequel making between $40-$50 million out of the gate and I have it on the higher end of that range. Level hopes to earn a nice chunk of cash right away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on deck next weekend.

As for the other newbies, Christmas and Jewell could be in a close race for #3. Horror titles always have the opportunity to exceed expectations, but I’ll give Christmas low teens and Eastwood’s latest just under that.

With a mid 40s dip, Frozen II should fall to second with Knives Out rounding out the top five.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Jumanji: The Next Level

Predicted Gross: $48.7 million

2. Frozen II

Predicted Gross: $18.9 million

3. Black Christmas

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

4. Richard Jewell

Predicted Gross: $11 million

5. Knives Out

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million

Box Office Results (December 6-8)

Per usual, it was a rather quiet post Thanksgiving frame as Frozen II easily held the top spot for the third time. The Disney sequel took in $35.1 million, falling a bit more than my $41.3 million projection. Its tally is up to $338 million.

Knives Out stayed put in second with $14.2 million, not matching my $16.4 million estimate for a two-week take of $63 million.

Ford v Ferrari was third with $6.6 million (I said $7.5 million) as it nears the century mark with $91 million.

Queen & Slim also made $6.6 million (I said $6.7 million) in its sophomore frame for a $27 million total.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was fifth and it’s not experiencing the minor declines that many (myself included) anticipated. It made $5.2 million compared to my $7.2 million forecast for an unimpressive $43 million.

The Mark Ruffalo drama Dark Waters expanded wide and was sixth with $3.9 million, on pace with my $3.7 million prediction. Total is $5 million.

Last and most certainly least, critically drubbed animated effort Playmobil: The Movie was an absolute disaster. Opening in 14th place, it made $656,000. I was far more generous at $2.8 million. For those keeping score, that’s a $281 per theater average.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…