El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie Review

For fans of Breaking Bad (of which I certainly am), one lingering question was whether Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) completed his emotional joyride after being freed from captivity in the title vehicle. El Camino answers it in a manner which never feels entirely needed, but with enough nostalgic merit to keep it from feeling superfluous. It’s been six years since the brilliant AMC show closed up shop with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finally succumbing to the dangers of his career path. Jesse’s fate was more uncertain as his former teacher and meth mentor allowed him to escape.

Camino picks up immediately after the series finale. As you’ll recall, Jesse had been held prisoner by some Aryan dealers who kept him in an underground cage. During those final episodes of Bad, Paul perfected the wounded puppy cadence befitting his circumstances. That continues here as Jesse must adjust to his liberation. Being the lone survivor of the finale’s massacre makes him the most wanted man in New Mexico.

The Netflix pic volleys back and forth between his need to find a brand new life and flashbacks allowing favorite characters to return. Considering Mr. White and Cranston’s legendary performance, it’s no surprise to see him. Some cameos are more surprising and humorous and poignant. The most effective in my view is Todd, which affords Jesse Plemons more screen time to flesh out his calmly psychopathic creation. Robert Forster returns as a fixer who specializes in giving criminals fresh leases on life. His portion runs a close second in entertainment value. Sadly, the veteran character actor passed away on the day of the film’s premiere.

Does El Camino ever approach the most potent moments from its source material? Not really, but Paul gives a terrific performance with his tragic antihero. Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, returns to write and direct. He was meticulous about his acclaimed series and this continuation doesn’t feel cheap. It’s a deadly and deadpan world that we loved and it feels pretty darn good to soak it back in for a couple hours.

*** (out of four)

2019 Oscar Predictions: October 10th Edition

The Joker went wild at the box office over the weekend, easily setting the all-time October opening record. Let’s see how the rest of awards season plays out, but the film has now entered back into my predictions for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay. In the big race, that knocks out A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which made its inaugural appearance in the top ten last Thursday. In other developments:

  • In Actress, the five spot continues to change back and forth. For this week, Awkwafina is in with Alfre Woodard just outside.
  • In Supporting Actress, Laura Dern goes back to the #1 slot over Jennifer Lopez.

The other races remain the same with some positions jockeying around. So here’s the big announcement…

Next Thursday, I will be including all categories covering feature length films for the first time. The list of Picture possibilities will dwindle from 25 to 15 with all other races going down to ten. Stay tuned!!

BEST PICTURE 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Marriage Story (PR: 3)

4. 1917 (PR: 7)

5. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 4)

6. Parasite (PR: 5

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 6)

8. The Farewell (PR: 9)

9. The Two Popes (PR: 8)

10. Joker (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 10)

12. Little Women (PR: 12)

13. Waves (PR: 13)

14. Pain and Glory (PR: 15)

15. Richard Jewell (PR: 19)

16. Judy (PR: 17)

17. Just Mercy (PR: 14)

18. Bombshell (PR: 20)

19. A Hidden Life (PR: 16)

20. Rocketman (PR: 24)

21. The Report (PR: 21)

22. Booksmart (PR: 18)

23. The Good Liar (PR: Not Ranked)

24. Dark Waters (PR: 22)

25. Ad Astra (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Downton Abbey 

BEST DIRECTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Sam Mendes, 1917 (PR: 5)

4. Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite (PR: 4)

5. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

7. Lulu Wang, The Farewell (PR: 12)

8. James Mangold, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 7)

9. Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes (PR: 10)

10. Greta Gerwig, Little Women (PR: 8)

11. Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 13)

12. Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life (PR: 11)

13. Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory (PR: 9)

14. Todd Phillips, Joker (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Clint Eastwood, Richard Jewell (PR: 15)

Dropped Out:

Trey Edward Shults, Waves

BEST ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Renee Zellweger, Judy (PR: 1)

2. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

3. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet (PR: 3)

4. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women (PR: 4)

5. Awkwafina, The Farewell (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Alfre Woodard, Clemency (PR: 5)

7. Charlize Theron, Bombshell (PR: 7)

8. Lupita Nyong’o, Us (PR: 8)

9. Helen Mirren, The Good Liar (PR: 9)

10. Isabelle Huppert, Frankie (PR: 11)

11. Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen and Slim (PR: 10)

12. Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Felicity Jones, The Aeronauts (PR: 14)

14. Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell (PR: 12)

15. Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell (PR: 13)

Dropped Out:

Kristin Stewart, Seberg 

BEST ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (PR: 2)

3. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes (PR: 4)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 3)

5. Robert De Niro, The Irishman (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory (PR: 6)

7. Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 7)

8. Taron Egerton, Rocketman (PR: 8)

9. Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell (PR: 10)

10. Michael B. Jordan, Just Mercy (PR: 11)

11. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems (PR: 12)

12. Ian McKellen, The Good Liar (PR: 13)

13. Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters (PR: 14)

14. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra (PR: 9)

15. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Matt Damon, Ford v Ferrari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story (PR: 2)

2. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (PR: 1)

3. Annette Bening, The Report (PR: 3)

4. Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 4)

5. Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PR: 8)

7. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 6)

8. Meryl Streep, Little Women (PR: 7)

9. Florence Pugh, Little Women (PR: 9)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 11)

11. Jennifer Hudson, Cats (PR: 12)

12. Margot Robbie, Bombshell (PR: 13)

13. Nicole Kidman, Bombshell (PR: 10)

14. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory (PR: 14)

15. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite Is My Name (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 1)

2. Al Pacino, The Irishman (PR: 3)

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes (PR: 4)

4. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 2)

5. Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse (PR: 8)

7. Joe Pesci, The Irishman (PR: 6)

8. Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 9)

9. Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy (PR: 7)

10. Sterling K. Brown, Waves (PR: 10)

11. Alan Alda, Marriage Story (PR: 11)

12. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy (PR: 13)

13. John Lithgow, Bombshell (PR: 12)

14. Sam Rockwell, Jojo Rabbit (PR: 14)

15. Zack Gottsagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Sam Rockwell, Richard Jewell

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Marriage Story (PR: 1)

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (PR: 2)

3. Parasite (PR: 3)

4. The Farewell (PR: 5)

5. Pain and Glory (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Waves (PR: 6)

7. Ford v Ferrari (PR: 7)

8. 1917 (PR: 11)

9. Booksmart (PR: 8)

10. Bombshell (PR: 9)

11. The Report (PR: 10)

12. Honey Boy (PR: 12)

13. Dolemite Is My Name (PR: 14)

14. Knives Out (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Rocketman (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Ad Astra 

The Lighthouse 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Irishman (PR: 1)

2. Jojo Rabbit (PR: 2)

3. The Two Popes (PR: 3)

4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PR: 4)

5. Joker (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Little Women (PR: 5)

7. Judy (PR: 9)

8. Just Mercy (PR: 8)

9. Downton Abbey (PR: 7)

10. Richard Jewell (PR: 10)

11. The Good Liar (PR: 12)

12. Dark Waters (PR: 11)

13. Hustlers (PR: 14)

14. Toy Story 4 (PR: 15)

15. Luce (PR: 13)

Oscar Watch: Atlantics

Back in May, the Senegalese supernatural drama Atlantics received the Grand Prix prize at  Cannes. The picture marks the directorial debut of Mati Diop and she is the first African-American woman to have a feature compete in the annual French fest. The Grand Prix is essentially second place at Cannes and it came in behind Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, which has already established itself as the front runner for this year’s newly coined Best International Feature Film at the Oscars.

Atlantics is just Senegal’s second entry for Academy consideration. The first was 2017’s Felicite, which made the list of top ten submissions but didn’t end up getting into eventual nominated five. In this particular race in 2019, there are 93 movies eligible for inclusion. This December, that will be whittled down to ten with half of them eventually making the cut come announcement morning.

With a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score and the Cannes seal of approval, Atlantics stands a very real shot being recognized among the nominees. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Zombieland: Double Tap Box Office Prediction

The quartet of Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin return after a decade to fight the undead in Zombieland: Double Tap next weekend. The comedic sequel find Ruben Fleischer back directing and Bill Murray back playing himself. Newcomers in part 2 include Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, and Murray’s Ghostbusters costar Dan Aykroyd.

In October 2009, Zombieland helped usher in a resurgence for the living dead. With solid reviews, the pic took in $24.7 million for its start and closed at $75 million. The band is back together after all these years and the original’s reputation has stayed intact in the interim.

In 2019, we have seen numerous examples of sequels falling short of what came before. Double Tap could be immune from that, but I don’t see it outgrossing part 1 by any substantial margin. My hunch is that this comes in barely under the debut posted in 2009 as enough moviegoers will want to catch up with this gang.

Zombieland: Double Tap opening weekend prediction: $23.7 million

For my Maleficent: Mistress of Evil prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/08/maleficent-mistress-of-evil-box-office-prediction/

The Mule Movie Review

If fish out of water tales with Mexican drug cartels is your desired viewing option, you can’t go wrong with “Breaking Bad”. Clint Eastwood’s The Mule is a considerably more mixed bag. Let’s call it Walter Whiter as our octogenarian subject makes a curious late career choice that is actually based (loosely) on true events. We have seen Eastwood go down the “I’m too old for this…” bit a few times in the past few years. This might rank as the strangest.

The first half of The Mule is engaging in its amiable way. Our star and director plays Earl, whose horticulture business is on its last legs thanks to that darn internet. He’s a man who makes fast friends and loves life on the road and has ignored his family along the way. That includes an ex-wife (Dianne Wiest), a child who won’t speak to him (real-life daughter Alison Eastwood), and granddaughter (Taissa Farmiga) who still wishes to connect.

A job opportunity arises for Earl to spend most of his time driving. It happens to be crossing state lines to transport larges volumes of cocaine. He’s pretty decent at the gig, earning the nickname “El Tata” (grandfather) from his heavily armed coworkers. Andy Garcia is head of the cartel. The new job leaves Earl flush with money and women. If you thought Clint Eastwood and threesome action isn’t something you’d ever see in a movie, think again. And again. Tata also garners the attention of the DEA, led by Bradley Cooper’s agent, Michael Pena as his partner, and Laurence Fishburne as their boss.

When The Mule enters its second phase, Earl is trying to make amends with numerous poor choices (a frequent theme in the filmmaker’s work). This is when the carefree tone shifts rather uncomfortably. None of the supporting characters are really developed at all. You get the feeling most of these accomplished actors just wanted to work with Clint. The dramatic exchanges with family members feels stilted.

I can’t deny there’s some joy in watching Eastwood for a while. If you loved Gran Torino, you’ll probably at least like this. There’s also no denying that he’s tackled similar themes with far superior results. As Earl attempts to get his act together, he goes off grid from his day job. I doubt one of the true elements in this fact based tale involved his bosses not being able to locate him for days. Don’t they track his cell phone? Or have his vehicle bugged? I found myself pondering this in the final act. Despite a game showcase performance, perhaps resenting the screenplay’s disregard for the intelligence of drug lords means the picture isn’t clicking on all cylinders.

**1/2 (out of four)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Box Office Prediction

The cavalcade of 2019 Disney live-action reimaginings continues next weekend with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. The fantasy adventure is the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, which focused on the villainous title character from Sleeping Beauty. Angelina Jolie returns along with Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville. Newcomers to the fold include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Joachim Rønning (who recently co-directed the Mouse Factory’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) takes over for Robert Stromberg.

When it comes to comps for how Mistress might perform, that’s a tricky calculation. Since the release of part 1 five summers ago, there’s been eight Disney updates of their classic animated material. The last two from this summer (Aladdin and The Lion King) were massive blockbusters based on beloved 1990s pics. This spring’s Dumbo, on the other hand, premiered with a so-so $45 million.

What about Maleficent itself? It opened just under $70 million with a $241 million eventual domestic haul. Yet five years is a fairly long break between sequels and some of the kiddos who attended could take a pass here. That brings up the example of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. In 2010, Wonderland was the first significant reimagining in several years. It debuted to $116 million. Six years later, Looking Glass was a huge flop and earned in the mid 20s for its start. For a non Disney example, Snow White and the Huntsman kicked off with a robust $56 million in 2012. Four years, its follow-up The Huntsman: Winter’s War sputtered with a meager $19.4 million.

While I don’t anticipate the drop-off here will be quite as dramatic as the last two scenarios, I do feel Evil will come in markedly lower than its predecessor. I’ll predict mid to high 30s could be the range and that means around half of the bounty from half a decade ago.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opening weekend prediction: $35.3 million

For my Zombieland: Double Tap prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/09/zombieland-double-tap-box-office-prediction/

October 11-13 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (10/10): My Joker estimate has risen from $39.8 million to $44.8 million. My   Addams Family estimate is up from $21.7 million to $27 million. My Gemini Man projection has dropped from $24.8 million to $22.8 million.

After a record setting October beginning, Joker looks to repeat in the top spot with more significant competition in its sophomore frame. The contenders for the throne are Ang Lee’s action thriller Gemini Man starring Will Smith and the animated version of The Addams Family. There’s also the Adam DeVine technological comedy Jexi, which will be lucky to hit the top five. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newcomers right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/gemini-man-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/the-addams-family-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/02/jexi-box-office-prediction/

I am on the lower end of expectations with Gemini and Addams. My respective projections in the mid 20s and low 20s puts them in second and third positions behind Joaquin Phoenix’s villainous character.

So how will Joker fare in the follow-up weekend? Looking to some decent comps, both Logan and Venom fell 56% in their second outings. It seems reasonable that this will drop that much. I don’t see it falling the 68% of, say, Watchmen. I’ll say 58-60% is most feasible.

Abominable looks to place fourth and my $3.5 million forecast for Jexi puts it behind Downton Abbey in the five spot race.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Joker

Predicted Gross: $44.8 million

2. The Addams Family 

Predicted Gross: $27 million

3. Gemini Man

Predicted Gross: $22.8 million

4. Abominable

Predicted Gross: $7 million

5. Downton Abbey

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

Box Office Results (October 4-6)

Joker decimated the all-time October premiere record with a sizzling $96.2 million, rising above my $89.6 million projection. The Warner Bros stand-alone comic book pic was not affected by various controversies that preceded it and audience curiosity was clearly at a fever pitch.

Abominable dropped to second place with $11.9 million, in line with my $12.5 million prediction for a two-week tally of $37 million. That’s on the smaller end of the spectrum when it comes to Dreamworks Animation’s early autumn offerings.

Downton Abbey was third with $7.9 million (I said $8 million) for a bountiful $73 million haul thus far.

Hustlers was fourth with $6.3 million, just under my $6.7 million. The Jennifer Lopez hit is nearing the century mark at $91 million.

I incorrectly had It Chapter Two outside of the high five, but it was fifth with $5.3 million to float its gross to $202 million.

Renee Zellweger Oscar hopeful Judy expanded its theater count to over 1400 and was sixth with $4.5 million. I had it making a tad more at $5.9 million. Total is $9 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…