Collateral Beauty Movie Review

David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty starts with a pretentious name and goes downhill from there. It’s a film dealing with weighty subjects in a manner that is borderline offensive and cheats the audience and its talented actors of quality. When you can’t get past an incredibly contrived concept, that makes any semblance of emotional resonance that the screenplay is trying to beat into you fail badly. And it does.

Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising exec who’s mourning the loss of his young daughter. He can’t get past the loss and he’s cut off communication with the world, including his coworkers. There’s three of them that are focused on and they’re all given their own soap opera subplots. Whit (Edward Norton) is a divorcee trying to reconnect with his own little girl. Claire (Kate Winslet) is the workaholic wanting to become a mother. Simon (Michael Pena) is terminally ill and trying to hide his diagnosis from everyone.

The trio make the tough decision to try to push Howard out of the company. In order to do so, the script invents quite a remarkably ridiculous way to do so. You see – Howard writes letters to issues he’s grappling with – Love, Death, Time. When his coworkers are at their wit’s end, they make the puzzling decision to hire an acting troupe to portray those emotions, catch Howard’s reaction to them on camera, and exploit his response for the company’s gain. It’s even more contrived than it sounds. So we have Helen Mirren as Death, Keira Knightley as Love, and Jacob Latimore as Time. Howard also reaches out to a grief counselor (Naomie Harris) who’s experienced similar life issues.

This is the type of picture that some may not want to criticize due to its subject matter. Yet Collateral Beauty deserves scorn, especially because so many other films have dealt with similar themes in far more mature and satisfying ways. There’s not a performance here worthy of praise and that’s remarkable considering the cast. Smith is stuck playing one note throughout and even Mirren (one of our finest actresses) is annoying. No actors could make this dialogue work to be fair. It’s as if screenwriter Allan Loeb took a bunch of sympathy and encouragement cards and self-help manuals, cut them up, threw them in the air, and let treacly word piles form. The result is ugly.

* (out of four)

 

Oscar Watch: The Disaster Artist

Back in March, The Disaster Artist premiered at the South by Southwest festival and it will soon screen at the Toronto Film Festival. The pic comes from James Franco, who directs, produces, and stars. Disaster is the story of the making of The Room, a low budget 2003 experience that is considered among the worst movies of all time. Mr. Franco plays its director and lead actor Tommy Wiseau. The supporting cast includes Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, and Jacki Weaver.

Very positive reviews followed its Southwest bow and it currently stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have indicated this is Franco’s finest performance since 2010’s 127 Hours, in which he received an Oscar nomination. Could he do so here? I would venture to say that a Franco nod for Best Actor is probably the picture’s best chance at recognition. While Disaster has been compared to 1994’s Tim Burton pic Ed Wood (high praise), it’s worth noting that Wood wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.

The Disaster Artist opens wide in December and my Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Birth of the Dragon Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse and WWE Studios hope that martial arts fans turn out for Birth of the Dragon, opening next weekend. Set in 1960s San Francisco, it casts Philip Ng as legend Bruce Lee and chronicles one of his most famous showdowns with Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man (Xia Yu).

The film premiered nearly a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival and it’s getting a release stateside on approximately 1500 screens. The late summer release date and lack of promotion could hinder its box office potential.

If box office predictions were made by considering the amount of Wu-Tang Clan members who might attend a screening, I’d have this higher. Minus that, I’ll say it struggles to even reach $3 million.

Birth of the Dragon opening weekend prediction: $2.9 million

For my Leap! prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/leap-box-office-prediction/

For my All Saints prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/all-saints-box-office-prediction/

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.

David Leitch co-directed John Wick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents.  She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.

The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.

That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.

Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. Atomic Blonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.

*** (out of four)

All Saints Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures attempts to tap into faith-based crowds when All Saints debuts in theaters next weekend. John Corbett headlines as a corporate type gone pastor in the drama costarring Cara Buono, David Keith, and Barry Corbin. Steve Gomer, who’s primarily a TV director, is behind the camera and he also made 1998’s Barney’s Great Adventure (fun fact!).

Christian pics have had a history of sometimes outdoing projections, especially if larger churches plan outings to view it. That said, the late August release date doesn’t inspire much confidence as this is usually a very quiet time in multiplexes.

The theater count when released could up (or  possibly decrease) my forecast, but I’ll say Saints marches in between $3-$4 million.

All Saints opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million

For my Leap! prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/leap-box-office-prediction/

For my Birth of the Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/17/birth-of-the-dragon-box-office-prediction/

 

 

Leap! Box Office Prediction

The final animated feature of summer 2017 arrives next weekend when Leap! debuts in theaters. It will likely earn the least of them all. The tale of an orphan trying to become a ballerina has already opened in other parts of the world under the title Ballerina. It debuted in parts of Europe last December and in Canada this past February with a $57 million global tally.

Featuring the voices of Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Kate McKinnon, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Mel Brooks, the $30 million budgeted pic stands at a decent 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its stateside premiere comes in late August where studios aren’t exactly expecting heavy grosses. It may manage to be the biggest debut of the weekend (against All Saints, Birth of the Dragon, and Good Time). That’s not saying much.

Family audiences have seen plenty of animated tales this summer from Despicable Me 3 to Cars 3 to The Emoji Movie to Captain Underpants to The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, which opened poorly just last weekend. With little ones returning to school, Leap! should have a tough road attracting eyeballs. A decent comp could be the Shaun the Sheep Movie from two summers ago, which managed only $4 million in its August premiere. That’s right about where I have this one.

Leap! opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million

For my All Saints prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/16/all-saints-box-office-prediction/

For my Birth of the Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/17/birth-of-the-dragon-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: August 18-20

Mid August at the box office comes with some star power as two new pictures open competing for the same audience: Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Steven Soderbergh’s heist action comedy Logan Lucky with Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/the-hitmans-bodyguard-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/logan-lucky-box-office-prediction/

The newbies could find themselves in a battle for the #1 spot. Lucky is winning on the reviews side with a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes while Bodyguard stands at 55%. However, my inkling is that Mr. Reynolds will edge out Mr. Tatum with a gross in the mid to higher teens with Lucky in the lower teens.

There’s also the matter of Annabelle: Creation, which got off to a strong start this past weekend (more on that below). If Bodyguard and Lucky both underwhelm, the demonic doll has a slight chance to repeat at #1. However, the horror prequel is likely to suffer a drop in the mid to high 50s. If it all pans out as I see it, we will have our fourth weekend of 2017 where no movie manages to top $20 million.

The rest of the top five should be filled out by holdovers Dunkirk and The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature in its second frame after a weak start.

Lastly, the Taylor Sheridan directed thriller Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen is slated to expand to approximately 600-700 screens. It’s been performing well with critics and in limited release. If that screen count holds true, I’d peg it at $3.1 million this weekend.

And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $16.7 million

2. Annabelle: Creation

Predicted Gross: $14.6 million (representing a drop of 58%)

3. Logan Lucky

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

4. Dunkirk

Predicted Gross: $7 million (representing a drop of 36%)

5. The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million (representing a drop of 46%)

Box Office Results (August 11-13)

Annabelle: Creation scared up some solid business taking in $35 million (beating my $31.4M forecast) to easily place #1. The horror prequel fell just shy of the $37.1 million accomplished by its 2014 predecessor and keeps the Conjuring universe chugging right along.

Dunkirk remained in second with $10.8 million (I was a touch higher at $11.7M). It’s made $153M thus far.

Family audiences largely rejected The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, which debuted in third to just $8.3 million (under my $12.2M prediction). The sequel made less than half of the $19 million achieved out of the gate by the 2014 original. Opening on over 4000 screens, it had a per screen average of just over $2,000. On the bright side, parents who did take their kids to see it probably had plenty of room to roam about the theater. Ouch.

The Dark Tower went from first to fourth with $7.8 million (I said $7.6M). bringing its lackluster two-week tally to only $34M.

Girls Trip placed fifth with $6.4 million (I projected $7.2M) as it stands at $97M and should cross the century mark this week.

The Emoji Movie was #6, also with $6.4 million (I said $6M) for a $63M total.

Finally, Brie Larson drama The Glass Castle had a respectable debut in ninth with $4.6 million (I was close at $4.2M). On a relatively small 1400+ screens, it actually achieved the second highest per screen average of the top ten.

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

Oscar Watch: The Florida Project

The first trailer was released today for The Florida Project, a coming of age drama that debuted at Cannes earlier this summer. It is director Sean Baker’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2015 feature Tangerine and early word for this Project is quite glowing as well. The pic was snatched up by A24 for distribution rights and it opens in limited release on October 6th.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has Florida at 100% and it stands a good chance at some 2017 Oscar recognition. A24 has proven itself to be a player over the last couple of cycles in the awards derby by distributing such titles as Ex Machina, Room, The Lobster, 20th Century Women, and most notably – last year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight. 

Early buzz here suggests a nomination may well be in store for Willem Dafoe. If so, it would mark his third nomination after 1986’s Platoon and 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire. Reviews suggest this is one of his finest performances. It’s not totally clear if he’ll be campaigned for in Lead Actor or Supporting, but the smart money is on the latter. I would also say it’s worth keeping an eye on the Original Screenplay category where Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch could find themselves in the mix.

As for Best Picture, A24 would need one heck of a push to make that happen, but they’ve proven themselves before. For that reason, this Project is one to keep an eye on when it comes to nominations.

Colossal Movie Review

Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is an entertaining little example of what happens when a major film actress wants to do something a bit different. Anne Hathaway is the star here and what we have here is her giving a strong performance in a genre you might not expect.

She plays Gloria, an alcoholic who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and is forced to move from their NYC apartment. With no other options, Gloria goes back to her small town childhood home. Barely settling in, she reconnects with  childhood buddy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who now owns his family neighborhood bar. Oscar offers her a part-time gig waitressing there and business picks up when the unthinkable occurs. Over in Seoul, South Korea – a Godzilla like creature wreaks havoc to those in its path. The citizens of the town go to the bar in the evening to drown themselves while viewing the unfolding developments. Yet there’s a very strange connection to Gloria and what’s happening thousands of miles away.

It turns out that she basically is the monster. If she stands at a playground at precisely 8:05am, her movements match what the monster does when it appears in Seoul. After making this unexpected discovery, she recognizes that she must use this gift (?) for good. However, those around her don’t necessarily share that sentiment.

Colossal clearly has a bizarre plot. Truth be told, your willingness to enjoy it may directly correlate to just going with it. I was able to mostly because of Hathaway’s commitment to the material. Her boozy Gloria is far from your typical heroine and the actress throws herself into the role (even if her drunken stupors humorously keep her unaware of what’s going on half the time). Sudeikis also has a ball with his complicated relationship with Gloria, which turns out to be quite integral to what’s going down in East Asia.

Once Colossal shows all its cards plotwise, it becomes slightly redundant in the last third. That said, the two leading performances and the film’s sheer weirdness and willingness to embrace that make it far from a waste of time.

*** (out of four)

Summer 2007: The Top 10 Hits and More

Well it’s Throwback Thursday and I’m giving you the culmination of my three-part series recounting the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago. We’ve already gone back to memory lane in 1987 and 1997. If you missed either of those posts, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/04/summer-1997-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

That means I’m traveling back a decade ago to 2007 and it’s a summer where threequels were majorly in vogue, accounting for four of the top six grossing pictures. Sequels were pervasive in general in this particular season and it was a breakout summer for one Seth Rogen.

As I have with these previous entries, I’ll count down the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. Rush Hour 3

Domestic Gross: $140 million

The third and final pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in this action comedy franchise is our first threequel on the list. It fell a steep $86 million short of what Rush Hour 2 accomplished six seasons earlier.

9. Knocked Up

Domestic Gross: $148 million

The comedic summer breakout continued Judd Apatow’s hit streak after The 40 Yr. Old Virgin from two previous summers and gave Seth Rogen his first big leading role. Katherine Heigl may have inexplicably trash talked it later, but audiences disagreed.

8. The Simpsons Movie

Domestic Gross: $183 million

Arriving nearly two decades after the still going FOX animated series debut, The Simpsons Movie surpassed all expectations with its gargantuan gross. Just last month, producers announced there’s been traction on a planned sequel.

7. Ratatouille

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Our second animated entry comes from the Pixar conglomerate. The critically hailed rat tale actually experienced one of the lowest openings for Pixar, but it still managed to top $200 million and its reputation has only grown.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Matt Damon’s third go-round as the title character is still the highest grossing entry of the franchise and the only to pass $200 million. The star returned to the series just last summer.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Domestic Gross: $292 million

The fifth installment of the $2 billion plus franchise marks the first one directed by David Yates, who would make the following three pics as well. It stands #5 of the 8 Potter pics in domestic gross.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Domestic Gross: $309 million

The third Pirates flick is when critics really started to turn on the series. Getting past $300 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it is nearly $115 million lower than its predecessor Dead Man’s Chest just one summer before.

3. Transformers

Domestic Gross: $319 million

Michael Bay’s bot series started a decade ago and it’s still going. The original ranks third of the five in grosses as its two sequels topped it, but the last two have fallen under it.

2. Shrek the Third

Domestic Gross: $322 million

Much like Pirates, this is when reviewers started to sour on this series. It was still chugging along, but it did fall $120 million below Shrek 2.

1. Spider-Man 3

Domestic Gross: $336 million

Anyone noticing a pattern here? Once again – a third franchise entry where critics started sharpening their knives. This end to the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy was considered a big letdown in quality, yet it still topped the summer while earning less than its two predecessors.

And now for some other notable pictures of summer 2007:

Live Free or Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $134 million

From a pure numbers standpoint, it’s the highest grossing pic to feature Bruce Willis in his signature role of John McClane (though that changes when adjusting for inflation). From a pure entertainment standpoint, the decision to make this the only PG-13 Die Hard film was a bit puzzling.

Superbad

Domestic Gross: $121 million

Mr. Rogen’s big summer kept rolling along with this acclaimed comedy in which he costarred and co-wrote. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and McLovin became household names due to this.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Before his movies moved to Netflix, Adam Sandler could still crank out $100M+ earners just a decade ago, even if it was this stale comedy co-starring Kevin James.

Hairspray

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Based on both the John Waters 1988 pic and the Broadway musical that followed it, Hairspray featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken performed above expectations.

Ocean’s Thirteen

Domestic Gross: $117 million

Worth mentioning because it’s yet another threequel that couldn’t quite match the grosses of the first two. An all female version of the Ocean’s franchise is soon coming to a theater near you.

Once

Domestic Gross: $9 million

That may be appear to a small gross, but this little Irish romantic musical came out of nowhere stateside and has achieved a devoted following. It’s even been adapted into a Broadway play.

And now for some of the flops of summer 2007:

Evan Almighty

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Yes, it may have crossed the century mark, but this spin-off of 2003’s Bruce Almighty was considered the flop of the season. Starring Steve Carell fresh off the acclaimed 40 Yr. Old Virgin, this family feature came with a reported $175 million budget. Audiences and critics weren’t impressed.

Stardust

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This fantasy flick with Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer only earned a bit more than half its $70 million budget domestically. However, director Matthew Vaughn has bounced back in a significant way with Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. 

The Invasion

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, bad reviews sunk this pic that featured Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, fresh off his heralded debut as James Bond.

I Know Who Killed Me

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Lindsay Lohan was a long way from Freaky Friday and Mean Girls with this panned psychological thriller that featured the starlet as a stripper. Audiences turned away.

And that does it, folks! You can rest assure you’ll see summer posts recounting 1988, 1998, and 2008 in a year’s time…