Young Adult and Tully Movie Review

Two films this decade have combined the talents of director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody, and star Charlize Theron. Both have given Theron, who won a deserved Oscar 15 years ago for Monster another opportunity to step out of action heroine mode. That’s where she’s resided a lot recently and Reitman’s camera and Cody’s words have given her a chance to stretch.

Young Adult from 2011 is more rough around the edges, more uncomfortable, and ultimately more memorable. Theron is Mavis, who spends a little time ghost writing YA novels and the rest of her life in an aimless haze of alcohol and unreachable fantasy. She grew up in the small town of Mercury, Minnesota and moved on up to Minneapolis. When Mavis receives an email announcing the arrival of her high school sweetheart’s baby, it triggers a road trip. Her heart is set on getting Buddy (Patrick Wilson) back. Mavis seems blissfully (and often drunkenly) oblivious that his Buddy’s wife (Elizabeth Reaser) is a pretty cool mom, special ed instructor, and part-time band drummer.

Patton Oswalt’s Matt becomes Mavis’s drinking buddy and earpiece to her plans. Matt was badly assaulted in school in a sort of hate crime. They form a sad and occasionally sweet partnership accentuated by two fine performers playing them.

The title of this picture doesn’t only apply to the genre of novels that Mavis authors. She may be 37, but her mind is stuck in two decades old reversal. You may hear her bragging about leaving her small town roots, but she’s never fully escaped those prom queen days. Cody deserves kudos for making the central character a complicated one. You’ll cringe at her and sympathize with her moments later.

Tully from the spring of this year finds Theron in a different mode. She’s Marlo, a frazzled mother of two youngsters (one of whom has special needs). She’s extremely pregnant with a third when we meet her. While Mavis was the small town gal who made it out, Marlo made it to New York City in her youth and returned to the burbs. She finds her existence mundane with her little ones and slightly dull hubby (Ron Livingston). Her well off brother offers to foot the bill for a night nanny with the hope of restoring some balance to her long days and sleep deprived evenings.

This is when the free-spirited Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives. She doesn’t just help out with the new infant, but provides a sounding board to Marlo’s issues. Theron’s character here is more sympathetic while still maintaining some of the quirks (a word that gets some humorous play here) that we expect from Cody’s writing.

Theron’s award winning turn in Monster found her shedding her outward beauty. You find that in both projects here to varying degrees. Tully is more deliberate in its pacing and an act three revelation doesn’t feel as profound as it wants to be. It’s still worth your time for Theron’s work and some incisive commentary about the joys and sorrows of parenthood.

Young Adult is a bit more brave in its script and overall execution. You may not have any clue how Mavis will end up in life when the credits roll, but the time spent with her is even more rewarding on a cinematic level.

Young Adult

***1/2 (out of four)

Tully

*** (out of four)

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A.X.L. Box Office Prediction

Next weekend, moviegoers are treated to a biopic of the legendary and reclusive Guns N’ Roses lead singer with the release of A.X.L.! OK… not so much. On the contrary, this family adventure is a tale of a young man and his robot dog. Oliver Daly directs based on a short film he made and funds were reached for a feature film through a Kickstarter campaign. Alex Neustaedter, Becky G, Dominic Rains, and Thomas Jane are among the cast.

I must admit I’ve been rather surprised by the amount of TV ads I’ve seen for this. That said, with a pretty low theater count around 1700, I don’t expect much here at all. Family audiences have had plenty to feast on this summer and I don’t see them having much of an appetite for this.

A.X.L. opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million

For my The Happytime Murders prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/14/the-happytime-murders-box-office-prediction/

The Happytime Murders Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/18/18): I am revising my estimate from $17.8 million down to $15.6 million

The Happytime Murders drops in theaters next weekend with a very simple concept to draw moviegoers in: Puppets Gone Wild! The very R-rated comic crime tale imagines a world where humans and puppets coexist. It comes from Brian Henson (son of Jim), who made the more family oriented Muppet pics The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island in the 1990s. Melissa McCarthy headlines the human cast along with Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, and Joel McHale. Bill Barretta is the puppet detective who used to work with McCarthy’s character.

The film’s tagline – “All Sesame, No Street” – resulted in a lawsuit from the makers of the long-running PBS program. As you could correctly guess from the red-band trailers, they had no involvement in this particular project.

Happytime should rise or fall at the box office based on audience curiosity in its gimmick. Finding reasonable comparisons for this is a tricky proposition. Two summers ago, the animated Sausage Party rode a wave of good buzz to a fantastic $34 million debut. However, this doesn’t seem to be generating similar chatter as of yet. If we want to go back in dirty puppet history, Team America: World Police earned just over $12 million in the fall of 2004.

The participation of McCarthy could help, but this is not the type of material her fans may typically rush to see. I’ll say Murders manages a debut in the mid to high teens and its word-of-mouth (positive or negative) will determine what transpires in the weeks following.

The Happytime Murders opening weekend prediction: $15.6 million

For my A.X.L. prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/14/a-x-l-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: August 17-19

Blogger’s Note (08/14/18): On the eve of its opening, I’m upgrading my Crazy Rich Asians estimate to low 20s and mid 30s for the three and five-day. That now gives it the #1 spot.

A trio of newcomers attempt to bite into the unexpected huge performance of The Meg and it keep it from a second frame atop the charts. We have critically acclaimed rom com Crazy Rich Asians, Mark Wahlberg’s action thriller Mile 22, and Ice Age adventure Alpha. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/07/crazy-rich-asians-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/07/mile-22-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/07/alpha-box-office-prediction/

Let’s start with the low hanging fruit. I don’t expect much from Alpha at all and my $5.2 million projection leaves it outside of the top five.

Even if The Meg falls over 50% in its second frame, it could still maintain the top spot with a gross in the low 20s.

However, that’s if Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t manage those numbers. My estimate has steadily risen, but its Wednesday opening could prevent it from hitting #1 (I’ve got it awfully close). Mile 22 should place third in the mid teens for a so-so start.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout should drop to fourth. The five-spot could be interesting as I have Christopher Robin and BlacKkKlansman grossing roughly the same amount.

And with that, here’s my top 6 projections for the weekend ahead:

1. Crazy Rich Asians

Predicted Gross: $22.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $33.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

2. The Meg

Predicted Gross: $20.3 million

3. Mile 22

Predicted Gross: $16.7 million

4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Predicted Gross: $11 million

5. Christopher Robin

Predicted Gross: $7.4 million

6. BlacKkKlansman

Predicted Gross: $7.1 million

Box Office Results (August 10-12)

The Meg turned out to have the quite the mega opening stateside with $45.4 million, doubling (yes DOUBLING) my meager $22.7 million estimate. Never bet against sharks apparently. The shark tale performed well overseas as well, which was needed considering its reported $150 million plus budget.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout was runner-up with $19.3 million (a tad below my $21.3 million prediction) for $161 million in its three weeks of release.

Christopher Robin was third with $12.9 million compared to my $13.8 million estimate. The Disney pic has made $50 million in two weeks.

Critically reviled horror flick Slender Man was fourth, debuting to $11.3 million (a couple notches above my take of $9.1 million). Look for it (with a D- Cinemascore grade) to fade quickly.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, with terrific reviews and awards buzz, started out strong on just over 1500 screens in fifth with $10.8 million (I said $9.6 million).

Finally, Dog Days premiered to totally unimpressive numbers in just 12th place with $2.5 million. I gave it way too much credit at $5.1 million. Woof.

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

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

1982’s Blade Runner has been reworked and remastered more in the past three decades plus than most classic albums. Along with Alien, director Ridley Scott created a one two punch of science fiction classics in a span of just three years. While the former spawned a series of sequels and offshoots, it’s not until 35 years later that a proper Blade Runner sequel has arrived.

Mr. Scott serves as executive producer because he was busy making the mediocre Alien: Covenant. So it’s Denis Villeneuve handling behind the camera duties one year after his highly rewarding alien pic Arrival. He proves himself as a natural choice to revisit this dystopian future that’s been an incredible influence on many sci-fi experiences that followed.

That influence has mostly been in its bleak look and astonishing production design. 2049, as the title tells us, takes place 30 years after what we saw in the early 1980s. Our central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant who serves the LAPD like Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the original. These days, K’s kind are programmed to be more obedient and their primary function is in slave labor. K’s day job involves hunting down old school replicants. In the ultra stylish night, he invents a relationship with the gorgeous holograph Joi (Ana de Armas).

One of K’s assignments leads to a startling discovery that suggests replicants have the ability to procreate. The existence of a being of that ilk is troubling to K’s boss (Robin Wright), fearing a war will break out between humans and replicants. The revelation also intrigues Wallace (Jared Leto), the blind owner of the corporation that manufactures the product. He envisions this as a considerable financial opportunity and tasks his chief enforcer (Sylvia Hoeks) to find the now grown child.

This all eventually leads back to Deckard, with Ford completing a trifecta of revisiting signature late seventies and early eighties roles. It also involves his romantic interest Sean Young from the original. She returns in the archival footage manner. 2049 expands the Blade Runner universe and also expands the running time, clocking in nearly 45 minutes longer than part 1. In that respect, the sequel takes a bit longer to get its motor running.

Luckily for us, the visuals that were so special 35 years ago are remarkable here as well. There are sequences that are bleakly beautiful. Those expecting a full update on Deckard’s dealings may be surprised to find he doesn’t appear until about two-thirds through the proceedings. This is Gosling’s picture to carry most of the way and he does so with a quiet intensity.

Like Villeneuve’s Arrival, this is a sci-fi venture more steeped in its themes than action sequences. Violence comes in short and sudden bursts and that’s in line with two of the filmmaker’s other efforts Prisoners and Sicario. It’s no accident that I’m comparing 2049 just as much to those three movies as I am with the Scott original. Villeneuve succeeds in making this long gestating follow-up his own while clearly valuing an adoration of the first. That doesn’t happen too often as even Scott has fallen short with his return to Alien world. The legions of admirers of what came 35 years ago should be pleased.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Greatest Showman Movie Review

Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman doesn’t burden itself with much historical accuracy or being a full-fledged look at its title subject. Its pleasures are of the surface level variety. At one point, a stuffy critic begrudgingly tells P.T. Barnum that his show has succeeded in bringing joy to people. So does this musical in many moments.

Hugh Jackman is Barnum, an endless promoter who grew up poor and never forgot how he was treated by New York’s elite. He marries his childhood sweetheart Charity (Michelle Williams), who came up with wreath and privilege. After some career misfortune in the 19th century era Big Apple, Barnum develops his greatest idea: a stage experience featuring society’s freaks. This includes a bearded lady (Keala Settle) with a beautifully booming voice and a dwarf (Sam Humphrey) who dresses as a general. He teams up with playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), who also hails from the aristocracy but feels more at home among these outcasts. Phillip also finds love of the forbidden kind with the show’s trapeze artist (Zendaya).

While Barnum finally finds the financial success he’s longed for, it doesn’t buy him respect and that’s a consistent through line in the screenplay. Both the wealthy class and hecklers who lurk around the theater believe the freak show atmosphere is a disgrace. Barnum tries to combat this by touring with famed European opera star Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Both his family and circus employees feel the neglect.

The brisk 105 minute running time features 11 song and dance numbers that move the plot along, often in montage fashion. Even a cursory Wiki read of Barnum’s grand life reveals that Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon’s script aren’t making a biopic. Like the man it’s about, this picture is style over substance. The message of inclusion and acceptance is unmistakable and frequently touching. Most importantly, the musical numbers (from the team behind La La Land) produce plentiful happy feels.

With his theater background, Jackman is more than well suited to play the man in the top hat. He’s the focal point in many of the song and dance interludes. Yet it’s “Rewrite the Stars”, a gorgeously choreographed sequence with Efron and Zendaya, that proved most memorable for me.

A stuffy critic could gripe that a rewrite should have explored more of Barnum’s real existence. However, the joyous vibe while I was watching is enough to justify admission here.

*** (out of four)