Old Review

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is Old and it plays like a long Twilight Zone episode which rapidly puts its subjects in that time frame of their lives. If you’ve seen the trailer or TV spots, what you see is essentially what you get. The writer/director is responsible for putting this uninteresting group on a gorgeous beach. That’s in the figurative sense since he created them. It’s also in the literal way because Shyamalan casts himself as the driver who takes them there.

Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) are on the verge of splitting up and they take their 6-year-old boy and 11-year-old daughter on a tropical excursion before they break the news. They know this is meant to be a short-lived paradise, but they get more than they bargained for. You know how parents say their youngsters act like teenagers before they should? It happens here.

The Cappas are taken to a secluded area of the island for R & R. Joining them are a surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his snotty wife (Abbey Lee) and their 6-year-old going on 11…13…15 (eventually played by Eliza Scanlen). There’s a nurse (Ken Leung) and his wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird) that’s prone to seizures. In the latest example of eye rolling character choices, we also have a hemophiliac rapper (Aaron Pierre) who goes by the name of Mid-Sized Sedan. This might an even more cringe worthy use of a hip hop reference than James McAvoy’s MC skills in Split. 

Once placed in the breathtaking locale, all the vacationers discover they’re aging approximately one year every half hour. This is, of course, first noticed with the children. The Cappa kids morph into Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff. Their elders fall prey to the typical signs of advanced age – disease, Alzheimers, low calcium content. Poor Mid-Sized Sedan never gets the chance to trade in for a cooler sounding vehicle name.

In Shyamalan’s best features (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), the auteur created pretty interesting characters to place in his twisty tales. That is just not the case with this group. Even a coasting Shyamalan is reliable for a few thrills, but they don’t roll in too often.

Too much of Old is filled with his clunky dialogue. The kids talk like adults before they actually are a few hours later. The surprise developments toward the end (which aren’t all that shocking) hint at a larger picture. They may have been engrossing had we not been subjected to an hour and a half of watching this dull lot waste away. This could have made a nifty Twilight Zone episode because that program ran 30 minutes. In Shyamalan’s labored production, it feels closer to a year.

** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: The Good House

The Good House, from directors Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, has premiered in Toronto and it marks the third cinematic pairing of Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline. The two starred in the 1993 political comedy Dave and Ang Lee’s 1997 acclaimed drama The Ice Storm. 

House combines both genres and initial reviews specifically praise Weaver’s work. The three time Oscar nominee received all her nods in the 1980s with Aliens, Working Girl, and Gorillas in the Mist. A consistent fixture in leading and supporting roles for over 40 years, she could be a part away from more serious awards consideration.

I doubt The Good House lays the foundation for that. Best Actress simply looks too crowded for that occur despite the critical appreciation. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Survivor

For about a decade starting in the early 80s, the films of Barry Levinson were a magnet for awards nominations. 1988’s Rain Man won Best Picture and Levinson took directing honors. 1991’s Bugsy scored numerous nods including the aforementioned big races. The Natural and Good Morning, Vietnam earned acting mentions. Levinson received screenplay nominations for Diner and Avalon.

Over the past decade or so, the filmmaker’s most acclaimed titles have come on the small screen with several HBO movies. His previous big screen offering was the panned 2015 Bill Murray vehicle Rock the Kasbah. 

Those fortunes could change with The Survivor, which has screened in Toronto. The black and white Holocaust drama tells the true life story of Harry Haft (Ben Foster). During his captivity at Auschwitz, he was forced to box fellow prisoners in order to survive. Costars include Billy Magnussen, Danny DeVito, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Leguizamo.

Reviews from our neighbor up north have resulted in an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score. Not all the generally positive reaction are raves, but there’s one consistency. Foster is being heralded for his role. Despite praised performances in Hell or High Water and Leave No Trace, Foster has yet to capture the attention of Oscar voters. The actor reportedly lost a tremendous amount of weight for the part. That has been a recipe for making the ballot for plenty of winners and contenders including Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) to name just two. The Best Actor race probably has two slots filled already with Will Smith (King Richard) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog). Hopefuls are waiting in the wings like Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up). There’s other performances from the fest circuit such as Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon), Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), and Clifton Collins Jr. (Jockey) in the mix.

First things first. The Survivor needs to find a distributor and a 2021 release date to qualify. It will likely do so. The next question is how hard its eventual studio/streamer pushes for Foster. The Survivor is also a possibility in Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, and maybe even Picture and Director if its gets the right push.

Bottom line: I’ve yet to even mention The Survivor in my weekly Oscar predictions. I doubt I’ll be projecting it yet for inclusion in the aforementioned categories, but I do suspect it will bubble up for the first time in other possibilities. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Dear Evan Hansen Box Office Prediction

The film adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical drama Dear Evan Hansen hits theaters September 24. Directed by Stephen Chbosky (who made the 2012’s acclaimed indie The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 2017’s blockbuster Wonder), Hansen recasts Ben Platt in the title role. The supporting cast features Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Stenberg.

Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, the cinematic version has not garnered the same kudos that it did on Broadway. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 47% and many are griping about Platt (now in his late 20s) portraying a high schooler.

I might be a little more optimistic if Hansen had Oscar vibes going for it, but that’s been silenced by the critics. That said, there is a built-in audience familiar with the play and that could help. The same could have been said for this summer’s In the Heights, which majorly underperformed.

My projection is that this doesn’t quite reach double digits.

Dear Evan Hansen opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

Oscar Predictions: Cry Macho

Over the past three decades, Clint Eastwood has made two Best Picture winners (1992’s Unforgiven, 2004’s Million Dollar Baby) and directed three nominees (2003’s Mystic River, 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima, 2014’s American Sniper). So it stands to reason that anytime we see a new feature from the legend, an Oscar predictions post is warranted.

His latest is Cry Macho and the Western themed drama (based on a 1975 novel) was in development before Clint had won any gold hardware. Fun fact: Burt Lancaster was once tapped to headline it. The pic hits theaters and HBO Max Friday and the embargo was lifted today.

Eastwood’s return to the genre he’s most known for is split down the middle as far as critical reaction. Macho has a 52% Rotten Tomatoes rating at press time. This never seemed like much of an awards contender in his long filmography and reviews confirm just that. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Blue Bayou Review

Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou has a compelling message about a touchy political issue. In its final moments, it serves as an angry takedown on the country’s immigration policies. This is spliced with moments of melodrama and a generous heaping of subplots. The mix is often just a little off in this overflowing gumbo of storylines though it occasionally has the recipe right for an emotional payoff.

The director serves as star and writer here. Chon is Antonio LeBlanc and he’s lived just outside of New Orleans for his cognizant life. A tattoo artist with a criminal past, Antonio is on the right track with his pregnant wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and precious stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). He remembers little (or so he says) about his first years in South Korea before becoming a foster child stateside, which too is off limits for discussion.

Kathy’s ex (Mark O’Brien) is a police officer who wants more face time with Jessie. That domestic dynamic puts Antonio in jeopardy when an encounter calls his naturalization status into question. Facing deportation, Bayou shifts to showing the impossibly jumbled procedural morass to remain in the only home that Antonio has truly known.

Speaking of shifting and jumbling, there’s a lot of it in this screenplay. In addition to the looming court date, our protagonist strikes up a friendship with a cancer stricken Vietnamese woman (Lanh Dan Pham). Their interactions touchingly show Antonio a life of family and fellowship that’s often escaped him.

Regarding his past criminal offenses involving stolen motorcycles, Antonio’s quick need for cash has him pondering a return to that life. This causes major tension between him and Kathy. Vikander is quite good in the role. She’s not your typical suffering spouse. One gets the impression that she’s the one holding it all together for her small but growing family. The actress gets a lovely moment in which she croons the track serving as the title.

We delve into Antonio’s abusive past – both in Louisiana and overseas. He also happens to be good buds with an ICE agent (a hulking Tony Vitrano) who might be escorting him onto a plane at some point. There’s Kathy’s disapproving mother. In the film’s worst characterization, there’s the partner of Kathy’s former boyfriend. He’s played by Emory Cohen as an exaggerated coconut drink sipping buffoon who’s either being the main reason for Antonio’s troubles or talking about andouille sausage. Cohen’s role has about as much subtlety as J.W. Pepper, the loud and crude Bayou sheriff from Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun (Roger Moore’s first two James Bond features).

The heart of Blue Bayou is certainly well-placed and its urgent call for reform is best felt in the epilogue displaying real cases of injustice and the legal loopholes that caused them. In the midst of all the subplots and busy work of the script, Antonio’s connection with Jessie is the one that may get you misty eyed. Chon is passionate about his subject matter. Yet it frequently feels like the passion could have been harnessed into a more cohesive structure and not this unwieldy result.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: The Starling

In 2016, Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures earned a Best Picture nomination. Melissa McCarthy is the beneficiary of two Oscar nods – one for her supporting comedic work in Bridesmaids ten years back and for her more dramatic turn in lead actress with 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?

So on paper, The Starling might have some Academy cred. The dramedy premieres on Netflix September 24 and has screened in Toronto. Casting McCarthy as a grief stricken woman also dealing with the pesky title character, reviews are out. Several critics are downright negative. The Rotten Tomatoes score is perched at only 33%.

McCarthy has appealed to awards voters with her performances on the funny and serious side. This mix of the two won’t fly with them. My Oscar Watch posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

September 17-19 Box Office Predictions

**Blogger’s Note (09/16): I am revising my prediction for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. It appears to be in more of a limited release than I anticipated so my estimate goes from $3.4 million to $1.7M. That puts it outside of the top five and allows Candyman the five spot.

A trio of newcomers are out Friday, but none stand much of a chance at dethroning Marvel’s sizzling Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. We have Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, Gerard Butler’s action thriller Copshop, and the Jessica Chastain led biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

Cry Macho Box Office Prediction

Copshop Box Office Prediction

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Box Office Prediction

I’m not projecting any of the newbies will hit double digits, but I’ll say Eastwood’s latest comes closest. I’m hedging a bit since Macho will stream on HBO Max. However, it should make enough to overshadow Copshop (though Butler has over performed in the past).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a tricky one since there’s no screen count available at press time. The pic is garnering Oscar buzz for Chastain. My estimate could fluctuate. For now, I have it in a battle with Free Guy for the four spot.

As mentioned, Shang-Chi should have no issue making it three weeks on top. A low 40s drop might put it just over $20 million.

And with that, my take on the top 5:

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $20.1 million

2. Cry Macho

Predicted Gross: $6.4 million

3. Copshop

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

4. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million

5. Candyman

Predicted Gross: $2.6 million

Box Office Results (September 10-12)

It was a glorious weekend for Shang-Chi as it achieved the best sophomore frame of any feature during COVID. The MCU blockbuster took in $34.7 million, a tad below my $36.4 million prediction. The ten-day is up to an impressive $144 million. While Rings fell short of Black Widow‘s pandemic era best start, it held up considerably better for the follow-up.

Free Guy was second with $5.5 million as it crossed the century mark at $101 million. My projection? $5.5 million!

Despite plenty of internet chatter over the weekend due to its wild twists, James Wan’s horror flick Malignant stalled with audiences (though many may view it on HBO Max). It was third at $5.4 million, falling under my $7.6 million take.

Candyman held the four spot at $4.7 million (I said $5.1 million) as its made $47 million.

Jungle Cruise rounded out the top five with $2.3 million (I was right there at $2.4 million) and it sails in with $109 million overall.

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

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (09/16): On the eve of its premiere, it seems this is opening in a more limited fashion than I originally thought. Therefore my estimate is revised down from $3.4 million to $1.7 million.

Fresh off its Toronto Film Festival premiere yesterday, The Eyes of Tammy Faye makes its way to multiplexes on Friday. From director Michael Showalter (best known for The Big Sick), the biopic of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker is already generating Oscar buzz for Jessica Chastain. Andrew Garfield plays hubby Jim with a supporting cast including Vincent D’Onofrio and Cherry Jones.

Reviews for the film itself are decent (it’s at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes). Eyes is not available on any streaming service. The theatrical only output presents one current challenge for this estimator. I have yet to see a screen count and that makes projecting an opening gross challenging.

I may well revise this prediction when I do see some numbers, but a baseline in the $3-4 million range sounds reasonable at the moment.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye opening weekend prediction: $1.7 million

For my Cry Macho prediction, click here:

Cry Macho Box Office Prediction

For my Copshop prediction, click here:

Copshop Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Best Actress race just got more interesting and we can thank Jessica Chastain for that. Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye has emerged from the Toronto Film Festival. While the reviews for the film are mixed, Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye Bakker is drawing raves.

Based on a 2000 documentary, this dramatized bio of the extreme makeup wearing televangelist and her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield) has never been pegged as much of a Best Picture contender. The critical reaction confirms that. Mr. Garfield is getting some solid notices. I question whether he gains traction in the acting derby. He’ll have another shot in 2021 with the as yet unseen Tick, Tick… Boom! If that one doesn’t materialize, Searchlight could push him in supporting.

Chastain is another story with her viability. She appears firmly in line for her third nomination. The first was in 2011 in supporting for The Help. Her second came the next year in lead for Zero Dark Thirty. Not only does she seem headed for Oscar recognition, she could be a threat to win. In other words, we may not want to crown Kristen Stewart (Spencer) the victor yet.

Makeup and Hairstyling is another obvious race where this could get in. Perhaps the gaudy 80s fashion will be noticed for Costume Design.

Bottom line: a couple of weeks back, I boldly declared that you could write Kristen Stewart’s Best Actress inclusion in pen. Here we go again for the second pronouncement… I think you can do the same with Chastain. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…