Hereditary Movie Review

**It is difficult to write a proper review of Hereditary without some light spoilers, so proceed with caution if you have yet to see it.

The real unsettling nature of Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary comes after the credits roll and not necessarily from heads rolling off bodies (though that happens too). The film is about grieving and the realization of not being able to control fate. Not until fade to black does it set in how truly powerless the people here are.

We begin with the text of an obituary. Ellen is the just deceased mother of Annie Graham (Toni Collette), an artist who specializes in miniature designs for doll houses. She’s married to a kindly therapist (Gabriel Byrne) with high school aged son Peter (Alex Wolff) and middle school aged daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Annie doesn’t seem too distraught over her loss and her eulogy for mom hints at a secretive existence before dementia took over her final years. Only Charlie seemed to have a real connection with the late matriarch and we sense something is a bit off with her.

A second tragedy breaks the Graham unit apart. The history of Annie’s upbringing that she wants to ignore at first becomes inescapable. Every family has its demons. In Hereditary, we witness the literal meaning behind that phrase. The supernatural happenings that follow manifest themselves on Annie and Peter primarily. Collette and Wolff both are convincing at being scared out of their wits most of the time. For Collette especially (who has a bit of experience in the genre with The Sixth Sense), her performance is a terrified tour de force. The Graham clan are typically the only humans on-screen. Ann Dowd appears as a woman also grieving a recent loss who convinces Annie to engage in seance.

Hereditary has a conjuring, but it’s not as preoccupied with jump scares and sound effects wizardry for its frights like the successful franchise (not that they’re totally absent). Comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby are far more appropriate. Much of the movie leaves you in a state of confusion and you might need to do a Google or Wiki search after to digest what happened. Writer/director Aster announces himself as an exciting voice in the horror game and one who seems most influenced by genre tales of the late 60s and 70s. While this doesn’t rise to the level of the Roman Polanski classic from a half century ago, I found myself feeling rewarded after everything was over. The Graham family, on the other hand, doesn’t get that lucky.

***1/2 (out of four)

Hereditary Box Office Prediction

The horror thriller Hereditary generated a lot of buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and A24 unleashes it to audiences next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Ari Aster, early reviews suggest a highly effective and scary experience. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 100% (never a bad selling point for TV spots). Toni Collette stars alongside Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

This particular genre is often the hardest to predict as horror movies can vastly over or under perform. It’s also perhaps the genre where reviews truly don’t mean a lot. For instance, 2016’s The Witch and last year’s It Comes at Night both had critics on their side in a major way. Their respective debuts were only $8.8 million and $5.9 million (with It Comes at Night being released on the same June weekend as this is). On the other hand, something like A Quiet Place took in $50 million for its start just a few weeks ago.

So what’s a prognosticator like me to do? I’ll admit that this is a tough one and I foresee a wide range for the opening of Hereditary. It won’t come anywhere near the earnings of A Quiet Place, but debuting around $20 million wouldn’t shock me. The problem is that if it fell to high single digits or low double digits, that wouldn’t really shock me either.

Fair warning: this is an estimate that may fluctuate during the next nine days. For the time being, I’ll say Hereditary posts an opening in the low double digits to possibly low teens as it will hope to leg out decently based on buzz in subsequent frames.

Hereditary opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

For my Ocean’s 8 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Hereditary

Two months ago, the supernatural horror flick Hereditary debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and it made quite an impression. Reaction from Utah (where this was also shot) has indicated it’s a genre exercise that truly is a frightening experience and it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes currently. The film marks the directorial debut of Ari Asher with a cast led by Toni Collette and costarring Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

As we know, horror pics face an uphill battle for any Academy recognition and that could certainly be the case here. That said, the buzz for this is getting louder as it debuts stateside on June 8. Critics have particularly taken notice of Collette, saying her performance is masterful. If she manages a nomination for Actress, it would be her second Oscar nod. She was recognized nearly 20 years ago in Supporting Actress for another genre piece, The Sixth Sense. Collette is not the only actress generating some buzz in this category as Emily Blunt could garner attention for this April’s A Quiet Place.

Bottom line: even with its sterling critical reaction, Hereditary could be a long shot for attention. Collette, on the other hand, could be worth keeping an eye on.

 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Movie Review

The word classic in cinema world can be thrown around too loosely at times. For instance, 1995’s Jumanji with Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, and lots of CG animals is not one. It is a mostly entertaining experience about that board game that comes to life and it made a lot of money. So 22 years later, Sony has rebooted the franchise into the video game era. Welcome to the Jungle is no classic either, but it’s often lots of fun with great casting… and of course a horde of CG animals. Truthfully, it’s a lot better than it should be.

A prologue picks up shortly after its predecessor’s events with teenager Alex finding that cursed Jumanji board game. Sort of. It’s in the original casing of the game, but has been downsized to a video game cartridge. Alex tries to play but gets sucked in and disappears for two decades.

Flash forward to 2016 with four teens serving detention together. They are the archetypes you’re accustomed to: nerd Spencer (Alex Woolf), jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), shy girl Martha (Morgan Turner), and bombshell Bethany (Madison Iseman). While doing their punishment in the high school basement, they happen upon the game and decide to select which characters to play. Soon enough, they find themselves transported to the far away title world. And they’re the people they chose to be with more famous faces and odd superpowers and weaknesses. Scaredy cat Spencer is now the heroic Dr. Smolder Bravestone, represented by the giant biceps of Dwayne Johnson. Athletic Fridge is now the diminutive zoologist Mouse, sidekick to Dr. Bravestone whose weaknesses include cake. Martha is Ruby Roundhouse, a foxy martial arts expert with an inexplicable wardrobe considering her jungle surroundings. Most humorously, Bethany has traded in her bod for Jack Black’s cartographer Dr. Shelly. All the adult actors have a ball playing their counterparts, but Black shines brightest channeling his social media obsessed teen girl.

The majority of inhabitants in Jumanji world are only programmed to speak in video game dialogue, meaning their vocabulary is quite limited. This is a funny touch in a screenplay filled with them. There’s some potential jungle love between Bravestone and Ruby (and therefore Spencer and Martha), as well as Bethany’s crush with Alex once he’s found and portrayed by Nick Jonas. Seeing Jack Black’s heart a flutter with a Jonas brother is a highlight. There’s also a first kiss between two characters that produced a knowing belly laugh. Johnson and Hart (who first teamed up in Central Intelligence) smartly play to their onscreen strengths with Gillan bringing the term dance fighting to our consciousness.

Welcome to the Jungle is in many ways an improvement on the 1995 pic. Yes, the special effects have elevated tremendously in two decades plus, but it’s more than that. The joyous and adventurous and often sweet tone here just feels right with a game cast along for the ride.

Not everything works. An interesting villain would have been nice. Bobby Cannavale’s conniving explorer isn’t it. He’s forgettable even when he’s speaking. That quibble aside, part 2 of the Jumanji saga should be remembered fondly two decades from now and probably deserves it even more.

*** (out of four)

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day marks the third collaboration between director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg recounting recent tragedies. After Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, their latest continues their work of solidly crafted dramas that fall far short of greatness. Yet there’s enough powerful material to make it recommendation worthy.

The picture recounts the Boston Marathon bombing and its manhunt for the two suspects that carried it out. It was that April 2013 day that marked the largest domestic terror attack since 9/11. Wahlberg is police sergeant Tommy Saunders, who’s on duty near the blast sites at the finish line. He’s witness to the horrific loss of lives and limbs and determined to see the attackers brought to justice.

Berg’s film tells not only the tale of law enforcement response, but also shows us the Tsarnaev brothers as they attempt to flee to enact more destruction in New York City. Older brother Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) is the mastermind while younger brother Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) is portrayed as a more Westernized stoner college kid who still believes strongly in their cause. It is in the time spent with them that provide a number of chilling moments, including their abduction of a college student as their make their escape. An interrogation scene with Tamerlan’s wife is also a dramatic highlight.

Patriots Day does a commendable job of showing many of the parties whose lives became intertwined by the day’s events. This includes some of the bombing victims as well as individuals calling the shots. John Goodman portrays city police commissioner Ed Davis, Kevin Bacon is the FBI special agent in charge, and J.K. Simmons is a sergeant in the suburb of Watertown where the manhunt culminates. They are all real life characters while Wahlberg’s is not. The lead actor is solid enough in the part, even though the pic may have more effective if the screenwriters had just stuck to the actual players.

Those with decent knowledge of these events may feel a lack of suspense, especially as we build toward the conclusion. The prologue spends some time with people the actors are playing and it made me ready to watch a documentary about their lives since. Overall, it’s worth the time to see this version which sticks mostly to the facts and reminds us of a city’s strength that gave way to an earned slogan.

*** (out of four)