Happy Death Day 2U Movie Review

Happy Death Day 2U gets some props for going into totally different territories as it follows up on the surprise 2017 hit. The original had a simple concept – mix Groundhog Day with a slasher flick. It worked better than it should have with a stellar performance from Jessica Rothe as the bratty day repeater named Tree. Part 1 developed some layers to her character that are important in the sequel. I didn’t expect part 2 to mostly ditch the slasher concept in favor of science fiction. There’s also slapstick comedy with a supporting player pretending to be a blind French woman.

Horror franchises are usually more than happy to repeat themselves. I expected the same here, especially in a movie about repeating yourself over and over. Happy Death Day 2U doesn’t do that. We are reminded about Tree’s earlier predicament. She woke up on the same Monday in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), hung over and confused. Things got more baffling when it happened again and again. There was no Sonny and Cher music, but you get the gist. The original eventually revealed her roommate was offing her. She also had time to fall in love with Carter.

The sequel finds Carter’s roommate (Phi Vu) experiencing his own demise and deja vu. He has built a quantum reactor in science class with his nerdy schoolmates and it turns out they get an A+. Unfortunately for Tree, it means she begins to travel back to the manic and murderous Mondays yet again.

The jump scares and other slasher elements are in short supply. Instead we get some scientific jargon (there’s more Back to the Future references than anything with Bill Murray) and multiverse chatter. Tree’s deceased mom could be back in a dimension. Her roommate that terrorized her in the baby face mask on the first day may not be bad after all.

Part 1 and II might be different in tone, but they share certain things. Rothe’s performance is comedic and satisfying and she shines even more this time around. There are moments of well placed humor. There’s a bit involving skydiving that elicited genuine laughter. Not all the similarities are positive. This, too, runs out of gas before the running time has elapsed. The plot gradually becomes a secondary consideration. I found myself not really caring at all about who was behind the mayhem at the end of the long day. That said, writer/director Christopher Landon deserves some credit for making this day we’ve already experienced one of an alternative genre.

**1/2 (out of four)

Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Movie Review

Sporting the 1980s Universal Pictures logo followed by the Amblin Entertainment one, The House with a Clock in Its Walls does feel like a Spielberg picture at times. Not one that he would’ve directed, but one that he got executive producer credit on. This is Eli Roth’s homage to that era and he’s working in PG territory, which is two MPAA ratings below his typical bailiwick. Like some eighties titles (think Back to the Future or Night of the Creeps), this is set in the 1950s. It’s a more innocent time for evil spirits to haunt and inanimate objects to become animated and agitated.

Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is a ten-year-old whose parents perished in an accident. He’s sent to live with estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, reveling in his own brand of spirited antics). Jonathan lives in a large and spooky manor adorned with countless ticking clocks. There’s also furniture and paintings that come to life and strange sounds behind the old walls. Florence (Cate Blanchett) is the platonic friend neighbor who spends plenty of time at the clocked crib.

It turns out Lewis’s new caretakers have some supernatural abilities of the warlock and witching variety. They use their abilities for good, but Jonathan’s late magic show partner (Kyle MacLachlan) might have some evil tricks up his sleeve if he’s summoned back to existence. Jonathan’s only rule to Lewis is not to open a dusty book that could do just that. We know the next chapter.

The Spielberg touches are clear. Parental loss and being an adolescent outsider are explored. They’re coupled with the science fiction elements we also anticipate. There’s some solid makeup work and special effects to behold. And like some 80s era flicks (think Gremlins or Poltergeist), there’s some creepy moments sprinkled in. They are not as scary as those aforementioned titles that caused PG-13 to exist. However, Clock has enough of them to make this fun for kids. As for the older folks who grew up on all this stuff (like its director), it’s lovingly made and passably entertaining. It won’t make your 3D nostalgia glasses mist up like Super 8 or Stranger Things might have, but it’s worth the time spent.

*** (out of four)

Welcome to Marwen Box Office Prediction

It’s looking to be a rough road ahead for Welcome to Marwen, which debuts next weekend and could get lost in the holiday shuffle. It casts Steve Carell in this based on a true story drama of an assault victim who develops amnesia and develops his own fantasy world. Robert Zemeckis, the man behind Back to the Future and Forrest Gump and most recently Allied, directs. Costars include Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae, and Gwendoline Christie.

Marwen simply hasn’t managed to generate any heat. It’s been the subject of zero awards chatter and we have a slew of real Oscar contenders populating multiplexes. If it performs poorly, it would be Carell’s second dramatic flop in a row this season after Beautiful Boy.

This film is reminding me a lot of last year’s Downsizing, which also opened Christmas weekend. It also had recognizable stars, a known director, genre similarities, and precious little buzz. The result? An opening of just over $5 million. I’m putting this even lower.

Welcome to Marwen opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

Ready Player One Movie Review

In a time when much of our popular entertainment is now made by 1980s kids who worshipped at the altar of Steven Spielberg and others, Ready Player One often feels like a loving homage to the product he made. Except it’s made by Spielberg himself and based on a 2011 Ernest Cline novel that also placed Spielberg’s works among its many cultural references. Such an experience runs the considerable risk of collapsing upon itself in a meta avalanche. Yet there’s a reason Spielberg is considered the best in the blockbuster game and he mostly avoids the potential self congratulating pitfalls here. It doesn’t belong in the same stratosphere as his most delicious popcorn offerings, but it contains enough sweetness and eye-popping visuals to be reasonably filling.

We begin in the dystopian future of 2045 where the majority of the Earth’s populace lives in slum conditions. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is among them. He’s an 18-year-old in Columbus, Ohio with deceased parents and a sad life living with his trashy aunt. Wade’s existence matches that of many and their only refuge from squalor is The OASIS. That’s a virtual reality world created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), an eccentric developer whose nostalgic tastes inform his fantasy universe. Those preferences include a whole slew of 80s flicks and tunes and more. Players can select alternate identities when they slap on the VR goggles. Wade takes on the persona of Parzival and he cruises around in the iconic DeLorean from Back to the Future. Wade/Parzival isn’t just a run of the mill player. He’s a good one. And he’s among a small group of high level participants known as Gunters.

Following Halliday’s death, it’s revealed he hid an Easter egg in the OASIS and the first player to find it will inherit control of the whole shebang. Wade has noble intentions should he win. So does Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), an expert gamer who attracts Wade’s admiration and his heart. There’s also those who want control of this trillion-dollar game for more devious purposes. That includes Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), corporate overlord of IOI (Innovative Online Industries). That conglomerate envisions total control of this product and go to dangerous lengths to prevent ace players like Parzival and Art3mis from succeeding.

Ready Player One quickly establishes this dense new world to us without making it seem too complicated. We quickly accept the dual nature of these heroes and villains in the depressed looking capital of Ohio and the shimmering alternate reality of the OASIS. In the latter, players can become whoever they want and the programmers can insert anyone in. That allows a lot of references to characters we’ve seen elsewhere. If you have ever imagined King Kong, The Iron Giant, and the murderous Chucky doll in the same feature, your wish is granted.

Much of this is an excuse for dazzling adventure sequences and many of them truly are. There’s a notable horror pic that is the centerpiece of a key scene. Going much more into it would feel like spoiler territory, but I’ll say it’s a pretty amazing highlight. Some of the battles take on a sameness vibe eventually, but the OASIS is consistently a visual wonder to behold.

Leads Sheridan and Cooke are both stellar. Rylance and Simon Pegg as Halliday’s former business partner are memorable. Mendelsohn (as he did in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) brings a satisfying  sinister turn as the bad guy.

Spielberg’s classics have become so because of their heart. Ready Player One is not a classic, but there are moments when the beats of them are well replicated. The picture may be best appreciated by an audience whose nostalgia glasses are usually half full. I’m among them. While you might be watching closely for pop culture references, there’s an overall message of balance between adoration of the past and appreciating the present. The director behind the camera here is deservedly revered for his great past, but he can still provide the goods presently.

*** (out of four)

Ready Player One Box Office Prediction

Opening over Easter weekend, Steven Spielberg attempts to delve into our collective member berries with the release of Ready Player One. Based on the 2011 Ernest Cline bestseller, the futuristic adventure stars Tye Sheridan as a gamer entering a virtual reality world chock-full of 1980s pop culture references and beyond. The Warner Bros release comes with a reported $175 million budget. The supporting cast includes Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Letitia Wright, and Mark Rylance. There’s also appearances from Freddy Krueger, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, Sonic the Hedgehog, and many more. I’ll also note the picture is set in the place I call home – Columbus, Ohio.

Ready premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival to mostly acclaim and it currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some reviews have called it Spielberg’s most accessible and inspired work in quite some time. Even though it’s based on a known novel, questions abound as to how it will perform. Having Mr. Spielberg’s name attached doesn’t automatically generate dollars anymore, though it certainly doesn’t hurt (especially in a genre like this).

It opens on Thursday (meaning Wednesday night showings) and that’s a break from the typical release pattern. Generous estimates put this at a $50 million roll out with $35 million on the lower end. This is a toughie. I’ll estimate Player manages to reach mid 30s for the traditional portion of the weekend and possibly hit that $50 million number when factoring in its Wednesday sneaks and full day on Thursday.

Ready Player One opening weekend prediction: $36.7 million (Friday to Sunday), $50.8 million (Thursday to Sunday)

For my Acrimony prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/21/acrimony-box-office-prediction/

For my God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/21/gods-not-dead-a-light-in-darkness-box-office-prediction/

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1985: A Look Back

And now for something completely new on this here blog!

For the last three summers, I’ve pontificated on the Top Ten Summer Hits of seasons that came 20 and 10 years before. I just posted my retrospective of 1995 films yesterday on the site and I’ll have my post regarding 2005 up on Friday or over the weekend.

This got me thinking. About this midpoint of summer, many of us wonder what the true song of the summer is. Good thing Billboard keeps track of such items of curiosity and it allows us to delve back 30 years and then 20 years and then 10 years.

Therefore, today’s post will travel back in time to 1985 to give you the Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1985, along with my quick takes on them and the all important question: is it on my iTunes?

I’ll follow up tomorrow with the top summer jams and ballads of 1995 and on Thursday with 2005. For now, it’s time for some 80s nostalgia and I’ll rate each track (my personal opinion of course) on a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (summer hit masterpiece).

10. “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart

The first single of Mr. Hart’s second album is one of those cheesy 80s ballads with an even more gloriously cheesy video to accompany it. I had actually forgotten about this song and it frankly didn’t leave much of an impression. Truth be told, when I think of Corey, I think of his first hit single the year prior… in which he wore his sunglasses. At night.

My Rating: 4

Is It On My iTunes? No

9. “Heaven” by Bryan Adams

Our second Canadian solo singer on this list after Mr. Hart is Mr. Bryan Adams and one of his signature tunes. The raspy voiced crooner fares much better here than Mr. Hart. The track would be covered with success sixteen years later by DJ Sammy in a sped up dance hall version.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

8. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion” by John Parr

OK, now we’re talking. The title track for Joel Schumacher’s Brat Pack hit is a guilty pleasure if there ever was one and I’m not ashamed to admit I quite dig it. Mr. Parr is English by the way, so our streak of American artists so far is 0-3.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

7. “Raspeberry Beret” by Prince and the Revolution

America in the form of Minneapolis and its funky little genius finally appears with the first single off Prince’s Around the World in a Day album, which followed his massive Purple Rain juggernaut. This tune sounds more 60s influenced than anything that had come before on the Purple One’s resume and it’s an infectious groove that still holds up today, like pretty much everything he’s done. It misses a 10 only in comparison to some of his other masterworks.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

**NO VIDEO as Prince doesn’t allow his material on YouTube

6. “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” by Sting

This jazzy and reggae tinged jam marks the first solo release of Sting’s career after the breakup of The Police. It’s a rock solid beginning to one heckuva output over the next three decades.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

5. “Sussudio” by Phil Collins

The first single of his No Jacket Required album, I’m still not sure what this song is about but there are some catchy horns. This has never been one of my favorite tracks from an artist I like tremendously, but it’s still fairly decent.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes: Yes (mostly because I own his greatest hits)

4. “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran

The English boy band gave us this theme song to the final Roger Moore 007 picture and it’s a beauty, unlike the movie. One of the all time best Bond themes and my favorite track on this list.

My Rating: 10

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

3. “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News

Another movie connection here as Huey Lewis (and his news friends) had their first #1 hit with this track from the Back to the Future soundtrack. It’s a supremely pleasant power ballad that’ll leave you smiling, as so much of Huey’s music did.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? No

2. “Everytime You Go Away” by Paul Young

If this sounds like a Hall and Oates song, it’s because Daryl Hall wrote it and gave it to Mr. Young, who turned it into a #1 single. It would be used two years later in the closing scene of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It’s solid, though I don’t love it.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My iTunes? No

1. “Shout” by Tears for Fears

The band’s signature tune ranks highest on the list of 1985 summer anthems. And it is indeed truly an anthem – a big sounding song that gave the group its largest hit. And it’s easy to sing along to in the chorus when you let it all out…

My Rating: 9

Is It On My iTunes: No

And there you have it my friends! I’ll have 1995 up tomorrow…