No Time to Die Review

The five film run of Daniel Craig as perhaps the world’s most famous cinematic character comes to a close in No Time to Die, the 25th feature in the nearly 60-year-old 007 franchise. It began 15 years ago with Casino Royale, which I list at #2 in the canon behind only From Russia with Love (Sean Connery’s second entry).

For those who think the dedicated team behind the series have no time for surprises, be prepared. Like the midsection poker sequence in Royale that stands as one of the finest in Bond history, there’s times where they go all in. There’s also moments that harken back to the Roger Moore days and, in this case, I mean it as a compliment. By the time we reached Craig’s third and deservedly praised Skyfall in 2012, the pics had achieved a level of seriousness that risked becoming too dour.

Despite its considerable flaws, 2015’s follow-up Spectre thankfully remembered that the action and plots in this cinematic universe can be silly. 007’s 25th adventure isn’t afraid to display that. The threat to the world here involves passing a weaponized virus only through that individual’s DNA and those related to them. It’s a little ridiculous and I once again mean that in a good way.

This is not quite the triumph that Casino Royale was. In fact, I’d also rank this a smidge behind Skyfall. The villain is not particularly memorable. Like all Craig films that followed the first, no romantic entanglement will rival the one he had with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yet Die achieves the unlikely feat of bringing those fun Moore elements dashed with Timothy Dalton’s more weighty tone. The result is that Craig’s time as the super spy (the longest in terms of actual time but not volume of titles) is easily the most satisfying since Sean Connery’s.

From the jump, we realize Die is going to be a little different. The pre-title sequence begins with a franchise first: an eerie and gorgeously rendered flashback that sheds light on the childhood of Madeleine Swann. As you may recall, she’s Bond’s love interest from Spectre played by Lea Seydoux. Her connections to that criminal enterprise led by Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is expanded upon. In the present day, James and Madeleine are making a romantic go of it. A visit to Vesper’s tomb disrupts both their safety and Bond’s trust in his current relationship.

This all occurs in the lengthy prologue before we hear Billie Eilish’s title cut. Let’s dispense with that. Ms. Eilish has some quality tunes, but her contribution is forgettable and not the kind of Bond tune you’ll be humming leaving the theater or rushing to download for the ride back.

In the serialized fashion we’ve come to expect from Craig’s tenure (something unique only to his), we jump five years to Bond in retirement. And (gasp) he’s no longer 007. MI6 is still going strong but relations with their U.S. counterparts are strained. It’s not the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) or M (Ralph Fiennes) or even his beloved Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) or Q (Ben Whishaw) that convince Bond to emerge from his Jamaican R&R. Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), along with a new eager associate (Billy Magnussen), recruit him for a mission that involves dismantling SPECTRE. Bond hooks up (not literally as Bond’s libido seems to be catching up with his age) with another agent (Ana de Armas) to do so. This culminates in a wonderfully fabulous and bizarre action set piece in Cuba.

All this activity soon puts James in the same space with Madeline again and with Blofeld. And we soon meet Safin (Rami Malek), the head baddie with his own troubled history with the criminal organization. I won’t wax rhapsodic about Safin as I mentioned he’s a pretty weak villain. On the other hand, No Time to Die is not really focused on his story. This Bond story, more than any other besides Skyfall, is really about Bond. That gives us one more opportunity to soak in Craig’s terrific performance that’s spanned this quintet. One could argue the series goes too far in making it all about him. With Craig in control, you’ll hear few complaints from me (heck even Quantum of Solace had some cool stuff in it).

No Time to Die has Cary Fukunaga taking over directorial duties from Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous two. He presides over some amazing looking chases and battles that rank right at the top of what we’ve seen previously. On a slightly contradictory note, there’s one during the climax that was a little too video game oriented for my taste. The screenwriters (with an assist from Phoebe Waller-Bridge) also remember to bring the humor. As much as Safin isn’t much of a memorable character, he does get a moment with a toddler that left me chuckling for a good minute or two after their interaction. The makers also don’t forget that these pictures can be quite weird in their production design. Safin’s Poison Garden is a glorious example.

Additionally, the team isn’t afraid to bring a rare level of emotion to the proceedings. However, it’s not that out of place for Craig’s service. We witnessed a love story in Casino Royale that went beyond his typical dalliances. His connection to Judi Dench’s M (particularly in Skyfall) went far deeper than the same character giving James his orders in the past. In No Time to Die, Mr. Craig’s mission involves the striking visuals that we’re used to. What’s different is that over the five adventures connected to each other, I felt like these missions developed a familial bond that shook the foundation of a franchise in a stirring fashion.

***1/2 (out of four)

No Time to Die Box Office Prediction

***Blogger’s Note Part III (10/06): I have revised my No Time to Die prediction from $104.1 million down to $94.1 million, which would still set a COVID era record.

***Blogger’s Note Part II (10/03): With the news that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has grossed approximately $90 million out of the gate, it’s go big or go home for No Time to Die! I’m re-upping my estimate from $84.1 million to a COVID era best $104.1 million***

**Blogger’s Note (10/01): A week before its stateside premiere, I have decided to significantly increase my prediction (partly due to the apparent over performance of Venom: Let There Be Carnage). I’m going from $72.1 million to $84.1 million**

Ladies and gentlemen, the second frame of October finally marks the weekend for Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007 in No Time to Die. The 25th official entry in the James Bond franchise was gearing up for release in April of 2020 (Billie Eilish’s title track had already dropped) when COVID scuttled the plans. It experienced several more delays before at last settling on October 8. Craig is back for his fifth and final appearance along with series returnees Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, and Christoph Waltz. On the job for the first time are Rami Malek as the main villain, Lashana Lynch, Craig’s Knives Out costar Ana de Armas, and Billy Magnussen.

Anticipation is certainly present with the culmination of Mr. Craig’s service as the British super spy – one rivaled by only Sean Connery. He’s actually had the longest run as the character in terms of time, though not actual volume of pictures. It seems like eons since moviegoers have had their Bond fix. With the frequent pushbacks, the just shy of a six-year wait is the second lengthiest break between 007 adventures (beaten by the sabbatical of 1989’s Licence to Kill and 1995’s Goldeneye at nearly six and a half years).

Fifteen years ago, Craig defied expectations with the critically acclaimed Casino Royale. It made $40 million for its start but legged out very impressively. Sequel (and it was the first true Bond sequel) Quantum of Solace debuted two years later with $67 million. 2012’s Skyfall marked a high point at the box office as it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. The premiere stateside is a series best $88 million. Three years later, Spectre kicked off with $70 million.

So where will this golden era of 007 culminate in terms of opening weekend? There’s certainly a range of possibilities. First things first: it will have no trouble eclipsing what Craig’s first foray achieved a decade and a half ago. I do believe the COVID times will prevent the record setting starting number of Skyfall managed (but you never know). It’s hard to totally factor in the excitement for its star’s last go-round. A video of Craig bidding adieu to his costars and crew has been widely circulated on social media in recent weeks.

My hunch is that a premiere in the range of Quantum and Spectre is most likely stateside (I’m sure its overseas haul will be massive). I’m tempted to say a low to mid 60s gross just under them could occur. However, I’ll err on the side of over performance and project low to mid 70s. (PER ABOVE: I have increased estimate from $72.1M to $84.1M to $104.1 million)

No Time to Die opening weekend prediction: $94.1 million

Oscar Watch: The Personal History of David Copperfield

In the first of what will be several Oscar Watch posts from screenings at the Toronto Film Festival, we consider The Personal History of David Copperfield. Armando Iannucci serves as director for the Charles Dickens based satire with Dev Patel (Oscar nominee in 2016’s Lion) in the title role. Costars include Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw.

The film is said to be a crowd pleaser. Iannucci has received Academy attention previously with his Original Screenplay for 2009’s In the Loop. Last year’s The Death of Stalin was considered a contender in Adapted Screenplay, though that nod never came. He’s best known stateside for creating HBO’s Veep.

While I don’t foresee Copperfield vying for Picture or any of the acting categories (though Patel is getting raves), Adapted Screenplay could be feasible. That’s with a rather large caveat. A number of the contenders in that race (The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Little Women) are still unseen. That’s changing shortly and we may have a better idea whether there’s any room for this soon. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Mary Poppins Returns Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): My estimate has been revised down a bit to a low to mid 30s three-day and low to mid 50s five-day

to Arriving 54 years after its beloved predecessor and with the same awards buzz, Disney unveils Mary Poppins Returns on Wednesday next week. The musical fantasy casts Emily Blunt in the role made famous by Julie Andrews, who won an Oscar as the iconic nanny. Blunt is expected to get a nod as well. Rob Marshall, the man behind 2002 Best Picture winner Chicago and most recently Into the Woods, directs. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, and Meryl Streep are included in the supporting cast. So is Dick Van Dyke, as an offspring of the role he played in the original.

Though official reviews aren’t out yet, buzz from screenings has been glowing and it’s already popped up on numerous top ten lists and major Academy precursors. The Mouse Factory marketing machine is second to none and anticipation is high. Furthermore, Poppins gets a two-day jump on its Christmas weekend competition, most notably Aquaman and Bumblebee.

It’s worthy of note that many holiday offerings greatly expand their grosses on subsequent weekends and aren’t nearly as front loaded as summer pics. That is probable here as I expect Poppins to experience a long and robust run.

The Wednesday debut probably means it’ll come in second to Aquaman, which opens Friday. I have a strong hunch you’ll see at #1 eventually. One fair comp is last year’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It also came out on Wednesday, taking in $36 million for the traditional weekend frame and $52 million when factoring the extra two days. The key number? It legged out to $404 million domestically.

I am counting on a similar track here and estimating it manages to fly a bit higher. I’ll say this reaches high 30s to low 40s from Friday to Sunday and get high 50s with Wednesday and Thursday accounted for.

Mary Poppins Returns opening weekend prediction: $34.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $52.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-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/

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Mary Poppins Returns

Disney’s Christmas box office smash is expected to be Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 classic original. It comes from Rob Marshall, who directed 2002’s Best Picture winner Chicago. Even with the Oscar pedigree behind it, it was a legitimate question as to whether this would garner any awards chatter or just settle for raking in tons of dough.

The film has screened for the Screen Actors Guild and journalists. While official reviews are under embargo, the buzz indicates it’s in many ways a worthy follow-up to what came over a half century prior. This especially applies to Emily Blunt, taking over the iconic title role from Julie Andrews (who won the Oscar as Poppins). Best Actress is crowded this year. At this juncture, I’d say Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Glenn Close (The Wife), and Olivia Colman (The Favourite) are locks or darn close to it. That leaves two spots and plenty of contenders to fill them. The showings for Poppins indicate Blunt is a prime contender to get one. As a side note, she could be in excellent shape for Actress at the Golden Globes for Musical/Comedy.

As for other performers, it’s certainly possible Blunt gets all the attention. Lin-Manuel Miranda seems a longshot in Supporting Actor. In Supporting Actress, it’s another category that is already filling up. Yet if anyone could sneak in, it’s Meryl Streep (who would be going for an unprecedented 22nd nod). Marshall has already directed her to one of them before in Supporting Actress for 2014’s Into the Woods.

Before its unveiling, the pic was already thought to be a contender in numerous down the line races: Costume Design, Production Design, Score, Original Song, Visual Effects and both Sound categories. That still holds true.

When it comes to Best Picture, that’s much more of a question mark. I’d say chances have undoubtedly improved, but it could depend on how others rise and fall in the coming weeks.

Bottom line: with Blunt leading the charge, Mary Poppins Returns could have awards voters singing its praises. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Paddington 2 Box Office Prediction

Apologies in advance for the pun, but Warner Bros is hoping for a “beary” pleasing result when Paddington 2 debuts next weekend. It arrives three years after the original posted stellar results stateside during the MLK four-day frame. The family pic brings back Ben Whishaw as the voice of the title bear made famous by a series of childrens stories. Paul King returns in the director’s chair, as do cast returnees Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and Peter Capaldi. New but familiar faces to the series include Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

The sequel received a bit of unexpected publicity this fall as it was originally to be distributed by the Weinstein Company. When controversy swirled around Harvey Weinstein, Warner swooped in and picked up distribution rights. The well-reviewed predecessor premiered in January 2015 to a $25 million long weekend opening with a $76 million eventual haul. Part 2 has already taken in nearly $100 million overseas and has critics on its side, with a 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is still competition out there for family audiences as Jumanji should still be posting solid grosses. The sequel may not quite match the earnings of the first, but I’ll predict it manages to top $20 million out of the gate.

Paddington 2 opening weekend prediction: $22.4 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my The Post prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/04/the-post-box-office-prediction/

For my The Commuter prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/the-commuter-box-office-prediction/

For my Proud Mary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/proud-mary-box-office-prediction/

In the Heart of the Sea Movie Review

Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea is a periodically engrossing yet often curiously flat rendering of the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s famed novel Moby Dick. It begins in 1850 as the author (Ben Whishaw) visits Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of the Essex, a ship that was destroyed by a great white whale and leaving its crew stranded at sea. Thomas isn’t anxious to regale Melville of the survival tactics used 30 years prior. Yet he relents and he’s soon playing Gloria Stuart to Melville’s Bill Paxton.

We move to Nantucket circa 1820 as the whale oil trade is at its height and Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is under the impression that he’ll get his first plum assignment as captain of the vessel. Politics thwarts this plan as that job goes to the more inexperienced George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), whose family are titans in the business. Speaking of politics, the screenplay occasionally (and rather needlessly) pouns the point home that the practice of slaughtering whales was a necessity 200 years ago.

Chase isn’t happy about being first mate and leaving his pregnant wife (of course she is) but he soon sets sail with Pollard and a crew that includes young Thomas (Tom Holland). There’s also a second mate portrayed by the talented Cillian Murphy, who is given incredibly little to do.

After several weeks of no luck on the mission, the Essex crew soon find themselves eye to whale eye with its pesky nemesis. Let the torment begin. In the Heart of the Sea doesn’t bother to flesh out its characters to any real degree. Hemsworth certainly looks the leading man part here and throws spears with the grace of his Thor hammer skills. His New England accent leaves much to be desired and he’s not the only one. Walker is rather dull. The best work belongs to the always solid Gleeson, who gets the most emotional material to work with.

Compliments are owed to the makeup crew and actors themselves that convincingly convey the wear and tear of the men stranded for months at sea. Howard has clearly set out to make an old fashioned story with new style CG effects. His old school sensibilities are actually more in tune with the mid-1970s than a century plus earlier. We actually don’t see the great white whale too often here… kind of like another great white dweller in Jaws. In the Heart of the Sea may be true and may have inspired a masterpiece work of art. However, that doesn’t mean that today it doesn’t feel pretty familiar and a bit like Jaws with less interesting people in the water.

**1/2 (out of four)

In the Heart of the Sea Box Office Prediction

It’s got an Oscar winning director and Thor starring in it, but chances are that next Friday’s In the Heart of the Sea is destined to be known as “the movie that opened the week before Star Wars“. In other words – it better make its money now.

Ron Howard directs the whale tale epic that inspired Moby Dick with Chris Hemsworth in the lead and Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, and Ben Whishaw costarring. Early reviews are quite mixed (it stands at 67% currently on Rotten Tomatoes) and widespread acclaim could have helped.

While trailers and TV spots have been decent, it seems like Sea has been flying a bit under the radar for a pic of its scale and, as mentioned, it doesn’t help with the galactic Goliath that follows just a week later.

On this same weekend last year, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings took in $24 million. That, too, was an epic tale with an Oscar winning auteur and lead actor known for his superhero role (Christian Bale). Sea will be lucky to reach that number and I believe it will fall short of the $20M mark for a choppy start.

In the Heart of the Sea opening weekend prediction: $18.4 million

Oscar Watch: In the Heart of the Sea

It hasn’t really been looked at too seriously for Oscar attention and now next week’s In the Heart of the Sea has screened for critics. Ron Howard’s epic true story whale tale that inspired Moby Dick stars Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson.

For what once appeared as a major potential box office player, Sea seems to be flying under the radar. As mentioned, while it didn’t seem like much of an awards contender, it was always worth mentioning due to Howard’s track record. Plus you just never know… nobody expected Creed to become the legit contender that it certainly has.

Now that reviews are out – it’s safe to say that this will not be hearing its name called for Academy nominations. Both trade papers weren’t too kind. Opening a week before something called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this could struggle at the box office as well (my prediction post will be up tomorrow, by the way). And today solidified what most of us suspected: there will be no wave of awards attention for Sea.

Spectre Box Office Prediction

Three years after the triumphant box office performance of the 23rd 007 entry Skyfall, Daniel Craig is back for the fourth time as James Bond in Spectre, out next Friday. The big question is whether or not it will manage to top the franchise high debut of its predecessor. It could come close or surpass it, as I see it.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with Craig’s 007 filmography. His first, 2006’s Casino Royale, started with $40.8 million on its way to a $167M eventual domestic gross. The second, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, earned $67.5 million out of the gate and just edged its predecessor’s haul with $168M. Then – 2012’s Skyfall was a game changer. It made $88.3 million for its astonishing opening weekend and ended with $304M. Worldwide, it took in a cool $1.1 billion, easily setting the high bar for the now 53 year old series.

The studio clearly has employed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule as Skyfall director Sam Mendes has returned. Christoph Waltz joins the fray as the main villain with Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris returning as M and Moneypenny, respectively. Spectre has already set records in the United Kingdom, where it was already released this week. Reviews have been mostly strong and it stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, though it’s worth noting that critics generally have stated it’s not quite at the level of what preceded it.

This 24th official Bond pic should debut with Skyfall like numbers. On the high end, it could possibly gather over $100M in its first weekend. It could also earn $75-$80M and that would certainly be on the lower end of expectations. My feeling is that it’ll be within about $5M of what the last one made on the same November weekend in 2012 and that Spectre will just manage to outdo it for the largest 007 premiere in U.S. history.

Spectre opening weekend prediction: $91.3 million

For my prediction on The Peanuts Movie, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/10/29/the-peanuts-movie-box-office-prediction/