The Dead Don’t Die Box Office Prediction

Indie darling Jim Jarmusch gets into the zombie game this weekend with The Dead Don’t Die. The comedy was selected to open the Cannes Film Festival last month and it comes with an all-star cast that includes Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, and Carol Kane.

Prior to its French debut in May, the pic was looked at as a potential summer sleeper. However, the Cannes buzz has potentially slowed its walk toward box office success. Reviews were very mixed and it currently holds just a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jarmusch’s largest domestic earner is Broken Flowers, his 2005 collaboration with Murray. It earned $13 million and is the only title in the director’s catalogue to top $10 million. Audiences dig zombies but with so-so reaction and a smallish theater count of 550, I’m not even certain this will top Flowers.

I’ll predict a sluggish performance for the Dead.

The Dead Don’t Die opening weekend prediction: $1.8 million

For my Men in Black: International prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/05/men-in-black-international-box-office-prediction/

For my Shaft prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/06/shaft-box-office-prediction/

For my Late Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/__trashed/

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)

The Non-Sequel Actors

Next weekend sees the release of two high-profile sequels: The Equalizer 2 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The pair of part II’s have something rather interesting in common: they serve as the first sequels that their stars Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep have ever appeared in. Pretty surprising huh? Both have been mega-stars for decades and have never followed up on a character until now.

This got me thinking: what other major actors have never been in a sequel? And it’s not an easy list to cobble together.

Some actors are known for their cases of sequelitis. We know Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in a multitude of them, including Marvel Cinematic Universe pics and franchises ranging from Star Wars to xXx to Incredibles. He was John McClane’s sidekick in Die Hard with a Vengeance. And looking early in his filmography, 1990 saw him appearing in The Exorcist III and The Return of Superfly. There’s also Patriot Games from 1992 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 from 2004. Son of Shaft will be out next year. Dude loves his m****f***ing sequels!

Sylvester Stallone has made a career of out of them. Creed II will mark his 15th sequel by my count. There’s the Rocky, Rambo, and Expendables series and there’s also Staying Alive (which he directed and had a cameo in), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the just released Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Eddie Murphy has returned in the following series: 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, Dr. Dolittle, and Shrek. There could be a part II of Coming to America on the horizon.

Harrison Ford has the famous series like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the Jack Ryan pictures. There’s also More American Graffiti, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and last year’s Blade Runner 2049.

OK, back to thespians who don’t constantly appear in sequels. Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, who can forget one of his first roles as Josh in 1991’s Critters 3? 

Matthew McConaughey has a similar situation. Since he’s become known, no sequels (not even returning in Magic Mike XXL). Yet one of his first roles was in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. 

Unlike his 80s comedic counterparts Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin (all in plenty of them), I couldn’t immediately think of any sequel that John Candy did. Yet he provided a voice-over in the 1990 Disney animated follow-up The Rescuers Down Under. 

With Marlon Brando, I guess it depends on how you look at it. He refused to come back for a flashback cameo in The Godfather Part II. Yet he did appear in 2006’s Superman Returns… with a caveat. That footage was culled completely from his work nearly three decades earlier in Superman and it happened two years after his death.

So here’s the deal… it is really tough to come up with performers in the modern age who haven’t appeared in at least one sequel. However, here’s five of them and feel free to list others in the comments!

Warren Beatty

He’s famously picky about his projects and he’s never played the same man twice. There were rumors that he wanted to do another Dick Tracy, but it never materialized.

Annette Bening

Beatty’s wife has had a long and distinguished career free of sequels. She was originally cast as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns but dropped out due to pregnancy.

Russell Crowe

The Oscar winner has yet to return to a role, though I’d certainly sign up for The Nice Guys II. P.S. – I do not count Man of Steel as a sequel.

Jodie Foster

She declined to return as Clarice Starling in 2001’s Hannibal after an Oscar-winning turn in The Silence of the Lambs ten years earlier. That was her biggest chance at a sequel and there are none before or after.

Jake Gyllenhaal

His first role was as Billy Crystal’s son in City Slickers, but he was nowhere to be found for part II or any other sequel. However, that long streak ends next summer with Spider-Man: Far From Home.

And there you go! As I said, feel free to chime in with your own non-sequel actors…

A Futile and Stupid Gesture Movie Review

David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture centers on a Golden Age of comedy while attempting to tell a conventional biopic story line somewhat unconventionally. At times, it succeeds. In others, it strains itself. The overall effect is a retelling of moments that led millions of us to some of our biggest laughs in print and onscreen, even if the humor here is hit or miss.

The film’s central figure is Doug Kenney (Will Forte) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (as he constantly reminds us). He grew up in that affluent Ohio suburban setting in the 1950s with uppity parents and a family tragedy that seems to inform his feeling of self-worth. However, he’s got one whip smart sense of humor and it translates to his time at Harvard. He partners with fellow humorist – the ironically pipe smoking Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and they excel at producing the “Lampoon”, the university’s premier comedy publication. While this Ivy League duo could pretty much get any job, Doug convinces Henry to expand the magazine nationally. Hence the “National Lampoon” and the treasure trove of history that follows.

Kenney and Beard’s venture turns out to be a runaway success that provides a platform for brilliant writers such as Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke and performers Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to shine. It’s obvious to say that “Saturday Night Live” never would have existed without Kenney and Beard and that’s acknowledged here. Some of these later famous faces are given seconds of screen time and others considerably more. In a movie about the advent of ironic comedy in many respects, there’s some casting irony here. Joel McHale is Chevy Chase, an actor who dealt with the well-documented difficult nature of Chevy himself on the set of “Community”. Martin Mull is the narrator of Gesture as the older man who Kenney himself never became. The screenplay gleefully acknowledges the many clichés that come with making a biopic. The drug use, strained romantic relationships, and family drama are presented here, but with a winking eye.

The picture often plays like a greatest hits of Kenney’s accomplishments. His contributions to the big screen were short but monumental with National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The screenplay doesn’t linger long on either and perhaps it could have benefited with more minutes spent on the party atmosphere of the former and the coke fueled chaos of the latter.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is clearly made by a team who reveres its central subject. It doesn’t delve too far into Kenney’s considerable issues in an attempt to keep the tone fairly light. Yet it also doesn’t fully enjoy the opportunities to spend time with these young upstarts who would become comedy legends. That creates a sometimes unwieldy mix. Forte certainly impresses in the lead and there’s a few memorable supporting turns, including Matt Walsh as the magazine’s beleaguered financier and Ed Helms in a brief, but devastatingly biting scene as interviewer Tom Snyder.

There are segments of Gesture that remind us to thank our lucky stars for the existence of the people chronicled here. It doesn’t fully succeed as a stand-alone movie that ironically apes the biopic genre that it finds itself in, though it tries hard. In fact, it sometimes tries a little too hard to be ironic. The makers of the “Lampoon” shown here probably would have known how to make it a little funnier and let the serious moments be a tad more subtly rewarding.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Isle of Dogs

It’s been four years since Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered a host of Oscar nominations. His follow-up is the stop-motion animated comedic adventure Isle of Dogs, which hits theaters stateside in March and has made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival. The pic (say its name out loud and pick up on its apparent affection for canines) features a whole bunch of familiar faces providing voice work including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schrieber, and F. Murray Abraham.

Reaction overseas to Anderson’s latest is that he’s delivered another winner. That likely means Dogs will follow in the steps of the director’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Academy. It ultimately lost to Pixar’s Up and that powerhouse studio has The Incredibles 2 on deck this year. Additionally, it could be a factor for Mr. Anderson in Original Screenplay.

Yes, it’s early but it could already be a safe assumption that the Dogs will be on display come nomination time next year.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Happy Death Day Movie Review

Happy Death Day begins with a universal disruption. Not the world suffering a catastrophe or anything of that sort, but the actual Universal logo repeating itself three times. It’s a signal of events to come in this horror version of Groundhog Day from the Blumhouse studio, which specializes in bargain basement budgeted genre pics.

The world as a whole may not be experiencing a crisis, but college student Tree (Jessica Rothe) sure is. Her birthday begins as many do for undergraduates. She wakes up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard) after a drunken night out. Not remembering the previous evening’s events, Tree makes a hasty exit complete with shame walking. She attends class where we learn she’s carrying on an affair with her professor. Tree doesn’t really gel with her sorority sisters, including her kindly roommate (Ruby Modine).

In fact, unlike most of the heroines in slasher flicks, Tree is a pretty unpleasant person. And she’s not that innocent. So I’ll give a bit of credit to screenwriter Scott Lobdell for changing that up, even if it makes her a smidge tougher to root for. When Tree goes out for another night of frivolity, she’s stalked and stabbed by a figure donning the mask of the university’s mascot.

And then… she wakes up on her birthday again nursing a hangover in Carter’s dorm room. Unlike Bill Murray rising to the sounds of Sonny and Cher, she repeats her day less than 20 times as she tries to figure out who’s knocking her off. Along the way, we learn some of the root causes of her unpleasantness. She’s mourning the loss of her mom for one. That death factors into the mix.

Happy Death Day has a sense of humor, which is often a good thing. Groundhog Day is mentioned as it would seem foolish not to (the title has become synonymous with anything repeating itself). Rothe is convincing as the bratty coed. Director Christopher B. Landon employs a handful of effective jump scares. The 90 minute runtime is a wise choice as the concept may not be able to sustain much more.

This is an easy and brisk watch. The PG-13 rating decision is a curious one and this may have been better served with more of the gore and aforementioned frivolity actually on display. Happy Death Day probably won’t stick in your memory for long, but it’s not a complete disruption of your time.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Nearly four decades after Disney told the tale of Mowgli’s adventures in animated form, the studio continues its retellings of their catalogue in mostly CG form with The Jungle Book. The result is a satisfying effort that doesn’t reach the level of a true classic – just as the 1967 effort didn’t either. Still, it’s an unquestionable triumph of what technology can accomplish these days. In an age where talking animals have stampeded multiplexes, these ones look pretty darn amazing.

Jon Favreau has been tasked with bringing back Mowgli (Neel Sethi in an adequate child performance) and his story of being raised in the jungle. He’s part of a wolf pack that has nothing to do with Zach Galifianakis as he’s actually been raised by wolves. There’s also his panther mentor Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) who encourages our young protagonist to find others like him (you know, people) after his life is threatened by the fierce tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba, enunciating menace expertly).

This, of course, sets our hero off on an adventure where he comes into contact with many of the inhabitants of the vast wild lands he calls home. He partners up with honey grubbing bear Baloo (Bill Murray), has a frightening encounter with snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), and is taunted by apish thug King Louie (Christopher Walken).

The voiceover casting here is impeccable and adds a lot to these proceedings. Song and dance man Walker gets a solo take on “I Wan’na Be Like You” and “The Bare Necessities” is figured in. Truthfully, the musical numbers seem a little tacked on, but they’re not around long enough to really complain about. Plus the kids should dig them.

The Jungle Book and its message of the dangers of man vs. wild is a familiar one, but we’ve yet to witness it with special effects like these. We are aware Mowgli and the boy playing him probably spent months in front of a green screen. However, we forget it quickly with these ultra photo realistic creatures in front of us and their well cast actors voicing them. This is the biggest accomplishment that Favreau and his team pull off and it’s certainly enough to make this a worthy addition to the Mouse Factory’s long list of verbal beast experiences.

*** (out of four)