Tag Archives: Bruce Dern

Chappaquiddick Movie Review

“We tell the truth. Or at least our version of it.”

This is perhaps the central line uttered by Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick. It recalls the events that took place in the summer of 1969 that resulted in the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) with the Senator at the wheel. This is a tale of power potentially interrupted as Ted is the last living brother of America’s royal family. Unfolding just months after Bobby’s assassination during his Presidential campaign, the youngest Kennedy is seen as a contender for the highest office in the land in 1972.

His brother’s death indirectly leads to the film’s events as Ted organizes a reunion of the “Boiler Room Girls”, a group of female staffers that worked on Bobby’s bid for the White House. New Jersey native Mary Jo is one of them and her fateful car ride with Ted becomes the subject of endless speculation on the same weekend where Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. The accident isn’t reported by the world-famous driver until eight hours following its occurrence. The screenplay from Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan hypothesizes that Kennedy’s truth about it is indeed his own, with details like alcohol consumption conveniently omitted and a concussion and needless neck brace advantageously added.

The deception extends to patriarch Joseph Kennedy Sr. (Bruce Dern). He can’t speak due to a debilitating stroke, but he can still mobilize a crisis control team at short notice. This includes former Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara (Clancy Brown) and family speechwriter Ted Sorensen (Taylor Nichols). The conscience of the piece is Kennedy cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), who accompanies Ted and Massachusetts District Attorney friend Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to rescue the deceased passenger when it’s far too late. Gargan is a member of the Kennedy clan, though he doesn’t fully recognize the extent they will go to in protecting their brand.

Any movie recounting the days of Chappaquiddick and its aftermath will be looked at through a political lens. Ardent supporters of its central character will likely take issue with some theories put forth here, including Ted’s original thought to claim Mary Jo was driving. So while the leanings of some viewers could be tainted by that, Chappaquiddick is primarily a procedural about a tragedy caused by someone with extraordinary influence. When Kennedy goes to the small island’s office of the police chief to give a hastily written statement, he immediately enters and sits behind the chief’s desk in his chair. It’s a minor detail, but not an insignificant one in showing the power structure involved here.

Chappaquiddick doesn’t shed much unique light on the well-researched event, but it’s held together by a strong performance from Clarke. His Ted is one in constant conflict and not just with the details of the drowning. He is a man of apparent destiny whether he wants it or not or whether his father even believes he deserves it. A sharp turn derails those ambitions to a certain degree. In this version of it, the filmmakers don’t let Kennedy off the hook.

*** (out of four)

White Boy Rick Box Office Prediction

After a debut at the Telluride Film Festival that garnered mixed reactions, White Boy Rick is out in theaters next weekend. Directed by Yann Demange, it tells the true crime story of 14-year-old Richard Wersche Jr. (Richie Merritt) who became a FBI informant and drug kingpin in Detroit in the 1980s. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley, Bryan Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie.

As mentioned, festival reaction wasn’t overwhelmingly positive and Rick currently stands at 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Had the film managed to generate awards buzz, my estimate might be slightly higher than it is. I believe this could struggle to hit double digits out of the gate for a so-so debut.

White Boy Rick opening weekend prediction: $8.7 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

For my A Simple Favor prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/a-simple-favor-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: White Boy Rick

Ahead of its stateside bow in just two weeks, White Boy Rick has premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. The 1980s set crime pic tells the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (played by newcomer Richie Merritt), who became a drug kingpin and FBI informant at age 14 in Detroit. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with French director Yann Demange (maker of the acclaimed 2014 indie ‘71) behind the camera.

White Boy Rick was never exactly looked at as a major Oscar contender, but it was a curiosity as to whether its two main actors could receive attention. McConaughey is just five years removed from a gold statue for Dallas Buyers Club. While some early reviews have commended him and Merritt, there’s been an overall mixed to negative vibe from critics.

Bottom line: This should be a total non-factor when it comes to Academy Awards chatter.

The film opens September 14. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Chappaquiddick Box Office Prediction

Arriving in theaters a little later than anticipated, historical drama Chappaquiddick debuts next weekend. Directed by John Curran, the film recounts the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted Kennedy’s role in it. Jason Clarke plays Kennedy with Kate Mara as Kopechne. Supporting players include Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffigan, Taylor Nichols, and Clancy Brown.

The pic receives its first screening last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. Reviews were mostly positive and it stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, reaction was muted enough that Entertainment Studios moved it from its December 2017 awards qualifying run to this April roll out.

Chappaquiddick likely faces a tough road ahead. Premiering on approximately 1500 screens, its only real hope to appeal to older moviegoers who recall the events from nearly a half century ago. I’ll project that only gets this to $2-$3 million.

Chappaquiddick opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

For my A Quiet Place prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/27/a-quiet-place-box-office-prediction/

For my Blockers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/28/blockers-box-office-prediction/

For my A Miracle Season prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/30/the-miracle-season-box-office-prediction/

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino’s “worst” picture is far better than most director’s best pictures and so it is with The Hateful Eight, his 8th effort (if you count the two Kill Bill’s as one). Incorporating aspects of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and a little Django Unchained and Kill Bill for good measure, Eight finally gave me a Quentin experience that I wouldn’t award four stars. That doesn’t mean it isn’t well worth the time – far from it. It just means it can’t quite measure up to what he’s given us for the last two decades plus.

The Hateful Eight could be a stage play and it wouldn’t surprise if it is someday. The pic takes place almost exclusively in a stagecoach and in a lodge known as Minnie’s Haberdashery sometime shortly after the Civil War. The stagecoach holds John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her execution in nearby Red Rock, Wyoming. Along the way they pick up company: bounty hunter and possible war hero Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and former Confederate militia man Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Ruth is dubious of their separate appearances along the journey for two reasons: a nasty blizzard is approaching and there’s a $10,000 bounty on Daisy’s demented head. Nevertheless, they make it to the aforementioned Minnie’s where the owner is nowhere to be found. Instead, they find an old Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a Mexican (Demian Bichir) tasked with looking after the lodge, a mysterious cowboy (Michael Madsen) who claims he’s headed home for Christmas, and the man (Tim Roth) who just happens to the one that’s supposed to hang Daisy in a couple of days.

Inclement weather bounds these eight souls (and a couple more) together at Minnie’s and we soon learn that no one may be who they say they are. It sets up a nearly three hour mystery where the character’s motivations are constantly examined and reexamined. And in a true QT style, there are long monologues by the principles outlining their pasts and what they see going down in the future – with Jackson’s Warren often getting the juiciest and filthiest dialogue. Those of us (like me) who have truly loved the writer/director’s screenplays will relish so much here. We have an abundance of wicked humor mixed with menace. And those of us who cherish his stylized violence will find it in plentiful supply in spots. Heads explode as they should in this man’s oeuvre.

Tarantino knows better than most directors the importance of casting and he uses his company of regulars including Jackson, Roth, Madsen, and Russell (who gave one of the performances of his career in Quentin’s Death Proof) to fine effect. Yet it’s Goggins (who had a smaller role in Django Unchained) and Leigh who pretty much steal the proceedings. They are the characters among the eight whom you may find yourself thinking of the most when the lights come up.

As mentioned, the primarily claustrophobic proceedings are sometimes offset by glorious shots of the Western landscape courtesy of impeccable camerawork by Robert Richardson. There’s also a terrific Ennio Morricone score to boot (we also expect amazing music in QT’s pics and it’s here). The Hateful Eight is divided into chapters just as in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. There’s time shifting like we’ve seen in many of his works. And for the first time, every once in a while it feels like a Tarantino “greatest hits” instead of a singular great movie. Most of the time, it just feels great for fans like me that put him on a higher pedestal than his contemporaries. There’s a reason for it. He deserves it. It may have taken 22 years for me to downgrade one of his pictures from four stars to something slightly less, but Quentin Tarantino and his dialogue are still a bloody treat.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Hateful Eight Box Office Prediction

Quentin Tarantino is back behind the camera with Western whodunit The Hateful Eight, which unspools in cinemas on New Year’s Eve following a limited release on Christmas Day. The titled Eight are Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, and Michael Madsen. The three hour epic hopes to replicate the massive success of Tarantino’s last two efforts, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained.

Both of those pics earned Best Picture nominations and made a killing at the box office. Basterds took in $38 million out of the gate, leading to an overall gross of $120 million. Django marked career highs, with a $63 million debut over a long Christmas week three years ago and an eventual take of $162 million.

The Hateful Eight does (for the most part) have critics on its side with a current rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, Quentin has a built-in audience of movie lovers who will rush out to see anything he stamps his name on. The pic’s wide release was pushed up by one week to capitalize on its solid buzz (and maybe to avoid direct competition with The Revenant). The release date change does make me wonder if it’s capable of reaching the heights of his two predecessors, partly because people have plans on New Year’s Eve and are often, um, relaxing on New Year’s Day. Also, while reviews are strong, this is not receiving the level of awards buzz that his two predecessors did.

Even with those potential demerits, The Hateful Eight should score an opening in the $25-$30M range for what will likely be a sturdy #2 posting behind the third frame of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

**Blogger’s note (12/28): with today’s announcement that the film will open on Wednesday (12/30) instead of Friday, my prediction has been altered to reflect that late breaking change.

The Hateful Eight opening weekend prediction: $27.2 million (Friday to Sunday), $36.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

Oscar Watch: The Hateful Eight

While its reviews are embargoed for another week and a half or so, Quentin Tarantino’s eagerly awaited The Hateful Eight has conducted industry and critics screenings over the past few days. The celebrated and controversial director’s ninth feature film has been a major question mark as to its Oscar chances ever since the project was announced. Quentin’s last two features, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained, were both nominated for Best Picture so it stood to reason that Eight could follow suit.

The verdict based on word of mouth that’s seeped out? Well, it’s still a bit of a question mark. The Hateful Eight, based on its buzz, seems to be on the bubble of receiving a nod in the big race. Some screenings have indicated a mixed reaction and when it comes to ultra violent awards worthy fare, voters may only recognize Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant. Based on these factors, I find it unlikely that Mr. Tarantino will nab his third nomination for Director (after 1994’s Pulp Fiction and Basterds). Where he’s more likely to be honored is in Original Screenplay, for which he’s won twice.

Tarantino pics have a nice history of getting their actors nominated and this is likely to hold true for Jennifer Jason Leigh in Supporting Actress. She could a threat to win. As for the males – Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, and others may cancel themselves out.

The other category where a nomination seems probable is Cinematography, where Robert Richardson’s work shooting in 70 mm is assured to earn him attention.

As the weeks roll along, you can follow how The Hateful Eight tracks as, beginning this weekend, I’ll be doing weekly updates on my Oscar predictions. Stay tuned!