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:

For my Shaft prediction, click here:

For my Late Night prediction, click here:

The Florida Project Movie Review

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project portrays a slice of American life with characters who struggle mightily to get a piece of the pie. There’s kids and bright colors in a Disney setting that feels worlds away from the Magic Kingdom and short distance away from it that it is.

The film centers on six-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), who lives with mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) at a cheap hotel in close proximity to Mickey’s tourist attraction. The hotel is painted in gaudy palettes maintained by the hotel’s manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), a kind and exasperated man who keeps a constant eye out for the kids who fill the premises. Halley is a former stripper constantly struggling to pay rent and make ends meet. Her friends at the hotel and their children are in similar situations. The never ending trials of the adults are seen, but mostly through the eyes of Moonee and friends Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera).

We know there’s a lot of sad and desperate actions that allow Halley to plunk down the rent. Yet Moonee is still of the age where she doesn’t completely notice it or begin to comprehend it. The Florida Project presents her small world through her eyes. Each day, she sees parents and their kids staying at close by luxury hotels who are there to vacation and take in the wonder of what’s behind Disney’s gates. Her situation prevents her from entering them.

The screenplay by Baker and Chris Bergoch is less concerned with plot and more with tagging along with the youngsters. They seem real and not like movie kids who are all knowing and ahead of the adults. They get in trouble. They say mean things. And they’re bored and aimless much of the time while their elders tend to their struggles. They’re also played by genuinely impressive actors, especially Prince. First timer Vinaite creates quite a character in Halley, whose rough edges are not glossed over. And Dafoe has touching and forceful moments as witness to the motel’s daily drama.

We don’t see the people explored in The Florida Project onscreen often. The inhabitants of the Magic Castle motel don’t live in flyover territory. Far from it. They do live in territory that is driven by all day and night and mostly ignored. There’s enough heart and realism displayed here to make the two hours spent there worth it.

*** (out of four)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Movie Review

In 1996, Frances McDormand brilliantly crafted her signature role with Fargo and earned a well deserved Oscar for it. Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gives the actress another part that’s right up there in terms of one she’ll be remembered for. Like Fargo, it’s a picture involving grisly crimes with a comedic sensibility set to charcoal. Unlike her Marge Gunderson from 21 years past, Mildred Hayes displays the opposite of the former’s sunny disposition in the midst of tragedy.

There’s good reason for it. Her daughter was brutally raped and murdered seven months ago. Frustrated with the lack of progress in the case and the small town police force investigating it, she plunks down some cash for a trio of billboards on the remote road leading to her home. These signs clearly express her displeasure, particularly with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The local news media takes notice, as do Ebbing’s residents. The majority of them view it as an unnecessary stunt.

Mildred is a woman on a mission to get answers and her narrow focus puts her at odds with the Sheriff. A lesser screenplay may have made Willoughby a local yokel. Yet he’s written as a multi-layered man with Harrelson expertly portraying him. If there’s a law enforcement figure to root against, it’s Sam Rockwell’s Dixon. He’s known for racist tendencies and a general lack of skill in his job. And even McDonagh’s script takes him in unexpected directions that make him far from a caricature.

The promise that celebrated Irish playwright McDonagh showed with his debut In Bruges ebbed a bit with his follow-up Seven Psychopaths. The third time is easily the darkly charming triumph of his cinematic career. Billboards takes you in unforeseen directions not unlike what Fargo accomplished.

Much credit is due to the casting. McDormand, Harrelson, and Rockwell all give nomination worthy performances. The superb acting filters to the supporting players – from Mildred’s temperamental ex-husband (John Hawkes) and his dingbat 19 year-old girlfriend (Samara Weaving). Lucas Hedges is their exasperated son, left mourning his sister and seeing the constant reminders of her death to and from home. Caleb Landry Jones is memorable as the poor guy who must approve Mildred’s messages. He’s been a standout twice before this year with Get Out and American Made. Peter Dinklage turns up as a used car salesman with an eye for our heroine. Sandy Martin’s makes the most of her limited screentime as Dixon’s mama. We certainly see where he gets his lesser traits from.

Three Billboards is special. I was truly taken with its ability to be hilarious and touching simultaneously. It doesn’t allow its main characters to be simple. The screenplay is too intelligent to play them as wholly virtuous or completely evil. Everyone here has rough edges and questionable intentions and the desire to do good in their own way. Watching it all play out is riveting and one of the year’s greatest experiences.

**** (out of four)

American Made Movie Review

American Made is fun while it lasts and the same can be said of the characters living through it for the most part. The film tells the true-life story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a TWA pilot in the late 1970s who’s grown quite bored with his job. Early on, he creates turbulence on a flight just to break the monotony. Life perks up considerably when his services are utilized by the CIA to deal with Manuel Noriega’s Panamanian government and run guns to the Contras in what would become the biggest scandal of President Reagan’s administration. Seal’s shady interactions with the U.S. government aren’t the only item in his new job description as he starts a lucrative side business bringing cocaine back to the states from Columbia. This brings him front and center with Pablo Escobar (Mauicio Meija) and Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda).

For most of Made‘s fast moving running time, Gary Spinelli’s screenplay creates a world where Seal is gloriously ambivalent as to the dangerous decisions he makes. He moves his family from Louisiana to the tiny town of Mena, Arkansas where the piles of money he’s earning is buried in the backyard and at new banks that miraculously pop up in the community. His wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) doesn’t ask too many questions, but she also makes it humorously clear that she doesn’t trust a thing her hubby is doing.

The tone of American Made can be slightly jarring if you really think about it. We’re dealing with real-life events that spawned real-life tragedies like illegal arms deals and the drug epidemic that swept the 1980s. However, that’s not on Seal’s mind or the picture’s for that matter. He’s too busy creating his own version of the American Dream and his journey through actual history casts him as a Forrest Gump like figure if Forrest had no moral compass.

For this decade, Cruise has mostly concentrated on starring in a mixed bag of action and sci-fi efforts. Made reunites him with his director from one of the better ones, Edge of Tomorrow. It also gives him one of his best roles in years and a true change of pace as far as material. Domhnall Gleeson is his CIA contact Schafer, who’s endlessly energetic about the chaos his agency is creating. One of the most memorable performances comes from Caleb Landry Jones as Seal’s creepy loose cannon of a brother-in-law. You may recognize him as the creepy loose cannon brother from Get Out and Jones has that character nailed in 2017.

American Made doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table. Some of its story lines have been covered in much more serious works. Yet it’s got a lot of energy and it’s certainly entertaining, with Cruise’s presence a big factor as to why. By its conclusion, we’re aware that its central figure is creating his own turbulence again and he probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

*** (out of four)

Get Out Movie Review

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is certainly something you don’t see everyday – a mashup of social commentary on race, horror, and comedy. That technically may be an uncomfortable mix of genres, but the writer/director mostly pulls it off in an effort that often feels quite fresh and is sometimes downright invigorating.

The pic begins with a prologue of an African American male wondering the streets of an affluent neighborhood looking for the right address. A car starts to follow him. It doesn’t seem like anything new to him, but it ends in a decidedly frightening result.

Cut to the present as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to leave the city for a weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents place. Rose doesn’t feel it’s important to inform them that he’s black, even though he warns her it might’ve been worth mentioning. He’s right. The suburban area where her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) dwell is lily white. Her dad believes bonding with Chris involves calling him “my man” and insisting he’d vote for Obama had he been eligible for another term.

There are exceptions to the prominently Caucasian community. The family has a groundskeeper and maid who are black. Chris feels something is off with them. He’s right. He also is creeped out when Mom tries out her hypnosis skills on him. She presents it as a way to stop his smoking (like Greg Focker meeting the parents, he has the same habit). Chris suspects there’s something more sinister at play. Once again, his antenna is pointing in the right direction.

One of the more clever aspects in the writing of Get Out is showing how Chris’s radar is always switched on around people of the opposite race. The reactions to him in this foreign world to him are strange, but not enough to have him running. At least for a while.

As the story unfolds, awkward interactions with the family and others turns to horror. In the third act, that genre takes over and provides the kind of scares and laughs that we cherish in it. Get Out works in other ways. All performances are solid starting with leads Kaluuya and Williams. Special shout outs go to Betty Gabriel as that off kilter maid and Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s buddy who provides major comic relief.

Once the plot is completely revealed, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions that a prequel could surely have a ball with. The writer and director doesn’t totally stick the landing in my view. Saying more would go into spoiler territory. That said, Get Out is sharp and potent. Peele became known from Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” for laugh out loud moments filled with timely satire. They’re here coupled with more blood. Kudos to him for believing this curious melding could work. He’s right.

***1/2 (out of four)