Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review

The original Ghostbusters, lest we forget, was filled with ribald humor coming from SNL vets that were in the prime of their careers. Overloading the reboot/sequel Afterlife with gooey family drama feels, in many ways, as misplaced as the missteps that 2016’s version took or that 1989’s traditional follow-up was a fairly weak retread of the first. This franchise hasn’t succeeded in their attempts to capitalize on what made 1984’s pic special and that extends to this.

It’s not for a lack of trying as the 2021 iteration goes to extreme lengths to get our nostalgia radars working into overdrive. Jason Reitman takes over directorial duties from his father Ivan, who made the 80s blockbusters. There’s not a piece of attire or Twinkie or demonic marshmallow from 1984 that isn’t placed with the clear purpose of inspiring wild cheers. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows the name of every nearly four decade old artifact, vehicle or gadget. In this Afterlife, it more often feels forced than welcome.

We shift from the Big Apple to the sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma. Egon Spangler, Harold Ramis’s nerdy scientist from the OG ‘Busters, has relocated to a dilapidated farmhouse and cut off contact with his family and former colleagues. His demise in the prologue causes his heirs to inhabit the dusty domicile. This includes down on her luck daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids. Since I think it’s now contactually necessary for Stranger Things players to participate in these reboots, Finn Wolfhard is her teenage son Trevor. Mckenna Grace is the real lead as 12-year-old daughter Phoebe, who resembles her granddad in looks and interests. An outcast at school, she bonds with fellow geek Podcast (Logan Kim) and her summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

Trevor and Phoebe are completely unaware that Egon was a Ghostbuster (we’ll just go with that I suppose). Paranormal activities start revealing his life’s work including Phoebe’s ongoing chess game with an unseen spirit. The iconic car (yay!) is stored on the property. Of course, the late Egon was in Summerville for a reason and it has to do with familiar haunters from ’84 and preventing them from returning.

This all leads to familiar heroic faces eventually turning up (though not with significant screen time). With their limited participation, the question is whether the new and much younger generation of spirit crushers is compelling enough to warrant a feature. I didn’t think so, but there are some positives. Grace’s performance is terrific (while Wolfhard and his budding romance with his bellhop coworker Celeste O’Connor adds little). Rudd’s considerable talents (he takes a liking to Callie) add a bit of fun. The sight of Bill Murray randomly turning up anywhere is good for a smile (though not much more here than reading about how he does so in real life).

However, the tone in general struck me as off. It’s hard not to be touched by its tribute to the late Harold Ramis (a man responsible for so many laughs in landmark comedies of the past). I felt the sentiment because of that and not the absence of Egon. Afterlife seems trapped in the notion that our emotional connections to these characters run deeper than they do. Like many reboots nowadays, the mere presence of something old is meant to provide the requisite entertainment value. It made me feel mostly dispirited.

** (out of four)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Box Office Prediction

It’s in with the old and in with the new as Ghostbusters: Afterlife debuts in theaters November 19th. This was originally scheduled to haunt multiplexes in the summer of 2020 before numerous COVID delays. Jason Reitman directs and there’s some family legacy involved as dad Ivan made parts I and II in 1984 and 1989. Newcomers to the series include Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Tracy Letts, and Paul Rudd (not to mention Stay Puft Marshmallow Minis according to the trailer). Returnees from the 80s are Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver.

If rebooting this franchise sounds familiar – that’s because it happened five years ago to middling results. The Paul Feig helmed remake led by Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig took in $46 million on its opening weekend but fizzled quickly due to so-so reviews and audience reaction. It also featured the OG Busters making cameos. This new iteration serves as a direct sequel to the first two.

Some estimates have Afterlife beginning at $50 million or above. That’s certainly doable, but I’m not so sure. While it’s obviously a well-known property and the ’84 original is rightly considered a classic, both follow-ups have been letdowns. The 71% Rotten Tomatoes score is OK, but its actually below the 74% that greeted the ballyhooed 2016 pic.

I’m projecting that this makes it to $35-$40 million and doesn’t get to the number we saw just a half decade back.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife opening weekend prediction: $38.1 million

For my King Richard prediction, click here:

King Richard Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The attendees of New York Comic Con were treated to a surprise this weekend with a screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The fourth film in the franchise that famously began in 1984 serves as a direct continuation to the original and its 1989 follow-up. It’s all about family with Jason Reitman as director (his father Ivan made those first two). Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, and Paul Rudd join the bustin’ action with series stalwarts Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver making appearances. Afterlife is finally coming to life after numerous COVID delays with a November 19th stateside release.

Early reviews indicate a long gestating sequel has extreme reverence for its past. Some critics claim it might be a bit too nostalgic, but reaction is overwhelmingly pleasing with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% (based on 11 reviews).

The original classic 37 years ago managed 2 Oscar nominations. They’re what you would expect: Best Original Song for that addictive title track by Ray Parker Jr. and Visual Effects (it lost to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Also as you might expect, Ghostbusters II and the ballyhooed 2016 Paul Feig reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig achieved zero awards attention. I would anticipate the same for this despite the kudos. Visual Effects is a remote possibility, but there’s a slew of contenders more likely (Dune, The Matrix Resurrections, Eternals to name just some).

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Gothams Have a Cow

2020’s first precursor to the big show arrived today with the Gotham Awards nominations. The group which honoring independent pictures with budgets of $35 million and under made a little history too. All five contenders for Best Feature are made by female directors: Kitty’s Green The Assistant, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, and Relic from Natalie Erika James.

The tight controls on eligibility (and some major studios didn’t submit their Oscar hopefuls) makes it tricky to prognosticate how these nods compare to what the Academy may do. This has always been the case. That said, in the previous decade, at least one Gotham Feature nominee almost always gets a Best Picture nod. In fact, from 2014 to 2016, the Feature winners (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) matched the Oscar winner. Last year, Marriage Story was the sole nominee at Gotham to make the Academy’s cut. In 2018, there were none. Three years ago, both Call Me by Your Name and Get Out got Oscar love.

First Cow led with the most nods and had itself a very good morning. However, its Oscar prospects are iffy while Nomadland looks to be the nominee that will almost certainly get recognition from the Academy (it could even win). The other three nominees are likely non-factors. We did not see another major picture from a female director with One Night in Miami make the final five, though Kingsley Ben-Adir did score a Breakthrough Performance nomination. Also left off: Minari, which seems to be rising in the Oscar chatter.

In the acting races, there were some high profile snubs particularly with Best Actress. Since this category’s inception in 2013, only one winner has matched up with Academy’s selection (Julianne Moore in Still Alice in 2014). In the previous year, none of the five women got Oscar recognition. In every other year, there’s been at least one.

The Gotham Actress hopefuls this year are Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth), Jessie Buckley (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Carrie Coon (The Nest), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari). Only McDormand seems destined for the Oscars in lead actress while Youn could show up in Supporting Actress. What is a bit surprising is the number of Gotham eligible performers who appear to be likely Oscar contenders who missed out here. That list includes Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), and Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit). I wouldn’t read too much into it, but it’s worthy of mention.

In Best Actor, Chadwick Boseman picked up his first posthumous mention for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is joined by Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Jude Law (The Nest), John Magaro (First Cow), and Jesse Plemons (I’m Thinking of Ending Things). Some eligible actors with Oscar hopes that missed out include Winston Duke (Nine Days) and Steven Yeun (Minari). The same could be said for Bill Murray in On the Rocks, though he would compete in supporting with the Academy.

Bottom line: while the Gothams aren’t a reliable barometer for what happens months from now, it does give a fun glimpse at what could follow. Today’s actions unsurprisingly solidify Nomadland and could give a slight boost to Cow. My weekly Oscar predictions will be updated tomorrow so stay tuned!

Widows Movie Review

Like Michael Mann’s Heat over two decades ago, Steve McQueen’s Widows is a heist movie more concerned with the personalities of the people planning them. The similarities don’t stop there. It’s got a sprawling cast with many familiar faces and an overall somber tone. This is a genre marked mostly by its entertainment value. Heists are fun onscreen with the numeric Ocean’s being the highest profile recent examples.

Unlike Heat, its central planner doesn’t pull these crimes because he’s great at it and doesn’t have a personal life. Here it’s the personal lives that lead to the planning in the first place. And in this one, it’s “she’s”. Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) works for the Chicago Teachers Union and is married to career thief Harry (Liam Neeson). What I’m about to write isn’t exactly a spoiler considering the title. Harry and his crew have a job go awry and they’re all killed. Besides Veronica, the widowed women include business owner Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), abused spouse Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and new mom Amanda (Carrie Coon).

Their mourning period is disrupted by their husband’s past illegal dealings. Windy City crime lord Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) was ripped off by them and he’s ready to collect. He’s running for an alderman spot against corrupt politico Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Mulligan fancies himself a man of the people and lives close to the dilapidated neighborhood he wishes to represent. He might as well live on another planet. Manning wants to enter government life to get away from a life of crime, but seems to understand that they go hand in hand in this transactional and blood soaked Chicago.

Veronica, Linda, and Alice are put in a desperate spot. A clue left behind by Harry leads them to plan a robbery of Mulligan’s dirty money while trying to keep his political opponent off their backs (Amanda chooses to not to participate). Mulligan and Manning have enforcers on their team. The former’s is his controlling and ruthless father (Robert Duvall). The latter’s is his henchman (Daniel Kaluuya), who’s sadistic and seems to genuinely enjoy his works of depravity.

There are many subplots in Widows and McQueen manages to pull it off in mostly satisfying fashion. Some work better than others. The relationship of Veronica and Harry is a complicated one that’s given emotional heft by a shared loss. The same can be said for Alice’s character. She’s been a victim her whole life it seems. There’s an empowerment element with her that makes her perhaps the easiest character to root for. Rodriguez’s story has less meat on the bones. They pick up another conspirator in Belle (a memorable Cynthia Erivo), a driven woman who serves as the driver.

You’ll not be surprised to find the performances are first-rate, particularly Davis, Debicki, and Kaluuya (there’s not a mediocre one in the bunch). The score, editing, and cinematography are also noteworthy. McQueen wrote the script along with Gillian Flynn, known for her twisty works like Gone Girl. She’s created compelling female characters there and elsewhere and she does so here. If there’s an issue, it’s that her proclivity for twists reaches a tad too far with one (which I won’t spoil). I found it unnecessary and you’ll likely recognize what I’m referring to upon viewing.

And Widows is worth viewing as it gives us some characters you want to follow. There’s nothing remarkable about the heist they’re trying to pull. The acting and technical work often does fit that description.

*** (out of four)

Widows Box Office Prediction

Widows is Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 2013’s Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave and it boasts an impressive cast and its own awards buzz. Viola Davis headlines the heist thriller alongside Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson.

Opening next weekend, the film sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could potentially contend in Best Picture, Actress (Davis), Supporting Actor (Kaluuya) and its Adapted Screenplay from Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn. So how will that translate to box office bucks?

I believe the likelihood is that Widows will succeed in appealing to action fans and manage to bring in a sizable female audience. Yet it should also be the type of performer that experiences solid holds from weekend to weekend and not necessarily have a huge opening. Mid teens appears to be the correct forecast for its start.

Widows opening weekend prediction: $15.8 million

For my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/06/fantastic-beasts-the-crimes-of-grindelwald-box-office-prediction/

For my Instant Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/instant-family-box-office-prediction/

Kin Box Office Prediction

Labor Day weekend brings the sci-fi pic Kin, which hopes to bring in a family and teen audience that have had plenty to see this summer. It’s not based on a YA novel, but it could pass as such an adaptation. That may not be great news as the genre seems to be dwindling.

Jonathan and Josh Baker direct with a cast including Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco as a crime lord (the guy is certainly eclectic).

The Lionsgate release seems to be flying well under the radar and the Labor Day release date doesn’t inspire much confidence in its prospects. This is typically a slow time of year on the box office calendar and I’m getting a bit of a Darkest Minds vibe here.

That means I foresee a holiday debut in the mid single digits.

Kin opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Searching prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/14/searching-box-office-prediction/

For my Operation Finale prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/21/operation-finale-box-office-prediction/

For my Ya Veremos prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/27/ya-veremos-box-office-prediction/

For my The Little Stranger prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/27/the-little-stranger-box-office-prediction/

The Post Movie Review

If you could envision a picture made in a factory for Best Picture consideration, The Post might be it. Two-time Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg? Check. Three-time winner and most nominated actress ever Meryl Streep? Yep. Two-time recipient Tom Hanks? Indeed. A historical context that has connections to what’s happening today? Present. Luckily, the film itself manages to be an often engrossing experience that is (surprise) quite well-acted and directed. Does it match the high mark of some other journalistic features that cover similar ground? Not in my view.

The Post opens with State Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) in Vietnam in the late 1960s and his growing realization that the conflict has no end in sight. Ellsberg has access to classified government docs and by the early 1970s, he wishes to expose the top secrets of the U.S. Government’s involvement overseas from the Truman through Nixon administrations. He first leaks some information to the vaunted New York Times, but attention soon turns to The Washington Post, which at this juncture is considered more of a hometown paper. That paper is run by Katharine Graham (Streep) and she’s the first woman to run such an operation. She inherited the Post after the deaths of her father and husband. While the film’s attention is mostly centered on the impending giant story that they may break, we also witness the difficulties Graham experiences as a woman working in a man’s world. This provides some of the best moments and more examples of Streep’s limitless abilities as a performer.

Graham runs in the D.C. social circles and she’s close with many of the figures her journalists look to expose, including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). The paper’s editor is Ben Bradlee (Hanks), a hard charging type who doesn’t think of the corporate exposure landmines that go along with spilling these secrets. Graham must do so because her business is about to go up for public offering and President Nixon isn’t exactly warm-hearted when dealing with media types.

Therein lies the drama with The Post as Graham and Bradlee struggle to do the right thing. The pic clearly reveres it main subjects and the virtuous acts they took. It also adores the bygone and pre-digitized era of the news. There are lovingly crafted shots of the newspapers being developed for print and frenzied reporters furiously typing their copy to meet their deadline. We also witness occasional spurts of dialogue that border on preachy. Screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer craft a couple of monologues that could warrant a bright red MESSAGE signal across the screen while its actors are speaking.

That said, the story itself is inherently fascinating and it’s told in a well-crafted manner. There are plenty of actors who pop up in supporting roles, including a very nice performance from Bob Odenkirk as an editor who goes way back with Ellsberg and is instrumental in the paper’s expose. This is primarily the Streep and Hanks show, however. And in case you didn’t know, the two can act. Hanks is playing a part made most famous by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men (for which he won a gold statue). It is that movie that you may wish to draw comparisons with. The Post isn’t in that league, but few reach that level of greatness. The Post, rather, is exceedingly competent.

*** (out of four)

 

 

The Post Box Office Prediction

A trio of multiple Oscar winners team up for The Post, which expands nationwide next weekend over the four-day MLK holiday frame. The dramatic political thriller from Steven Spielberg is headlined by Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee and their exposure of the Nixon Adminstration’s Pentagon Papers scandal. Costars include Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, and Carrie Coon.

Unsurprisingly, the film has garnered some Oscar attention for itself and looks to be a player in numerous races when nominations are announced on January 23rd. The Post has received lots of ink for its comparisons to the political scene today. Reviews have been mostly strong and it stands at 87% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

Boasting its A list director and two stars, this should accomplish its mission of appealing to adult moviegoers. It’s performed extremely well in limited release thus far. I’ll predict this posting a low to mid 20s debut.

The Post opening weekend prediction: $22.3 million (Friday to Monday prediction)

For my Paddington 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/paddington-2-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/

Todd’s Oscar Predictions: Round FOUR (December Edition)

We have arrived at take #4 of my Oscar Predictions and these reflect my first predictions in the month of December. Much has changed since my last pre-Thanksgiving picks. Most importantly, the nominations for the SAG and Golden Globe awards have been released and they obviously show many directions in which the Academy could go. Just as importantly, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken screened for critics. Many anticipated the picture could be a potential Oscar front runner. However, it didn’t pan out that way with its current 55% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It may struggle now to be nominated at all.

As I’ve done before, let’s breakdown the eight major categories one by one:

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything appear to be locks for nominations here. I will still include Unbroken, though its inclusion is less clear. The fifth slot could be anything from Still Alice to American Sniper to Into the Woods. Yet (for now) I’ll go with Wild. This latest round replaces Into the Woods with the Reese Witherspoon drama.

Predicted Nominees

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Unbroken

Wild

Best Original Screenplay

No changes here in a very strong category. However, the list of movies that could be spoiler nominees includes Mr. Turner, Foxcatcher, A Most Violent Year, and even The LEGO Movie.

Predicted Nominees

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Selma

Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Just one change here as I’m taking out Carmen Ejogo for Selma and replacing her with Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year. Other potential nominees: Laura Dern in Wild, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl, and Kristen Stewart in Still Alice.

Predicted Nominees

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor

The disappointment of the Unbroken reaction has led me to take out Miyavi for that picture and replace him with Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson in Selma. Other potential nominees: Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice and Tim Roth in Selma. Robert Duvall has landed SAG and Globe nods, but I still can’t bring myself to include him yet.

Predicted Nominees

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Tom Wilkinson, Selma

Best Actress

This category seems to have four locks: Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Felicity Jones, and Rosamund Pike. The five spot is truly up for grabs. It could go to Hilary Swank (The Homesman), Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Emily Blunt (Into the Woods), or Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars). For now – I’m taking Blunt out and predicting the final slot goes to Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night.

Predicted Nominees

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Actor

In any other year – Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Jake Gyllenhall (Nightcrawler), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) might find themselves in the mix. However, there are five other strong contenders and they’re the same that I predicted last month.

Predicted Nominees

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Director

I’ve had Angelina Jolie included in my previous three posts, but she’s out for the first time. I’m replacing her with David Fincher for now. Other possibilities include Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything), and JC Chandor (A Most Violent Year), among others.

Predicted Nominees

Ana DuVernay, Selma

David Fincher, Gone Girl

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Best Picture

Two changes here as Into the Woods and Interstellar are out. I’m still including Unbroken, but it may be in serious danger. The two newbies have both been predicted in previous posts but not last month: Foxcatcher and Gone Girl. 

Other pictures not predicted that could find a way in: The Grand Budapest Hotel, A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, and Mr. Turner.

Predicted Nominees

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Unbroken

Whiplash

And that’s the latest folks! I’ll likely have a part two December predictions before the dawn of 2015. Stay tuned!