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!

 

Todd’s Oscar Predictions: ROUND THREE (November Edition)

November brings us my third edition of my Oscar predictions in the eight major categories. Since October’s round of predictions, a few important things have happened. First and foremost, Ana DuVernay’s Martin Luther King Civil Rights pic Selma has screened for critics and vaulted itself into a major contender… and not just for nominations. Disney’s Into the Woods screened just last night and it too has entered the fray. The only film left unseen is Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, but it remains a potential force to be reckoned with.

Let’s go through the categories one by one and I’ll point out what changes have transpired in the last few weeks!

Best Adapted Screenplay

Only one change here as I’ve taken out American Sniper and subbed in Into the Woods. The other four nominees seem like sure things for the most part. If Woods or Sniper don’t get in, Inherent Vice, Still Alice, or Wild are other possibles.

Predicted Nominees

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Into the Woods

The Theory of Everything

Unbroken

Best Original Screenplay

I had Interstellar in a month ago, but this seems unlikely after the main complaints of critics was the script. Foxcatcher is out as well as it seems to be losing momentum in the Academy derby. I’ve put it Selma and Whiplash in their place. I’m still keeping in The Grand Budapest Hotel, though many prognosticators have it out of competition. A Most Violent Year and Mr. Turner could get in, too.

Predicted Nominees

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Selma

Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

We have a couple changes here as Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) and Carmen Ejogo (Selma) join the mix, supplanting Laura Dern (Wild) and Kristen Stewart (Still Alice). Other possibles include Carrie Coon (Gone Girl) and Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year).

Predicted Nominees

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Carmen Ejogo, Selma

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor

We’ll make this simple – this is the one race where nothing has changed prediction wise! If any of my predictions falter – keep an eye out for Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth (both for Selma), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), or Robert Duvall (The Judge).

Predicted Nominees

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Miyavi, Unbroken

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Actress

Just one alteration here as I’ve taken out Amy Adams for Big Eyes and substituted Emily Blunt for Into the Woods. Others with surprise nomination shots are Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Hilary Swank (The Homesman), and Jennifer Aniston (Cake).

Predicted Nominees

Emily Blunt, Into the Woods

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Actor

The most competitive category of all appears to have four shoo-ins now: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, David Oyelowo, and Eddie Redmayne. This is actually the first time I’ve included Oyelowo after Selma screened, so I’ve removed Jack O’Connell in Unbroken. The fifth slot is tough – it could be O’Connell, Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), or even Jake Gyllenhall (Nightcrawler) or Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel). For now, though, I’m sticking with Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, despite its downgrading among many for possible nominations.

Predicted Nominees

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Director

Last month, I included high profile auteurs David Fincher (Gone Girl) and Christopher Nolan (Interstellar). They’re out and Ana DuVernay (Selma) and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) are in. Oscar could make some history if DuVernay makes it in. She’d be the first African American woman to be recognized in this category. Additionally, my current estimates that include her and Angelina Jolie would mark the first time two women are up for the award.

Predicted Nominees

Ana DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Angelina Jolie, Unbroken

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Best Picture

I’m still sticking with nine predicted nominees yet a third of them have changed. Gone are Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, and American Sniper. They all have decent shots still, along with A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Joining the mix are Selma (a no brainer now) and less sure things Into the Woods and Whiplash. I’m still including Interstellar, though that’s an iffy proposition.

Predicted Nominees

Birdman

Boyhood

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Unbroken

Whiplash

We’ll have a fourth round of December predictions soon enough, friends! Until then…