Well-known actors crafting nifty little suspense thrillers tinged with horror has become a thing lately (think John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place and Joel Edgerton’s The Gift). Dave Franco gets in on it with The Rental, which is swift in its running time and plentiful with twists that you see coming and some that are nicely rewarding. It also features a quartet of solid performers whose weekend getaway gives them far more than they bargained for.
Charlie (Dan Stevens) finds a swanky vacation house to nab for the weekend with help from his trusted assistant Mina (Sheila Vand). They’re celebrating something going right with their business and it’s good reason to let their hair down with Charlie’s wife Michelle (Alison Brie, the director’s real life spouse). Mina happens to be dating Charlie’s brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) so he tags along with his puppy. Pets aren’t allowed at the establishment, but that turns out to be the least of their issues. For instance, there might be a psycho around and it’s not safe to be in the shower.
Upon arrival, the foursome confront the property’s caretaker Taylor (Toby Huss). The first problem is a racially tinged one. Mina, who’s of Middle Eastern descent, tried to rent the place and was promptly denied. Charlie had no such trouble. They decide to overlook that and the first night becomes an alcohol and designer drug filled party. This is where the aforementioned “twists” that follow are somewhat predictable in nature. However, the actors have a real chemistry with one another and you’ll want to see where it all leads.
Without venturing into spoiler territory, The Rental isn’t its eventual genre for about two thirds of its brisk 88 minutes. Credit is due to Franco and Joe Swanberg’s script for keeping the audience engaged in the dynamics of the four principals. Of them, it’s Vand who has the best role and she’s quite impressive.
When we arrive at the final third, the build up has been sturdy enough that we care about the fates of the characters as they navigate their way through dense fog and deeply personal conflicts. Franco has crafted a lean and effective directorial debut and its title is worth the price of one.
A Will Ferrell Netflix comedy with so-so reviews getting an Oscar Watch post? Welcome to 2020 folks! However, this entry’s existence may not be as crazy as it sounds. On June 26, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga premiered on the streaming service. The pic casts Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as Icelandic crooners competing in the annual musical competition outlined in the title.
As mentioned, critical reaction has been mixed and it sits at 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was originally scheduled for a May theatrical rollout before the COVID-19 pandemic altered that course.
Let’s get this out of the way: I saw Eurovision and the RT score makes a lot of sense. It has plenty of funny moments, but it’s not particularly memorable. In other words, the pic was never designed as an awards contender and will not be one. However, there could be a catch. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams belt out numerous songs and the climactic track is “Husavik” from composer Atli Orvarsson. In a year where it’s uncertain how many original songs will even be at Oscar voters disposal, the ballad could make a play.
Additionally, it isn’t totally out of the ordinary for comedies to compete in Original Song. In the 21st century, some examples include selections from Meet the Parents, A Mighty Wind, and Ted. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Harrison Ford and a furry friend that isn’t Chewbacca team up for The Call of the Wild next weekend. Based on Jack London’s 1903 adventure book, the wilderness tale pairing Ford with canine pal Buck comes from director Chris Sanders. It’s his live-action debut, but he’s had success making animated features including The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon. Costars include Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, and Bradley Whitford.
Coming from the newly named 20th Century Studios (now owned by Disney), Wild is a rather large gamble. The price tag reportedly tops $100 million and that’s steep considering the source material may not be as familiar to some of the young audience it is counting on. To add to that, Sonic the Hedgehog will be in its sophomore frame and that could cut into the crowd.
Older viewers turning out for Ford and the short novel it’s based on could potentially get this to top of its range ($20 million). Yet my feeling is low to mid teens is most likely.
The Call of the Wild opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million
Natalie Portman is an astronaut who seems to lose touch with reality when she becomes Earthbound again in LucyintheSky, which has screened at the Toronto Film Festival. And while many critics are praising her performance, their reception to the picture itself is having a problem.
Noah Hawley, who created the acclaimed TV adaptation of Fargo, makes his directorial debut with a supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, and Ellen Burstyn (who reportedly gets to spout some salty dialogue). As mentioned, Lucy did not fly in its rollout and it sits at just 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Portman is an Oscar winner from 2010’s BlackSwan in addition to two other nods for Closer and Jackie. With tepid reaction to her latest, expect her nominations number to stay put at three. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Chadwick Boseman is back in biopic form next weekend when Marshall debuts. The courtroom drama finds the actor playing a young Thurgood Marshall, who would eventually becomes the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Reginald Hudlin directs with a supporting cast that includes Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, and James Cromwell.
This is Boseman’s third go-round playing a high-profile real figure. In 2013, he starred as Jackie Robinson in 42, which opened to $27 million. The following year, he was the Godfather of Soul James Brown in Get On Up, which debuted with $13 million.
In my view, Marshall would need some Oscar buzz and great reviews to make an impact with audiences. It doesn’t appear that will be the case. My verdict is a mid single digits premiere for the Open Roads feature.
Early reviews are out for Marshall, which casts Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall in this courtroom drama set decades before he became the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court. The film comes from director Reginald Hudlin, known mostly for 90s comedies like HouseParty and Boomerang. Costars include Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, and James Cromwell.
With a Best Actor race that’s looking somewhat thin thus far, Boseman seemed like a decent possibility for inclusion. He’s had an impressive career playing real-life figures Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in GetOnUp. The actor has also increased his visibility with a larger audience as Black Panther in CaptainAmerica: CivilWar and in his own spin-off next year. Yet he hasn’t received attention from the Academy.
Marshall is getting decent critical notices so far, but not to the level where Best Picture seems feasible. I also find it likely that Boseman will be 0 for 3 in Best Actor portraying his third high-profile person, unless the picture manages to really break out with audiences.
Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is an entertaining little example of what happens when a major film actress wants to do something a bit different. Anne Hathaway is the star here and what we have here is her giving a strong performance in a genre you might not expect.
She plays Gloria, an alcoholic who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and is forced to move from their NYC apartment. With no other options, Gloria goes back to her small town childhood home. Barely settling in, she reconnects with childhood buddy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who now owns his family neighborhood bar. Oscar offers her a part-time gig waitressing there and business picks up when the unthinkable occurs. Over in Seoul, South Korea – a Godzilla like creature wreaks havoc to those in its path. The citizens of the town go to the bar in the evening to drown themselves while viewing the unfolding developments. Yet there’s a very strange connection to Gloria and what’s happening thousands of miles away.
It turns out that she basically is the monster. If she stands at a playground at precisely 8:05am, her movements match what the monster does when it appears in Seoul. After making this unexpected discovery, she recognizes that she must use this gift (?) for good. However, those around her don’t necessarily share that sentiment.
Colossal clearly has a bizarre plot. Truth be told, your willingness to enjoy it may directly correlate to just going with it. I was able to mostly because of Hathaway’s commitment to the material. Her boozy Gloria is far from your typical heroine and the actress throws herself into the role (even if her drunken stupors humorously keep her unaware of what’s going on half the time). Sudeikis also has a ball with his complicated relationship with Gloria, which turns out to be quite integral to what’s going down in East Asia.
Once Colossal shows all its cards plotwise, it becomes slightly redundant in the last third. That said, the two leading performances and the film’s sheer weirdness and willingness to embrace that make it far from a waste of time.
Any challenges of adapting one of Disney’s classics that happens to be one of their best mostly fall by the wayside in BeautyandtheBeast. Over a quarter century ago, the 1991 Mouse Factory version earned the status of being the first animated feature to receive a Best Picture nomination. It was deserved and Beauty helped usher in a renaissance for the studio with Broadway level music coupled with its tale as old as time storylines.
Our new Beauty doesn’t rock the boat by any means. Is it a factory made production meant to fog up our nostalgia goggles? Sure. Yet it’s crafted with reverence, the music still holds up, and it looks lovely.
It seems silly to recount the plot that’s been around for our collective childhoods in one form or another, but let’s get through it. We have Belle (a strong Emma Watson) living a rather boring existence in 18th century France with her doting dad (Kevin Kline). She’s being pursued by the chauvinistic Gaston (Luke Evans) who wishes to marry her. Her ho hum existence takes a turn when Dad is captured by the Beast (Dan Stevens), who lives in a dilapidated castle that the other French villagers have long forgotten. He was cursed many moons ago for his inability to love. When Belle travels there and trades her father’s freedom for her own, the strange relationship between the title characters commences.
There really isn’t too much new from this reboot compared to 1991. We have a couple more musical numbers, lest you forget the animated version was a mere 85 minutes. Alan Menken returns to do the music and those magnificent staples like the title track and “Be Our Guest” are happily intact. Bill Condon (whose varied filmography includes Twilight pics and more adult fare like GodsandMonsters and Mr. Holmes) directs with an eye on preserving what we appreciated about what came before.
Like the drawn Beauty, the Beast’s castle is filled with inanimate objects who are quite animated. Ian McKellen is clock Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor voices candelabra Lumiere, and Emma Thompson is Mrs. Potts. She acquits herself just fine in the part, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Angela Lansbury singing that iconic dancing tune toward the finale. Speaking of animated, Josh Gad has his proper comic relief moments in the role of LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick.
Disney has unleashed a gold mine with this recent strategy of updating their canon with live-action. Some have worked better than others and Beauty falls on the better side because it had incredibly strong material adapt from. The team behind this recognize it and are content knowing they had something there to begin with.
Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast arrives in theaters next weekend and it looks poised for quite a fantastic opening. Bill Condon serves behind the camera (he directed the last two Twilight installments recently) with Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Costars include Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Emma Thompson.
The Mouse Factory has had tremendous success with their reboots of their classic animated tales. 2014’s Maleficent took in $241 million stateside. The following year, Cinderella cleared $200 million. Last year’s The Jungle Book scored even more impressively with $364 million.
Beauty stands a great shot at outdoing them all. For starters, the 1991 original is beloved (it was the first animated feature to nab a Best Picture nomination). The Disney marketing machine has been in high gear and turnout among youngsters and females in particular should be substantial. Reviews (while not gushing) have been solid and it stands at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.
There is little doubt that this will post 2017’s largest opening so far. Just how high can it go? I am predicting it will achieve one of the top ten domestic premieres of all time. My estimate puts it at #10, right in between The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight for a truly beast mode roll out.
Beauty and the Beast opening weekend prediction: $158.8 million
For my The Belko Experiment prediction, click here: