Oscar Watch: Knives Out

Good old fashioned whodunnits are rare on the silver screen, but Rian Johnson has one on deck with Knives Out. It’s premiered in Toronto and early reaction indicates a major crowd favorite that has killer box office potential. The Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi maker has apparently fashioned a laugh out loud comedy that makes fine use of its all-star cast led by Daniel Craig. We also have Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer onboard.

So when it comes to this genre, will Knives follow in the path of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (multiple nominations) or Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express (nada). The likelihood is that nods in the major categories could be elusive even if it strikes a chord with crowds. The best hope could be with Johnson’s original screenplay or supporting turns that have been singled out, like Evans and especially de Armas.

The better bet is a nomination for Production Design, which has been praised in every write up I’ve scanned. Bottom line: Knives Out has announced itself as a probable hit and there’s at least a chance that Academy voters could notice. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The 2019 Oscar Season Cometh

As the summer season winds down, the movie industry and this blog’s attention will soon turn to the Oscar race. And if you think it’s too early to do that, consider that less than a month from now – an avalanche of Academy hopefuls will be unveiled at film festivals. Toronto, Venice, Telluride, and the New York festivals are on deck. The programmers behind those events have already released the names of many of the pictures premiering. Here are some of the pictures wishing for Oscar glory that are hitting the circuit:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks is iconic children’s host Mr. Rogers in director Marielle Heller’s follow-up to last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which nabbed nods for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Premiering at Toronto.

Ad Astra

James Gray has made multiple critical darlings, but has yet to pop up on the awards circuit radar screen. Could this sci fi drama with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones change that? Premiering at Venice.

An Officer and a Spy

It will need serious acclaim to overcome the baggage that comes from its maker Roman Polanski, but this historical thriller will attempt to do so in Venice.

Dolemite Is My Name

Prior to its anticipated Netflix launch, Craig Brewer’s biopic of comedian Rudy Ray Moore portrayed by legendary comic Eddie Murphy will bow at Toronto.

Ema

Pablo Larrain has had his pics No and Jackie attract awards nods and this Chilean drama hopes to follow suit. Premiering at Venice.

Ford v Ferrari

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in James Mangold’s 1960s set tale of the flashy automotive industry. Premiering at Toronto.

Harriet

Cynthia Erica was a breakout in last year’s Widows. This year she has an Academy baity role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this historical epic from Kasi Lemmons. Premiering at Toronto.

Jojo Rabbit

This concoction from Taika Waititi is set during WWII with a dark comedic premise finding a young child with an imaginary friend who happens to be Hitler. The filmmaker himself plays Hitler. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are among the cast.

Joker

Heath Ledger won a posthumous gold statue as the comic book villain in The Dark Knight. Joaquin Phoenix will attempt the same here. Premiering at Venice.

Judy

It’s been awhile since Renee Zellweger had a role receiving awards buzz. This biopic of Judy Garland could alter that. Premiering at Toronto.

Just Mercy

This drama about a falsely accused prisoner features Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Premiering at Toronto.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s murder mystery has a sprawling cast of hopefuls including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon. Premiering at Toronto.

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach is a favorite of the critical community. This drama is headlined by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and hits Venice and other fests before its Netflix premiere.

The Goldfinch

Brooklyn director John Crowley adapts this drama based on a well-known 2013 novel. The cast includes Nicole Kidman and Oakes Fegley. Premiering at Toronto.

The Irishman

Rightly kicking off the New York Festival, Martin Scorsese directs this gangster saga starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

The Laundromat

Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh directs this dramatic thriller with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas. Premiering at Venice.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Lion nominee Dev Patel is the Charles Dickens character with a supporting cast including Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie. Premiering at Toronto.

The Two Popes

Jonathan Pryce is Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins is Pope Benedict in this Netflix effort from director Fernando Meirelles. Premiering at Toronto.

Followers of this blog know that I’ll do Oscar Watch posts on each of these and many others as they screen in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Movie Review

In 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo billed itself as the “feel bad” movie of the Christmas season. It was an apt description due to its bleak subject matter stemming from the series of Stieg Larsson bestsellers. However, the film itself left a very positive impression with its stylish direction from David Fincher and fine lead performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

It’s taken some time for Hollywood to come up with their second iteration of the franchise (there were three Swedish entries a decade ago). This time around, the players from Tattoo are MIA and they wisely removed themselves. Fincher only executive produces. Mara’s Oscar nominated turn as Lisbeth Salander is now portrayed by Claire Foy. Craig’s journalist Mikael Blomkvist is now represented by Sverrir Gudnason. The harsh material and winter that accompanies it are still present.

Unlike the 2011 adaptation, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (based on David Lagercrantz’s book following Larsson’s death) is not an example of bad meaning good. Sadly it’s just plain bad most of the time. In ways that were only hinted at in Tattoo, Lisbeth’s backstory is explored in detail here. She’s a child of a nasty abusive father that she managed to escape from. Her mission of avenging women from lousy men is provided more context. Lisbeth has a sister that didn’t get to loosen herself from her father’s grip. And she grows up to be Sylvia Hoeks’s character, who inherits many of the sadistic patriarchal traits.

Web has a tangled plot involving a McGuffin that reveals the global nuclear codes (how familiar). Lisbeth is hired by a conflicted programmer (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve it. The programmer, in a lame plot twist, has a young son who is the only one capable of unlocking the device’s codes. The American government, led by a sullen NSA agent (LaKeith Stanfield), want it back. So does Lisbeth’s sibling and her bevy of thugs who go by “The Spiders”.

I haven’t mentioned Blomkvist yet. He’s in the picture for plenty of minutes. As played by Gudnason, he’s also totally forgettable. The romantic dynamic between that character and Lisbeth was the bloody heart of Tattoo. Here it’s basically ignored and inconsequential. Mara and Craig clicked in the predecessor. Blomkvist is a dull blank slate in this.

Fede Alvarez is behind the camera and he’s a talented filmmaker as proven by his Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe. He does his best to bring some visual flair and succeeds a few times. He’s no Fincher though. Many of the action sequences are routine. I don’t look for plausibility in stuff like this. Yet the sight of Lisbeth getting herself out of impossible scenarios over and over again based on her being a walking super computer grows tiresome.

Foy is a fine actress who tries her best to provide some emotional heft to the lead role. This pseudo-sequel doesn’t deserve her. Tattoo made its feel bad mark in highly satisfying fashion. Spider’s Web feels like a fake.

*1/2 (out of four)

The Long and Winding Bond

It’s amazing to think that The Beatles released their first single in 1962. This was also the first year that a Bond picture came out with Dr. No. Both entities are still extraordinarily relevant. Famously, Sean Connery’s Bond dissed the Fab Four in 1964’s Goldfinger. 

007 fans got some welcome news this week as Cary Fukunaga was announced as the director of the 25th (and as yet untitled) official James Bond film. By the time it comes out, Mr. Fukunaga will be the first American filmmaker to make a Bond pic in its 58 year history.

He brings an exciting resume to the fold. In addition to a filmography that includes varied directorial efforts like Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, and Beasts of No Nation, his screenwriting credits include last year’s smash It and TV’s The Alienist. His work behind the camera for television also includes the critically lauded first season of HBO’s True Detective and Netflix’s Maniac with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill (which premieres today).

The pick was a surprise and it wasn’t just due to his U.S. heritage. The producers behind Bond had recently gone with a certain type… awards friendly directors branching out to the super spy series. After Martin Campbell successfully kicked off the Daniel Craig era (just as he did for Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye), Marc Forster (maker of Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland) did the disappointing Quantum of Solace. Then it was Academy Award winning Sam Mendes behind Skyfall and Spectre. 

When Danny Boyle was announced as director for Bond 25, it seemed to fit the mold. He’s an Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire. He’s also directed some other genre fare (including Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) that made him a fairly exciting pick. Yet it somehow seemed a little safe. After creative differences caused his exit, I figured someone like Joe Wright (who last directed Darkest Hour) could be the replacement.

Fukunaga is an intriguing selection and I’m curious to see how he handles what is very likely to be Craig’s final appearance as 007. And this brings us to Mr. Craig’s longevity. Sean Connery made six movies in the official canon (1983’s Never Say Never Again isn’t considered part of it). George Lazenby did the one-off On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Roger Moore is the leader with seven. Timothy Dalton had two. Pierce Brosnan made four.

This will be Craig’s fifth 007 turn. Surprisingly, he will have actually portrayed the MI6 agent the longest by the time #25 is released in February 2020. His 14 year reign will eclipse the 12 years that Moore played him.

Attention will soon turn to the next Bond. If I had to guess, I figure the seventh actor to play him will debut onscreen in November 2022. There’s been rumors of Idris Elba taking over the role. Expect plenty of speculation over the next couple of years. By that time, the Bond franchise will be 60 years old. Like The Beatles music, it will never die and the long and winding road of the franchise continues to interest us.

The Foreigner Box Office Prediction

After a rather lengthy layoff from headlining any major stateside projects, Jackie Chan is back in theaters next weekend with The Foreigner. The action thriller finds the martial arts star in full revenge mode after his daughter is murdered. Pierce Brosnan costars and Martin Campbell (best known for restarting the 007 franchise in Goldeneye with Brosnan and Casino Royale with Daniel Craig directs.

Chan’s last significant release in the U.S. was the 2010 hit remake of The Karate Kid. We’re 20 years past the point when he was kicking out releases every few months. The best comps for the opening weekend may not belong with Chan, but with Brosnan. His last couple appearances were 2014’s The November Man at $7.9 million and 2015’s No Escape with $8.1 million.

I’ll predict The Foreigner gets a bit above that, but doesn’t reach double digits.

The Foreigner opening weekend prediction: $8.8 million

For my Happy Death Day prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/04/happy-death-day-box-office-prediction/

For my Marshall prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/05/marshall-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: August 18-20

Mid August at the box office comes with some star power as two new pictures open competing for the same audience: Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Steven Soderbergh’s heist action comedy Logan Lucky with Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/the-hitmans-bodyguard-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/logan-lucky-box-office-prediction/

The newbies could find themselves in a battle for the #1 spot. Lucky is winning on the reviews side with a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes while Bodyguard stands at 55%. However, my inkling is that Mr. Reynolds will edge out Mr. Tatum with a gross in the mid to higher teens with Lucky in the lower teens.

There’s also the matter of Annabelle: Creation, which got off to a strong start this past weekend (more on that below). If Bodyguard and Lucky both underwhelm, the demonic doll has a slight chance to repeat at #1. However, the horror prequel is likely to suffer a drop in the mid to high 50s. If it all pans out as I see it, we will have our fourth weekend of 2017 where no movie manages to top $20 million.

The rest of the top five should be filled out by holdovers Dunkirk and The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature in its second frame after a weak start.

Lastly, the Taylor Sheridan directed thriller Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen is slated to expand to approximately 600-700 screens. It’s been performing well with critics and in limited release. If that screen count holds true, I’d peg it at $3.1 million this weekend.

And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $16.7 million

2. Annabelle: Creation

Predicted Gross: $14.6 million (representing a drop of 58%)

3. Logan Lucky

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

4. Dunkirk

Predicted Gross: $7 million (representing a drop of 36%)

5. The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million (representing a drop of 46%)

Box Office Results (August 11-13)

Annabelle: Creation scared up some solid business taking in $35 million (beating my $31.4M forecast) to easily place #1. The horror prequel fell just shy of the $37.1 million accomplished by its 2014 predecessor and keeps the Conjuring universe chugging right along.

Dunkirk remained in second with $10.8 million (I was a touch higher at $11.7M). It’s made $153M thus far.

Family audiences largely rejected The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, which debuted in third to just $8.3 million (under my $12.2M prediction). The sequel made less than half of the $19 million achieved out of the gate by the 2014 original. Opening on over 4000 screens, it had a per screen average of just over $2,000. On the bright side, parents who did take their kids to see it probably had plenty of room to roam about the theater. Ouch.

The Dark Tower went from first to fourth with $7.8 million (I said $7.6M). bringing its lackluster two-week tally to only $34M.

Girls Trip placed fifth with $6.4 million (I projected $7.2M) as it stands at $97M and should cross the century mark this week.

The Emoji Movie was #6, also with $6.4 million (I said $6M) for a $63M total.

Finally, Brie Larson drama The Glass Castle had a respectable debut in ninth with $4.6 million (I was close at $4.2M). On a relatively small 1400+ screens, it actually achieved the second highest per screen average of the top ten.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Summer 2007: The Top 10 Hits and More

Well it’s Throwback Thursday and I’m giving you the culmination of my three-part series recounting the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago. We’ve already gone back to memory lane in 1987 and 1997. If you missed either of those posts, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/04/summer-1997-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

That means I’m traveling back a decade ago to 2007 and it’s a summer where threequels were majorly in vogue, accounting for four of the top six grossing pictures. Sequels were pervasive in general in this particular season and it was a breakout summer for one Seth Rogen.

As I have with these previous entries, I’ll count down the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. Rush Hour 3

Domestic Gross: $140 million

The third and final pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in this action comedy franchise is our first threequel on the list. It fell a steep $86 million short of what Rush Hour 2 accomplished six seasons earlier.

9. Knocked Up

Domestic Gross: $148 million

The comedic summer breakout continued Judd Apatow’s hit streak after The 40 Yr. Old Virgin from two previous summers and gave Seth Rogen his first big leading role. Katherine Heigl may have inexplicably trash talked it later, but audiences disagreed.

8. The Simpsons Movie

Domestic Gross: $183 million

Arriving nearly two decades after the still going FOX animated series debut, The Simpsons Movie surpassed all expectations with its gargantuan gross. Just last month, producers announced there’s been traction on a planned sequel.

7. Ratatouille

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Our second animated entry comes from the Pixar conglomerate. The critically hailed rat tale actually experienced one of the lowest openings for Pixar, but it still managed to top $200 million and its reputation has only grown.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Matt Damon’s third go-round as the title character is still the highest grossing entry of the franchise and the only to pass $200 million. The star returned to the series just last summer.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Domestic Gross: $292 million

The fifth installment of the $2 billion plus franchise marks the first one directed by David Yates, who would make the following three pics as well. It stands #5 of the 8 Potter pics in domestic gross.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Domestic Gross: $309 million

The third Pirates flick is when critics really started to turn on the series. Getting past $300 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it is nearly $115 million lower than its predecessor Dead Man’s Chest just one summer before.

3. Transformers

Domestic Gross: $319 million

Michael Bay’s bot series started a decade ago and it’s still going. The original ranks third of the five in grosses as its two sequels topped it, but the last two have fallen under it.

2. Shrek the Third

Domestic Gross: $322 million

Much like Pirates, this is when reviewers started to sour on this series. It was still chugging along, but it did fall $120 million below Shrek 2.

1. Spider-Man 3

Domestic Gross: $336 million

Anyone noticing a pattern here? Once again – a third franchise entry where critics started sharpening their knives. This end to the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy was considered a big letdown in quality, yet it still topped the summer while earning less than its two predecessors.

And now for some other notable pictures of summer 2007:

Live Free or Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $134 million

From a pure numbers standpoint, it’s the highest grossing pic to feature Bruce Willis in his signature role of John McClane (though that changes when adjusting for inflation). From a pure entertainment standpoint, the decision to make this the only PG-13 Die Hard film was a bit puzzling.

Superbad

Domestic Gross: $121 million

Mr. Rogen’s big summer kept rolling along with this acclaimed comedy in which he costarred and co-wrote. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and McLovin became household names due to this.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Before his movies moved to Netflix, Adam Sandler could still crank out $100M+ earners just a decade ago, even if it was this stale comedy co-starring Kevin James.

Hairspray

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Based on both the John Waters 1988 pic and the Broadway musical that followed it, Hairspray featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken performed above expectations.

Ocean’s Thirteen

Domestic Gross: $117 million

Worth mentioning because it’s yet another threequel that couldn’t quite match the grosses of the first two. An all female version of the Ocean’s franchise is soon coming to a theater near you.

Once

Domestic Gross: $9 million

That may be appear to a small gross, but this little Irish romantic musical came out of nowhere stateside and has achieved a devoted following. It’s even been adapted into a Broadway play.

And now for some of the flops of summer 2007:

Evan Almighty

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Yes, it may have crossed the century mark, but this spin-off of 2003’s Bruce Almighty was considered the flop of the season. Starring Steve Carell fresh off the acclaimed 40 Yr. Old Virgin, this family feature came with a reported $175 million budget. Audiences and critics weren’t impressed.

Stardust

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This fantasy flick with Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer only earned a bit more than half its $70 million budget domestically. However, director Matthew Vaughn has bounced back in a significant way with Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. 

The Invasion

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, bad reviews sunk this pic that featured Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, fresh off his heralded debut as James Bond.

I Know Who Killed Me

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Lindsay Lohan was a long way from Freaky Friday and Mean Girls with this panned psychological thriller that featured the starlet as a stripper. Audiences turned away.

And that does it, folks! You can rest assure you’ll see summer posts recounting 1988, 1998, and 2008 in a year’s time…