Knock at the Cabin Review

Sunshine causes lingering pain and brief moments of delight in M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin, a dark and grim adaptation of Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel. The filmmaker’s weakest tendencies are present but don’t arise as often in the mostly one space setting. Clunky dialogue and bizarre character choices associated with Shyamalan are kept to a minimum. There’s no rapper bafflingly named Mid-Sized Sedan like in his predecessor Old. The apocalyptic theme is hardly new though it generates a respectable amount of tension.

It also gets to the point in scene one. Leonard (Dave Bautista) may look like a bouncer, but he teaches second grade. We learn this as he introduces himself to seven-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) while she’s catching grasshoppers outside a vacation property in remote Pennsylvania. Wen is the adopted daughter of her two Dads Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). Leonard insists on forcefully entering the cabin with three associates all sporting old school weapons. They’re not your typical home invaders: nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) have kind demeanors like Leonard. Only ill-tempered Redmond (Rupert Grint, all grown up from Harry Potter Weasley fame) seems comfortable breaking and entering.

Dad and Dad don’t welcome their presence and they’re tied up. Eric becomes concussed in the process (hence the sunlight hurting him). The quartet explains that the trio face a gut wrenching choice. They must sacrifice a family member in a short period of time. If they don’t, the world’s population will end in a series of catastrophes. Eric, Andrew, and Wen will survive and everyone else will perish. The hostages are understandably skeptical. Their detainers (who claim they’ve all experienced similar visions of devastation) aren’t afraid to display how serious they are. This includes news footage that shows they might be onto something.

The bulk of Cabin is reserved for us deciding whether Leonard and company are telling the truth. We do get flashbacks of Eric and Andrew’s relationship before and after they bring Wen into their lives. They feel somewhat superfluous yet they are fleeting interludes in the appreciatively brisk 100 minutes. Bautista is playing against type. You would think of him as a teacher in a silly comedy where he displays his bulk. This is far from that and his work is restrained in a positive way. All the performance are adequate. Shyamalan’s track record is spotty with child performances. He is responsible for guiding some great ones (think Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense or Spencer Treat Clark in Unbreakable). Cui’s is on the plus side.

I was a captive audience member for much of the stay. As it continued, I found this surprisingly anticlimactic (especially for something about the Earth maybe ending). Shyamalan has resurrected his career by self-financing his pictures and turning a tidy profit. While that’s admirable, he seems limited by the budget considering all that’s occurring outside the cabin. Like a mid-sized sedan, it’s dependable for awhile until it isn’t.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Knock at the Cabin

Nearly a quarter century ago, M. Night Shyamalan’s phenom The Sixth Sense scared up six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Director. It didn’t win any, but it established the filmmaker as a force at the box office. His fortunes have certainly ebbed and flowed in the 21st century with financial hits and misses. As far as awards attention, only 2004’s The Village achieved another Academy nod for its score.

Shyamalan’s latest is the apocalyptic thriller Knock at the Cabin with Dave Bautista headlining the cast. Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel, Knock‘s embargo is up today ahead of its Friday release. The results are pretty encouraging with a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the low point in his filmography, he had a string of flops and critical bombs (Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth) that racked up plenty of Golden Raspberry mentions.

Cabin is ahead of Shyamalan’s two predecessors Glass and Old as far as the RT meter. It isn’t as high (77%) as comeback vehicle Split from 2017. While Bautista is being complimented for his performance, I don’t see this being welcomed in any of the Academy races a year from now. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Knock at the Cabin Box Office Prediction

Universal Pictures is counting on audiences to take a Knock at the Cabin when it debuts February 3rd. The latest film from M. Night Shyamalan, it’s based on the 2018 novel by Paul G. Tremblay. A thriller blending horror elements, Dave Bautista is a believer in the imminent apocalypse holding a family hostage. Costars include Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint.

This looks to be the picture to knock Avatar: The Way of Water off its lengthy perch at #1 and should do so with room to spare. Shyamalan, after a career resurgence that kicked into high gear with Split, is one of the few filmmakers whose name can sell tickets (especially in this genre). This is his first R rated title since 2008’s The Happening. His predecessor Old (2021) opened in the summer of 2021 with just under $17 million.

Cabin, with less competition than Old had, should exceed that starting gross. A take of over $20 million is doable.

Knock at the Cabin opening weekend prediction: $23.6 million

For my 80 for Brady prediction, click here:

Dune Review

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune arrives nearly three decades after David Lynch’s oft criticized version of Frank Herbert’s mid 60s sci-fi novel. It is source material that I’m frankly not familiar with so take that for what it’s worth. With the director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 at the controls, this is a technically masterful and consistently stunning looking experience. I also must admit that I didn’t get swept up in it no matter how amazing the desert landscapes appear (and do they ever).

Set 10,000 years in the future, the dense plot (as in often hard to follow) introduces us to the royal family of Caladan. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) is the leader of House Atreides, a land with a plentiful supply of water and bagpipes. His concubine is Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) who possesses the powers of Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of mystical beings thought to bear children with God-like abilities. Their offspring is Paul (Timothee Chalamet). One problem: the Lady was supposed to have a girl who eventually delivers this story’s version of The One, but she skipped a step.

The Atreides are ordered by Empirical decree to take over Arrakis, a planet with hardly any water (I’m uncertain about bagpipes). However, it is the only land with spice and that substances serves many purposes. First, it gets you high and gives one visions that might play into the plot later. Most importantly, it fuels interstellar travel and is therefore an extraordinarily valuable commodity. It’s what Gollum would be droning on endlessly about if this were another epic adventure. House Harkonnen and their rotund ruler (Stellan Skarsgard), the current Arrakis deed holders, are not going to give up those property rights without a fight.

We sense where all this is heading due to Paul’s visions of Chani (Zendaya). She’s a native of Arrakis and their citizens called the Fremen have learned to use their planet’s sandy and almost unlivable terrain to their advantage. They will need to accept Paul as their captain and that development… will or won’t happen in part two. Yes, part one is a subtitle here. Like some Marvel products that preceded this, you may find yourself realizing that not a lot really happens in this origin tale by the time two and a half hours has lapsed.

I recognize this may sound like sacrilege to the book’s devotees. There is plenty to praise in this immensely gifted director’s adaptation. The cast is uniformly top notch from Chalamet on down (FYI – Zendaya is a part II kinda thing because her participation is limited). Ferguson is perhaps the standout in a sprawling ensemble that includes Josh Brolin (as a trusted Atreides warrior), Javier Bardem (as a Fremen warrior), and Charlotte Rampling as a Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.

Dune worshipers forgive me. While I spent time marveling at the look and anticipating the unearthing of giant sandworms, I would put this behind Arrival and the Blade Runner follow-up without hesitation. Saying it feels like half a movie is easy criticism. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. It is tempting to recommend Dune based on spectacular work of composer Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Greig Fraser and the sound and visual effects artists. Yet I often found myself a bit shocked by my lack of awe in the story itself.

**1/2 (out of four)

Thor: Love and Thunder Review

The 29th time is not the charm for the MCU with Thor: Love and Thunder, a franchise entry meant to be bursting with joy. It somehow feels middling the majority of the time and it’s a significant downgrade from Taika Waititi’s predecessor Thor: Ragnarok from 2017.

Our Asgardian God of a title character (Chris Hemsworth) has been through a lot in the last half of a cinematic decade. He’s lost his family (including Loki more than once) in earlier Thor and Avengers tales. That even caused him to turn to the bottle and humorously pack on the pounds during Avengers: Endgame. 

He found a new lease on life with the Guardians of the Galaxy during those previous Avengers epics. That’s where we find him at the outset, but it doesn’t last long. The Guardians are off on a new adventure while old acquaintances pop up for Thor. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who hasn’t been seen since 2013’s The Dark World, reappears in a cancer stricken state. She discovers that her ex’s hammer Mjolnir gives her super strengths. Her old beau needs all the help he can get with a new nemesis. Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is on a mission to off all the Gods (hence the name) after his own leader causes his young daughter to perish. That killing spree will eventually include Thor and the newish King of Asgard Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).

In what has become a common theme in Marvel’s stories, the main villain sorta has a point with his murderous schemes. We see that most of the Gods, including Russell Crowe’s Zeus, have turned into lazy do-nothings. However, when Gorr snatches a bunch of Asgardian kids, the fight is on.

Ragnarok was able to find a measured balance between dramatic elements and Waititi’s comedic sensibilities. Thunder feels downright goofy most of the time with its screaming goats and Guns n Roses greatest hits soundtrack playing over the battles. Just a little patience from the director might’ve made it more tolerable. More often than not, it falls into self parody territory. Maybe it’s on purpose. That doesn’t make it worthwhile.

What’s clear is that Waititi was given plenty of freedom to paint his canvass with this fourth official pic in the Thor series. I wish that translated to a more fruitful experience. Thor and Jane’s romance in the first two movies was never exactly a highlight so their reunion left me ambivalent. To be honest, Portman almost seems a bit bored during her transformation to the Mighty Thor. Bale doesn’t seem disinterested but his bad guy is of the one note and forgettable variety.

Thor: Love and Thunder does have a few jokes that land (I chuckled at character mispronouncing Jane’s full name). Yet I couldn’t escape this thought when the credits rolled the first and second and final time… I’d rank this 29th MCU saga 29th.

** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The critics certainly don’t have their knives out for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. This is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Rian Johnson’s 2019 comedic murder mystery which grossed over $300 million worldwide and gave Daniel Craig another franchise. Johnson and Craig are back with a new supporting cast that includes Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessicas Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista.

Slated for select cinemas in November before a December 23rd Netflix bow, Onion has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival with reviews saying it’s quite appealing. Some even claim it improves on the original. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 100%.

Three years ago, Knives had a sliver of hope to nab a Best Picture nomination, but it never materialized. An Original Screenplay mention was the reward for its success. This time around, it would contend in Adapted Screenplay since it’s based on existing IP. That could happen though let’s see how competitive that race is over the remainder of the year. I suspect if we see a sequel nominated for Best Picture in 2022, it’ll be Top Gun: Maverick and not this… and we still don’t know how solid Avatar: The Way of Water is. As for performances, Monae is being singled out in several write-ups as the MVP. However, Supporting Actress is already starting to looked stacked.

Where Onion could sizzle is at the Golden Globes with a Musical/Comedy Best Motion Picture nod and Best Actor in that category for Craig. That occurred in 2019 and could happen again. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Fall Box Office Prediction

The survival thriller Fall opens on approximately 1200 screens on August 12th. Directed by Scott Mann (best known for the Dave Bautista/Pierce Brosnan 2018 action flick Final Score), the climbing tale’s cast includes Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

A Lionsgate release, Fall‘s promotion seems to be non-existent. This is a prime example of a mid-August release where the studio seems to have zero confidence. I’m a little surprised it’s even hitting theaters.

The aforementioned Score couldn’t even clear a million dollars at the box office though it never approached 1200 venues. Fall may struggle to average over $1,000 per screen upon release. This may not reach $1 million in the first three days, but I’ll put it just past that.

Fall opening weekend prediction: $1.2 million

For my Bodies Bodies Bodies prediction, click here:

Bodies Bodies Bodies Box Office Prediction

For my Mack & Rita prediction, click here:

Mack & Rita Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Thor: Love and Thunder

The Thor entries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have yet to receive any attention at the Oscars. While that may not seem terribly surprising, it’s important to remember that 12 of the MCU blockbusters have nabbed Visual Effects nods. None have won.

Love and Thunder opens Friday and it’s the fourth adventure centered on Chris Hemworth’s Asgardian former King. Taika Waititi returns to direct after helming 2017’s Ragnarok. It was easily the most acclaimed of the series with a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score. It didn’t make the cut for its visuals though while fellow MCU entry Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did. Thunder‘s reviews don’t match its predecessor as it currently stands at 71%.

The MCU should get a 13th VE mention for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If Ragnarok couldn’t manage the final five for the visuals or Makeup or Hairstyling or Costume Design, I’m skeptical this follow-up will. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Thor: Love and Thunder Box Office Prediction

Each Thor pic has outdone the last and Disney hopes that trend continues when Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters on July 8th. The sixth MCU entry in the past 14 months, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down as this follows juggernauts Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. 

This particular series is only the second to have a fourth feature (the other being Avengers). Taika Waititi, who made 2017’s predecessor Ragnarok, returns behind the camera with Chris Hemsworth once again hammering away as the title character. Natalie Portman’s Jane is back after sitting out part 3 and other familiar faces include Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, and Jeff Goldblum. The Guardians of the Galaxy are also in the mix. Newcomers to the fold are Christian Bale as main villain Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe as Zeus. Expect plenty of cameos as well.

The first Thor (only the 4th of now 29 MCU flicks) grossed $65 million out of the gate with an overall gross of $181 million. Two and a half years later, The Dark World improved upon that with $85 and $206 million, respectively. Ragnarok easily surpassed that with $122 million and $315 million eventually.

Love and Thunder should continue the trend. Since the character’s last stand-alone effort, Thor was prominently placed in the massive Avengers sagas Infinity War and Endgame. That said, Multiverse from early May was a direct benefactor of following No Way Home when it premiered with $187 million. Its Spidey predecessor swung the second largest domestic opening of all time behind Endgame. 

I don’t believe Thunder will reach the stratosphere of Multiverse. Somewhere between $140-$160 million seems doable. If buzz continues to grow louder in the coming days, I reserve the right to revise up. My current take puts it in the range of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($146 million) and Captain Marvel ($153 million). I’ll put it slightly over both.

Thor: Love and Thunder opening weekend prediction: $155.7 million

Dune Box Office Prediction

Coming nearly a year after its anticipated arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is out in theaters and HBO Max on October 22. The sci-fi epic, with a budget of at least $165 million, comes with high hopes from Warner Bros (so much so that Part One follows its title). Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel (beloved by genre fans), this is its second adaptation behind the 1984 version helmed by David Lynch. Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 maker Villeneuve employs a sprawling cast including Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Critical reaction is mostly strong as it stands at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dune is expected to contend for numerous Oscars including Picture and Director and multiple tech races. It could easily lead next year’s ceremony in terms of nominations. Reviews all seem to agree on one item: that it’s meant to be watched on the big screen. The studio has still stuck to its 2021 strategy of simultaneously premiering their product in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service.

Sci-fi fans have been breathlessly awaiting Dune for years. This is nothing new to Villeneuve as the same could be said for 2017’s Blade Runner follow-up. However, it debuted to a disappointing $32.7 million and failed to reach $100 million domestically (despite similarly solid reviews).

Could the same fate await Dune? That’s definitely a possibility. Beyond its core audience (which is fairly sizable), this could struggle to find a younger crowd. We have seen this year that they are the driving force for pleasing returns in the COVID era market.

If No Time to Die could manage just $55 million and with the inevitability that some fans will opt for home viewing, I have a tough time envisioning Dune majorly surpassing expectations. That’s about $40 million and I do believe the decent buzz and event picture status should put it right in that range of mid 30s for the floor and high 40s (maybe even $50 million) for the ceiling.

Dune opening weekend prediction: $42.8 million

For my Ron’s Gone Wrong prediction, click here:

Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction