Bullet Train Review

David Leitch has done this cartoonishly bloody and dripping with sarcasm business before with John Wick and Deadpool 2. In Bullet Train, having Brad Pitt loaded for the quipping is a plus. The trip is rockiest in the beginning leg, but picks up steam for quite some time. In the later stages, you may be asking why we aren’t there yet with the climax.

Pitt’s assassin who goes by Ladybug boards the title mode of transportation with simple instructions to boost a briefcase. Hurtling at breakneck speed from Tokyo to Kyoto, he soon finds that many other types who share his profession are along for the ride. This includes “twins” Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Their codenames may suggest Prince backup dancers, but they’re tasked with transporting the drug addled son (Logan Lerman) of a crime lord named White Death (Michael Shannon) back home. And they also want that briefcase.

Unlike Pulp Fiction where we are still collectively wondering what was in that case, we find out quickly here. Ladybug and his fruit monikered colleagues aren’t the only ones seeking it. There’s Prince (Joey King), who’s dressed not as a backup dancer but as a schoolgirl who fools many with her innocent appearance. Kimura (Andrew Koji) is a killer burdened with a young son in danger away from the tracks. There’s more – Zazie Beetz turns up as does Hiroyuki Sanada as Kimura’s elder (he’s called The Elder). Multiplatinum rapper Bad Bunny is The Wolf, who is avenging a family massacre that could have used cleanup from Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolfe in the aforementioned Pulp. There’s cameos I won’t spoil. I will say they add little other than fleeting seconds of unexpected recognition.

Bullet Train gleefully revels in its violence. It kind of feels like a throwback to 90s excess that Tarantino’s landmark sophomore feature helped inspire. That’s not always a bad thing as the slicing and dicing is done with the visual flair we expect from Leitch. The screenplay from Zak Olkewicz is one of those where nearly every character is eventually connected. I found myself straining to care about those connections.  It takes a few minutes before Train gets up to speed. Yet Pitt’s considerable charisma and his support staff (particularly Henry and Taylor-Johnson) help alleviate a lot of those narrative bumps. So was the ride worth it? That’s debatable though I’d say there’s worse fates than taking it.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Bullet Train

OK, no one’s saying that David Leitch’s Bullet Train was stationing itself for a Best Picture nomination. As for down the line tech nods, it’s at least worth discussing. The action comedy from the John Wick and Deadpool 2 maker stars Brad Pitt and is out Friday.

The review embargo has lifted and Bullet is currently at a middling 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. I would say the only races where nods seemed feasible were Sound and Visual Effects and I don’t envision either occurring. If the Academy were to ever put in a  category for Best Stunt Work (which isn’t a bad idea), the critical reaction indicates this might be in the mix. Absent that, don’t look for this Train anywhere near an awards show.

Leading man Pitt could, however, still find himself in the 2022 mix for Supporting Actor (we think it’s supporting) with Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

August 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (08/03): My projection for Easter Sunday has taken a downward turn. Instead of $8.2M, I’m now only projecting $5.6M and that puts it outside of the top five – with Minions: The Rise of Gru now getting the 5 spot.

Brad Pitt looks to conduct Bullet Train to a sizeable debut while the Jo Koy comedy Easter Sunday looks be a sleeper hit. They are the newbies as August dawns at the box office. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

There’s no question that Train (from John Wick maker David Leitch) will hit #1. It’s all about by how much. Some estimates have this in the $40 million range, but I’m skeptical. In the last couple of weekends, both Nope and DC League of Super-Pets have come in under expectations (more on those developments below).

While Pitt certainly has star power, I feel like buzz needs to pick up and fast for this to reach $40 million. Perhaps my projections will rise before Thursday evening. For now, I have Bullet a shade under $30 million.

As for current champ Super-Pets, a dip in the mid to high 30s seems likely and that should place it firmly as the runner-up.

The truly interesting competition could be for the #3 slot. Easter Sunday could surprise and vastly overperform and end up #2. Or it could be outside of the top five with below $8 million. I’m putting at $8.2 million in its basket and here’s where it could be awfully close. If Nope has another plummet close to 60% and Thor: Love and Thunder sees a mid to high 30s drop, the grosses for the trio could be separated by basically nothing.

That’s what I’m thinking will occur and here’s how I think the top 5 ends up looking:

1. Bullet Train

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million

2. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

4. Nope 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 29-31) 

The Warner Animation Group won’t be barking loudly about the earnings of DC League of Super-Pets as it came in the very low end of its range. With a muted $23 million, the animated superhero canine teaming of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a disappointment (coming in well under my $33.6 million prediction). The only silver lining could be lack of competition for the month. That could mean meager declines until the bulk of kiddos go back to school.

Nope, as anticipated with its lackluster B Cinemascore grade, cratered in its sophomore frame with $18.5 million (a smidge ahead of my $17.5 million projection). Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale is up to $80 million, though it will come in well under his predecessors Get Out and Us. 

Thor: Love and Thunder was third with $13.1 million, besting my take of $11.4 million. The MCU four-quel has hammered home $301 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took fourth at $10.9 million (I said $10.3 million) to brings it haul to $320 million.

Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five at $8.4 million, right on target with my $8.3 million guesstimate. The airborne phenomenon achieved another milestone at $650 million. It will soon become the 7th largest domestic earner in history when it vaults over Titanic ($659 million) and Jurassic World ($652 million).

Finally, When the Crawdads Sing held up solidly in weekend #3 with $7.5 million (I went with $6.9 million). The mystery based on a bestseller is past the half century mark with $53 million.

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

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping moviegoers catch the Bullet Train when it debuts August 5th. The action comedy comes from John Wick maker David Leitch with Brad Pitt headlining as an assassin. The supporting cast includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman, Bad Bunny, and Pitt’s recent The Lost City costar Sandra Bullock (in a role first slated for Lady Gaga).

The Japan set stunt fest is hoping to turn out an adult audience ready for original programming in a summer filled mostly with plenty of sequels and superheroes.

Since starting a franchise with Wick in 2014, Leitch followed up with Atomic Blonde. It was a box office disappointment that debuted with just over $18 million. Train should have no trouble getting past that number. However, it won’t reach the earnings of his last two pictures which were built-in franchise entries: Deadpool 2 and Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw. 

Nope was able to reach mid 40s and it had the advantage of Jordan Peele’s brand. This will rely mostly on Pitt’s star power. I’m curious to see how word-of-mouth is in the coming days and that could increase or decrease my projection. My hunch is that mid 2os is the floor and low 40s could be the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes toward the lower end of that spectrum, and I’ll say high 20s to low 30s is where this lands.

Bullet Train opening weekend prediction: $29.7 million

For my Easter Sunday prediction, click here:

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

Hobbs & Shaw Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/31): My estimate has dropped from $82.6 million to $72.6 million

Two of the most popular characters from the venerable Fast and Furious franchise get their  own spin-off (the first of the long running series) with Hobbs & Shaw next weekend. The action extravaganza comes with a reported $200 million budget and is headlined by the title characters respectively portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. David Leitch (co-director of John Wick and sole director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) is behind the camera. Costars include Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren (reprising her maternal role from 2017’s last entry The Fate of the Furious).

Despite the absence of Vin Diesel and other actors associated with the franchise that started 18 years ago, Hobbs & Shaw is likely to perform similarly to other pics in the canon. The largest opening was accomplished in 2015 with Furious 7 with a gross of $147 million. Tragically, part of the reason its start was significantly more than the others was due to the untimely death of Paul Walker and that picture representing his swan song. Follow-up Fate of the Furious two years later landed the second highest start of the eight features at $98 million.

This might fall a bit under those gaudy numbers and I think low to mid 80s is most feasible. That would put it in line or a just bit below the $86 million accomplished by Fast Five in 2011.

Hobbs & Shaw opening weekend prediction: $72.6 million

Deadpool 2 Movie Review

Two years ago, Deadpool was a breath of filthy fresh air in the superhero genre with Ryan Reynolds triumphing in bringing the title character to the big screen (as we forget XMen: Wolverine ever existed… sort of). No one was sure whether a very R rated comic book protagonist could succeed with audiences, but he did and then some. The inevitable sequel risks the chance of having a been there, done that vibe. For a while, Deadpool 2 comes dangerously close to being that. The self referential  jokes and carefree energy threatens to make part II nothing more than a featherweight viewing with a few clever gags thrown in. Luckily, Deadpool gets his groove back in time to make it something a little more. Does it match the quality of its predecessor? No, but there’s certainly moments (especially in the second half) that work very well.

We open with Wade Wilson, aka Mr. Pool, having a demented ball fighting sex traffickers and other baddies while in his blissful romance with soul mate Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Some complications interrupt his happy-go-lucky routine and he soon finds himself in a bad way. He finds teenage mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) with flames for fists that he struggles to protect from future traveling soldier Cable (Josh Brolin, summer 2018’s villain du jour). Deadpool also assembles a motley crew of a team known as X-Force (which even he knows is a derivative monicker). For those who’ve witnessed our hero in action before, we know that none of this is exactly pulled off with expert precision. It is a joy to welcome back some of his unconventional crime fighting partners, particularly Karan Soni’s taxi driving sidekick.

The first half of Deadpool 2 is equipped with some humorous cameos and quips galore. And so is the second half. The difference is that for the first hour or so, the pic seems a bit unfocused and content to coast on its meta merits. It isn’t until some of the new characters motivations are explained that the follow-up gathers that needed focus. Once that happens, the gags work better. It also helps that the action sequences seem to jump up a notch towards the end.

One item that doesn’t change is the commitment that Reynolds brings to his beloved character. He clearly loves playing the part and it shows. Brolin, like his Thanos In Avengers: Infinity War, plays an antagonist with some actually understandable motivation for the second time in a month. He’s no Thanos, but he’s a reasonably interesting dude. Part II delves more into Deadpool’s connection with the X-Men and occasionally in ways that induce well-earned laughter.

The originality factor that made Deadpool such a welcome addition to an always growing genre over can’t be replicated here. However, enough of the winking dirty charms we experienced in 2016 are present.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Deadpool 2

Last night, Deadpool 2 set the Thursday preview record for an R rated feature and the sequel could well be on its way to the best debut ever for a picture with that rating. It might be easy to forget now, but the original Deadpool in 2016 likely came close to receiving some Oscar nods. The pic did receive nominations for both the film itself and Ryan Reynolds for Best Actor in the Musical/Comedy races at the Golden Globes.

Many of the reviews for the sequel claim part two is an improvement on the first (though certainly not all). The original ended up at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes and the follow-up currently sits at 85%. So it’s worth at least asking: could Deadpool 2 garner the Academy’s attention in a way that the first barely missed out on? The short answer is… probably not. No comic book adaptation has managed a Best Picture nomination and this won’t change that. On the other hand, Black Panther just might.

Furthermore, while many superhero adaptations like Panther and Avengers: Infinity War could play in the technical races, that doesn’t really hold true here. Bottom line: Deadpool 2 is highly unlikely to change this franchise receiving no love from Oscar voters.

Deadpool 2 Box Office Prediction

The nation’s favorite R rated superhero is back in theaters next weekend when Deadpool 2 debuts. Arriving two years plus after the original became a massive hit, Ryan Reynolds returns in the title role with David Leitch (director of Atomic Blonde) taking over the behind the camera duties from Tim Miller. Costars include Monica Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Leslie Uggams, and the summer’s comic book villain of choice, Josh Brolin as Cable (coming off his acclaimed work as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War).

In February of 2016, Deadpool took in an astonishing $132 million and grossed $363 million overall domestically. That still stands as the largest R rated debut of all time and it sits only behind The Passion of the Christ for all-time earners with that rating. There is a legitimate possibility that part two manages to exceed that opening weekend haul.

I’ll project that Deadpool 2 manages to just do that with a debut approaching $140 million.

Deadpool 2 opening weekend prediction: $137.4 million

For my Book Club prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/09/book-club-box-office-prediction/

For my Show Dogs prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/10/show-dogs-box-office-prediction/

For my Pope Francis: A Man of His Word prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/13/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word-box-office-prediction/

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.

David Leitch co-directed John Wick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents.  She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.

The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.

That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.

Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. Atomic Blonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.

*** (out of four)

Atomic Blonde Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/23): I am revising my estimate down from my original projection to a high teens debut.

Charlize Theron is in her second high-profile action flick of 2017 as Atomic Blonde hits theaters next weekend. The Oscar winner plays an MI6 agent teamed up with James McAvoy. The spy thriller costars John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones and is directed by John Wick‘s David Leitch.

Blonde premiered this spring at the South by Southwest Festival to solid word-of-mouth and reviews have been mostly pleasing as it stands at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Theron appeared in this spring’s The Fate of the Furious and McAvoy is fresh off his blockbuster starring role in Split. 

Shot for a meager $30 million, the pic should have no trouble being a profitable venture for its studio. It could reach close to its budget in the first weekend, though I’ll estimate it falls a bit under that in the mid 20s. That may mean a debut in third place behind The Emoji Movie and the second weekend of Dunkirk, depending on how that opens on Friday.

Atomic Blonde opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million

For my The Emoji Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/19/the-emoji-movie-box-office-prediction/