Alicia Vikander won a Supporting Actress trophy for 2015’s The Danish Girl and she looks for her first lead nod as Catherine Parr, the sixth spouse of Jude Law’s Henry VIII in Firebrand. The period drama comes from Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz with a supporting cast including Sam Riley, Eddie Marsan, Simon Russell Beale, and Erin Doherty.
Buzz coming from its screening at Cannes is of the mixed variety and that’s evidenced by the 50% Rotten Tomatoes score. Even the recommendatory write-ups aren’t exactly glowing. Law is getting the best ink. However, his third nod (after 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley in supporting and 2003’s Cold Mountain in lead) is highly unlikely to come to fruition as well as any hope for Vikander. I suppose a Costume Design nod could occur, but Firebrand should be put out of contention by the time nominations are out. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
One of the buzziest titles to play at Sundance was writer/director Chloe Domont’s Fair Play, blending romance with corporate intrigue. It was snatched up for a princely sum of $20 million by Netflix with a planned rollout this year. The thriller stars Alden Ehrenreich (known by many from the title role in Solo: A Star Wars Story) and Phoebe Dynevor of Bridgerton fame).
Said to be a pic that will spark plenty of conversation, the Rotten Tomatoes score is 96%. This could be a streaming (and reportedly steamy) crowdpleaser that doesn’t warrant much awards chatter. Or Netflix could mount a campaign, especially for the original screenplay. We don’t know yet since they’ll have plenty of other features to tout come nominations time. Fair Play, at the least, announced itself as an option. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
It’s a family affair at the Cannes Film Festival with the premiere of Sean Penn’s latest directorial effort Flag Day. The drama features the two-time Best Actor winner as a con man with a complicated relationship with his daughter (played by his real life child Dylan Penn). Costars include Josh Brolin, Katheryn Winnick, Eddie Marsan, and Regina King.
This is the first time Mr. Penn has directed himself, but the early reviews are quick to point out the solid work of the other Penn. Critical reaction is mixed (it’s at 80% at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes). Yet some of the positive reviews are far from raves. It’s certainly an improvement over his last excursion behind the camera. 2016’s The Last Face also debuted in the French Riviera and ended up with an 8% Tomatoes meter. Audiences ignored it. That’s a far cry from 2007’s Into the Wild which probably came quite close to a Best Picture nod.
Flag Day may have some mainstream appeal (it opens August 13th domestically). However, the so-so reaction makes me question whether it can gain any traction with awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Director Guy Ritchie returns to the genre that made him known in the first place with crime comedy The Gentlemen next weekend. Matthew McConaughey headlines the pic that was already released in the United Kingdom on New Year’s Day to OK results. Costars include Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 75% with most reviewers claiming it doesn’t quite match the quality of earlier titles with similar plot themes.
Over 20 years ago, Ritchie burst onto the indie scene with his humorous gangster tale Long, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and followed it up with the successful Snatch. Later efforts in the genre like Revolver and RocknRolla failed to make a stateside impact. Over the past decade, the auteur has veered into blockbuster territory with the Sherlock Holmes franchise and last year’s massive hit Aladdin.
As for its lead, McConaughey is badly in need of a solid performer. His filmography over the past few years has been littered with bombs (Gold, The Dark Tower, White Boy Rick, Serenity, The Beach Bum).
I suspect that The Gentlemen won’t be it. That said, it should certainly make more than Revolver (which didn’t get a stateside wide release) or RocknRolla (which topped out at $5 million). My forecast has McConaughey and company just below or just topping double digits for its start. I’ll go with the former.
The Gentlemen opening weekend prediction: $9.6 million
AtomicBlonde 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 JohnWick 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. AtomicBlonde 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.