Tag Archives: Elizabeth Olsen

Avengers: Infinity War Movie Review

A decade into its multi-billion dollar cinematic universe, Avengers: Infinity War invites viewers to marvel at its gathering of superhero titans to fight another – a villain from planet Titan who reverses  one frequent MCU debit (a weak villain). It’s an experience that yields many positive results packed with the action and humor we’ve come to anticipate from the best of this franchise. This movie is massive and it feels that way. The 19th entry in the MCU that started with 2008’s Iron Man, here we have nearly all the significant characters from its catalog banding together. If you ever wondered how Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would get along with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the answer is humorously provided. How do the egos of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) meld? You’re about to find out. What happens when the original Avengers and others pick up their weapons alongside Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in Wakanda? Giddyup!

All of this runs the risk of Infinity War coming off as gimmicky, but it mostly doesn’t. That’s because directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do a remarkable job sticking these giants into the blender and creating something that goes down smooth. This is not necessarily a sequel to 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron or 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (essentially the third Avengers flick). Rather it’s a follow-up to almost every MCU title. It’s important to know what happened in the actual Avengers pics and Civil War, but I’d suggest having knowledge of the Guardians, Panther, and so on. Lucky for Disney and Marvel Studios, you probably do. The gathering of these comic book and box office behemoths leads Infinity War to often feel like the continuation of a long running TV serial – albeit one with huge stars and an unlimited budget.

What brings all the characters together is Thanos (Josh Brolin). He has the proportions of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a similar sized ambitions of world destruction. Thanos is hell-bent on collecting the Infinity Stones, six potent gems that would render him all-powerful and capable of wiping out populations of many galaxies. After the breakup of the Avengers in Civil War two years ago, it’s Thanos that causes Mr. Stark and Captain America (Chris Evans) to put their differences aside. Thus begins the jigsaw puzzle of matching up Guardians and Asgardian gods with Wakanda kings and mystical doctors and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

As you may recall, Thanos has history with one particular character – Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She’s his adopted daughter after he decimated her home planet when she was a little girl. For those who might have assumed the Guardians of the Galaxy would have a glorified cameo in this universe, that is certainly not the case. It’s Gamora’s backstory with Thanos that puts meat on his character’s bones and assists in making him one of the franchise’s best villains. Brolin, for his part, gives the performance his menacing all in crafting him.

Delving too far into what happens in Infinity War would feel like cheating in any review. Part of the fun here is discovering just how these dozens of heroes and villains coexist. Some general observations: Thor alongside Groot and Rocket is a joy, as is witnessing Groot as a bratty teen with its attention rooted to a video game device. The return to Wakanda and its whip smart inhabitants feels welcome just weeks after Panther’s stand-alone effort. And after 10 years of Tony Stark onscreen in numerous MCU titles, Downey Jr.’s portrayal of him is still as strong as ever. There’s never been a moment in the decade where it felt like Downey was slumming it. He’s the heart of this franchise.

The conclusion of Infinity War leaves a lot open for the sequel that will arrive next year. When the credits roll before the inevitable post-credits sequence, we witness something both powerful and perhaps not as powerful as it seems after careful thought (saying more would be a spoiler). There’s no doubt, however, that this comic book all-star game is a winner.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Avengers: Infinity War

This weekend is all about Avengers: Infinity War at the box office as it barrels toward a potentially record-setting debut. The film looks, at the least, poised to set the all-time opening weekend record for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the 19th picture in the MCU as the multi-billion dollar franchise is about to hit its ten-year anniversary. 

Infinity will certainly make its mark financially, but could Academy voters take notice? In short – probably not. The pic stands at 85% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a bit below the original Avengers from 2012 (92%) and a bit above 2015 sequel Age of Ultron (75%). No MCU title or any comic book adaptation has managed a Best Picture nomination and I see no reason to think this will.

Having said that, the Marvel folks stand their best opportunity yet to score a nod in the biggest category of them all. And that would be Black Panther, which was released in February. It stands a real shot. Looking through the Oscar history with this franchise, The Avengers scored a Best Visual Effects nomination in 2012 and lost to Life of Pi. No nominations were given to Ultron.

Bottom line: Infinity War could find itself in the mix for Visual Effects and possibly even the Sound categories. Yet any real MCU love from voters will go to King T’Challa.

Avengers: Infinity War Box Office Prediction

It may feel like winter in many parts of the country even though it’s spring, but next weekend is essentially the start of the summer box office in 2018 when Avengers: Infinity War invades theaters. This is the 19th picture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began a decade ago with 2008’s Iron Man and the third installment of the Avengers franchise that kicked off in 2012 (an untitled fourth installment is out next summer).

After 10 years of these superheroes populating our screens in one form or another, Infinity War is the picture that brings them all together. That means we have the Avengers we’re used to seeing together: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They’ve got a whole lot of company this time around, including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and the whole Guardians of the Galaxy gang (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the vocal work of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Josh Brolin is main villain Thanos. Other actors from the MCU returning include Gwyneth Paltrow, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Benicio del Toro, Cobie Smulders, Angela Bassett, Tessa Thompson, and Jon Favreau. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (who directed 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) are behind the camera. Whew…

The gathering of the entire MCU is one impressive selling point and there’s been developments that have even increased the anticipation for Infinity‘s release. Last summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was well-received, as were Guardians and Thor sequels. Yet perhaps more than anything else, this February’s Black Panther turned into a phenomenon – becoming the third highest grossing domestic earner of all time.

Projections have steadily increased in the past few weeks. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Infinity War could have the largest stateside opening of all time. In order to do so, it would need to surpass the $247 million achieved by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To accomplish the 2nd biggest debut, it would need to exceed the $220 million of last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It will almost certainly achieve the record for an MCU premiere, which is currently held by the original Avengers at $207 million.

I believe this will pass Jedi and rather easily. Getting to the Awakens number is doable, but I’ll project it falls a bit under that milestone.

Avengers: Infinity War opening weekend prediction: $240.2 million

 

Ingrid Goes West Movie Review

“Where’s my phone?”

Those three words, in today’s age, are enough to send collective shivers down most of our spines. They’re our lifeline to everything and everyone. In Matt Spicer’s darkly funny Ingrid Goes West, those words have a considerably more sinister meaning when uttered by its central character Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza). We may feel useless without our devices. Yet it provides her with her only feeling of usefulness and takes that in uncomfortable directions.

Ingrid is a lonely and mentally disturbed figure who finds solace through Instagram scrolling and fixating on certain profiles. We first find her ❤️ing the endless wedding posts of someone we assume is her friend. When she crashes said wedding (these things happen in real-time nowadays) and frighteningly confronts her for not being invited, it turns out they’re not really connected at all.

The second part of the title comes into play when Ingrid’s next fixation is Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), a Venice Beach native who’s essentially a professional Instagram poster. Ingrid uses her inheritance from her mom’s death to move across the country with the idea of making her acquaintance. It works and it takes a dognapping  to do it. She actually does befriend Taylor and her starving artist hubby (Wyatt Russell).

There’s not an action taken here by Ingrid that isn’t directly a result of her considerably loneliness and need for friendship, no matter how fake or manufactured it is. Her Batman obsessed landlord (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) becomes a love interest, but only for Ingrid’s self-serving purposes. The character of Taylor’s brother (Billy Magnussen, memorable here) is a sleazy loose cannon, but he’s the only one that manages to see Ingrid for who she is.

Spicer and his co-writer David Branson Smith have certainly concocted a screenplay for its time. While there are laughs present, Ingrid goes into Single White Female territory (that quarter century old pic is name checked).

Plaza is a gifted performer who seems to be in a constant state of ambivalence in many of her roles. Ingrid gives her an opportunity to show a more varied range of emotions. She creates a character that is sympathetic to a point, but she also serves as good reminder to not talk to strangers. Even on Instagram.

The film also cleverly shows what we all kind of already know. These social media platforms are a way to create yourself in many instances and not be yourself. In the conclusion of Ingrid Goes West, our title character has a rare moment to be herself. That might be a moment of triumph in many pictures. In this jet black comedy, we’re left uncertain just how well or badly that could go.

*** (out of four)

Wind River Movie Review

For his first directorial effort, Taylor Sheridan has taken cues based on his past acclaimed screenplays to effective order in Wind River. Like his written work the year prior in Hell or High Water, this picture concerns a group of citizens who feel invisible and cut off from society in many aspects. In High Water, it was West Texas dwellers in the hot desert sun who saw the American dream pass them by. In River, it’s the inhabitants residing in sub zero temperatures on an Indian reservation in Wyoming that bears the film’s title.

As Sheridan has brought the issue of crime into both Sicario and High Water, it’s a homicide that awakens the characters sense of injustice. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a fish and wildlife officer who discovers the body of an 18-year-old girl in the frozen tundra. His job typically consists of hunting predators eating the livestock. This new discovery means he’ll assist in hunting a different form of predator. It’s young FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who gets the call to provide federal assistance and she finds herself out of her element in the seemingly constant snowstorm elements.

Much like High Water, there are genre aspects that are familiar. What sets that movie apart and the same holds true here is a fascinating landscape to watch it in. Not every character that Lambert and Banner investigate is involved in the grisly crime, but they all seem bonded by the consequences of their far-off existence in this remote world.

It’s a pleasure to watch the talented Renner in a role that doesn’t involve assisting The Avengers or Ethan Hunt. His backstory is the emotionally charged one as his own young daughter suffered a similar fate to the victim here. There are moments where Renner reminds us of his significant dramatic abilities. Most of the other players exist to advance the plot (Olsen’s role is rather underwritten), but solid support is provided by Graham Greene as the sheriff and Gil Birmingham as the grieving father. Jon Bernthal turns up briefly as the victim’s boyfriend in a sequence that goes from sweet to horrific in a matter of seconds.

Wind River is a visually striking experience that easily proves Sheridan’s abilities behind the camera can match his writing. The West Texas residents of High Water may have been troubled and outraged by their lot in life, but they also had a sense of pride of where they came from. The people of Wind River feel the same. And our time spent with them is worthwhile.

*** (out of four)

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…

Oscar Watch: Wind River

Taylor Sheridan has been quite the hot screenwriter as of late with 2015’s Sicario and last year’s Hell or High Water, for which he received an Oscar nomination in Original Screenplay. His latest is Wind River, a thriller involving a murder case at an Indian reservation. It also marks his directorial debut and its buzz from both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals could receive awards attention.

Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jon Bernthal headline River, which rolls in stateside in August. Reviews have been solid thus far and it stands at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. I would say it stands a fair, but not overwhelming shot at being this year’s Hell or High Water – which scored four Academy nods including Best Picture.

Wind River very likely won’t reach that number, but the possibility exists for a second straight Original Screenplay recognition for Mr. Sheridan.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zN9PDOoLAfg