Where the Crawdads Sing Review

Crossing a John Grisham style potboiler with the 1994 Jodie Foster woman in the wild pic Nell begets Where the Crawdads Sing. This is the adaptation of the hugely popular 2018 bestseller from Delia Owens (so well known that Taylor Swift offered to contribute an end credits tune called “Carolina”).

That’s North Carolina beginning in 1953 where Kya lives in the marshland with her alcoholic father, abused mother, and siblings. One by one they all flee until the seven-year-old is all by her lonesome. She sells mussels to the married local store purveyors (Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer Jr.) to make ends meet. Kya attempts an education, but the harassment of schoolmates makes that a one-day excursion.

As she grows into a young woman (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones), her interest in arts and nature hints at a promising career. The screenplay concentrates on Kya’s two romances. The first is with Tate (Taylor John Smith), who helps her learn to read and write before he’s slated to go away to college. The second is with star quarterback Chase (Harris Dickinson) whose union with The Marsh Girl (as the townsfolk call her) is his little secret.

For those uninitiated with the source material (this includes me), I’ll be careful not to wade into heavy spoiler territory. It’s not revealing too much to say that Kya’s publishing future is interrupted by a murder trial where she’s defended by David Strathairn’s dignified counselor.

Crawdads is all about Kya’s many experiences with abandonment. Part of the problem is that both of her beaus are blank slates. I never felt the chemistry between the Kya/Tate or Kya/Chase connections as much as they’re just presented to the audience. And that assisted in abandoning my own investment in the proceedings… both romantically and legally.

The screenplay never finds the right balance between the trial and the trials of our heroine away from the courtroom. From Edgar-Jones on down, the performances are serviceable but nothing beyond that. Crawdads has beautiful scenery to be sure. I wanted a more compelling story to occur there.

** (out of four)

Ambulance Box Office Prediction

Michael Bay is hoping that action fans will transform Ambulance into a hit when it debuts April 8th. Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza Gonzalez headline the modestly $40 million budgeted hostage thriller (it’s about one-sixth the cost of Bay’s last Transformers pic).

Originally slated for February before being pushed back to its current slot, reviews are decent with a 74% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Based on a 2005 Danish film, the best case scenario might be a $20 million start. It could also stall in the $10 million range.

Lower teens seems more likely and that could put it in position for a number two or three debut behind Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Morbius (depending on how far it plummets in the sophomore frame).

Ambulance opening weekend prediction: $13.7 million

For my Sonic the Hedgehog 2 prediction, click here:

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Box Office Prediction

For my Everything Everywhere All at Once prediction, click here:

Everything Everywhere All at Once Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder’s zombie tale Army of the Dead hits hundreds of screens this weekend before its Netflix streaming premiere on May 21. Reviews are out and several indicate it’s a winner (especially the opening scene which is drawing raves). The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 76%.

If an Oscar Watch post for this particular genre seems strange, I get it. I’m not talking about a Best Picture nod or lead actor recognition for Dave Bautista. However, some critics are pointing out Army‘s visuals. Just last year, the Netflix monster pic Love and Monsters scored a surprise nomination in Visual Effects.

Here’s the caveat: several contenders in the race from 2020 were pushed back to 2021. In other words, VE should be more of a crowded field this time around. That includes potential heavy hitters like Dune, Eternals, the fourth Matrix, Top Gun: Maverick, The Suicide Squad, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Having said that, if Netflix launches a serious campaign, Army could march to the shortlist in this specific category and a nod is not out of the question.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Army of the Dead Box Office Prediction

In a newsworthy announcement from this week, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead will roll out in hundreds of venues on May 14 prior to its Netflix debut one week later. The zombie thriller (sporting a reported budget of $90 million) stars Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notrao, and Garret Dillahunt.

This is the first time where the streaming giant and some theater chains have agreed on a wider release plan. Cinemark and Alamo Drafthouse are just two companies that will be showing Snyder’s latest. The same cannot be said for AMC and Regal so that limits Army‘s capacity. While some Netflix titles have played on limited screens for awards consideration, the estimated 600 count here is a high mark.

Snyder’s name has been visible due to his reworking of 2017’s Justice League that recently hit HBO Max. That combined with its often popular genre could bring out eager fans who wish to get the jump on its streaming release. That said, 600 screens certainly limits its potential. There’s also the matter of Spiral, the reboot of the Saw franchise that could siphon viewers aware and appears poised to easily debut at #1.

Giving Army a per screen average of around $4,200 would result in a gross between $2-3 million and that’s what I’m envisioning.

Army of the Dead opening weekend prediction: $2.5 million

For my Spiral: From the Book of Saw prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/05/spiral-box-office-prediction/

For my Those Who Wish Me Dead prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/06/those-who-wish-me-dead-box-office-prediction/

For my Profile prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/07/profile-box-office-prediction/

Widows Movie Review

Like Michael Mann’s Heat over two decades ago, Steve McQueen’s Widows is a heist movie more concerned with the personalities of the people planning them. The similarities don’t stop there. It’s got a sprawling cast with many familiar faces and an overall somber tone. This is a genre marked mostly by its entertainment value. Heists are fun onscreen with the numeric Ocean’s being the highest profile recent examples.

Unlike Heat, its central planner doesn’t pull these crimes because he’s great at it and doesn’t have a personal life. Here it’s the personal lives that lead to the planning in the first place. And in this one, it’s “she’s”. Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) works for the Chicago Teachers Union and is married to career thief Harry (Liam Neeson). What I’m about to write isn’t exactly a spoiler considering the title. Harry and his crew have a job go awry and they’re all killed. Besides Veronica, the widowed women include business owner Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), abused spouse Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and new mom Amanda (Carrie Coon).

Their mourning period is disrupted by their husband’s past illegal dealings. Windy City crime lord Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) was ripped off by them and he’s ready to collect. He’s running for an alderman spot against corrupt politico Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Mulligan fancies himself a man of the people and lives close to the dilapidated neighborhood he wishes to represent. He might as well live on another planet. Manning wants to enter government life to get away from a life of crime, but seems to understand that they go hand in hand in this transactional and blood soaked Chicago.

Veronica, Linda, and Alice are put in a desperate spot. A clue left behind by Harry leads them to plan a robbery of Mulligan’s dirty money while trying to keep his political opponent off their backs (Amanda chooses to not to participate). Mulligan and Manning have enforcers on their team. The former’s is his controlling and ruthless father (Robert Duvall). The latter’s is his henchman (Daniel Kaluuya), who’s sadistic and seems to genuinely enjoy his works of depravity.

There are many subplots in Widows and McQueen manages to pull it off in mostly satisfying fashion. Some work better than others. The relationship of Veronica and Harry is a complicated one that’s given emotional heft by a shared loss. The same can be said for Alice’s character. She’s been a victim her whole life it seems. There’s an empowerment element with her that makes her perhaps the easiest character to root for. Rodriguez’s story has less meat on the bones. They pick up another conspirator in Belle (a memorable Cynthia Erivo), a driven woman who serves as the driver.

You’ll not be surprised to find the performances are first-rate, particularly Davis, Debicki, and Kaluuya (there’s not a mediocre one in the bunch). The score, editing, and cinematography are also noteworthy. McQueen wrote the script along with Gillian Flynn, known for her twisty works like Gone Girl. She’s created compelling female characters there and elsewhere and she does so here. If there’s an issue, it’s that her proclivity for twists reaches a tad too far with one (which I won’t spoil). I found it unnecessary and you’ll likely recognize what I’m referring to upon viewing.

And Widows is worth viewing as it gives us some characters you want to follow. There’s nothing remarkable about the heist they’re trying to pull. The acting and technical work often does fit that description.

*** (out of four)