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)

Widows Box Office Prediction

Widows is Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 2013’s Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave and it boasts an impressive cast and its own awards buzz. Viola Davis headlines the heist thriller alongside Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson.

Opening next weekend, the film sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could potentially contend in Best Picture, Actress (Davis), Supporting Actor (Kaluuya) and its Adapted Screenplay from Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn. So how will that translate to box office bucks?

I believe the likelihood is that Widows will succeed in appealing to action fans and manage to bring in a sizable female audience. Yet it should also be the type of performer that experiences solid holds from weekend to weekend and not necessarily have a huge opening. Mid teens appears to be the correct forecast for its start.

Widows opening weekend prediction: $15.8 million

For my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald prediction, click here:


For my Instant Family prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: Widows

Five Oscars ago, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave took home Best Picture and it’s been five years for his follow-up to debut. That picture is Widows, a heist drama based on a 1983 British miniseries and it’s premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

Reviews for the film are encouraging, but I’m not too sure they’re strong enough for a realistic shot at Best Picture, Director, or Adapted Screenplay (by the director and Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn) nods.

As for the actors involved, that could be a different story. An impressive supporting cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. Most of the ink, however, has been reserved for its star Viola Davis. She won Supporting Actress just two years back for Fences. It appears she could factor into the lead Actress race this time around, though competition could be steep. If there’s anything chance at supporting players being recognized, both Daniel Kaluuya (nominated for last year’s Get Out) and Elizabeth Debicki have been singled out in some reviews.

Bottom line: Widows is doubtful for Best Picture, but Davis and maybe a supporting performance or two could be in the mix.

The film opens domestically on November 16. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Remaking Hitchcock

There’s a segment in Gone Girl where the bizarre relationship between Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris comes to a rather memorable end. This sequence contains a mix of sex and violence that would’ve made Alfred Hitchcock proud. It’s the kind of scene that the master director probably would’ve loved to film had the time he was making movies allowed it.

This is why, for the first time, a remake of a Hitchcock classic actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It was announced this week that Gone Girl’s director – the brilliant David Fincher – will helm a remake of Strangers on a Train, Hitch’s 1951 effort. The screenwriter is Gillian Flynn, who of course wrote the Gone Girl book and its screenplay. Ben Affleck will star.

If there’s anyone out there who could pull off the daunting task of remaking Hitchcock, it’s Fincher. Having said that, the last time an Oscar nominated auteur attempted the same feat… well, it failed miserably.

Gus Van Sant, who was fresh off Oscar attention for Good Will Hunting, made the infamously terrible decision to do a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Audiences and critics alike didn’t understand why and it struggled at the box office.

Psycho was released in 1998, as were two other Hitch remakes that also made little impression. A Perfect Murder took on 1954’s Dial M for Murder and starred Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. It did better financially than Psycho but couldn’t hold a candle to its source material.

On the television front, Christopher Reeve appeared in one of his final roles headlining a rehash of Rear Window. While Reeve received positive notices, the picture itself didn’t.

Indeed the director who’s probably had the greatest success remaking Alfred Hitchcock is Alfred Hitchcock. In 1956, he released The Man Who Knew Too Much with James Stewart and Doris Day to solid box office results. 22 years earlier in England was his even more acclaimed original with Peter Lorre.

I’ll say this: Gone Girl is a movie that Hitchcock probably would have found highly enjoyable. The fact that its team is now involved in a direct homage to the filmmaker is certainly going to be interesting to watch.




Box Office Predictions: October 24-26

Horror and action fans have newbies to feast on this weekend as Ouija and John Wick open Friday, attempting to displace Fury from its perch atop the box office. You can find my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:



I believe the Halloween season should allow Ouija to make it to #1, though my estimate is slightly higher than others I’ve seen. Being that it’s a horror flick, it could also surpass my expectations. If only there was a board game I could ask about it…

As far as John Wick, I’m not expecting much out of it as I don’t think it’s been marketed well enough to make it a must see among action fans.

Fury may experience a smallish decline next weekend and I anticipate the same for both Gone Girl and The Book of Life. 

And with that, my predictions for this weekend’s top five:

1. Ouija

Predicted Gross: $24.9 million

2. Fury

Predicted Gross: $14.8 million (representing a drop of 37%)

3. Gone Girl

Predicted Gross: $11.6 million (representing a drop of 34%)

4. The Book of Life

Predicted Gross: $11.3 million (representing a drop of 34%)

5. John Wick

Predicted Gross: $11 million

Box Office Results (October 17-19)

As expected, Brad Pitt’s Fury opened in first place with a respectable though unspectacular $23.7 million, a bit below my $26.4M projection. With decent reviews and an A- Cinemascore grade, it should hold up reasonably well in subsequent weekends.

Megahit Gone Girl slipped to second in its third weekend with $17.5 million, right on par with my $17.6M estimate. The David Fincher pic has amassed $106M so far.

The animated feature The Book of Life opened in third with a solid $17 million, slightly above my $15.6M prediction. Like most kiddie pics, it should hold up well for the foreseeable future (at least until Big Hero 6 opens).

Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was fourth in its sophomore weekend with $11.4 million, just below my $12.5M estimate. It’s taken in $36 million in ten days and may reach around $65M domestic.

Opening with a thud in fifth was the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best of Me with just $10 million, well under my generous $17.8M projection. The poorly reviewed romantic drama marks the worst opening ever for a Sparks adapted novel. Perhaps opening it in February would’ve been smarter.

Slipping from second to sixth was Dracula Untold with $9.9 million, close to my $10.7M prediction. The Universal monster pic has taken in $40 million in two weeks and should finish with about $60M.

That’s all for now, my friends!

Box Office Predictions: October 17-19

A trio of new pictures open this Friday to try and end the two week reign of Gone Girl at the top spot: Brad Pitt’s World War II actioner Fury, the Nicholas Sparks adapted romantic drama The Best of Me, and the animated tale The Book of Life. You can read my detailed posts on each here:




It’s hard to imagine Fury not having enough firepower to debut at #1, though The Best of Me or The Book of Life or both could surpass expectations. The real battle could be for the runner-up position as Gone Girl is likely to suffer a small decline and Best and Book should open in the same range.

As for other holdovers, I expect Alexander and Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to experience a slimmer decline than current #2 Dracula Untold.

And with that, we’ll do a top six projections for the weekend:

1. Fury

Predicted Gross: $26.4 million

2. The Best of Me

Predicted Gross: $17.8 million

3. Gone Girl

Predicted Gross: $17.6 million (representing a drop of 33%)

4. The Book of Life

Predicted Gross: $15.6 million

5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Predicted Gross: $12.5 million (representing a drop of 32%)

6. Dracula Untold

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million (representing a drop of 54%)

Box Office Results (October 10-12)

David Fincher’s Gone Girl held off newcomers to remain atop the charts for the second week in a row. The water cooler hit based on Gillian Flynn’s novel took in $26.4 million, ahead of my $24.2M prediction and has amassed a terrific $77 million in ten days.

Dracula Untold had a robust beginning to the tune of $23.5 million, well beyond my meager $14.4M estimate. The pic is likely to fade rather quickly, but Universal Pictures has good reason to be pleased with its results.

The family comedy Alexander and its long title of a bad day debuted healthily with $18.3 million, right in range with my $18.7M prediction. The Steve Carell pic should hold up decently in subsequent weekends.

Horror spinoff Annabelle, as expected, dropped precipitously after its strong opening last weekend. It earned $15.8 million, barely above my $14.8M projection. It’s made $61 million so far.

Despite star Robert Downey Jr.’s relentless promotion last week, The Judge had difficulty luring viewers. It grossed just $13.1 million, below my $16.4M estimate. Mixed reviews may have kept some adult viewers away.

Finally, the steamy drama Addicted posted an impressive $7.4 million on a limited number of screens for a seventh place start. This outshined my $4.5M prediction.

That’s all for now, friends!

Box Office Predictions: October 10-12

Four new movies make their debuts on Friday at the box office – Robert Downey Jr.’s The Judge, the Steve Carell/Jennifer Garner family comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the horror retelling Dracula Untold, and steamy thriller Addicted. You can find my detailed prediction posts on each one of them here:





The question is: can any of them make current #1 Gone Girl disappear from the top spot? It’s certainly possible as The Judge, Alexander, and Dracula could all exceed my estimates and all stand at least a chance of opening atop the charts. Addicted, on a meager 800 screens, is highly unlikely to even crack the top five.

However, I believe Gone Girl will manage to stay #1, despite it serious competition. Annabelle, after a fantastic debut (more on that below), should suffer the same large fall in its sophomore frame that most horror titles do.

And with that, my predictions for the weekend’s top five:

1. Gone Girl

Predicted Gross: $24.2 million (representing a drop of 35%)

2. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Predicted Gross: $18.7 million

3. The Judge

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

4. Annabelle

Predicted Gross: $14.8 million (representing a drop of 60%)

5. Dracula Untold

Predicted Gross: $14.4 million

**My Addicted projected gross of $4.5M should put it in eighth place.

Box Office Results (October 3-5)

The debuts of David Fincher’s acclaimed Gone Girl and Conjuring horror prequel Annabelle injected some much needed life into the box office and created the biggest October weekend of all time!

As predicted, Gone Girl took top honors with $37.5 million, just below my $39.6M projection. This is Fincher’s highest debut of all time and clearly audiences were ready for the much buzzed about adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel. I expect it to perform well in the coming weeks and it should easily blast past $100M.

I did not give that demonic doll Annabelle nearly enough credit as it opened just behind Girl with a magnificent $37.1 million – miles ahead of my small $21.2M prediction. This is easily the best horror opening of 2014 and bodes extremely well for that Conjuring sequel coming in October of 2015.

Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer fell to third with $18.7 million in weekend two, holding up better than my estimated $16.7M. The action thriller has earned $64 million in ten days and should have no problem passing the century mark.

The animated pic The Boxtrolls dropped to fourth with $11.9 million, in line with my $11.4M projection. The decently performing kiddie pic has earned $32 million in two weeks and should finish with around $65M.

The Maze Runner held up well in weekend three with $11.6 million – more than my $9.8M estimate. The new YA franchise has taken in $73M thus far and will also become a member of the $100M club.

Finally, Nicolas Cage’s Left Behind posted an unimpressive opening of $6.3 million, below my $7.6M prediction. Look for this one to disappear faster its lead actor’s hairline.

And that’s all for now, friends!