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!

Gone Girl Movie Review

For better or worse.

The sacred wedding vows that couples take are taken to glorious extremes in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, based on the bestselling phenomenon of a novel written by Gillian Flynn. She also wrote the screenplay and I am pleased to report she remained faithful to her work.

While author Flynn’s faithfulness to her novel will undoubtedly make her readers happy, unbridled devotion is not a trait the principal characters of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) share with one another. Their romance starts on a positive note, but the complications of life eventually wear their union down. Jealousies arise. The everyday boredom of an existence in the Midwest away from her native New York takes its toll on Amy.

And on their five-year anniversary… Amy becomes the title character. She’s gone. There are clues to what may have happened. Blood samples. Notes left by Amy that she always made for Nick as kind of a scavenger hunt to retrace the history of their relationship. In this case, they may serve as something more.

Nick quickly becomes a suspect as the husband in these instances usually do. The tabloid media feasts on the tale of the missing woman and her significant other who dares to smile at the missing persons press conference. Along the way, Flynn’s screenplay gradually reveals more and more about this couple. For those unfamiliar with the source material, it won’t be what you expect.

Writing a review of Gone Girl is complicated, to say the least. Just as you didn’t want to reveal the many twists to one about to read the book, the same holds true for its film adaptation. So I’ll put it this way – David Fincher was the right guy for this project. Through Seven and The Game and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there is perhaps no director better at this kind of dark material. As you’d expect, Gone Girl‘s technical aspects are flawless, from the cinematography to the score (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to the production design and so forth.

There are details about Amy and Nick’s personas that couldn’t possibly be fully explored in the way the book manages, but the picture come awfully close. The casting is key here and Affleck and Pike nail their roles. Nick is neither your typical panicked husband whose wife has vanished nor the sinister monster who may or may not have done the unthinkable. And Amy is far from just the victim. Pike’s performance in particular is something else with the range of emotions she must go through. Expect her to get a Best Actress nod come Oscar time.

Fincher has a habit of unconventional casting choices and there are two here worthy of special mention: Neil Patrick Harris as a former stalker of Amy’s and Tyler Perry as a brilliant criminal defense attorney. Both shine in their against type casting parts. Carrie Coon also merits a shout out for her strong work as Nick’s twin sister.

Gone Girl, more than anything, is about the facades people put on to get into their relationships, maintain them, and possibly lose them. It’s about asking the question of whether or not you ever truly know the individual you call your soul mate. For better or worse, Nick and Amy take a journey in Gone Girl to find out. The results are often shocking and consistently enthralling to the audience.

***1/2 (out of four)

Gone Girl Box Office Prediction

It’s earning highly positive reviews and is based on a huge bestseller by Gillian Flynn. One of the finest directors working today is behind the camera. David Fincher’s Gone Girl seems poised to make a major splash at the box office when it opens this Friday.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star in this thriller where a wife’s disappearance might not be all that it seems. Costars include Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry. Upon its release just two years ago, Gillian Flynn’s book became a must-read and she herself wrote the picture’s screenplay. Fincher, the great director of Seven, Fight Club, and The Social Network, has taken up the task of adapting it. He last found success directing a beloved novel with 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher’s current largest opening of all time is 2002’s Panic Room, which made $30 million out of the gate. Gone Girl seems likely to surpass that.

As mentioned, reviews have been strong and it currently sits at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Positive word of mouth should propel Gone Girl to a nice and lengthy run at the multiplexes. I’ll predict this gets off to a very steady beginning and should easily top the charts next weekend.

Gone Girl opening weekend prediction: $39.6 million

For my Annabelle prediction, click here:


For my Left Behind prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: Gone Girl

There was never a question as to whether David Fincher’s adaptation of the massive bestselling Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl would generate tons of publicity. However, it’s definitely been more of an open question whether the film would generate Oscar buzz. That question appears to have been answered as the first reviews have been released ahead of its October 3rd debut.

And Gone Girl looks like a contender. Both Variety and Entertainment Weekly have given it rave reviews. Most importantly, it’s been noted that lovers of the novel (and there are many) will dig this adaptation. That means the picture is likely to be a huge box office performer and that certainly won’t hurt its awards talk.

Director Fincher is one of the finest filmmakers working today. His resume boasts Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yet only two of his efforts have received Best Picture nominations – 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 2010’s The Social Network. His latest could be his third and nab him his personal third Directing nod.

As for the actors, I’ve maintained for some time that Rosamund Pike is poised to receive a Best Actress nomination as Amy Dunne and it would be surprising at this juncture if she doesn’t. As for Ben Affleck in the Best Actor race, that’s a little more tricky due to it being an incredibly competitive category. Right now, there appears to be four “shoo-ins” for Best Actor recognition: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. That leaves just one slot open and there are plenty of other names that could fill it. I would say Affleck is currently a long shot, even though critics are lauding his work.

In my initial round of Oscar predictions a couple of weeks ago, I included Pike but left off the movie and its director in their categories. That may very well change when round #2 is posted in a couple of weeks.