Freaky Movie Review

The joy of witnessing Vince Vaughn in the body of an awkward teenage girl provides intermittent comedic thrills in Christopher Landon’s Freaky. It’s just too bad there aren’t more of them in the latest spotty but certainly watchable low-budget horror flick from the Blumhouse shop. If you have seen the director’s two Happy Death Day pictures, you won’t be surprised he’s behind the camera with this. The first Death reconfigured the Groundhog Day concept to the slasher genre while its sequel veered more toward a sci-fi Back to the Future vibe. Freaky‘s influence is simple and in the title without mentioning the word Friday.

Our body swap involves an urban legend but very real serial killer who goes by the Blissfield Butcher and is played by Vaughn. Millie (Kathryn Newton) is the high schooler mourning the loss of her father while her alcoholic mom coddles her. When the Butcher swipes a mysterious ancient dagger from his previous killing in an attempt to off Millie, it switches their forms. This is just in time for Friday the 13th and they have 24 hours to reverse the effect.

I’ll use this opportunity to praise title cards. I enjoyed how in the lead up to the big day, we see “WEDNESDAY THE 11TH” and “THURSDAY THE 12TH” in bloody scrawl font as if they’re meant to provide a jolt. When Millie does inhabit the Butcher’s 6’5″ frame and has a long pined for romantic moment with her crush, it provides the funniest scene of all (Vaughn’s humorous talents are on full display there).

Yet Freaky is also tonally challenged. Millie’s tragic family dynamics feel slightly forced. The backstory involving that mystical knife called La Dola might be something its makers hope to explain further in a sequel. I’ll credit the screenwriters for finding a couple of Friday the 13th style inventive ways to off lustful adolescents, but the film isn’t exactly scary.

This is more occasionally funny than truly freaky and it ends up being about as entertaining as both Happy Death Day experiences. It succeeds from time to time with its mashup of well known properties, but leaves a bit to be desired.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Palm Springs

Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/10/palm-springs-movie-review/

The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.

So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.

I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Palm Springs Movie Review

Maybe it’s possible that the idea of living the same day over and over again is just something that resonates during these strange COVID-19 times. Or maybe Palm Springs really is a fresh and highly satisfying take on the Groundhog Day concept. I think it’s the latter and what a pleasant surprise.

You cannot have this plot without thinking of the incomparable Bill Murray comedy. The concept has repeated itself in the action and horror genres with Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day. Springs plays with the formula in unexpected ways. Another SNL alum headlines with Andy Samberg as Nyles. He’s the aimless boyfriend to younger Misty (Meredith Hagner) and he’s tagging along to her friend’s wedding in the title town. We realize quickly that something is really off with his behavior. It turns out that he’s already well along the way into his time loop and has been living this day repeatedly. This is the first realization that the screenplay from Andy Siara is playing by a different set of rules by dispensing with the origin story of Nyles’s Groundhog Day. This is a welcome change.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti, tough and sometimes vulnerable and terrific in this role) is the sister of the bride. She’s got character flaws equal to Nyles that aren’t because of the time loop. Yet that quickly changes when she joins him on the endless day. What follows is the duo attempting to figure out just what the heck is happening (the science fiction elements involve a mysterious cave and a goat).

They are occasionally joined in their adventure by another wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons, engaging as always) who got sucked into the vortex. It’s also possible that Nyles and Sarah are slowly – very slowly – falling in love. Or is it just that they only have each other in this untenable scenario?

The less said about how the plot rolls along the better. There are genuine revelations that I didn’t see coming, but it all fits into this clever version of a well-worn tale. This is the best Samberg has been on film and Milioti easily equals his work. We see this budding romance develop over many days, albeit the same one. As a credit to the whole team involved, it’s a lot of time well spent.

***1/2 (out of four)

Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 5-1

The list of my personal top 25 cinematic performances from the many alumni at Saturday Night Live reaches the top 5 today! If you missed my previous entries covering numbers 25-6, you can find them all at the following links:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/24/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/25/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-10-6/

Let’s get to my overall favorites, shall we?

5. Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Chase’s finest and funniest work belongs to his doofus dad role as Clark Griswold in this classic that spawned three sequels, including the cherished Christmas Vacation. This is one of the pictures that can be rewatched endlessly and much of that is due to Chase’s signature performance.

4. Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Myers successfully translated his SNL character Wayne Campbell to the silver screen in 1992’s blockbuster Wayne’s World alongside his costar Dana Carvey (who nearly made the list for his work in that film). Yet the most hilarious work from Myers comes here as both the title character and (especially) nemesis Dr. Evil. Two sequels would give Myers an opportunity to play even more deliriously over the top parts.

3. Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

After the back to back hits of Old School and Elf, Ferrell developed his most iconic character with his arrogant and clueless news anchor. Anchorman has deservedly became an all-time comedy classic.

2. Eddie Murphy, Coming to America (1988)

Let’s face it – this list could have been dominated by Eddie. I had Trading Places and The Nutty Professor in the top 25, but could have included 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Bowfinger, Shrek, Dreamgirls, or Dolemite Is My Name as well. However, my personal favorite is this 1988 humorous fairy tale when Murphy was at the peak of his power. This is the first pic that gave him the opportunity to portray multiple characters and he certainly makes the most of it.

1. Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)

Just as with Murphy, many movies from Murray could have made the cut. You already saw Ghostbusters and Lost in Translation on here and other contenders included Caddyshack, Scrooged, What About Bob?, Kingpin, Rushmore, and Zombieland. Overall, I go with Groundhog Day as his finest hour and #1 on the whole list. Simply put, I find Groundhog Day to be perfection and the quintessential vehicle for its versatile star.

And there you have it, folks! It’s been fun putting together the list and I hope you enjoyed reading it…

Happy Death Day 2U Movie Review

Happy Death Day 2U gets some props for going into totally different territories as it follows up on the surprise 2017 hit. The original had a simple concept – mix Groundhog Day with a slasher flick. It worked better than it should have with a stellar performance from Jessica Rothe as the bratty day repeater named Tree. Part 1 developed some layers to her character that are important in the sequel. I didn’t expect part 2 to mostly ditch the slasher concept in favor of science fiction. There’s also slapstick comedy with a supporting player pretending to be a blind French woman.

Horror franchises are usually more than happy to repeat themselves. I expected the same here, especially in a movie about repeating yourself over and over. Happy Death Day 2U doesn’t do that. We are reminded about Tree’s earlier predicament. She woke up on the same Monday in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), hung over and confused. Things got more baffling when it happened again and again. There was no Sonny and Cher music, but you get the gist. The original eventually revealed her roommate was offing her. She also had time to fall in love with Carter.

The sequel finds Carter’s roommate (Phi Vu) experiencing his own demise and deja vu. He has built a quantum reactor in science class with his nerdy schoolmates and it turns out they get an A+. Unfortunately for Tree, it means she begins to travel back to the manic and murderous Mondays yet again.

The jump scares and other slasher elements are in short supply. Instead we get some scientific jargon (there’s more Back to the Future references than anything with Bill Murray) and multiverse chatter. Tree’s deceased mom could be back in a dimension. Her roommate that terrorized her in the baby face mask on the first day may not be bad after all.

Part 1 and II might be different in tone, but they share certain things. Rothe’s performance is comedic and satisfying and she shines even more this time around. There are moments of well placed humor. There’s a bit involving skydiving that elicited genuine laughter. Not all the similarities are positive. This, too, runs out of gas before the running time has elapsed. The plot gradually becomes a secondary consideration. I found myself not really caring at all about who was behind the mayhem at the end of the long day. That said, writer/director Christopher Landon deserves some credit for making this day we’ve already experienced one of an alternative genre.

**1/2 (out of four)

Happy Death Day 2U Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse looks to continue its impressive streak of low-budget slasher pics that turn hefty profits with the release of sequel Happy Death Day 2U next Wednesday. Christopher Landon is back in the director’s chair along with returning cast members Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine, in addition to Life of Pi star Suraj Sharma.

In October 2017, Happy Death Day took its Groundhog Day meets the horror genre to solid box office results. It made $26 million for the opening weekend as its overall haul was front loaded (final gross was $55 million).

Part 2 might premiere with less for the traditional weekend, but the Wednesday debut  and following four-day President’s Day frame could boost the six-day to a high 20s overall take.

Happy Death Day 2U opening weekend prediction: $22 million (Friday to Monday); $28.6 million (Wednesday to Monday)

For my Alita: Battle Angel prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/02/06/alita-battle-angel-box-office-prediction/

For my Isn’t It Romantic prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/02/07/isnt-it-romantic-box-office-prediction/

Happy Death Day Movie Review

Happy Death Day begins with a universal disruption. Not the world suffering a catastrophe or anything of that sort, but the actual Universal logo repeating itself three times. It’s a signal of events to come in this horror version of Groundhog Day from the Blumhouse studio, which specializes in bargain basement budgeted genre pics.

The world as a whole may not be experiencing a crisis, but college student Tree (Jessica Rothe) sure is. Her birthday begins as many do for undergraduates. She wakes up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard) after a drunken night out. Not remembering the previous evening’s events, Tree makes a hasty exit complete with shame walking. She attends class where we learn she’s carrying on an affair with her professor. Tree doesn’t really gel with her sorority sisters, including her kindly roommate (Ruby Modine).

In fact, unlike most of the heroines in slasher flicks, Tree is a pretty unpleasant person. And she’s not that innocent. So I’ll give a bit of credit to screenwriter Scott Lobdell for changing that up, even if it makes her a smidge tougher to root for. When Tree goes out for another night of frivolity, she’s stalked and stabbed by a figure donning the mask of the university’s mascot.

And then… she wakes up on her birthday again nursing a hangover in Carter’s dorm room. Unlike Bill Murray rising to the sounds of Sonny and Cher, she repeats her day less than 20 times as she tries to figure out who’s knocking her off. Along the way, we learn some of the root causes of her unpleasantness. She’s mourning the loss of her mom for one. That death factors into the mix.

Happy Death Day has a sense of humor, which is often a good thing. Groundhog Day is mentioned as it would seem foolish not to (the title has become synonymous with anything repeating itself). Rothe is convincing as the bratty coed. Director Christopher B. Landon employs a handful of effective jump scares. The 90 minute runtime is a wise choice as the concept may not be able to sustain much more.

This is an easy and brisk watch. The PG-13 rating decision is a curious one and this may have been better served with more of the gore and aforementioned frivolity actually on display. Happy Death Day probably won’t stick in your memory for long, but it’s not a complete disruption of your time.

**1/2 (out of four)

Happy Death Day Box Office Prediction

Timing is sometimes everything at the box office and that factor could boost Happy Death Day to a lively opening. The pic is essentially a horror version of Groundhog Day with a woman waking on the same day that happens to be the date of her demise. Christopher B. Landon, who last made Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, directs with a cast made up of relative unknowns including Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard.

Death comes from Blumhouse Productions, which specializes in low-budget genre flicks. 2017 has been a very happy year for the studio, with fright pic breakouts Split and Get Out. The budget is reportedly just a teeny $5 million. Regarding its release date, it has the benefit of premiering on a Friday the 13th in October (a good month for the genre). It should also help that It is finally slowing down at multiplexes, so genre enthusiasts may be ready for another horror fix.

High teens to possibly low 20s seems reachable here.

Happy Death Day opening weekend prediction: $20.6 million

For my The Foreigner prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/05/the-foreigner-box-office-prediction/

For my Marshall prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/05/marshall-box-office-prediction/

Before I Fall Box Office Prediction

Looking for the teen dramatic thriller version of Groundhog Day? It appears you can find it next weekend when Before I Fall debuts. Based on a 2010 YA bestseller by Lauren Oliver, the pic centers on a teen (Zoey Deutch) living the final day of her life repeatedly. Costars include Halston Sage, Logan Miller, and Jennifer Beals (yep, the star of Flashdance!).

Fall premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to some positive reviews and it sits at 64%  currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, the Open Roads release isn’t expected to rise much with audiences. The marketing campaign has been rather low key and I suspect a mid to possibly high single digits opening is the probable result.

Before I Fall opening weekend prediction: $5.3 million

For my Logan prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/23/logan-box-office-prediction/

For my The Shack prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/24/the-shack-box-office-prediction/

Top 25 Best Movies (1990-2015): Nos. 10-6

This evening on the blog, we move to the top ten of my personal favorite 25 pictures of the past generation, from 1990 to now. Not an easy task for sure, but clearly all of these ten titles (top five coming tomorrow) are masterpieces in my book. Let’s get to it:

10. Seven (1995)

David Fincher’s run of terrific movies began with this gut wrenching serial killer tale with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a deliciously sadistic Kevin Spacey. The final act of these proceedings represent some of the most intense moments on film I’ve ever witnessed.

9. Up (2009)

Over the last 20 years, the creme de la creme of family entertainment has come from Pixar with the Toy Story franchise, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Inside Out, and so on. To me, their absolute high point is Up. I wrote a post on the blog before discussing the sequence which shows the main character’s romance with his wife throughout her life. It’s one of the most beautifully constructed and emotional montages I’ve ever seen, period.

8. The Social Network (2010)

Back to David Fincher again and here we have his brilliant tale of the founding of Facebook that I contend will stand as one of the most important pictures to explain the time we live in.

7. Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical tale of his youth spent at Rolling Stone magazine is one of the ultimate feel good experiences filled with great music and performances. The bus scene set to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is perfect and one of the best examples ever put to film about music advancing the story line.

6. Groundhog Day (1993)

In a career filled with amazing performances, Bill Murray is at his apex in this uproarious and also touching tale of one very long day. It is easily my favorite comedy of the last many years.

And that’ll do it for today and the top five will hit the blog tomorrow!