All the Old Knives Review

I’ve watched sharper spy games than All the Old Knives, but it’s a durable diversionary thriller with a solid spark between its two leads. From Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are coworkers and lovers who break up over a seized flight (that old chestnut).

Some explanation is warranted. In 2012, CIA officer Henry Pelham (Pine) is in an office romance with analyst Celia Harrison (Newton). Stationed in scenic Vienna (this a lovely looking picture), the seizure and tragic ending of the hijack leads to suspicions that someone on the team leaked intel to the terrorists. Perhaps it’s Harry or maybe it’s Celia. There’s also higher ups played by Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce.

In 2020, Harry’s got a few more gray hairs while Celia is married with kids in California. She’s far removed from government employment while her ex is still investigating the near decade old case. This brings the pair together in a near deserted fancy restaurant for an interrogation or a bubbly fueled rekindling… or both.

Knives slashes back and forth between these events as twists fill up as frequently as the former couple’s wine glasses. Surprisingly light on action, the screenplay might get drowned out if there wasn’t adequate chemistry between the stars. Luckily there is and it was enough to keep me guessing. Pine missed the mark once as a better known CIA agent in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. This one hits the target more often.

*** (out of four)


Belfast Box Office Prediction

Kenneth Branagh has had a varied directorial output over the last three decades plus from his Shakespearian works (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet) to franchise entries (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to adaptations of beloved novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Murder on the Orient Express. His latest is Belfast and the coming-of-age tale (which Branagh also wrote) is said to be his most personal pic as it focuses on a young boy growing up in Northern Island during the 1960s. The black and white drama is also a serious Oscar contender and it’s currently the frontrunner for Best Picture. Newcomer Jude Hill stars with a supporting cast (who could all be Academy nominated) featuring Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, and Ciaran Hinds.

The Academy hopeful hits 600 screens on November 12th with plans for a lengthy play over the awards season. The Oscar buzz should get it off to a solid start on the relatively low number of screens. Assuming a per screen average in the $4000-4500 range, we could be talking $2-3 million as it’s likely to perform steadily over the next several weeks.

Belfast opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

For my Clifford the Big Red Dog prediction (which is not the Best Picture frontrunner), click here:

Clifford the Big Red Dog Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Belfast

Kenneth Branagh’s varied filmography has included Shakespeare adaptations (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing), MCU pics (Thor), Disney live-action remakes (Cinderella), action franchise entries (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), and Agatha Christie retellings (Murder on the Orient Express). None of them have received a Best Picture nod though Branagh was nominated for his direction of Henry V in 1989.

The Telluride Film Festival unveiled his black and white coming of age tale Belfast. Calling it his most personal film, it’s also one of his most acclaimed thus far. And it appears poised to give the filmmaker his first contender in the Best Picture derby. He could also be called out for his behind the camera work and his original screenplay.

As for the cast, Focus Features will need to decide where to place its principals. The quartet of Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, and Judi Dench could all go supporting. However, the studio may choose to put Balfe and Dornan in lead with the distinguished veterans in supporting. My feeling is that Dench (going for her 8th nod) and Hinds (trying to get his first) stand the best chances.

I also anticipate Belfast will be recognized for its cinematography which critics are singling out. Bottom line: the buzz from Colorado suggests Belfast has good reason to be hopeful during awards season. My Oscar Prediction posts on the films of 2021 will continue…

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Movie Review

Looking over the landscape of movies over the past decade, it’s almost as if someone got Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, James Bond, Jason Bourne, and others in a room together circa rougly 2004. And in their best Oprah voice, they exclaimed “YOU get a reboot! YOU get a reboot! YOU get a reboot! EVERYONE GETS A REBOOT!!!

And so it continues with the character of Jack Ryan which casts Chris Pine (the rebooted Captain Kirk himself) as the fourth actor to play the role after Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck (soon to be rebooted Batman). Based on the works of Tom Clancy, this franchise got rolling in 1990 with The Hunt for Red October (Baldwin), continued with Ford in 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, and then onto 2003’s The Sum of All Fears with Affleck.

Like Sum of All Fears, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is yet another origin story of the character and how he got involved in the CIA in the first place. Affleck’s origin story worked in part due to its arrival less than two years after the events of September 11. The terrorist attack scenes involving Baltimore hit close to home after the tragic real-life events in New York City, Washington D.C., and rural Pennsylvania. In this reboot, it’s the event of 9/11 itself that influences Jack to his military and eventual CIA service.

We open with Jack as a student abroad when 9/11 occurs and this leads him to enlist in the military and an eventual injury sustained while serving in Afghanistan. His stateside rehab puts him in contact with a med student (Keira Knightley) who will become his fiancee and also with a CIA official (Kevin Costner) who’s on a recruiting (SHADOW RECRUITING!) mission. Costner’s casting as the wily veteran mentor was interesting to me in the sense that I bet the actor was probably offered the role of Ryan when Hunt for Red October was being developed (just an educated guess).

Costner recruits Ryan to go deep undercover as a Wall Street analyst whose main job is to keep an eye out for terrorist financial transactions. Jack discovers a plot to crash the U.S. financial market and perhaps carry out even more dastradly attacks on the homeland. This nefarious plot is led by a Russian baddie portrayed by the film’s director himeslf, Kenneth Branagh.

There’s a nifty sequence in Shadow Recruit where Jack and his fiancee must team up at a dinner meeting to trick Branagh’s villainous character. This portion is well-constructed and sufficiently suspenseful. Unfortunately, the remainder of the picture feels awfully familiar and unremarkable. The truth is that it’s easy to see why audiences were ambivalent about this franchise reboot and why it only earned a middling $50 million stateside.

Like The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, Shadow Recruit feels unnecessary. Also like that film, it’s an easy enough viewing experience and has its moments but that’s not quite enough to justify its existence. We’ve seen Batman and James Bond rebooted to terrific results in recent years. This reboot is one that is mildly entertaining but easily forgotten.

**1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Results: January 17-20

For the MLK weekend, we are just dealing with estimates right now but we know one thing: Ride Along with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube has achieved the biggest January opening of all time. The record had been held for the past six years by Cloverfield but Ride‘s monster debut eclipsed it. Taking in an estimated $48.1 million, the pic cruised way beyond my $21.4M projection. Ride Along proves that Hart, especially, is a bona fide movie draw and don’t be surprised if Ride Along 2 is green lit this week.

Falling to second was last weekend’s champ Lone Survivor with $26.3 million over the four-day, a bit lower than my $30.4M estimate. The Mark Wahlberg Navy SEAL tale has earned a whopping $77 million so far and looks to easily break $100M when all is said and done. The animated feature The Nut Job posted a very solid opening in third with $25.2 million over the holiday weekend, trumping my $19.6M prediction.

The top three spots over the weekend are all good news for those pictures. The same cannot be said for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which posted a weak fourth place opening with $18 million over the four-day, less than my $25.6M projection. With Chris Pine taking over the role of Jack Ryan in the fifth entry in the franchise, the nearly 12 year wait between movies clearly showed audience interest has waned. It’ll need a good hold in its second weekend and I’m not sure it’ll get it.

Spots five and six were held by leftovers. Frozen was fifth with $16.2 million and multiple Oscar nominee American Hustle got a nice boost with all its publicity and grossed $11.5 million for sixth. Their respective grosses so far are $336 and $117 million.

This meant the new horror flick Devil’s Due had a disappointing premiere with only $9.3 million in four days, well below my $17.1M prediction. January has been a pretty dismal month for horror – as this and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones came in below expectations.

That’s all for now! Due to the holiday weekend and final numbers not coming until Tuesday, I’ll have my top five predictions for next weekend when only I, Frankenstein opens tomorrow on the blog.

Box Office Predictions: January 17-20

Four new titles populate multiplexes this Friday over the four-day MLK weekend – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Ride Along, Devil’s Due, and The Nut Job. You can peruse my prediction posts on each one of them at the following links:

The big question is: can any of these releases knock off Lone Survivor from staying at #1 for the second weekend? The Mark Wahlberg Navy SEAL pic had the second highest January debut of all time, far surpassing the box office predictions of prognosticators, including this one. With its remarkable A+ Cinemascore average, word of mouth on Survivor is very strong and it should hold up quite well in weekend number two.

The 2014 MLK weekend may well resemble the same one from five years ago when four new releases all posted healthy debuts. There was Paul Blart: Mall Cop which made $39 million over the four-day while My Bloody Valentine 3D, Notorious, and Hotel for Dogs all posted openings of over $20 million. The four new titles this year I have pegged at between $17-$25 million each, but any of them could do better and take top honors from Wahlberg and company. My predictions do not reflect that though and I believe Lone Survivor should stay alone at the top spot.

And with that, my predictions for the holiday weekend’s top five for the four-day Friday to Monday frame:

1. Lone Survivor

Predicted Gross: $30.4 million (representing a drop of 19%)

2. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Predicted Gross: $25.6 million

3. Ride Along

Predicted Gross: $21.4 million

4. The Nut Job

Predicted Gross: $19.6 million

5. Devil’s Due

Predicted Gross: $17.1 million

My Results from Last Weekend (January 10-12):

As I mentioned, Lone Survivor went beyond expectations with a terrific debut of $37.8 million, well ahead of my paltry $21.7M projection. Disney’s Frozen stayed at #2 with $14.7 million, a bit higher than my estimate of $13.5M. The Legend of Hercules debuted at third with a disappointing $8.8 million, below my $11.9M prediction. The Wolf of Wall Street was fourth, also with $8.8 million – right in line with my $8.5M estimate. American Hustle was fifth with $8.3 million and I incorrectly did not have it the top five. The six spot belonged to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with $8 million, just under my $8.4M projection.

Finally, two Oscar hopefuls expanded their theater counts with different results. August: Osage County was seventh with a solid $7.1 million on only around 900 screens, beyond my $5.8M projection. Her was a disappointment, managing only $5.3 million for an 11th place showing, well below my $8.3M estimate.

And that’s all for now, folks! I’ll have updates posted on the blog’s Facebook page throughout the holiday weekend with final results next week.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Box Office Prediction

After nearly twelve years away from the screen, the character of CIA agent Jack Ryan returns with the fourth actor playing the role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, out Friday. We’ve had Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck in the part and now it’s Chris Pine’s turn.

Based on the works of the late Tom Clancy, Shadow Recruit is the first Ryan pic not specifically based on one of his books. Kenneth Branagh, who most recently directed the first Thor movie, is behind the camera. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley costar. As mentioned, it’s been since May 2002 when Affleck starred in The Sum of All Fears. This franchise has been rather consistent in its grosses. Here’s a rundown:

1990: The Hunt for Red October – opening: $17.1 million. Total domestic gross: $122 million.

1992: Patriot Games – opening: $18.5 million. Total domestic gross: $83.3 million.

1994: Clear and Present Danger – opening: $20.3 million. Total domestic gross: $122.1 million.

2002: The Sum of All Fears – opening: $31.1 million. Total domestic gross: $118.9 million.

Shadow Recruit was originally scheduled to debut over Christmas but was pushed back to January by Paramount when The Wolf of Wall Street was delayed to the holiday weekend. It will be interesting to see how the long gap between Ryan features affects its gross. While the previous entries have been solid grossers, I don’t really feel that there was a big clamoring for another installment. When the Bourne franchise shuffled the deck and put Jeremy Renner in the role with Matt Damon out, it opened with a solid $38 million in 2012. Yet that was far below what previous Bourne flicks had accomplished. And that franchise was more current with audiences as well. Recruit probably won’t reach the heights of what Bourne did two years ago. Chris Pine likely doesn’t have the star power to guarantee a huge opening. His other franchise, Star Trek, already has a built-in audience.

And then there’s the competition factor, which is significant. Lone Survivor just had the second biggest January opening of all time and it should continue to play well in its sophomore weekend. Recruit is going after the same crowd that Survivor appeals to. And there’s also Ride Along, Devil’s Due, and The Nut Job all opening which cater to African-American, horror, and family audiences, respectively.

Add all that up and I expect Recruit to have a respectable though unspectacular debut over the four day MLK weekend.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opening weekend prediction: $25.6 million (Friday-to-Monday)

For my prediction on Ride Along, click here:

For my prediction on Devil’s Due, click here:

For my prediction on The Nut Job, click here: