Old Review

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is Old and it plays like a long Twilight Zone episode which rapidly puts its subjects in that time frame of their lives. If you’ve seen the trailer or TV spots, what you see is essentially what you get. The writer/director is responsible for putting this uninteresting group on a gorgeous beach. That’s in the figurative sense since he created them. It’s also in the literal way because Shyamalan casts himself as the driver who takes them there.

Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) are on the verge of splitting up and they take their 6-year-old boy and 11-year-old daughter on a tropical excursion before they break the news. They know this is meant to be a short-lived paradise, but they get more than they bargained for. You know how parents say their youngsters act like teenagers before they should? It happens here.

The Cappas are taken to a secluded area of the island for R & R. Joining them are a surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his snotty wife (Abbey Lee) and their 6-year-old going on 11…13…15 (eventually played by Eliza Scanlen). There’s a nurse (Ken Leung) and his wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird) that’s prone to seizures. In the latest example of eye rolling character choices, we also have a hemophiliac rapper (Aaron Pierre) who goes by the name of Mid-Sized Sedan. This might an even more cringe worthy use of a hip hop reference than James McAvoy’s MC skills in Split. 

Once placed in the breathtaking locale, all the vacationers discover they’re aging approximately one year every half hour. This is, of course, first noticed with the children. The Cappa kids morph into Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff. Their elders fall prey to the typical signs of advanced age – disease, Alzheimers, low calcium content. Poor Mid-Sized Sedan never gets the chance to trade in for a cooler sounding vehicle name.

In Shyamalan’s best features (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), the auteur created pretty interesting characters to place in his twisty tales. That is just not the case with this group. Even a coasting Shyamalan is reliable for a few thrills, but they don’t roll in too often.

Too much of Old is filled with his clunky dialogue. The kids talk like adults before they actually are a few hours later. The surprise developments toward the end (which aren’t all that shocking) hint at a larger picture. They may have been engrossing had we not been subjected to an hour and a half of watching this dull lot waste away. This could have made a nifty Twilight Zone episode because that program ran 30 minutes. In Shyamalan’s labored production, it feels closer to a year.

** (out of four)

Summer 2011: The Top 10 Hits and More

We have arrived at part III of my recaps of the summer seasons that came 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means 2011 is upon us. If you missed my sizzling throwbacks to 1991 and 2001, you can find them here:

Summer 1991: The Top 10 Hits and More

Summer 2001: The Top 10 Hits and More

As is tradition, I will recount the top 10 hits as well as other notable features and some flops in a season where moviegoers bid a fond farewell to their iconic wizard:

Let’s get to it, yes?

10. Bridesmaids

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Kristin Wiig made one of the most successful jumps from SNL to movie stardom in this critically hailed pic that also earned Melissa McCarthy her silver screen breakout and even an Oscar nomination. It might not be the highest grossing comedy on here, but it’s definitely still the most talked about.

9. The Help

Domestic Gross: $169 million

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller, the 1960s set period piece from Tate Taylor brought the book’s readers and many others to the multiplex. Four Oscar nods followed including Best Picture and a Supporting Actress victory for Octavia Spencer.

8. Captain America: The First Avenger

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first big branch out occurred during this summer where we would get our first glimpse at this OG avenger in the form of Chris Evans and another one who sits at the throne of spot #6. The sequels actually improved on what we see here, but the Captain gets rolling with this.

7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Rupert Wyatt’s reboot of the franchise is deservedly better regarded than Tim Burton’s re-imagining that transpired in 2001. Debuting the fantastic motion capture work of Andy Serkis, this would spawn two follow-ups that also pleased audiences and critics and did considerable monkey business.

6. Thor

Domestic Gross: $181 million

Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian heartthrob hammered into the public consciousness alongside Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins and managed $5 million more box office bucks than the Captain. The third sequel is currently in production.

5. Cars 2

Domestic Gross: $191 million

Despite grossing nearly $200 million, this Pixar sequel is not one of the studio’s most fondly remembered vehicles with just a 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating. A third Cars did zoom into theaters six years later.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Domestic Gross: $241 million

With a reported budget of $379 million, Johnny Depp’s fourth headlining of the franchise still sports the largest price tag of all time. The actor’s final participation in the series would come in 2017 with Disney still looking to reboot it without their signature player.

3. The Hangover Part II

Domestic Gross: $254 million

Crowds were still clamoring for the drunken exploits of Bradley Copper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Critics weren’t near as kind to part II, but audiences didn’t begin to tire of the hijinks until part III two years later.

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Domestic Gross: $352 million

Michael Bay’s third saga of the Autobots and Decepticons marks Shia LaBeouf’s last appearance in the franchise and includes drop-ins from acting heavyweights John Malkovich and Frances McDormand. Mark Wahlberg would take over starring duties three years later.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Domestic Gross: $381 million

After nearly a decade of enchanting kids and their parents alike, the franchise stemming from J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels received a fittingly massive send-off with this billion dollar plus worldwide earner.

Now for other noteworthy titles from the summer:

X-Men: First Class

Domestic Gross: $146 million

Bryan Singer’s handed over directorial reigns to Matthew Vaughn for this reinvigorating reboot of the series that introduced the younger versions of Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique in the bodies of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. Numerous sequels of varying quality followed.

The Smurfs

Domestic Gross: $142 million

Sony Pictures wasn’t blue about the financial returns for this half live-action/half animated adaptation of the popular comics and animated series. A sequel came in 2013.

Super 8

Domestic Gross: $127 million

In between Star Trek pics and before rebooting Star Wars, J.J. Abrams helmed this sci-fi original which paid tribute to the Spielberg efforts of the 1980s. Critics gave it their stamp of approval and it’s notable for one heckuva train crash sequence.

Horrible Bosses

Domestic Gross: $117 million

This raunchy comedy about workers exacting revenge on their wretched superiors showed us a whole different side to Jennifer Aniston and spawned a 2014 sequel.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Domestic Gross: $84 million

Before their collaboration on La La Land earned lots of Oscar nods five years later, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling teamed up for this rom com with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore that exceeded expectations with audiences and many critics.

Midnight in Paris

Domestic Gross: $56 million

It was a different time 10 years ago for Woody Allen, who scored his last big hit with this fantastical comedy starring Owen Wilson. Woody would win the Oscar for Original Screenplay and it landed three additional nominations including Picture and Director.

The Tree of Life

Domestic Gross: $13 million

Terrence Malick’s epic philosophical drama won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography at the Academy Awards. Not your typical summer fare, but it certainly had reviews on its side.

And now for some titles that didn’t meet expectations commercially, critically, or both:

Green Lantern

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Five years before he entered the comic book flick pantheon with Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds didn’t have as much luck with this critically drubbed flop. Even the star himself has taken to calling it a waste of time for viewers.

Cowboys & Aliens

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Coming off the huge Iron Man pics, Jon Favreau cast James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in this space western that didn’t impress crowds or critics and earned considerably less than its budget domestically.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Domestic Gross: $68 million

Audiences were mostly cool to Jim Carrey’s treatment of the popular late 30s children’s book though it did manage to top its $55 million budget. It probably would have made far more during the star’s box office heyday.

Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World

Domestic Gross: $38 million

A decade after Robert Rodriguez kicked the kiddie franchise off to great results, part 4 marked a low mark for the series.

Larry Crowne

Domestic Gross: $35 million

The star power of Tom Hanks (who also directed) and Julia Roberts couldn’t elevate this rom com from a subpar showing (critics weren’t kind either). This is largely a forgotten entity on both actor’s filmographies.

Conan the Barbarian

Domestic Gross: $21 million

Before becoming known to the masses as Aquaman, Jason Momoa couldn’t fill the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger in this bomb that couldn’t swim close to its $90 million budget.

And that does it, folks! I’ll have recaps of the summers of 1992, 2002, and 2012 up for your enjoyment next season!

X-Men at 20: A Look Back

Twenty years ago today, Bryan Singer’s X-Men arrived in theaters and it’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most influential pictures of the 21st century. The 20th Century Fox release found the comic book genre at a rather low point at the end of that said century. While Blade was a nice size hit in 1998, the years prior found at a lot to be desired with the quality of the genre. 1995 brought us Judge Dredd and 1997 saw the release of Batman and Robin, which found the Caped Crusader with Bat nipples and bad reviews.

X-Men, though it’s hard to remember now, was released at a time where the idea of superhero tales was an uncertain box office prospect. This is two years before Spider-Man broke all kinds of financial records. This is five years prior to Christopher Nolan reinvigorating the Bat franchise with his Dark Knight trilogy. And this was eight years before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man, officially kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In the summer of 2000, X-Men was by no means a guaranteed hit. It did, however, have credibility with the behind the scenes talent and cast. Bryan Singer was known for his heralded The Usual Suspects. Acclaimed actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen (fresh off an Oscar nod for Gods and Monsters), Anna Paquin, and Halle Berry were among the onscreen players. And it was another casting decision that provided its most enduring legacy. Russell Crowe, who headlined that summer’s Oscar winner Gladiator, originally turned down the part of Wolverine. Dougray Scott was then cast in the role, but had to drop out when his role as the villain in Mission: Impossible II (also out that summer) prevented him from filming. So it was the unknown Hugh Jackman who donned the claws. He would go on to make it his signature role as he played Logan/Wolverine in numerous sequels and spin-offs (including three stand-alone projects of wildly divergent qualities).

Let’s back up. Before the 2000 release, X-Men was in development for over a decade and a half. At one point, James Cameron was slated to produce with his then wife Kathryn Bigelow attached to direct. Later on, Robert Rodriguez turned the project down. A gander at the pic’s Wikipedia page is an entertaining read (Mariah Carey was in the mix for Storm at one juncture and Angela Bassett was first choice). X-Men was rushed to make its summer release date 20 years ago today after it was originally intended for Christmas 2000.

That rushed feeling does show on up on screen a little, but the overall end result speaks for itself. What occurred two decades ago is a major mark in the comic book movie renaissance that continues to this day. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. X2: X-Men United was the first sequel in 2003 and it is generally considered a high point. Three years later, Brett Ratner took over directorial reigns with The Last Stand and (while a huge hit) the quality took a dip. Matthew Vaughn would reestablish critical kudos in rebooting the series in 2011 with First Class (bringing Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence to the screen playing younger counterparts to key characters). Jackman’s first spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine faced deserved backlash while 2017’s Logan was lauded and landed an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. And a cheeky and R rated offshoot called Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds would dazzle audiences and critics alike. Last summer’s Dark Phoenix didn’t do any dazzling and was another low ebb in the series. Spin-off The New Mutants has seen release date changes that began in 2018 and it’s pretty much a running joke as to whether it will ever come out.

That long road began in 2000 and has shaped the cinematic universe since. And if you had to mark a spot for the comic book landscape today as it stands now on the screen, it started that day.

Oscar Watch: It Chapter Two

Two years ago, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel It broke box office records in the horror genre and became an instant audience favorite. Yet it didn’t end up registering with awards voters in any fashion… not even for Pennywise’s creepy makeup job.

This weekend, the eagerly awaited sequel arrives and the review embargo has floated away. Chapter Two holds a decent 79% Rotten Tomatoes score, but that’s beneath the 86% achieved by its predecessor. A consistent theme in much of the critical reaction is that many parts work, but that it’s also overlong and doesn’t quite measure up to chapter one.

If It couldn’t garner Oscar attention, don’t expect this to. I will make make one further prediction. Another common factor in the reviews is praise for Bill Hader’s performance and he’s said to be a scene stealer. Don’t be surprised to see some chatter and wishful thinking for a Supporting Actor nod that will never come to pass. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

It Chapter Two Box Office Prediction

It Chapter Two will no doubt float to the top of the charts next weekend when it’s unleashed in cinemas. The Stephen King adapted horror epic continues the story of the Losers Club battling demonic clown Pennywise and hopes to rake in similar earnings to its 2017 predecessor. Andy Muschietti returns in the director’s seat with Bill Skarsgard back as Pennywise. Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the youthful Losers Club. Part 2 also flashes forward in time and finds James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader (said to be a scene stealer), Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean portraying their adult versions. This is the only wide release of the weekend as other studios steered clear.

It was a genuine box office phenomenon when it came out during the same post Labor Day frame two years ago. Bursting out of the gate with $123.4 million, it ended its domestic gross at just over $327 million. That made It the largest September opening of all time and highest debuting and overall earning horror feature ever.

Chapter Two stands a real chance at breaking those records. Unlike some sequels in 2019 that followed long after previous entries, chapter one is still fresh in the minds of audiences. There’s a desire to see how it wraps up. That said, I’ll say this falls under what that creepy clown and company accomplished in 2017.

It Chapter Two opening weekend prediction: $109.7 million

Dark Phoenix Box Office Prediction

Closing out the latest chapter of the X-Men Universe that began in 2011, Dark Phoenix rises or falls in theaters next weekend. The fourth official entry in the current franchise iteration is a direct sequel to 2016’s XMen: Apocalypse. This one is focused more on the Jean Grey character played by Sophie Turner, but it brings back Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, and Michael Fassbender as Magneto. The familiar cast additionally includes Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Evan Peters with Jessica Chastain joining the fray for the first time. Simon Kinberg, responsible for penning three previous X pics, makes his directorial debut.

Phoenix comes at a time where the franchise is going through a major transition. With Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, it is believed the X-Men characters will be cast anew and melded with the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe at some juncture. The series is coming off Apocalypse, which didn’t impress critics and had a $155 million overall domestic gross that ranked well under predecessor Days of Future Past. The next X title (spin-off The New Mutants) is out next spring and has been delayed on numerous occasions.

Anticipation seems muted here. Phoenix has the very real possibility of having the lowest premiere ever in the franchise’s history. That distinction for a non spin-off currently belongs to the 2000 original, which started with $54 million (not adjusted for inflation). Just below that is 2013’s The Wolverine at $53 million.

The opportunity for Disney to reinvigorate the series is coming, but I’ll project this latest entry will mark an overall low in earnings.

Dark Phoenix opening weekend prediction: $45.3 million

For my The Secret Life of Pets 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/29/the-secret-life-of-pets-2-box-office-prediction/

Glass Movie Review

If nothing else, M. Night Shyamalan is audacious and I have always admired that. He likes to swing away at the cinematic fences and in Glass, he melds two of his pictures into a new universe. It’s ultimately not a very satisfying one, but the guy tries hard.

At the end of 2017’s Split, which returned the filmmaker to box office prominence, it was revealed that what we watched existed in the same realm of 2000’s Unbreakable. It did so by bringing in David Dunn (Bruce Willis). As you may recall, Dunn was the lone survivor of a train derailment who came to realize he was impervious to pain. Comic book store owner Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), suffering from a disease that cause his bones to break easily, surmised that David was a superhero. And Elijah was the arch nemesis as the 2000 flick revealed he was the evil mastermind behind the train going off the track.

In Split, we were introduced to James McAvoy’s Kevin and almost two dozen other characters that lived inside his head while he tormented teen girls that he kidnapped. From an annoying nine-year old boy to a OCD monster to a proper British dame, his personalities culminated with The Beast, who also possessed super human strength. The surprise ending suggested David will battle The Beast and low and behold – Split made more than enough money for that to occur.

This brings us to Glass. The first act allows this trio of characters to end up in the same mental institution with a psychiatrist (Sarah Paulson) attempting to dissuade them of their perceived powers. Dunn is sensitive to the possibility. The many voices of Kevin has his moments of doubt. Elijah, aka Mr. Glass, is so doped up that we’re not sure he knows what’s going on. However, fans of Unbreakable know the dude is a mastermind.

Glass brings back other characters from its double source material. Charlayne Woodard returns as Elijah’s supportive to a troubling degree mother. Spencer Treat Clark is back as David’s now grown son (Robin Wright skipped out as his wife). And Anya-Taylor Joy reprises her Split role as Kevin’s surviving kidnap victim. Her story arch here is easily the most inexplicable one in a movie filled with often strange choices.

My feelings with Unbreakable and Split are a bit against the grain from many others. I actually dug the former 19 years ago while many found out it to be a disappointing follow-up to The Sixth Sense. As for the latter, I enjoyed McAvoy’s bonkers performance greatly but found it as a whole to be a mixed bag. The melding of the two worlds also fits that description. It’s got everything we expect from Shyamalan, including a twist ending or two. This time around, they land with less impact than earlier efforts.

McAvoy is still impressive, but we’ve seen this show before. Unbreakable set itself up perfectly for a world building sequel. Quite frankly, Glass made me realize I wish it hadn’t taken Split for us to get it. More of the Dunn/Elijah dynamic could have been rewarding without these other personalities in the way. Shyamalan’s personality shines through as always as he tries to overwhelm us with style and suspense. Like Split, the result is some memorable sequences amid numerous questionable ones and not the more cohesive whole that I found Unbreakable to be.

**1/2 (out of four)

Glass Box Office Prediction

When it debuts over the MLK four-day holiday weekend, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass will easily break into the number one spot. Questions about its potential ceiling are very real. The superhero thriller mixes the casts of two of the filmmaker’s best known works – 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. That means James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark and Anya-Taylor Joy are along for the ride as well as Sarah Paulson joining this cinematic universe. No other movie opens wide against it.

Just over 18 years ago, Unbreakable was Night’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough smash hit The Sixth Sense. Audiences had a mixed reaction at the time, but it managed a five-day Thanksgiving haul of $46 million before a final domestic gross of $95 million. Its reputation has grown in many circles in time. Two years ago, Split served as a major comeback vehicle for the director with a $40 million start as it legged out to $138 million.

I believe the positive response for Split will earn this impressive results. It only helps that it’s still fresh in the minds of audiences, including the ending that set up this picture. Word-of-mouth will determine the rest.

Glass will not shatter this holiday weekend’s record, which is held by American Sniper at $107 million. Earning the #2 honors over MLK should be a breeze as that’s currently held by Ride Along at $48 million.

Prognostications have this nabbing anywhere between $50-75 million from Friday to Monday. I have a hunch the higher end of that range is the route to go.

*On the eve of its premiere, I’m downgrading from $72.1 million to $58.1 million

Glass opening weekend prediction: $58.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Sherlock Gnomes Box Office Prediction

Seven years after its predecessor posted solid box office numbers, animated sequel Sherlock Gnomes debuts in theaters next weekend. Produced by Paramount Animation and MGM, the 3D computer drawn comedy is the follow-up to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet. Returning voices include James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michael Caine, and Maggie Smith. Known faces bringing fresh voices to the follow-up include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mary J. Blige, and Johnny Depp. Elton John contributes some music.

In February 2011, Gnomeo debuted to $25 million and ended up with $99.9 million overall. Fun fact: that makes it the highest grossing domestic earner of all time to not join the century club. One problem with Gnomes matching the first: a lot of the kiddos who went to see Gnomeo are now preteens or teenagers. Unlike Pixar sequels, there may not be enough goodwill for this to warrant them returning or bringing in a fresh batch of youngsters.

That said, competition for family audiences is rather light. I’ll predict Sherlock ends up in the low to mid teens for its start.

Sherlock Gnomes opening weekend prediction: $13.7 million

For my Pacific Rim Uprising prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/13/pacific-rim-uprising-box-office-prediction/

For my Paul, Apostle of Christ prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/14/paul-apostle-of-christ-box-office-prediction/

For my Midnight Sun prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/16/midnight-sun-box-office-prediction/

For my Unsane prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/16/unsane-box-office-prediction/

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.

David Leitch co-directed John Wick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents.  She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.

The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.

That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.

Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. Atomic Blonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.

*** (out of four)