Booksmart Movie Review

Booksmart is about intelligent people with a lot left to learn. It’s a teen comedy that exists within the confines we expect. Yet it does so with characters who are flawed and likable and not stereotypical. As a directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, it’s a stylish accomplishment with a keen eye for casting. Like Superbad from over a decade ago, it convinces us that the two leads are best friends with a long history.

Kaitlyn Dever is Amy. She’s been out of the closet for two years and is planning a summer sabbatical in Africa post graduation. Amy hasn’t been out socially in her formative years and neither has her BFF Molly (Beanie Feldstein). She’s the class president with a ticket to Yale and a crush on the hunky VP who’s Mr. Popularity. On the final day of school, the duo decide to finally attend the biggest grad party of them all. It takes various excursions to get there and it doesn’t help that they don’t know the address.

As we suspect, Amy and Molly’s bond is tested as crushes are explored and unexpected romantic interests materialize. Both performers do a remarkable job with their chemistry and individual moments. A heated argument between them is shot to perfection. With a screenplay from four female writers, their interplay seems heartfelt and real.

That’s not to say some cliches aren’t overdone. Of course they’re going to be accidentally drugged, but the animated sequence accompanying that occurrence is a joy. Wilde’s hubby Jason Sudeikis shows up as the school principal/Lyft driver. Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte are Amy’s parents. These are well known comic actors, but the young adults playing high schoolers in the supporting cast truly stand out. This includes Billie Lourd as a rich girl who seems to be everywhere at all times and Skyler Gisondo as her best bud who tries too hard but has his heart in the right place.

That description applies to Booksmart as a whole. Like many of the best pics in this genre, it’s happily R rated. The writers don’t pigeonhole the kids as know it alls or morons, but as genuine seniors who make mistakes and do the right thing often when tested. Booksmart doesn’t always break the mold in this well worn genre, but it provides plenty of laughs and sincerity as Amy and Molly turn a page.

*** (out of four)

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Box Office Prediction

Those animated and ill tempered fowls based on the video game you were obsessed with on your smart phone are back next week with The Angry Birds Movie 2. Our first Birds flew into theaters in the summer of 2016 and the sequel returns the vocal stylings of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage. Newcomers include Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, and Eugenio Derbez. Thurop Van Orman makes his directorial debut.

Three years ago, Birds kicked off to a solid $38 million. Unlike many other animated offerings, it didn’t leg out particularly well with a final gross of $107 million. Surprisingly, critical reaction to this follow-up is stronger than what transpired before. This stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 44% for its predecessor.

That said, I don’t see the sequel outdoing part 1. It opens on a Tuesday – perhaps in an effort to nab more kid business before schools start. A premiere of mid to high teens to over the traditional Friday to Sunday frame and low to possibly mid 20s for the six day is where I’m at.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $25.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Good Boys prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/07/good-boys-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

Booksmart Box Office Prediction

The best known actress involved with Booksmart is making her directorial debut and is not in front of the camera. Yet the pic is riding a wave of critical kudos since its premiere at South by Southwest in March. The comedy is centered on two teenage girls and their last day of high school. Olivia Wilde makes that aforementioned first turn in the captain’s chair. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird) are the two graduates. Costars include Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s hubby).

Booksmart stands at a super fresh 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could still face hurdles when it opens over the long Memorial Day weekend. Opening on approximately 2300 screens, I’m skeptical as to its awareness factor among general audiences. This could be a slow builder if word-of-mouth takes off or become a cult hit following the theatrical release.

I’ll say a debut in the upper single digits is where this starts out at.

Booksmart opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Aladdin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/14/aladdin-box-office-prediction/

For my Brightburn prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/15/brightburn-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Downsizing Movie Review

Director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor enter new genre territory with Downsizing, but it’s filled with the themes found in their previous efforts. A central character searching for meaning in life, marital strife, and classism are on display. Unlike prior features, science fiction elements and a bigger budget are in the mix. This is a story loaded with intriguing prospects  that doesn’t lead to a totally rewarding whole.

A prologue shows the advent of a monumental discovery by Norwegian scientists – the ability to shrink humans to only five inches tall. The reasoning to do it is to save the Earth by significantly reducing pollution and overpopulation. Not all citizens who choose to go through the procedure are hardcore environmentalists. There’s also the added bonus that downsizing is a financial boon. Every dollar in big world translates to about a grand in the smaller one.

This is the primary reason why occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig) choose their new path. The Omaha couple agree to downsize and populate the colony of Leisureland. In Nebraska, they’re scraping by. They will be millionaires post op. A surprise happens on the way to the procedure. Paul goes through with it, but Audrey backs out and leaves him.

Lonely Paul must adjust to his tiny new surroundings and life. His eventual divorce agreement causes him to trade his Leisureland mansion for an apartment (albeit a pretty nice one). Up to this point, Downsizing is pretty nifty. The leadup and explanations of how this new world works are fascinating. There’s some prejudice involved with the full size humans meeting those about to become small. Should they get full voting rights, for instance? We also discover there’s nefarious governments that forcibly shrink their dissidents.

Further exploration of themes like these could have made a potentially rich experience. Downsizing goes a different direction. Paul’s upstairs neighbor is a party animal played with expected gusto by Christoph Waltz. It’s through this freewheeling character that Paul meets Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese political activist who was punished by that government. She’s an amputee and cleaning lady with a heart of gold. Ngoc Lan takes Paul to the slums of Leisureland where he begins to medically assist its poor residents. He also begins to fall for his companion.

The picture, at this juncture, largely abandons its sci fi leanings and concentrates on issues of self-worth, love, and political themes. Of course, all these things have been present in many great science fiction efforts. However, the tone of Downsizing is a shifty one. There’s moments of satire that aren’t biting enough and an earnestness that can come off cloying. That latter description could sometimes apply to Damon’s work. Payne has directed a number of actors to Oscar nominations. His lead here displays the same syrupy conviction in which he once bought a zoo. Chau is a different story. She creates a character whose backstory might have been really rewarding if shown onscreen. Unfortunately, Ngoc Lan eventually becomes just the love interest to the blander protagonist.

Payne and Taylor deserve a degree of credit for crafting this odd concoction. There’s some original thoughts here and some sequences are truly impressive, especially the downsizing procedure itself. That said, the emotional payoff the filmmakers are reaching for never quite reached me. There are moments in About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska that did so more often and with an appreciated higher level of subtlety. So while I admire Downsizing for some big ideas, the overall impact is smaller.

**1/2 (out of four)

Downsizing Box Office Prediction

Director Alexander Payne’s latest Downsizing hits screens next Friday for a holiday release. The science fiction dramedy features Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz, and Hong Chau.

Payne has seen his last three films – Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska – all nab Best Picture nominations. Downsizing was once seen as an Oscar contender until it premiered at the Venice Film Festival months ago to mixed reviews (it stands at a muted 64% on Rotten Tomatoes). In fact, its only Academy chatter is focused on costar Chau, who could manage a Supporting Actress nod.

The near complete lack of awards chatter has muted the buzz for this project. The pic also has plenty of competition for its intended adult audience, including The Greatest Showman and various other genuine Oscar hopefuls.

Add that up and I feel Downsizing will experience a debut in the low double digits or teens. That would a bit under another Damon flick from an acclaimed director released over Christmas from six years ago, Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo. 

Downsizing opening weekend prediction: $11.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Pitch Perfect 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/pitch-perfect-3-box-office-prediction/

For my Father Figures prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/14/father-figures-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Downsizing

Blogger’s Update (09/19/17) – What Venice giveth, Toronto and Telluride taketh away. Since my original writing of this post on 08/30, Oscar prospects for Downsizing have dimmed due to mixed reaction from the aforementioned festivals.

A major piece of the 2017 Oscar puzzle has come into focus today with the debut of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing at the Venice Film Festival. This picture has been circled on the calendar of Academy Awards prognosticators since it was announced. Why? For starters, this is Payne’s seventh directorial feature and his previous five efforts have all received Oscar attention. For 1999’s Election, Payne received a nod for Adapted Screenplay. 2002’s About Schmidt landed two nominations in the acting races for Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. 2004’s Sideways nabbed five nominations, including Picture, Director, and a win for Payne and writing partner Jim Taylor for Adapted Screenplay. 2011’s The Descendants also received five nominations, with Payne winning once again for Adapted Screenplay. His last film, 2013’s Nebraska, garnered six nominations including Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. His last five movies have resulted in a total of seven acting nods.

So yeah… pretty much anything Payne puts out is an automatic Oscar contender. That does not look to end with Downsizing, his science fiction comedic drama that has drawn rave reviews out of the gate. It’s not out until December 22, but trade reviews are up and they’re glowing with praise. The Hollywood Reporter: “Big and beautiful” and arguably his best film. Variety: “playful, spectacular, mischievous, and audacious”. Interestingly, both reviews reference it as like as a live-action Pixar feature.

Downsizing has a highly recognizable cast that includes Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, and Jason Sudeikis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Damon in the mix for Best Actor, based on early word. Yet it’s a name you probably haven’t heard that you’ll soon become familiar with. Playing a Vietnamese refugee, Hong Chau has been singled out for her work and I’d venture to say she will be receiving a Supporting Actress nomination here.

Before today, Dunkirk was the only picture that I feel confident saying will receive a Best Picture nomination. Downsizing is now the second and it will probably land Payne directing and original screenplay (along with Jim Taylor) recognition. Beyond that – Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and even Visual Effects categories are all feasible.

Bottom line: Downsizing just announced itself as a potential force this awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Todd’s Top 10 Most Awaited Fall 2017 Movies

Well folks – summer is winding down and on the movie calendar, that means fall ushers in Oscar contenders, film festivals, and all kinds of other eagerly awaited releases! Today on the blog, I bring you my 10 most awaited pictures of the season. Getting the list down to that number wasn’t exactly easy, so I’ll cheat a bit and mention some that just “missed the cut”. They include sequels (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Thor: Ragnarok), star vehicles like American Made with Tom Cruise and Roman Israel, Esq. with Denzel Washington, and Academy contenders like Battle of the Sexes, The Greatest Showman, Suburbicon, Darkest Hour, All the Money in the World, and The Disaster Artist.

Yet here are the ten that my personal movie calendar is most looking forward to (listed alphabetically):

Blade Runner 2049

Release Date: October 6

35 years after Ridley Scott made his landmark sci-fi pic, Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve enters this visually stunning world with Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and Robin Wright and Harrison Ford returning as Deckard.

Downsizing

Release Date: December 22

It may not be out until Christmas, but buzz will be out soon for this Oscar hopeful as it screens in Venice in just days. Alexander Payne’s fantastic filmography includes Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska. His latest is a sci-fi comedy/drama starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and (get used to hearing this name) Hong Chau, who’s already garnering Supporting Actress talk.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

It

Release Date: September 8

Fall essentially kicks off with this adaptation of one of Stephen King’s greatest works. Trailers for It looks scary as hell and it could compete for both biggest September debut ever and highest horror opening of all time.

Justice League

Release Date: November 17

DC’s version of The Avengers has been the subject of shaky buzz, but I’m curious to see how Batman, Aquaman, The Flash, and others meld together. Oh… there’s another one in the form of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who just happened to headline the summer’s unexpected largest domestic hit (beating out other superheroes like the Guardians and Spidey).

mother!

Release Date: September 15

Darren Aronofsky’s latest looks to be in the vein of his Oscar nominated Black Swan and that’s a very good thing. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer star and if this trailer is any indication, we’re in for something very intriguing.

Murder on the Orient Express

Release Date: November 10

Michelle Pfeiffer makes another appearance on this list as she’s part of an impressive ensemble embroiled in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famed novel. Kenneth Branagh directs himself in the lead as Hercule Poirot. Other familiar faces include Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, and Josh Gad.

The Papers

Release Date: December 22

As in the Pentagon Papers and the Washington Post‘s battle with the Nixon administration to release them. You think this one has Oscar bait potential? It’s directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Phantom Thread

Release Date: December 27

Here’s how little is really known about this project… we’re not even sure Phantom Thread is its title. What do we know? It’s master filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest and reunites him with his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

The Shape of Water

Release Date: December 8

Visionary director Guillermo del Toro’s latest looks to be a visual and potentially dramatic winner judging from its trailer. Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon star in this 1960s set tale of a woman’s friendship with a strange creature.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Release Date: December 15

Last, but oh so far from the least. Rian Johnson takes over directorial duties for the year’s most anticipated release with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gaining significantly more screen time and Carrie Fisher making her final bow as Princess Leia.

And there you have it, folks! Let us look forward to a hopefully glorious autumn season…

Colossal Movie Review

Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is an entertaining little example of what happens when a major film actress wants to do something a bit different. Anne Hathaway is the star here and what we have here is her giving a strong performance in a genre you might not expect.

She plays Gloria, an alcoholic who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and is forced to move from their NYC apartment. With no other options, Gloria goes back to her small town childhood home. Barely settling in, she reconnects with  childhood buddy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who now owns his family neighborhood bar. Oscar offers her a part-time gig waitressing there and business picks up when the unthinkable occurs. Over in Seoul, South Korea – a Godzilla like creature wreaks havoc to those in its path. The citizens of the town go to the bar in the evening to drown themselves while viewing the unfolding developments. Yet there’s a very strange connection to Gloria and what’s happening thousands of miles away.

It turns out that she basically is the monster. If she stands at a playground at precisely 8:05am, her movements match what the monster does when it appears in Seoul. After making this unexpected discovery, she recognizes that she must use this gift (?) for good. However, those around her don’t necessarily share that sentiment.

Colossal clearly has a bizarre plot. Truth be told, your willingness to enjoy it may directly correlate to just going with it. I was able to mostly because of Hathaway’s commitment to the material. Her boozy Gloria is far from your typical heroine and the actress throws herself into the role (even if her drunken stupors humorously keep her unaware of what’s going on half the time). Sudeikis also has a ball with his complicated relationship with Gloria, which turns out to be quite integral to what’s going down in East Asia.

Once Colossal shows all its cards plotwise, it becomes slightly redundant in the last third. That said, the two leading performances and the film’s sheer weirdness and willingness to embrace that make it far from a waste of time.

*** (out of four)

Masterminds Box Office Prediction

At long last, the heist comedy Masterminds hits theaters next weekend after much delay. Whether or not it’s able to steal some box office dollars is very much in question. Director Jared Hess broke through in a big way 12 years ago with his sleeper hit Napoleon Dynamite. His follow-up, 2006’s Nacho Libre with Jack Black, was a critical letdown which still managed to make $80 million domestic.

Since then, Mr. Hess’s efforts have been little-seen and poorly reviewed efforts. 2009’s Gentlemen Broncos? 2015’s Don Verdean? Anyone? Masterminds had the whiff of a return to form, but it’s been mired in the financial distresses of its studio, Relativity. The pic was originally scheduled for release in August of last year and then October (hence its trailer having been around for quite some time).

The talent involved here is serious – Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. That’s three new Ghostbusters by the way – even though the ladies shot that reboot after this. Recognizable stars aside, I have a feeling that all of the delays and a fairly quiet marketing campaign will hurt Masterminds immensely.

I’m tempted to go really low — like $4 million, folks. I believe this may manage to reach a bit beyond that. Double digits seems like a reach, however.

Masterminds opening weekend prediction: $6.3 million

For my Deepwater Horizon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/deepwater-horizon-box-office-prediction/

For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-box-office-prediction/

For my Queen of Katwe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/23/queen-of-katwe-box-office-prediction/