It Chapter Two Movie Review

It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.

In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.

On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.

Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.

Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.

The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.

**1/2 (out of four)

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/

Oscar History: 2012

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an Oscar History post (about two and a half years) and I’m at 2012. It was a year in which Seth MacFarlane hosted the show – fresh off his comedy smash Ted. Here’s what transpired in the major categories with some other pictures and performers I might have considered:

The year saw nine nominees for Best Picture in which Ben Affleck’s Argo took the top prize. Other nominees: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook (my personal favorite of the year), and Zero Dark Thirty. 

Many Wes Anderson fans would contend that Moonrise Kingdom should have made the cut. And I could certainly argue that The Avengers (perhaps the greatest comic book flick and the year’s biggest grosser) was worth a nod.

The nominations in Best Director were a huge surprise at the time. While Argo won the top prize of all, Affleck was not nominated for his behind the camera efforts. It was the first time since Driving Miss Daisy‘s Bruce Beresford where an Oscar-winning Picture didn’t see its filmmaker nominated.

Instead it was Ang Lee who was victorious for Life of Pi over Michael Haneke (Amour), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

In addition to Affleck, it was surprising that Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) was not included. And I certainly would have put in Tarantino for Django.

The race for Best Actor seemed over when the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was announced. And that’s exactly how it played out as he won his third Oscar over a strong slate of Bradley Cooper (Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

The exclusion of John Hawkes in The Sessions could have been welcomed, but I’ll admit that’s a solid group.

Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for Silver Linings over Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible).

Again, no major qualms here. I did enjoy the work of Helen Mirren in Hitchcock (for which she did get a Golden Globe nod).

Supporting Actor was competitive as Christoph Waltz won his second statue for Django (three years after Inglourious Basterds). He was a bit of a surprise winner over Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Other nominees: Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Playbook), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Here’s a year where there’s a lot of others I thought of. Waltz won, but I think the work of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson in Django was equally impressive. There’s Javier Bardem as one of the greatest Bond villains ever in Skyfall. Or John Goodman’s showy role in Flight. As for some other blockbusters that year, how about Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers or Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike? And my favorite comedic scene of that year was due to Giovanni Ribisi in Ted…

In Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway was a front-runner for Les Miserables and there was no upset. Other nominees: Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), and Jacki Weaver (Playbook).

Judi Dench had more heft to her part as M in Skyfall that year and I’ll also give a shout-out to Salma Hayek’s performance in Oliver Stone’s Savages.

And there’s your Oscar history for 2012! I’ll have 2013 up… hopefully in less than two and a half years!

Molly’s Game Movie Review

At its best, Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is cinematic music. Like many distinctive screenwriters icluding Mamet and Tarantino, he has an unmistakable style. There’s a zippy and often whip smart quality present. We heard that melody in The Social Network and on “The West Wing” and large parts of A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. On occasion, there are heavy-handed and slightly preachy notes in his wordy tunes.

We know what we’re getting in a Sorkin screenplay. An unknown until now is how he performs behind the lens and Molly’s Game answers it. The frequent highs and more infrequent lows of his writing are present here. And he pleasingly proves he’s got some style in the director’s chair, too.

The film is based on the real life story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), who went from a wannabe Olympic skier sidelined by freak injury to underground poker syndicate magnate. It’s an improbable yarn where truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Following her slopes related incident, Molly travels to L.A. and soon finds herself as assistant to a rich on paper and sleazy real estate developer (Jeremy Strong). He seems far more concerned with his high stakes poker game that involves celebrities and the West Coast wealthy – all male. Molly starts out basically holding their money. That doesn’t last long as her intellect soon has her running the show.

This puts her in constant contact with an unnamed movie star played by Michael Cera. A quick look at the facts of Bloom’s true events would put Tobey Maguire as the actual actor. Sorkin’s screenplay doesn’t dwell on the famous names that real Molly came in contact with, as apparently the subject’s book this is based on didn’t either. I will say this. If half the stuff about Maguire (err Cera’s character) is accurate, he’s not exactly your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

It also puts her in proximity with far worse types than bratty leading men. There’s the Mob, in Italian and Russian form. And that’s where it all gets truly dangerous. These individuals provide a risk to her personal safety, as do the drug fueled measures she takes on her own to keep the business rolling in celebrity, Mafia, and trust fund kid cash.

Molly’s Game is told in flashback as our central figure’s legal troubles mount. Idris Elba is her skilled and sympathetic lawyer. Kevin Costner is her hard charging dad – a therapist who is always seeking perfection from his daughter. It’s their dynamic that turns out to be the key one here and provides a window into Molly’s behavior. In some ways, it’s a relationship we’ve seen countless times onscreen before and this doesn’t add much freshness.

That said, when Sorkin’s writing is at its best, it’s an entertaining sound. Molly’s Game gives us plenty of long exchanges between particularly Chastain and Elba that qualify. We’ve seen the world of closed-door poker (in the solid Rounders for example) before, but not often. The writer/director frequently excels at displaying this fast-paced universe that just a minor segment of the ultra rich are privy to.

Chastain is present in nearly every frame and she provides another electric performance as a strong female getting it done in a male dominated universe. Elba offers sturdy support. Even though Costner’s subplot is the most routine, he adds some depth in the third act as the complicated dad.

Those familiar with Sorkin’s word games will find plenty to enjoy here. It doesn’t rise to the level of The Social Network, mind you. It does comfortably give me confidence that his dialogue works just fine with him also wearing the director’s hat.

*** (out of four)

 

Todd’s 2017 FINAL Oscar Predictions

Well, here we are folks!

For over four months, I have been making weekly Oscar predictions and it all comes down to this Tuesday morning when they are at last revealed. These are my FINAL predictions along with a first and second alternate in each category.

Tuesday on the blog – I’ll have results on how I did with reaction to the nominations in general. Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Call Me by Your Name

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

1st Alternate – I, Tonya

2nd Alternate – The Big Sick

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

1st Alternate – Steven Spielberg, The Post

2nd Alternate – Sean Baker, The Florida Project

Best Actor

Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

1st Alternate – Tom Hanks, The Post

2nd Alternate – Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

1st Alternate – Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game

2nd Alternate – Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

1st Alternate – Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

2nd Alternate – Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Hong Chau, Downsizing

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

1st Alternate – Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

2nd Alternate – Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me by Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Molly’s Game

Mudbound

Wonder

1st Alternate – Victoria and Abdul

2nd Alternate – Wonderstruck

Best Original Screenplay

Get Out

I, Tonya

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

1st Alternate – The Big Sick

2nd Alternate – The Florida Project

Best Animated Feature

The Breadwinner

Coco

Ferdinand

The Girl Without Hands

Loving Vincent

1st Alternate – The LEGO Batman Movie

2nd Alternate – Cars 3

Best Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman

Foxtrot

The Insult

In the Fade

Loveless

1st Alternate – The Square

2nd Alternate – The Wound

Best Documentary Feature

City of Ghosts

Faces Places

Icarus

Jane

Long Strange Trip

1st Alternate – Strong Island

2nd Alternate – Last Men in Aleppo

Best Film Editing

Baby Driver

Dunkirk

I, Tonya

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

1st Alternate – The Post 

2nd Alternate – Get Out

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

Mudbound

The Post

The Shape of Water

1st Alternate – Darkest Hour

2nd Alternate – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Production Design

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

1st Alternate – Beauty and the Beast

2nd Alternate – Murder on the Orient Express

Best Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

Murder on the Orient Express

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Victoria and Abdul

1st Alternate – The Post

2nd Alternate – The Beguiled

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Darkest Hour

I, Tonya

Wonder

1st Alternate – Bright

2nd Alternate – Victoria and Abdul

Best Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes

1st Alternate – Okja

2nd Alternate – Kong: Skull Island

Best Sound Editing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes

1st Alternate – The Shape of Water

2nd Alternate – The Greatest Showman

Best Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Greatest Showman

The Shape of Water

1st Alternate – Star Wars: The Lat Jedi

2nd Alternate – Beauty and the Beast

Best Original Score

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

1st Alternate – Victoria and Abdul

2nd Alternate – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Original Song

“It Ain’t Fair” from Detroit

“Mighty River” from Mudbound

“Remember Me” from Coco

“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall

“This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

1st Alternate – “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

2nd Alternate – “The Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name 

And that leaves the final predicted list of nominations for each picture:

13 Nominations

The Shape of Water

9 Nominations

Dunkirk

7 Nominations

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

5 Nominations

Lady Bird, I, Tonya, Blade Runner 2049

4 Nominations

Get Out, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, The Post, Mudbound

3 Nominations

Baby Driver

2 Nominations

The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, Wonder, Coco, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Greatest Showman

1 Nomination

Downsizing, Molly’s Game, Beauty and the Beast, Murder on the Orient Express, Victoria and Abdul, Detroit, Marshall, The Breadwinner, Ferdinand, The Girl Without Hands, Loving Vincent, A Fantastic Woman, Foxtrot, The Insult, In the Fade, Loveless, City of Ghosts, Faces Places, Icarus, Jane, Long Strange Trip 

And there you have it, folks! I’ll have reaction up Tuesday…