Bullet Train Review

David Leitch has done this cartoonishly bloody and dripping with sarcasm business before with John Wick and Deadpool 2. In Bullet Train, having Brad Pitt loaded for the quipping is a plus. The trip is rockiest in the beginning leg, but picks up steam for quite some time. In the later stages, you may be asking why we aren’t there yet with the climax.

Pitt’s assassin who goes by Ladybug boards the title mode of transportation with simple instructions to boost a briefcase. Hurtling at breakneck speed from Tokyo to Kyoto, he soon finds that many other types who share his profession are along for the ride. This includes “twins” Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Their codenames may suggest Prince backup dancers, but they’re tasked with transporting the drug addled son (Logan Lerman) of a crime lord named White Death (Michael Shannon) back home. And they also want that briefcase.

Unlike Pulp Fiction where we are still collectively wondering what was in that case, we find out quickly here. Ladybug and his fruit monikered colleagues aren’t the only ones seeking it. There’s Prince (Joey King), who’s dressed not as a backup dancer but as a schoolgirl who fools many with her innocent appearance. Kimura (Andrew Koji) is a killer burdened with a young son in danger away from the tracks. There’s more – Zazie Beetz turns up as does Hiroyuki Sanada as Kimura’s elder (he’s called The Elder). Multiplatinum rapper Bad Bunny is The Wolf, who is avenging a family massacre that could have used cleanup from Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolfe in the aforementioned Pulp. There’s cameos I won’t spoil. I will say they add little other than fleeting seconds of unexpected recognition.

Bullet Train gleefully revels in its violence. It kind of feels like a throwback to 90s excess that Tarantino’s landmark sophomore feature helped inspire. That’s not always a bad thing as the slicing and dicing is done with the visual flair we expect from Leitch. The screenplay from Zak Olkewicz is one of those where nearly every character is eventually connected. I found myself straining to care about those connections.  It takes a few minutes before Train gets up to speed. Yet Pitt’s considerable charisma and his support staff (particularly Henry and Taylor-Johnson) help alleviate a lot of those narrative bumps. So was the ride worth it? That’s debatable though I’d say there’s worse fates than taking it.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Bullet Train

OK, no one’s saying that David Leitch’s Bullet Train was stationing itself for a Best Picture nomination. As for down the line tech nods, it’s at least worth discussing. The action comedy from the John Wick and Deadpool 2 maker stars Brad Pitt and is out Friday.

The review embargo has lifted and Bullet is currently at a middling 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. I would say the only races where nods seemed feasible were Sound and Visual Effects and I don’t envision either occurring. If the Academy were to ever put in a  category for Best Stunt Work (which isn’t a bad idea), the critical reaction indicates this might be in the mix. Absent that, don’t look for this Train anywhere near an awards show.

Leading man Pitt could, however, still find himself in the 2022 mix for Supporting Actor (we think it’s supporting) with Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

August 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (08/03): My projection for Easter Sunday has taken a downward turn. Instead of $8.2M, I’m now only projecting $5.6M and that puts it outside of the top five – with Minions: The Rise of Gru now getting the 5 spot.

Brad Pitt looks to conduct Bullet Train to a sizeable debut while the Jo Koy comedy Easter Sunday looks be a sleeper hit. They are the newbies as August dawns at the box office. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

There’s no question that Train (from John Wick maker David Leitch) will hit #1. It’s all about by how much. Some estimates have this in the $40 million range, but I’m skeptical. In the last couple of weekends, both Nope and DC League of Super-Pets have come in under expectations (more on those developments below).

While Pitt certainly has star power, I feel like buzz needs to pick up and fast for this to reach $40 million. Perhaps my projections will rise before Thursday evening. For now, I have Bullet a shade under $30 million.

As for current champ Super-Pets, a dip in the mid to high 30s seems likely and that should place it firmly as the runner-up.

The truly interesting competition could be for the #3 slot. Easter Sunday could surprise and vastly overperform and end up #2. Or it could be outside of the top five with below $8 million. I’m putting at $8.2 million in its basket and here’s where it could be awfully close. If Nope has another plummet close to 60% and Thor: Love and Thunder sees a mid to high 30s drop, the grosses for the trio could be separated by basically nothing.

That’s what I’m thinking will occur and here’s how I think the top 5 ends up looking:

1. Bullet Train

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million

2. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

4. Nope 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 29-31) 

The Warner Animation Group won’t be barking loudly about the earnings of DC League of Super-Pets as it came in the very low end of its range. With a muted $23 million, the animated superhero canine teaming of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a disappointment (coming in well under my $33.6 million prediction). The only silver lining could be lack of competition for the month. That could mean meager declines until the bulk of kiddos go back to school.

Nope, as anticipated with its lackluster B Cinemascore grade, cratered in its sophomore frame with $18.5 million (a smidge ahead of my $17.5 million projection). Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale is up to $80 million, though it will come in well under his predecessors Get Out and Us. 

Thor: Love and Thunder was third with $13.1 million, besting my take of $11.4 million. The MCU four-quel has hammered home $301 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took fourth at $10.9 million (I said $10.3 million) to brings it haul to $320 million.

Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five at $8.4 million, right on target with my $8.3 million guesstimate. The airborne phenomenon achieved another milestone at $650 million. It will soon become the 7th largest domestic earner in history when it vaults over Titanic ($659 million) and Jurassic World ($652 million).

Finally, When the Crawdads Sing held up solidly in weekend #3 with $7.5 million (I went with $6.9 million). The mystery based on a bestseller is past the half century mark with $53 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping moviegoers catch the Bullet Train when it debuts August 5th. The action comedy comes from John Wick maker David Leitch with Brad Pitt headlining as an assassin. The supporting cast includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman, Bad Bunny, and Pitt’s recent The Lost City costar Sandra Bullock (in a role first slated for Lady Gaga).

The Japan set stunt fest is hoping to turn out an adult audience ready for original programming in a summer filled mostly with plenty of sequels and superheroes.

Since starting a franchise with Wick in 2014, Leitch followed up with Atomic Blonde. It was a box office disappointment that debuted with just over $18 million. Train should have no trouble getting past that number. However, it won’t reach the earnings of his last two pictures which were built-in franchise entries: Deadpool 2 and Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw. 

Nope was able to reach mid 40s and it had the advantage of Jordan Peele’s brand. This will rely mostly on Pitt’s star power. I’m curious to see how word-of-mouth is in the coming days and that could increase or decrease my projection. My hunch is that mid 2os is the floor and low 40s could be the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes toward the lower end of that spectrum, and I’ll say high 20s to low 30s is where this lands.

Bullet Train opening weekend prediction: $29.7 million

For my Easter Sunday prediction, click here:

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

Nobody Review

Bob Odenkirk is one of the all-time great yellers. Go back and watch his marvelous comedy sketch series Mr. Show from 25 years ago if you don’t believe it. When Gene Hackman hollers, it can be terrifying. With Odenkirk, it’s unexpected and hilarious. The idea of casting him in a John Wick type of role (from the writer of the franchise no less) screams for more than what’s presented onscreen in the very brief runtime of Nobody. Post watch, I couldn’t escape the idea that a lot of cool stuff might happen following the events of what I’d just witnessed. What’s presented is effective in spurts and  occasionally dull and repetitive in chunks.

Dull and repetitive aptly describes Hutch’s existence as the opening montage shows. He works a boring job. His marriage to Becca (Connie Nielsen) is devoid of any spark. Like clockwork, he forgets to take out the garbage. The middle class tedium is disrupted by a home burglary where Hutch catches the intruders redhanded but decides against using his golf clubs to take them down. From the police to his spouse to his kids, he’s seen as a weakling. However, when he discovers his little girl’s kitty cat bracelet was lifted, his true identity surfaces.

Hutch was once an “auditor” for the government. Not the numbers crunching kind. More of the bone crunching variety. He’s a former assassin that comes from a line of them including dad (Christopher Lloyd). RZA is also part of the clan (he’s heard more than seen because he’s in hiding). No longer content to hide his own particular set of skills after the bracelet heist, Hutch sets out to find the thieves and rough up anyone else who stands in the way.

One of the audited victims turns out to be the brother of a Russian mobster (Aleksei Serebryakov) who moonlights as an aspiring nightclub singer. With Hutch on his wanted list, the Wick-ish violence commences. If this all sounds like a tremendous amount of strange fun, it should. Doc Brown as an octogenarian renegade? Check. Our Breaking Bad standout breaking skulls? Check.

Sometimes it is. When Hutch first lets down his guard on a bus, it’s a violent delight. It never really tops that sequence that arrives early. Derek Kolstad (who wrote all three Wick flicks) is behind this (along with Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller). The screenplay hints at our lead’s backstory. It gives us reason to believe Odenkirk and Lloyd and RZA have been on some wild adventures. The world building that’s become such an integral part of Keanu Reeves and his headshots isn’t present in Nobody. This is far more contained and that applies to Odenkirk’s performance. He’s a terrific comedic presence and, as mentioned, a glorious wailer. Those skills aren’t at the forefront in this though he commendably looks comfortable offing Euro baddies. I just didn’t find the concept sizzling enough to sustain itself before it kinda burnt out.

**1/2 (out of four)

Pig Review

Michael Sarnoski’s Pig is best savored when not knowing what course it will take next. This is more of a character study with Nicolas Cage playing a fascinating one. It’s a reminder of how special he can be when the recipe is done right.

Cage’s Rob lives off the grid in the Oregon wilderness with his trusty truffle pig. When that beloved companion is taken from him, the unkept and determined recluse makes it his mission to bring home the bacon. By his side is Amir (Alex Wolff), a supplier to high-end Portland restaurants who is seemingly Rob’s only non-swine contact. He has a strained association with his rich father (Adam Arkin), who pulls a lot of strings in this unique world of Pacific Northwest based foodies.

I wouldn’t blame you for assuming that Cage goes all John Wick in his quest. That’s only one area where the screenplay (written by the director) leaves you pleasantly surprised. Our lead has given us gobs of overly hammy acting outbursts and the one named Pig lets him do the opposite. This is a mostly quiet and even subtle performance from Cage.

This picture is about past and current losses and how Rob and Amir deal with them. It’s about relationships that cannot be rekindled, but how the memories of them could help heal. The script also amusingly plays around with the self-importance of its characters. This applies to chefs preparing tiny and pricey meals when they’d rather be cooking something else. There’s also Amir’s incessant classical music listening with a voiceover telling him how special it is.

We also see glimpses of an underground lair of culinary employees who seem to adhere to a code known only to them. This is a strange universe which might be at home in a John Wick flick if explored further. To borrow another Keanu Reeves reference, it’s also one in which Rob used to be its Neo. All of this comes together due to that sow swipe, but Pig has more on its mind thematically than revenge. This dish serves up consistently unexpected rewards.

***1/2  (out of four)

Nobody Box Office Prediction

After experiencing the typical COVID-19 related delays that have greeted nearly all movies in the past year, Universal Pictures releases the revenge thriller Nobody next weekend. It comes from Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller with a screenplay by Derek Kolstad (behind the scripts of the John Wick franchise). Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul fame stars as a mild mannered family man who decides to let his Death Wish freak flag fly. The supporting cast includes Connie Nielsen, RZA, and Christopher Lloyd.

Originally scheduled for a late summer 2020 premiere, Nobody has experienced four date changes since before settling on its late March bow. Planned for a rollout on 2400 screens, the pic could appeal to fans of Odenkirk’s popular series and action fans in general. There are still obvious challenges with theaters being at various capacity levels, but this could manage a haul between $6-9 million in my view. I’ll go in the middle of that range.

Nobody opening weekend prediction: $7.3 million

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum brings us back into the franchise where the forecast is usually stylishly rainy and dripping with violence. There’s a 100% chance of Keanu Reeves finding creative ways to kill people. Our third iteration does what you expect from a sequel. It increases the action so Mr. Wick fights more. His poor dog met an unfortunate end in Chapter 1 that kicked all of this off. In Parabellum, dogs don’t die. They fight too.

Just as part 2 picked up immediately after its predecessor, this does as well. As you’ll recall, our title character has been excommunicated by the High Table, the organization that governs the unlimited supply of assassins that populate New York City and beyond. He’s a marked man with a $14 million bounty on his head and a dwindling supply of markers causing people to help him. Those individuals include Oscar winning women like Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.

Wick can no longer have a safe space in the Continental Hotel, managed by Winston (Ian McShane) and his trusty concierge (Lance Reddick). That place provided many highlights in the first two pictures, but our man branches out here. After an excursion to Rome in #2, Wick’s passport gets him to Casablanca here. That’s where he teams with Berry and does a Clark Griswold style desert journey that does give him a respite from the cool looking rain.

Calling the shots is the Adjudicator (an effective Asia Kate Dillon). She’s in charge of punishing the folks who’ve helped Wick out in the past. This includes Winston and the returning Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, still having a ball). Our head henchman who wants the collect the Wick murder money is Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his character is quite fun. He may have a task to complete, but he’s also a total fanboy of the legend he’s hunting. Their interplay is an added bonus.

Parabellum is ultimately about how well the action scenes work. Director Chad Stahelski and Reeves once again dig deep into their bag of martial arts inspired tricks. And a decent sized portion of the fight sequences are downright thrilling. Perhaps this series will eventually run of gas and the choreography of Reeves in sadistic motion delivering headshots won’t be as satisfying. Not yet.

*** (out of four)

Hobbs & Shaw Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/31): My estimate has dropped from $82.6 million to $72.6 million

Two of the most popular characters from the venerable Fast and Furious franchise get their  own spin-off (the first of the long running series) with Hobbs & Shaw next weekend. The action extravaganza comes with a reported $200 million budget and is headlined by the title characters respectively portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. David Leitch (co-director of John Wick and sole director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) is behind the camera. Costars include Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren (reprising her maternal role from 2017’s last entry The Fate of the Furious).

Despite the absence of Vin Diesel and other actors associated with the franchise that started 18 years ago, Hobbs & Shaw is likely to perform similarly to other pics in the canon. The largest opening was accomplished in 2015 with Furious 7 with a gross of $147 million. Tragically, part of the reason its start was significantly more than the others was due to the untimely death of Paul Walker and that picture representing his swan song. Follow-up Fate of the Furious two years later landed the second highest start of the eight features at $98 million.

This might fall a bit under those gaudy numbers and I think low to mid 80s is most feasible. That would put it in line or a just bit below the $86 million accomplished by Fast Five in 2011.

Hobbs & Shaw opening weekend prediction: $72.6 million

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (05/15): My estimate has risen from $37.8 million to $45.8 million

Keanu Reeves is back in theaters next weekend as America’s favorite dog loving hitman when John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum debuts. The action thriller hopes to build upon the momentum of 2017’s highly successful sequel. Chad Stahelski returns as director with familiar series faces including Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, and John Leguizamo. New stars in our third edition include Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, and Anjelica Huston.

Mr. Reeves found himself in an unexpected new franchise five years ago when John Wick opened to $14 million with a $43 million overall domestic gross. While that might not seem like enough to automatically warrant a follow-up, the pic achieved critical kudos and cult status when it arrived on demand. Three years later, Chapter 2 made $30 million for its start and $92 million total.

Parabellum has a solid shot at topping the opening weekend of its predecessor, which also garnered glowing reviews. I’ll say mid to high 30s is where this ends up.

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum opening weekend prediction: $45.8 million

For my A Dog’s Journey prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/10/a-dogs-journey-box-office-prediction/

For my The Sun Is Also a Star prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/10/the-sun-is-also-a-star-box-office-prediction/