Richard Jewell Movie Review

Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell continues his late career spate of no-frills dramas focused on recent events. This is a mostly successful and effective one which recounts the title character’s accusations of being responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park Bombing in Atlanta. Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray spare no anger (sometimes subtle, sometimes above the surface) at the U.S. Government and the media for their contribution to his suffering. That is where Jewell has generated some controversy due its depiction of one reporter played by Olivia Wilde. Some of that material is indeed problematic, but the film overall is buoyed by a trio of terrific performances.

One of them is Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell. Working as a low-level security guard with deep reverence for law enforcement (he longs to be in that club), Jewell works the event that results in pipe bombs being detonated and he saves lives by discovering the knapsack that the devices are kept in. However, he also becomes the tragedy’s prime suspect. His two biggest investigators depicted here are Jon Hamm’s FBI agent and Wilde’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter. Richard’s support system include his lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) and his beloved mama Bobi (Kathy Bates).

Jewell’s credit as a hero is short-lived as the government and media hone in on him as the potential bomber. Hauser’s performance (he’s been memorable in smaller roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) is first-rate as he captures Jewell’s vulnerability and unwillingness to fight the system until it’s almost too late. Credit also goes to Rockwell and Bates. The scenes between this trio give the picture its greatest dramatic heft.

As mentioned, the treatment of Wilde and the FBI as a whole is a bit more complicated. Their story here has been called more fictionalized than the reality. I can only say that Wilde’s reporter in particular is written as more of a caricature. Yet the unfair treatment of Jewell is one that resonates with Hauser’s superb work assisting in a major way.

*** (out of four)

Richard Jewell Box Office Prediction

Clint Eastwood continues to churn out film after film and his latest, Richard Jewell, keeps with his recent theme of fact based dramas recounting events of the past quarter century. Paul Walter Hauser (memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) stars in the title role of the security guard falsely accused of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Costars include Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde.

Jewell looks to bring in an adult audience amidst Christmas fare geared towards family crowds. With Eastwood at the helm, it could succeed. The director’s previous work, The Mule, debuted over the same mid December weekend last year to $17.5 million. Critics are mostly on his side here with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 88% and some awards chatter.

That said, I don’t believe Jewell will nab Mule numbers right away (it helped that Eastwood starred in the latter). This will hope to leg out as many grownup dramas do over subsequent holiday weekends. For its start, I believe low double digits to possibly low teens sounds about right.

Richard Jewell opening weekend prediction: $11 million

For my Jumanji: The Next Level prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/04/jumanji-the-next-level-box-office-prediction/

For my Black Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/05/black-christmas-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Richard Jewell

Few directors have made two Best Picture Oscar winners, but Clint Eastwood did that with 1992’s Unforgiven and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. The latter came along late in the year and shifted the conversation 15 years ago. So anytime Mr. Eastwood screens a potential contender in time for Academy consideration, it’s time to take notice. The AFI Film Festival premiered Richard Jewell last night and the biographical drama centers on the title character who was falsely accused of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

So what’s the verdict? Jewell is sporting an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far, but critical reaction brings a question mark as to its viability. While some reviews indicate it could very well contend, others are a little more mixed.

Eastwood filmed his last nominee five years back with the massive hit American Sniper. Since then, his filmography of Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, and The Mule has garnered scant awards attention (save for a Sound Editing nod for Sully).

Chatter has focused on three performances. Paul Walter Hauser, memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman, is garnering raves. Yet Best Actor is fiercely competitive in 2019. In my weekly predictions, he hasn’t been in the top ten as I’ve waited for reaction to come. I honestly feel all ten of my current possibilities could get in. Hauser will really need to gather momentum for any shot. It’s doable, but I feel it would be more doable in a different year.

The same can be said for Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s lawyer. Two years ago, the actor won Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Last year, he was nominated again as George W. Bush in Vice. It would be a quite a story for him to get nods three years in a row. Like Hauser’s category, Supporting Actor is also chock full of contenders. I’m a bit skeptical he makes it as he might also split his own votes for his work in Jojo Rabbit. 

It could be Kathy Bates that manages to get in playing Jewell’s mother. That’s because Supporting Actress is not quite as packed as the races of her costars. Nearly three decades have passed since she won Best Actress for Misery. Bates has received two Supporting Actress recognitions since in 1998’s Primary Colors and 2002’s About Schmidt. 

So… how about the film itself and Eastwood? It’s certainly feasible that it nabs a Picture nomination, but it’s definitely an on the bubble candidate. Due to that, I’m not sure Eastwood can make the final five. He’ll just have to rest on his already considerable mantelpiece.

Bottom line: Richard Jewell put itself in the mix at AFI, but there’s also a chance it comes up empty handed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Jewell Enters The Oscar Fray

Clint Eastwood works quickly and it’s become an almost common occurrence that his efforts pop up early in the fall for a late year release. That’s precisely what happened today with Richard Jewell, the filmmaker’s chronicle of the man falsely accused in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

The movie is set for a December 13 release. Anytime Eastwood has something out at this time of year, you can bet awards pundits will take notice. A project long in development, Jewell was originally set to star Jonah Hill as the title character and Leonardo DiCaprio as the lawyer defending him (they still serve as producers). Now it’s Paul Walter Hauser (memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) and Sam Rockwell headlining with Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Hamm included among the cast.

For now, it’s uncertain which races Hauser and Rockwell will be campaigned for. Both are likely to be included as possibilities in my weekly predictions next week (and probably Bates in Supporting Actress).

Eastwood has a mixed record with these “surprise” Christmastime outings. Fifteen years ago, Million Dollar Baby came out of nowhere to win Picture, Director, Actress (Hilary Swank), and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). Yet just last year, The Mule failed to gain any traction with voters. Bottom line: we shall see how it plays out, but Clint and company are at least back in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Lucy in the Sky

Natalie Portman is an astronaut who seems to lose touch with reality when she becomes Earthbound again in Lucy in the Sky, which has screened at the Toronto Film Festival. And while many critics are praising her performance, their reception to the picture itself is having a problem.

Noah Hawley, who created the acclaimed TV adaptation of Fargo, makes his directorial debut with a supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, and Ellen Burstyn (who reportedly gets to spout some salty dialogue). As mentioned, Lucy did not fly in its rollout and it sits at just 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Portman is an Oscar winner from 2010’s Black Swan in addition to two other nods for Closer and Jackie. With tepid reaction to her latest, expect her nominations number to stay put at three. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Report

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this weekend and feature films and documentaries are premiering that could factor into the Oscar race a year from now. One such effort is The Report, a true life political drama from director Scott Z. Burns. He’s best known as a screenwriter as he penned The Bourne Ultimatum and Steven Soderbergh’s pics The Informant!, Contagion, and Side Effects.

Adam Driver (currently nominated in Supporting Actor for BlacKkKlansman) stars as a Senate staffer investigating the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Annette Bening plays one of his superiors, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Others in the cast include Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Maura Tierney, Ted Levine, and Corey Stoll.

Early reviews are positive and suggest it’s a throwback to 1970s movies with a message. Driver and Bening are both enjoying kudos for their work. What’s currently unknown is whether this will register with audiences. Political works based on real and touchy events can often have a difficult time at the box office.

If The Report manages to become as high-profile as its subject matter, it might be worth keeping an eye on for awards consideration, especially for Driver and Bening. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Bad Times at the El Royale Box Office Prediction

Director Drew Goddard follows up his cult hit The Cabin in the Woods next weekend with the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. Set at a novelty hotel in the late 1960s that occupies space in California and Nevada, the cast includes Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Cailee Spaeny, and Chris Hemsworth.

Early reviews for Royale have been mostly positive and it currently occupies a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Box office estimates I’ve seen have a wide range from low double digits to high ones.

While this is a project that cinephiles are excited for, I question whether this can break out with a mainstream audience. For starters, there’s competition in the form of the second weekend of Venom and A Star Is Born and the debut of First Man. Trailers and TV spots are a little murky as to what this is actually about. While there’s plenty of famous faces in the cast, I’m not sure any of them will help much in filling seats (even Thor himself).

Taking all that into account, I believe El Royale will premiere on the low-end of expectations and may even struggle to reach double digits.

Bad Times at the El Royale opening weekend prediction: $8 million

For my First Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/02/first-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/03/goosebumps-2-haunted-halloween/

Tag Box Office Prediction

Improbably based on a true story, the comedy Tag hits theaters next weekend. Based on a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the film focuses on a group of pals who engage in a long-term version of the kids game. Stars include Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brian Dennehy, and Lil Rel Howery. It marks the directorial debut of Jeff Tomsic.

The ads hype the “actually based on real stuff” angle, but I felt the trailer could’ve been a bit stronger. I’m not confident this holds any significant breakout potential. The Warner Bros release would likely love the achieve the $17 million debut of this spring’s Game Night and that might be the generous ceiling here. I’d say even with the cast of familiar faces, it doesn’t have the relative star power or laugh out loud promo materials. And I wouldn’t count Renner as this isn’t the genre he’s known for… see The House from a year ago.

Outside of the Hangover franchise, Helms has had a rough road recently as Father Figures was a dud and even his Vacation reboot fell a bit shy of $60 million three summers back. I’ll project this reaches low double digits to mid teens for a so-so showing. As we await the blockbuster comedic pic of this season, I have a hunch Tag is not it.

Tag opening weekend prediction: $13.4 million

For my Incredibles 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/05/incredibles-2-box-office-prediction/

For my Superfly prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/07/superfly-box-office-prediction/

Baby Driver Movie Review

In his filmography which includes Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright has shown a flair for infusing a vast music catalogue to mix with inventive action. It’s on display at the highest gear in Baby Driver. Only Quentin Tarantino rivals and probably tops this director at it. For the majority of its running time, Driver merrily coasts in its own reality (like Quentin’s projects do) and it’s often a thrill.

Despite sounding like a Dreamworks animated project where a precocious infant gets an Uber license, the title refers to Ansel Elgort’s name and profession. His job is to ferry bank robbers around and make grand escapes upon completion. This is done at the direction of criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey, oozing sarcasm and smarminess as only he can do). Baby is rarely disconnected from his ear buds. A childhood tragedy that took the life of his musician mom has left him with tinnitus or a “hum in the drum” as Doc calls it. This means he is constantly blaring a seriously cool playlist that permeates the car chases that are his occupational hazard.

It turns out Baby is not involved in his line of work on a voluntary basis. He’s ready to move on, especially after meeting lovely waitress Debora (Lily James) who’s ready to ride off into the sunset with him. Yet there’s always that last job and it involves working with thieves Bats (Jamie Foxx, who’s having a grand time) and hot and heavy and psychotic couple Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). Baby has a moral compass when it comes to his work. His coworkers don’t always share that view.

Baby Driver takes little time getting the audience accustomed to its style. Between the chases (of which are expertly handled), we get plenty of tuneful fun. Some of the tracks are meant to get Baby motivated to do his assignments. Others are meant to further the courtship of him and Debora. Elgort and James have a winning chemistry here. You want them to hit that open road into happily ever after.

Only in the last few minutes does Driver somewhat stall when it becomes less enamored with its own hyper universe and becomes a more traditional action thriller. Thankfully there’s plenty of joyful noise that precedes it.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Baby Driver

Over this holiday weekend, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has become quite the little engine that could box office success story. The critically lauded mash-up action thriller musical comedy has taken in $30 million since its Wednesday debut, standing out as original programming in a season filled with sequels and reboots.

So the question is: could Oscar notice? While Driver is not normally the type of flick that Academy voters celebrate, there is bound to be a significant contingent of admirers that will push for its inclusion in Best Picture and Director.

It probably won’t happen, but it’s feasible. I’ll also throw out the possibility that it could contend in both Sound races: Mixing and Editing, as well as maybe Editing itself. Of course, the sound races will likely feature heavyweights such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Greatest Showman, Transformers: The Last Knight, Blade Runner 2049 and others. However, much of Driver’s praise has focused on its pulsating soundtrack throughout.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…