Confess, Fletch Review

It’s often the company our title character keeps in Confess, Fletch that determines the success rate. Jon Hamm effortlessly wears the role of a former journalist who is forced to solve a murder. The urgency is due to I.M. Fletcher finding a female corpse in the house he’s staying at in the first scene. He calls the police station instead of 911 after the discovery. Why? The emergency part is over, according to him. His ambivalence results in humorous moments throughout. It also leads to him becoming the prime suspect.

Greg Mottola has directed comedies that killed like Superbad and Adventureland. He’s also behind the dud Keeping Up with Joneses, which costarred Hamm. This reboot of a franchise that yielded one of Chevy Chase’s finest pics in 1985 and a disappointing 1989 sequel is somewhere in between. When it’s funny, it’s quite funny. There’s also the matter of the mystery itself and it’s not very compelling.

Before Chevy made the often disguised wisecracker into his own vehicle, the character was based on a series of Greg Mcdonald novels. Confess, Fletch is based on his second book. It involves kidnappings and art thievery that our former “investigative reporter of some repute” (as he refers to himself) gets caught up in due to his romance with wealthy Italian contessa Angela (Lorenza Izzo).

Fletch may be the prime suspect to law enforcement, played memorably by partners Inspector Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri). He nonchalantly scopes out others. This includes Angela’s potentially gold digging stepmom The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden) and perhaps Angela herself. The Countess is an example of a character played quite broadly and while Harden seems to be having a ball, there’s other personalities that the movie could’ve benefited from with more screen time. I’m thinking specifically of Annie Mumolo’s gossipy next door neighbor and Lucy Punch as a jilted ex-wife of another suspect. I would’ve taken more bits with them over The Countess or Kyle MacLachlan’s EDM loving art dealer.

Just like Hamm’s take on the reputed reporter, it’s easy to go along for the ride. It was also easy to wish for more of what worked best. Ultimately I was about as involved in the plot mechanisms as Fletch himself and that’s sporadic.

**1/2 (out of four)

Top Gun: Maverick Review

Sun drenched SoCal nostalgia permeates every land, air, and beach surface of Top Gun: Maverick and it’s a pleasure to bask in the glow. Many a franchise lately has attempted to tap into our sentimentality and many have failed. 36 years after the original, Maverick elevates what preceded it while making us misty about those very events from the mid 80s. Perhaps most thrilling is watching a movie star firmly in control of what’s made him a headliner for five decades.

Captain Pete Mitchell aka Maverick (Tom Cruise) has refused upward promotion in the Navy while spending the bulk of his working hours skyward as a test pilot. The romance that took his breath away with Kelly McGillis is seemingly long dormant. His friendship with Iceman (Val Kilmer), now a decorated Admiral, saves his tail after a work mishap. Instead of washing out, he’s sent back to San Diego as a TOPGUN teacher. Against the wishes of a Vice Admiral who goes by Cyclone (Jon Hamm), Maverick is tasked with instructing a new generation of pilots.

Their mission (and they’re forced to accept it) is to destroy an unnamed enemy nation’s uranium enrichment plant. It is (ahem) a potentially impossible mission and Maverick’s tutelage is complicated by one of the students. Rooster (Miles Teller) is the son of the late Goose (Anthony Edwards) from the original. You may recall that he perished in the arms of the leading man and therefore eliminated his ability to talk to anyone except for metaphorically.

While the dynamic between the teacher and his pupil is the pic’s emotional through line, there’s subplots aplenty. This includes Maverick’s courtship of Penny (Jennifer Connelly), who checks the boxes of being an ex-flame, single mother, and bar owner where standards from the 1960s can be drunkenly belted out. We also get a truly emotional sequence with Cruise and Kilmer made more touching by the latter’s real world health challenges. And, of course, there’s a whole new crop of pilots. Most memorable, by far, is the cocky Hangman (Glen Powell). You’ll leave the theater convinced Powell is going to become a major headliner himself.

Then there’s the fact that technology has soared by leaps and bounds since the first one. To put it simply – the aerial battles in the third act are awesome and I would suggest an IMAX venue to take it in. As mentioned, many fan service attempts in recent times have been serviceable at best or less. Top Gun: Maverick, with its megawatt star, is more than that. It earns its stripes.

***1/2 (out of four)

Top Gun: Maverick Box Office Prediction

***And a final update for Top Gun: Maverick as my prediction rises again to $113.4 million for the three-day and $138 million for the four-day. That it gives it the #2 all-time Memorial Day for both frames.

***Blogger’s Update (05/25): Significantly up-ticking my estimate once again. Now projecting a three-day of $103.7M (good for second biggest Memorial Day Friday to Sunday) and $124.4M for the four-day (third largest all-time). Sky is increasing the limit…

**Blogger’s Update (05/24): Estimate updated from a three and four-day projection, respectively, of $75.6M and $98.8M to $86.6M and $104.9M. That now gives Maverick the #7 largest Memorial Day weekend three-day and #6 four-day

It could be a record breaking memorable weekend for Tom Cruise as Top Gun: Maverick finally lands in theaters. The long gestating sequel arrives 36 years after the original made Cruise a superstar. The wait was only supposed to be 33-34 years, but production delays and COVID postponements altered the plan.

Joseph Kosinki, who previously directed the lead in 2013’s Oblivion, directs. Costars include Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Ed Harris, Monica Barbaro, and Val Kilmer reprising his role as Iceman. Critics have certainly indicated this is worth the wait. Budgeted at a reported $150 million, reviews are impressive with a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. There’s even Oscar buzz as it will surely be a contender in Sound and Song (with Lady Gaga crooning “Hold My Hand”).

Paramount is hopeful that Maverick will take the breath and money away from moviegoers over the Memorial Day frame. The loud buzz generated by critics should make this soar even higher than previously anticipated.

In doing so, we could see Tom cruise to a personal best opening. Somewhat surprisingly, his all-time largest opening is War of the Worlds at $64 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday period. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the last flick to feature Cruise four years ago) is close behind at $61 million.

Maverick will, of course, have a four-day tally. That’s familiar territory for Cruise as the first three Mission: Impossible tales premiered over Memorial Day with the second one doing $70 million from Friday to Monday. However, it opened on the Wednesday before to bring its gross to $91 million.

First things first. I do believe Tom’s latest sequel will achieve his highest three day take ever. I also suspect there will be some projections for Maverick that will be too high. A four-day take of over $100 million is absolutely doable (and my prediction could rise in the coming days), but I’m skeptical. That’s uncharted territory for Mr. Cruise. A Friday to Sunday haul in the mid 70s seems likelier. If that happens, it should achieve mid 90s for the whole frame. That would give it the ninth best Memorial 3 day start – in between Solo: A Star Wars Story ($84 million) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($72 million). It would rise a spot to 8th for the four-day between the same two features at $103 million and $90 million, respectively. And that would be a memorable start indeed.

Top Gun: Maverick opening weekend prediction: $113.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $138 million (Friday to Monday)

For my The Bob’s Burgers Movie, click here:

The Bob’s Burgers Movie Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to arrive a mere 34 years after its iconic predecessor. Due to numerous COVID delays, it now hits theaters on May 27th and some 36 years behind the original. By nearly all accounts, Tom Cruise and the filmmakers have landed the plane.

Ahead of its Cannes premiere, the review embargo has lapsed for Maverick and the Rotten Tomatoes score is a sizzling 96%. Nearly all critics are calling it an improvement over the ’86 blockbuster and it could be in line to give Cruise his largest opening and overall hit of his career (my box office prediction will arrive next week).

Three and a half decades back, part one caught the attention of Academy voters in four categories. The Berlin theme “Take My Breath Away” won Best Song and Gun nabbed nods for Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. All those races are in play again in one form or another.

Best Sound has been condensed to one category and it’s a near lock that the sequel will play there. Film Editing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects are also possibilities. Then there’s the sound of Lady Gaga’s voice. The superstar contributed the track “Hold My Hand” and it could be hard to beat. Ms. Gaga is poised for her third Song nomination behind 2015’s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground and “Shallow” from A Star Is Born (which won). She also shares Score credit with Hans Zimmer (who just won a trophy for Dune) and Harold Faltermeyer (best known for his Beverly Hills Cop tune “Axel F”).

Let’s assume Sound and Song are gimmes. With the aforementioned others, we could be looking at a handful of mentions. Will the Academy go beyond the tech derbies? It looks like Maverick will be a gigantic earner and crowdpleaser. I have no doubt there will be a push from Paramount for Best Picture recognition and Cruise in Best Actor. If so, it would be his fourth acting nod. There were two in lead for 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July and 1996’s Jerry Maguire and a supporting mention for 1999’s Magnolia. He’s never made a victorious trip to the podium.

I’m skeptical about it playing in the major leagues, but wins in Sound and Song are doable. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: No Sudden Move

The wildly eclectic filmography of Steven Soderbergh peaked with awards voters in 2000 when two of his pictures (Erin Brockovich and Traffic) represented 40% of that year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees. While Gladiator took the big prize, Soderbergh took gold for his direction of the latter. Half of the 2000 acting contenders came from his work with Julia Roberts as Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro in Supporting Actor with Traffic.

Since then, the Academy has failed to nominate any of Soderbergh’s many efforts that followed. This weekend, No Sudden Move premiered on HBO Max. The 1950s crime thriller, in addition to costarring del Toro, features a large cast including Don Cheadle, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Julia Fox, Ray Liotta, and Bill Duke.

Reviews are solid as this sits at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet this appears to be another genre flick that is unlikely to make an impression with the Academy. Bottom line: it’s been over two decades since Soderbergh was in the Oscar mix and don’t look for Move to suddenly change that. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Wild Mountain Thyme

Despite a number of critically praised lead and supporting roles, Emily Blunt has yet to break through with Oscar voters. That certainly makes her one of the most high profile actresses yet to get a nomination. Other awards shows and critics groups (including SAG and the Globes) have feted her in pics including The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario, Into the Woods, The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place, and Mary Poppins Returns.

Her time probably isn’t far off, but it doesn’t sound as if she’ll get there with Wild Mountain Thyme. The romcom set in Ireland is slated for release this weekend. It comes from director John Patrick Shanley (adapting his own play) and he was on the radar screen of the Academy over three decades ago with Moonstruck, in which he won Best Original Screenplay. Costars here include Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, and Christopher Walken.

The reviews out today are on the negative side and it currently sports just a 33% Rotten Tomatoes score. Simply put, any Oscar attention is highly unlikely to materialize. On the other hand, the Hollywood Foreign Press has nominated Blunt six times. If distributor Bleecker Street mounts a spirited campaign for her in the Musical/Comedy category, I wouldn’t count her out for inclusion. The Academy is a totally different story. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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…