Chappaquiddick Movie Review

“We tell the truth. Or at least our version of it.”

This is perhaps the central line uttered by Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick. It recalls the events that took place in the summer of 1969 that resulted in the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) with the Senator at the wheel. This is a tale of power potentially interrupted as Ted is the last living brother of America’s royal family. Unfolding just months after Bobby’s assassination during his Presidential campaign, the youngest Kennedy is seen as a contender for the highest office in the land in 1972.

His brother’s death indirectly leads to the film’s events as Ted organizes a reunion of the “Boiler Room Girls”, a group of female staffers that worked on Bobby’s bid for the White House. New Jersey native Mary Jo is one of them and her fateful car ride with Ted becomes the subject of endless speculation on the same weekend where Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. The accident isn’t reported by the world-famous driver until eight hours following its occurrence. The screenplay from Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan hypothesizes that Kennedy’s truth about it is indeed his own, with details like alcohol consumption conveniently omitted and a concussion and needless neck brace advantageously added.

The deception extends to patriarch Joseph Kennedy Sr. (Bruce Dern). He can’t speak due to a debilitating stroke, but he can still mobilize a crisis control team at short notice. This includes former Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara (Clancy Brown) and family speechwriter Ted Sorensen (Taylor Nichols). The conscience of the piece is Kennedy cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), who accompanies Ted and Massachusetts District Attorney friend Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to rescue the deceased passenger when it’s far too late. Gargan is a member of the Kennedy clan, though he doesn’t fully recognize the extent they will go to in protecting their brand.

Any movie recounting the days of Chappaquiddick and its aftermath will be looked at through a political lens. Ardent supporters of its central character will likely take issue with some theories put forth here, including Ted’s original thought to claim Mary Jo was driving. So while the leanings of some viewers could be tainted by that, Chappaquiddick is primarily a procedural about a tragedy caused by someone with extraordinary influence. When Kennedy goes to the small island’s office of the police chief to give a hastily written statement, he immediately enters and sits behind the chief’s desk in his chair. It’s a minor detail, but not an insignificant one in showing the power structure involved here.

Chappaquiddick doesn’t shed much unique light on the well-researched event, but it’s held together by a strong performance from Clarke. His Ted is one in constant conflict and not just with the details of the drowning. He is a man of apparent destiny whether he wants it or not or whether his father even believes he deserves it. A sharp turn derails those ambitions to a certain degree. In this version of it, the filmmakers don’t let Kennedy off the hook.

*** (out of four)

Chappaquiddick Box Office Prediction

Arriving in theaters a little later than anticipated, historical drama Chappaquiddick debuts next weekend. Directed by John Curran, the film recounts the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted Kennedy’s role in it. Jason Clarke plays Kennedy with Kate Mara as Kopechne. Supporting players include Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffigan, Taylor Nichols, and Clancy Brown.

The pic receives its first screening last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. Reviews were mostly positive and it stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, reaction was muted enough that Entertainment Studios moved it from its December 2017 awards qualifying run to this April roll out.

Chappaquiddick likely faces a tough road ahead. Premiering on approximately 1500 screens, its only real hope to appeal to older moviegoers who recall the events from nearly a half century ago. I’ll project that only gets this to $2-$3 million.

Chappaquiddick opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

For my A Quiet Place prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/27/a-quiet-place-box-office-prediction/

For my Blockers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/28/blockers-box-office-prediction/

For my A Miracle Season prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/30/the-miracle-season-box-office-prediction/

Megan Leavey Box Office Prediction

This weekend sees the release of Megan Leavey, a tale of a real life wondrous woman. It stars Kate Mara in the title role of a US Marine corporal and her combat dog Rex. The Bleecker Street production costars Edie Falco, Common, Tom Felton, and Bradley Whitford.

It’s not easy to bet against a picture with military themes that could also appeal to dog lovers, but Leavey seems to be flying under the radar. Female audiences could also still be distracted by the sophomore frame of Wonder Woman. I’ve yet to see a theater count at press time and that could alter my estimate. For now, I’ll say it falls below $4 million for a muted debut.

Megan Leavey opening weekend prediction: $3.3 million

For my The Mummy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/06/01/the-mummy-box-office-prediction/

For my It Comes at Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/06/02/it-comes-at-night-box-office-prediction/

Morgan Box Office Prediction

The science fiction thriller Morgan hits theaters over Labor Day weekend. Directed by Luke Scott – scion of Ridley (you know, the guy who made Alien and Blade Runner) – the pic centers on a young girl who’s developed in a lab and obtains super human qualities. When she starts to cause trouble, all sorts of “stranger things” (so to speak) begin happening.

Ridley executive produces his son’s first feature and the cast features Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. This is unlikely to make an impression with audiences like the aforementioned classics of the elder Scott’s resume.

Morgan is debuting on the holiday weekend least known for producing hits. This is a historically slow time at the box office where newbies often struggle to achieve anything above low double digits. I believe that will hold true here with a four-day haul reaching just that.

Morgan opening weekend prediction: $9 million (Friday to Sunday), $10.6 million (Friday to Monday)

For my The Light Between Oceans prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/24/the-light-between-oceans-box-office-prediction/

The Martian Movie Review

Matt Damon waits for one of the longest rides home in film history during Ridley Scott’s The Martian, both a love letter to the space program and the power of science and positive thinking. When we think of director Scott’s contributions to the science fiction genre, we normally think brilliantly grim (Alien, Blade Runner). More recently – mixed bag grim (Prometheus). Not the case here. The Martian is infused with laughter and an often amusing star turn role by its anchor.

We open in 2035 with Damon’s astronaut Mark part of a manned mission to the Red Planet along with colleagues that include the Commander (Jessica Chastain), Kate Mara, and Michael Pena. A massive dust storm wreaks havoc and leaves the crew believing Mark has perished and they are forced to leave the planet without his body. Of course he has survived and so begins Mark’s new solo mission: learning how to survive as the only inhabitant on a planet with little food or other necessities on his left behind vessel. Lucky for him, he’s a brilliant botanist who comes up with clever (sometimes disgusting) ways to harvest food.

NASA soon learns that Mark is alive and this sets off a furious effort to pick him up. This is no easy task to say the least and it involves the question of whether to inform his crew (on their way back to Earth) of his survival. There’s delicate involvement with the Chinese space program. Kristin Wiig (in a small but fascinating role) plays NASA’s media consultant, who must navigate the organization’s own land mines. And there’s the head of NASA, played winningly and by Jeff Daniels. Other familiar faces turning up as government scientists include Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean.

While Mark’s situation seems dire, he handles his circumstances with an often lighthearted touch (and occasional profanity laced tirade to his bosses). The Martian goes out of its way to explain the science behind rescuing our protagonist and it’s fascinating enough that it makes you ponder whether younger viewers may reconsider career choices. In short, it makes science look awfully cool and important.

Damon has shown real comedic talent before (see Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!) and he excels at it here, along with his more known ability at drama. Even with the welcome humor, this is by no means a straight up comedy (memo to the Golden Globes).

As Mark is a shining example of optimism under pressure, Jeff Daniels’ NASA chief is an example of calm under pressure. His performance is an example of strength and understatement. Damon may own this show, but Daniels earns marks for most interesting supporting player.

The visual look from Scott is the beautiful kind of feast we would anticipate from this visual auteur. Drew Goddard’s screenplay, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, keeps things moving along with quirky touches that include a disco heavy soundtrack. It is only in the final stretches of The Martian that we see how the world is captivated by Mark’s long hoped for journey back home. It’s not really a necessity to see it because we just assume. We are entertainingly captivated, too, with lots of smiles along the way.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Martian Box Office Prediction

Director Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about making science fiction movies and this Friday, The Martian is his latest. The lost in space pic is riding a wave of solid buzz (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and its all star cast includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

With a reported $108 million budget, 20th Century Fox is hoping for robust results. It should have no issue opening atop the charts, but how high it goes is an open question. For comparison sake, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity debuted to $55 million on the same weekend two years ago. Last year’s similarly themed Interstellar took in $47 million out of the gate. Scott’s last sci fi effort Prometheus made $51 million in the summer of 2012 for its start. Damon’s previous genre pic Elysium premiered to $29 million in August 2013.

That’s a rather wide range of grosses for The Martian to open in. I’m skeptical that it tops $50 million, though its positive reviews don’t hurt. I also don’t believe it’ll gross as low as Elysium did as that film’s buzz was far less solid. Add it all up and I believe the most probable scenario is a premier in the high 30s to low 40s.

The Martian opening weekend prediction: $40.3 million

For my Sicario prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/27/sicario-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Martian

Ridley Scott’s sci fi pic The Martian premiered at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend prior to its October 2 domestic release and the results are quite promising. With an all star cast including Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Martian has struck the fancy of critics to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

How will this translate to Oscar attention? Hard to say. Reviews have noted that this is a crowd pleaser and the more box office success it achieves, the better that bodes for a Best Picture nod. I’d still say it’s likely on the outside looking in, but that could certainly change if some future autumn releases don’t meet expectations. I could actually envision a somewhat long shot scenario of Scott receiving a directing nomination with the film itself left out.

As for actors, Damon has gotten strong notices and could find himself in contention, though I wouldn’t include him yet. Chastain has been singled out as well, but competition in Supporting Actress could leave her out. The Martian’s greatest chance at Academy focus is probably tech races like Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound categories. As far as the bigger ticket races, Toronto did prove that this is something worth keeping in mind as the months roll on.

Captive Box Office Prediction

This coming Friday, the true life hostage drama Captive enters theaters on a reported screen count of a relatively low 800. The film stars David Oyelowo and Kate Mara (fresh off summer flop Fantastic Four). Captive is centered on the 2005 Atlanta case of Brian Nichols (Oyelowo) and his kidnapping of a young woman (Mara).

I suspect that adult moviegoers will be far more preoccupied with Johnny Depp’s Black Mass for this to gain any momentum at the box office. The low theater count doesn’t bode well either.

As I see it, Captive is likely to struggle to even reach $5 million and might fail to reach half that number. It should be available for VOD viewing in no time.

Captive opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

For my Black Mass prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/10/black-mass-box-office-prediction/

For my Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/10/maze-runner-the-scorch-trials-box-office-prediction/

Fantastic Four Box Office Prediction

Chronicle director Josh Trank spearheads 20th Century Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise, some eight years after the last entry in the series. The big question is: how much of a clamoring is there for these heroes return to the silver screen?

Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell headline the cast in this reported $122 million tentpole that marks the third and final superhero flick of the summer, after Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Fantastic Four has no hope of reaching Ultron numbers and may be lucky to even be in Ant-Man’s territory.

2005’s original Fantastic Four debuted to $56 million on its way to a $154 million domestic gross while its 2007 sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer opened slightly higher with $58 million. The follow-up did end up earning less overall with $134 million. Both premieres are right in line with Ant-Man’s $57 million first take some three weeks ago.

While any major league comic book film should have no problem making over $40 million out of the gate, this one’s ceiling may not be significantly higher. I’m not convinced audiences are overly eager for this series to come back and early word of mouth has been mixed, at best. I don’t see this making what Ant-Man or the first two Four pics made and a debut in the high 40s seems likely.

Fantastic Four opening weekend prediction: $47.7 million

For my prediction on The Gift, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/07/31/the-gift-box-office-prediction/

For my Ricki and the Flash prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/07/31/ricki-and-the-flash-box-office-prediction/

For my Shaun the Sheep Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/08/01/shaun-the-sheep-movie-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s 15 Most Anticipated 2015 Summer Movies: Nos. 15-11

In less than one month, the Summer 2015 Movie Season will be upon us! That means studios will be bringing out their big wannabe blockbusters with sequels, reboots, animated tales, comic book heroes, and a surprisingly robust group of potentially intriguing comedies.

Therefore, I am bringing you my personal 15 most anticipated summer movies for the year. Let me talk briefly about some pictures that didn’t quite make the cut. I left off animated fare such as Pixar’s Inside Out and Despicable Me spin-off Minions. Same goes for Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL and the film version of HBO’s Entourage. And then there’s a film I figured would make the cut: Terminator: Genisys that marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to his iconic role after 12 years. Why? Quite frankly, I wasn’t crazy about the trailer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still highly curious to watch it.

I will be breaking up my list in three installments and we begin this evening with numbers 15-11. Subsequent posts covering the top ten will arrive Friday and Saturday.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

15. Spy

Release Date: June 5

Originally, I probably wouldn’t have figured Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy would make the cut. That’s until reviews from screenings at South by Southwest came out and they indicate this is the star’s best feature so far. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Feig, director of McCarthy’s Bridesmaids and The Heat is behind the camera. Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham co-star.

14. Masterminds

Release Date: August 14

From the director of Napoleon Dynamite comes this heist comedy with a killer cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis. The trailer inspires hope.

13. Vacation

Release Date: July 31

Yes, they’re rebooting the Vacation franchise with Ed Helms and Leslie Mann as grown-up Rusty and Audrey and Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back as Clark and Ellen. Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlie Day round out the cast. Here’s to hoping this is more like the original and Christmas Vacation than Vegas Vacation. No trailer has been released at press time.

12. Southpaw

Release Date: July 24

Jake Gyllenhall has been on a roll lately choosing his projects, including last year’s terrific Nightcrawler. This sports drama sees him playing a boxer with serious family issues. It also sees him heavily bulked up in a pic that could get awards attention, like 2010’s The Fighter. Antoine Fuqua directs (he made Training Day and The Equalizer) and Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker co-star.

11. Fantastic Four

Released Date: August 7

The first two installments of the famed Marvel comic books (the ones with Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis) were decent size hits, however critics didn’t approve. This reboot comes from Chronicle director Josh Trank with a cast that includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan and it will attempt to begin the franchise anew.

And that’s all for now! Numbers 10-6 coming at you tomorrow…