Oscar Watch: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

The fact that acclaimed filmmaker Richard Linklater’s latest effort lifted its review embargo one day before release could be seen as a red flag. Considering his previous pic Last Flag Flying didn’t particularly connect with critics or audiences might have been seen as a harbinger of things to come for Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Reaction out today confirms the suspicions. The Cate Blanchett led mystery comedy, based on Maria Semple’s 2012 bestseller, holds just a 35% Rotten Tomatoes score at press time. Five years after Linklater’s Boyhood won and was nominated for multiple Oscars, it appears this will be quickly forgotten in the slow August frame.

Blanchett has managed some praise for her work. It’s been 15 years since she won Supporting Actress for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and 6 years since she took gold for her leading role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. She’s been nominated five other times.

I wouldn’t anticipate this will be #8. And overall – If Oscar watchers are looking for Bernadette come nominations time, they’ll be left wondering where it went. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Where’d You Go, Bernadette Box Office Prediction

Acclaimed director Richard Linklater brings his adaptation of a 2012 bestseller to the big screen with Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Based on Maria Semple’s comedic mystery, the pic casts two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in the title role of an agoraphobic wife and mother who disappears. The story finds her daughter (Emma Nelson) tracking her whereabouts. Costars include Billy Crudup, Kristin Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Zahn, and Megan Mullaly.

It’s been five years since Linklater’s Boyhood bowed to critical praise and multiple Academy nominations. Since then, his efforts Everybody Wants Some!! and Last Flag Flying have underwhelmed at the box office. The late summer release date here is curious as Bernadette is foregoing the festival circuit that often builds buzz for titles such as this.

Without that kind of chatter, the film will rely on fans of its source material. That could be a challenge for it to break out of mid single digits territory.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my The Angry Birds Movie 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/06/the-angry-birds-movie-2-box-office-prediction/

For my Good Boys prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/07/good-boys-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Box Office Prediction

Dreamworks Animation closes out its animated trilogy next weekend with the release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The critically acclaimed franchise began in 2010 with a sequel that followed four years later. Dean DeBlois, maker of the first two, returns to direct the third installment that comes with a reported budget of nearly $130 million. Actors providing voices include Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Kristin Wiig.

Nearly a decade ago, the original Dragon debuted to $43 million and legged out nicely to an overall $217 domestic gross. The 2014 follow-up topped the opening of part 1 with $49 million. However, it ended up taking in $177 million total. While the studio certainly hopes for robust stateside sales, the series has been a juggernaut overseas (Dragon 2 made $621 million worldwide). The Hidden World is out in numerous foreign markets already and taken in $85 million thus far.

I’ll project this threequel gets in the range of what preceded it and put it in the middle of what they accomplished.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opening weekend prediction: $44.7 million

For my Fighting with My Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/02/14/fighting-with-my-family-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

We are just two days into the new year, but it’s already time for my first Oscar Watch post of 2019. That’s because How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World comes out in Australia tomorrow before its stateside release on February 22. Early reviews are out and the third and final installment of the Dreamworks Animation franchise is receiving solid ones. The action fantasy sequel stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

In 2010, the original Dragon nabbed a Best Animated Feature nod at the Oscars. Four years later, part 2 accomplished the same. Both pictures lost to titles coming from the mighty Mouse Factory – Toy Story 3 and Big Hero 6, respectively. The Disney competition will be fierce this year with Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2.

That said, even at this extraordinarily early date, the latest Dragon already looks like a serious contender for a nomination given the history of the series. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Downsizing Movie Review

Director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor enter new genre territory with Downsizing, but it’s filled with the themes found in their previous efforts. A central character searching for meaning in life, marital strife, and classism are on display. Unlike prior features, science fiction elements and a bigger budget are in the mix. This is a story loaded with intriguing prospects  that doesn’t lead to a totally rewarding whole.

A prologue shows the advent of a monumental discovery by Norwegian scientists – the ability to shrink humans to only five inches tall. The reasoning to do it is to save the Earth by significantly reducing pollution and overpopulation. Not all citizens who choose to go through the procedure are hardcore environmentalists. There’s also the added bonus that downsizing is a financial boon. Every dollar in big world translates to about a grand in the smaller one.

This is the primary reason why occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig) choose their new path. The Omaha couple agree to downsize and populate the colony of Leisureland. In Nebraska, they’re scraping by. They will be millionaires post op. A surprise happens on the way to the procedure. Paul goes through with it, but Audrey backs out and leaves him.

Lonely Paul must adjust to his tiny new surroundings and life. His eventual divorce agreement causes him to trade his Leisureland mansion for an apartment (albeit a pretty nice one). Up to this point, Downsizing is pretty nifty. The leadup and explanations of how this new world works are fascinating. There’s some prejudice involved with the full size humans meeting those about to become small. Should they get full voting rights, for instance? We also discover there’s nefarious governments that forcibly shrink their dissidents.

Further exploration of themes like these could have made a potentially rich experience. Downsizing goes a different direction. Paul’s upstairs neighbor is a party animal played with expected gusto by Christoph Waltz. It’s through this freewheeling character that Paul meets Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese political activist who was punished by that government. She’s an amputee and cleaning lady with a heart of gold. Ngoc Lan takes Paul to the slums of Leisureland where he begins to medically assist its poor residents. He also begins to fall for his companion.

The picture, at this juncture, largely abandons its sci fi leanings and concentrates on issues of self-worth, love, and political themes. Of course, all these things have been present in many great science fiction efforts. However, the tone of Downsizing is a shifty one. There’s moments of satire that aren’t biting enough and an earnestness that can come off cloying. That latter description could sometimes apply to Damon’s work. Payne has directed a number of actors to Oscar nominations. His lead here displays the same syrupy conviction in which he once bought a zoo. Chau is a different story. She creates a character whose backstory might have been really rewarding if shown onscreen. Unfortunately, Ngoc Lan eventually becomes just the love interest to the blander protagonist.

Payne and Taylor deserve a degree of credit for crafting this odd concoction. There’s some original thoughts here and some sequences are truly impressive, especially the downsizing procedure itself. That said, the emotional payoff the filmmakers are reaching for never quite reached me. There are moments in About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska that did so more often and with an appreciated higher level of subtlety. So while I admire Downsizing for some big ideas, the overall impact is smaller.

**1/2 (out of four)

Downsizing Box Office Prediction

Director Alexander Payne’s latest Downsizing hits screens next Friday for a holiday release. The science fiction dramedy features Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz, and Hong Chau.

Payne has seen his last three films – Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska – all nab Best Picture nominations. Downsizing was once seen as an Oscar contender until it premiered at the Venice Film Festival months ago to mixed reviews (it stands at a muted 64% on Rotten Tomatoes). In fact, its only Academy chatter is focused on costar Chau, who could manage a Supporting Actress nod.

The near complete lack of awards chatter has muted the buzz for this project. The pic also has plenty of competition for its intended adult audience, including The Greatest Showman and various other genuine Oscar hopefuls.

Add that up and I feel Downsizing will experience a debut in the low double digits or teens. That would a bit under another Damon flick from an acclaimed director released over Christmas from six years ago, Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo. 

Downsizing opening weekend prediction: $11.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Pitch Perfect 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/pitch-perfect-3-box-office-prediction/

For my Father Figures prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/14/father-figures-box-office-prediction/

mother! Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! may leave you woozy, bewildered, and exhilarated and sometimes all within the same minute. It’s a film that many will despise for taking its Hollywood stars down this rabbit hole of Biblical allegories and celebrity culture mockery. Yet I’ll be damned if it wasn’t an experience to often behold, albeit not on the level as some of the director’s best works.

mother is Jennifer Lawrence, who lives in a remote sprawling home with her older husband who is known as Him (Javier Bardem). He’s a famous and acclaimed poet suffering from an acute case of writer’s block. She fills her days renovating their dwelling which we learned recently burned to the ground.

Their quiet existence is interrupted when a stranger known as man (Ed Harris) shows up at their door, claiming he thought the house was a bed and breakfast. mother’s natural and understandable instinct is to send him on his way. Him curiously invites him to stay. Shortly after, his wife credited as woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. She’s a prying firecracker who rubs mother the wrong away while her husband’s health issues come to light. Their two sons join the joyless party as well and that’s when some tragic results occur. If you’ve noted I’m not saying the names of the characters, it’s for a reason. They don’t have them.

It’s a bit of a chore to discuss mother! without venturing into major spoiler territory. I’ll say this – their family drama has an ending. When Him and mother finally get the place to themselves again, she becomes pregnant and we flash forward to her due date approaching. This is when more people turn up. Lots of them.

What transpires after gives us multiple instances of WTF moments that also showcase Aronofsky’s remarkable visual style behind the camera. He’s a filmmaker unafraid to tackle religious themes (Noah was his previous effort) and mother! certainly bludgeons us with them. It also has plenty to say about fame and those who follow famous people, well, religiously.

By the time Him and mother’s “houseguests” number on the scale of innumerable, I found myself staring at the screen in disbelief at some of what’s onscreen. Part of this may be because a major studio clearly let their writer/director do whatever he wanted here. Another reason is Aronofsky’s technical skill at shooting what occurs within the home’s walls.

Lawrence often represents the audience here. She’s as confused as we are with her husband’s eagerness to welcome others in. In a typical horror flick (especially those of the haunted house variety), you’d be screaming for her to just get the hell out. You may do that here, but credit Aronofsky for going out of his way to explain why she doesn’t.

Black Swan, which stands at the director’s best along with Requiem for a Dream, shares certain themes. A drive for artistic perfection no matter the cost is a trait shared by Natalie Portman in her Oscar winning role and the character of Him. It takes us to even darker places here, but it didn’t leave me as satisfied as Swan. That one got Aronofsky awfully close to cinematic perfection. mother! doesn’t leave that kind of impression overall, but its scenes of expertly made depravity should leave his fans enthralled while it’s happening.

*** (out of four)