Oscar Watch: Capone

Originally scheduled for a theatrical release prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Trank’s Capone hits the VOD circuit tomorrow and reviews are out. The biopic casts Tom Hardy as notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone during the last illness ravaged years of his life. The supporting cast includes Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Kyle MacLachlan, and Matt Dillon.

While it currently sports a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the number does not quite tell the tale. Some critics are simply savaging it while others are far more kind. It’s probably safe to say that Capone will spur much chatter on both sides. The director became known to many moviegoers based on 2012’s well-received sci-fi tale Chronicle before his 2015 Fantastic Four reboot that was a commercial and critical flop.

Much of the review space has centered on Hardy’s work. Similar to his performance in Venom, some writers are calling it an inspired and somewhat bonkers portrayal. Others say it is just plain bonkers. A Supporting Actor nominee for 2015’s The Revenant, don’t expect a second nod here.

In fact, the level of vitriol from some makes you wonder if Capone could be a contender for some Razzie nods at the end of 2020. As for Oscar contention, the enthusiasm is steered in a different direction. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Movie Review

Sporting the 1980s Universal Pictures logo followed by the Amblin Entertainment one, The House with a Clock in Its Walls does feel like a Spielberg picture at times. Not one that he would’ve directed, but one that he got executive producer credit on. This is Eli Roth’s homage to that era and he’s working in PG territory, which is two MPAA ratings below his typical bailiwick. Like some eighties titles (think Back to the Future or Night of the Creeps), this is set in the 1950s. It’s a more innocent time for evil spirits to haunt and inanimate objects to become animated and agitated.

Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is a ten-year-old whose parents perished in an accident. He’s sent to live with estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, reveling in his own brand of spirited antics). Jonathan lives in a large and spooky manor adorned with countless ticking clocks. There’s also furniture and paintings that come to life and strange sounds behind the old walls. Florence (Cate Blanchett) is the platonic friend neighbor who spends plenty of time at the clocked crib.

It turns out Lewis’s new caretakers have some supernatural abilities of the warlock and witching variety. They use their abilities for good, but Jonathan’s late magic show partner (Kyle MacLachlan) might have some evil tricks up his sleeve if he’s summoned back to existence. Jonathan’s only rule to Lewis is not to open a dusty book that could do just that. We know the next chapter.

The Spielberg touches are clear. Parental loss and being an adolescent outsider are explored. They’re coupled with the science fiction elements we also anticipate. There’s some solid makeup work and special effects to behold. And like some 80s era flicks (think Gremlins or Poltergeist), there’s some creepy moments sprinkled in. They are not as scary as those aforementioned titles that caused PG-13 to exist. However, Clock has enough of them to make this fun for kids. As for the older folks who grew up on all this stuff (like its director), it’s lovingly made and passably entertaining. It won’t make your 3D nostalgia glasses mist up like Super 8 or Stranger Things might have, but it’s worth the time spent.

*** (out of four)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Box Office Prediction

Director Eli Roth is known for his very R rated violent tales, including Hostel and the Death Wish remake earlier this year. He changes it up next weekend with the release of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a fantasy pic geared towards family crowds. Jack Black (fresh off the massive hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) stars alongside Cate Blanchett, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro, and Renee Elise Goldsberry. Its based on a 1973 novel by John Bellairs.

Looking at comps in the same genre based on books, 2016 saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children debut to $28.8 million in September. Going back further, 2007’s The Golden Compass made $25.7 million for its start. The former had the benefit of Tim Burton’s involvement. The latter came out in the midst of the holiday season.

While competition for a younger audience is light, I’m not convinced this will quite match those grosses. Unrelated fun fact: the IMAX screenings of Walls will include a 3D version of the iconic Michael Jackson video “Thriller”.

I’ll predict a low to mid 20s gross is what we’ll see here. If so, that should be enough for this to get its hands on the #1 spot.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls opening weekend prediction: $23.2 million

For my Fahrenheit 11/9 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/fahrenheit-11-9-box-office-prediction/

For my Life Itself prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/life-itself-box-office-prediction/

Inside Out Movie Review

Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out is a return to form for the studio in the sense that adults will likely appreciate it just as much, if not more, than the children who will see it with them. It comes from Pete Docter, the man responsible for 2009’s Up, which I believe to be Pixar’s finest hour. Inside Out shares many of the same traits in that it focuses on human emotions in a mature manner that you don’t often find in this genre.

And when I say it focuses on emotions, I really mean it. The pic tells the life of Riley, an 11 year old girl who’s about to make a big move with her family from Minnesota (where the hockey loving tyke has settled into a comfortable and happy existence) to San Francisco. We witness the trials and tribulations of this uprooting quite literally from Riley’s head, where characters representing her emotions live. There’s Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), who prides herself on the fact that most of Riley’s memories are positive ones. There’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who Joy doesn’t want to have too much of a role in their girl’s day to day happenings. And we have Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black in an expert casting move), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

The big move to San Fran really upsets the apple cart in Riley’s conscious mind and it forces both Joy and Sadness on a journey to save her soul. If this sounds like heady stuff (forgive the pun), well it kind of is in the same way Up was. That’s a major compliment. While the film is dealing with very real issues, it does so with the character of Joy at the helm and the feeling of joy in its heart.

Along the way, we meet Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend who is a strange elephant and possibly cat hybrid who cries candy. Bing Bong is a relic of her past and there are also moments set in the Memory Dump, where no longer necessary recollections are discarded.

Inside Out is a triumph of voice over work with Poehler’s always looking on the sunny side and Smith’s polar opposite approach providing many of the highlights. This is a truly innovative concept at work here and we also get occasional glimpses of the emotion characters at work in other people’s heads like Riley’s parents, voiced by Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane. The animation, as we’ve certainly come to expect from this studio, is gloriously impeccable.

This may not quite measure up to the best of Docter’s Up, in which that picture’s segment about its central character’s romance with his wife and her eventual death is possibly the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a Pixar effort. Still, Inside Out proves that Docter may be the studio’s most impressive auteur and he expertly is able to entertain kids while rewarding adults on a different level. You’ll feel a significant amount of joy here and you also may find some candy welling up in your eyes at other times.

***1/2 (out of four)