If fish out of water tales with Mexican drug cartels is your desired viewing option, you can’t go wrong with “Breaking Bad”. Clint Eastwood’s TheMule is a considerably more mixed bag. Let’s call it Walter Whiter as our octogenarian subject makes a curious late career choice that is actually based (loosely) on true events. We have seen Eastwood go down the “I’m too old for this…” bit a few times in the past few years. This might rank as the strangest.
The first half of TheMule is engaging in its amiable way. Our star and director plays Earl, whose horticulture business is on its last legs thanks to that darn internet. He’s a man who makes fast friends and loves life on the road and has ignored his family along the way. That includes an ex-wife (Dianne Wiest), a child who won’t speak to him (real-life daughter Alison Eastwood), and granddaughter (Taissa Farmiga) who still wishes to connect.
A job opportunity arises for Earl to spend most of his time driving. It happens to be crossing state lines to transport larges volumes of cocaine. He’s pretty decent at the gig, earning the nickname “El Tata” (grandfather) from his heavily armed coworkers. Andy Garcia is head of the cartel. The new job leaves Earl flush with money and women. If you thought Clint Eastwood and threesome action isn’t something you’d ever see in a movie, think again. And again. Tata also garners the attention of the DEA, led by Bradley Cooper’s agent, Michael Pena as his partner, and Laurence Fishburne as their boss.
When TheMule enters its second phase, Earl is trying to make amends with numerous poor choices (a frequent theme in the filmmaker’s work). This is when the carefree tone shifts rather uncomfortably. None of the supporting characters are really developed at all. You get the feeling most of these accomplished actors just wanted to work with Clint. The dramatic exchanges with family members feels stilted.
I can’t deny there’s some joy in watching Eastwood for a while. If you loved GranTorino, you’ll probably at least like this. There’s also no denying that he’s tackled similar themes with far superior results. As Earl attempts to get his act together, he goes off grid from his day job. I doubt one of the true elements in this fact based tale involved his bosses not being able to locate him for days. Don’t they track his cell phone? Or have his vehicle bugged? I found myself pondering this in the final act. Despite a game showcase performance, perhaps resenting the screenplay’s disregard for the intelligence of drug lords means the picture isn’t clicking on all cylinders.
JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum brings us back into the franchise where the forecast is usually stylishly rainy and dripping with violence. There’s a 100% chance of Keanu Reeves finding creative ways to kill people. Our third iteration does what you expect from a sequel. It increases the action so Mr. Wick fights more. His poor dog met an unfortunate end in Chapter 1 that kicked all of this off. In Parabellum, dogs don’t die. They fight too.
Just as part 2 picked up immediately after its predecessor, this does as well. As you’ll recall, our title character has been excommunicated by the High Table, the organization that governs the unlimited supply of assassins that populate New York City and beyond. He’s a marked man with a $14 million bounty on his head and a dwindling supply of markers causing people to help him. Those individuals include Oscar winning women like Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.
Wick can no longer have a safe space in the Continental Hotel, managed by Winston (Ian McShane) and his trusty concierge (Lance Reddick). That place provided many highlights in the first two pictures, but our man branches out here. After an excursion to Rome in #2, Wick’s passport gets him to Casablanca here. That’s where he teams with Berry and does a Clark Griswold style desert journey that does give him a respite from the cool looking rain.
Calling the shots is the Adjudicator (an effective Asia Kate Dillon). She’s in charge of punishing the folks who’ve helped Wick out in the past. This includes Winston and the returning Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, still having a ball). Our head henchman who wants the collect the Wick murder money is Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his character is quite fun. He may have a task to complete, but he’s also a total fanboy of the legend he’s hunting. Their interplay is an added bonus.
Parabellum is ultimately about how well the action scenes work. Director Chad Stahelski and Reeves once again dig deep into their bag of martial arts inspired tricks. And a decent sized portion of the fight sequences are downright thrilling. Perhaps this series will eventually run of gas and the choreography of Reeves in sadistic motion delivering headshots won’t be as satisfying. Not yet.
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 LastFlagFlying didn’t particularly connect with critics or audiences might have been seen as a harbinger of things to come for Where’dYouGo, 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 TheAviator and 6 years since she took gold for her leading role in Woody Allen’s BlueJasmine. 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…
Acclaimed director Richard Linklater brings his adaptation of a 2012 bestseller to the big screen with Where’dYouGo, 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 EverybodyWantsSome!! and LastFlagFlying 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’dYouGo, Bernadette opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million
For my TheAngryBirdsMovie2 prediction, click here:
Blogger’s Note (05/15): My estimate has risen from $37.8 million to $45.8 million
Keanu Reeves is back in theaters next weekend as America’s favorite dog loving hitman when JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum debuts. The action thriller hopes to build upon the momentum of 2017’s highly successful sequel. Chad Stahelski returns as director with familiar series faces including Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, and John Leguizamo. New stars in our third edition include Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, and Anjelica Huston.
Mr. Reeves found himself in an unexpected new franchise five years ago when JohnWick opened to $14 million with a $43 million overall domestic gross. While that might not seem like enough to automatically warrant a follow-up, the pic achieved critical kudos and cult status when it arrived on demand. Three years later, Chapter2 made $30 million for its start and $92 million total.
Parabellum has a solid shot at topping the opening weekend of its predecessor, which also garnered glowing reviews. I’ll say mid to high 30s is where this ends up.
JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum opening weekend prediction: $45.8 million
It seemed a little odd that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule held its review embargo for as long as it did (it’s out tomorrow). After all, the crime thriller which features Eastwood in front of the camera for the first time since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve certainly was an on paper awards contender based on history. The director is no stranger to Oscar attention as Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby both won Best Picture.
Critical reaction is out and it’s actually pretty decent with a current Tomato rating of 82%. However, I suspect the best comparison for this would be the last time Eastwood directed himself – 2008’s hit Gran Torino. That feature landed with audiences, but failed to garner a single nomination from the Academy.
Bottom line: while reviews are mostly positive, The Mule is likely to be more of a potential hit with audiences than Oscar voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Clint Eastwood has been consistently behind the camera and offering about a movie a year for quite some time. His appearances in front of it have been far less frequent in recent years. That changes next weekend when the Oscar winner directs himself in The Mule. The pic is a true life crime tale with Eastwood as a World War II vet who becomes a courier for Mexican drug cartels. Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Pena, Dianne Wiest, and Andy Garcia are among the supporting cast.
As mentioned, we haven’t seen its star in a film since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve. He hasn’t directed himself since 2008’s blockbuster Gran Torino. Adult moviegoers will be targeted here and Eastwood’s involvement could do the trick. Whether or not it opens on a large-scale or plays well throughout the holiday weeks ahead is a little uncertain. That might depend on its reviews, which aren’t out yet.
If The Mule manages to top $18 million out of the gate, it would actually be Clint’s largest debut of a feature he’s acted in (the current record is held by 2000’s Space Cowboys). While the wide release of Torino generated nearly $30 million, it was released in limited fashion for a few weeks prior.
That’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I’ll project it falls just short of that as it hopes to leg out nicely in the weeks ahead.
The Mule opening prediction: $17.6 million
For my Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse prediction, click here: