All the Old Knives Review

I’ve watched sharper spy games than All the Old Knives, but it’s a durable diversionary thriller with a solid spark between its two leads. From Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are coworkers and lovers who break up over a seized flight (that old chestnut).

Some explanation is warranted. In 2012, CIA officer Henry Pelham (Pine) is in an office romance with analyst Celia Harrison (Newton). Stationed in scenic Vienna (this a lovely looking picture), the seizure and tragic ending of the hijack leads to suspicions that someone on the team leaked intel to the terrorists. Perhaps it’s Harry or maybe it’s Celia. There’s also higher ups played by Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce.

In 2020, Harry’s got a few more gray hairs while Celia is married with kids in California. She’s far removed from government employment while her ex is still investigating the near decade old case. This brings the pair together in a near deserted fancy restaurant for an interrogation or a bubbly fueled rekindling… or both.

Knives slashes back and forth between these events as twists fill up as frequently as the former couple’s wine glasses. Surprisingly light on action, the screenplay might get drowned out if there wasn’t adequate chemistry between the stars. Luckily there is and it was enough to keep me guessing. Pine missed the mark once as a better known CIA agent in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. This one hits the target more often.

*** (out of four)

 

The Matrix Resurrections Review

When the director seems to have ambivalent (at best) feelings about returning to their franchise, that emotion might rub off on the audience a bit. And so it is with The Matrix Resurrections, arriving 18 years after parts II and III with Lana Wachowski back (though not with her sister Lilly who co-directed previous installments). An overriding theme is that Wachowski is making part IV because the studio was going to do it regardless. Apparently she’d rather not leave it in the hands of others. The more things change, the more they stay the same in one respect. Our fourth trip into this world, like the second and third, can’t come close to matching the heights of the 1999 original (no matter how many throwback clips we see from it).

A glaring flaw is Resurrections mirrors that of the first sequels. So much after part one about The One centered its drama on Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) powerful connection with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). For the most part, we were told as opposed to shown that development. The 2021 model is dependent on our wistful nostalgic pining of their romance. It’s one that I and I suspect many others just don’t possess.

In The Matrix, we were introduced to a fresh and exciting cinematic universe at the perfect time. As the 20th century drew to a close, questions abounded about machines and technology and their potential to overpower humans and their free will. It was potent in its message back then and (of course) the action was mind blowing and influenced many a 21st century spectacle.

2003’s follow-up The Matrix Reloaded was in many respects a mess, but an often highly entertaining one. Its freeway shootout was a marvel that holds up gloriously today. The first act set in a sweat drenched orgiastic Zion… not so much. The Matrix Revolutions arrived six months after Reloaded and despite some nifty moments, it was a serious letdown critically and financially.

Yet franchises never die in Hollywood so Wachowski seems to be battling her own free will and giving us her next iteration. For those who may have forgot (and it’s easy to forget Revolutions), Neo and Trinity both lost their lives while saving what was left of the human race from machine domination. In Resurrections, Neo’s real life persona Thomas Anderson is indeed alive and living 60 years in the future as a video game programmer. His lauded creation is essentially what we saw in the previous trilogy. His therapy sessions with Neil Patrick Harris’s analyst hints of his recollections and, for that, he’s prescribed blue pills. When Anderson is confronted with his past, it comes from a younger Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a new team of rebels led by a white rabbit tattooed Bugs (Jessica Henwick).

It also turns out Trinity is around in the form of Tiffany, now married with kids and without knowledge of her gravity defiant history. The deal cut by the lovebirds in Revolutions still stands albeit on shaky ground. Humans and machines have found a way to coexist but others want war times to resume. The plot, however, really isn’t focused on extinction. Tiffany is the McGuffin – and the drama centers on her chosen pill intake. It seems a tad low-pressure for a series typically concentrated on civilization’s existence.

In addition to a more youthful Morpheus, we also have Jonathan Groff as a boyish Agent Smith. Neither of their characterizations match those of Laurence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving, respectively. The screenplay, in particular, does a disservice to Mateen (a fine actor) and the treatment of Morpheus. So crucial in the trilogy, he’s relegated to an insignificant status in this one. On the flip side, Jada Pinkett Smith returns as General Niobe and she’s aged six decades. The makeup is decent. Her decision making hasn’t improved much when it comes to advising our protagonists.

Wachowski’s self-referential treatment of the material starts off fairly funny and the first hour has its charms. When a holdover from Reloaded and Revolutions appears to spew English and French rantings about our text obsessed and social media culture, it’s moved to eye rolling emoji territory. In Reloaded, that mid-picture car flipping street extravaganza alone arguably made the first sequel worth the price of admission. There’s no such centerpiece in Resurrections that approaches it. Instead we get a follow-up where the filmmaker is struggling to justify its existence and even pontificating through her subjects that it’s not warranted. Maybe she should have left this revolution for someone else to start.

** (out of four)

The Matrix Resurrections Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (12/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising down Resurrections prediction from $30.7 million for the three-day and $47.2 million for the five-day to $26.7 million and $40.3 million for the five-day

The Matrix Resurrections won’t be The One when it opens December 22nd, giving itself a five-day Christmas rollout. That’s thanks to what should be a robust sophomore frame for Spider-Man: No Way Home. It might not even be The Two if Sing 2 manages to squeak by it for the runner-up position.

Arriving 18 years after The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions hit screens in 2003, this is the fourth franchise entry that began in 1999 and changed how we look at action blockbusters. The original Matrix is a landmark. The sequels that followed were met with considerably more mixed reaction (especially part 3).

Lana Wachowski directs without her sister Lilly (they made the trilogy together). Returning are Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lambert Wilson, and Jada Pinkett Smith. New to the game are Yahya Abdul-Mateen (taking over for Laurence Fishburne as a more youthful Morpheus), Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Christina Ricci. Once slated for May, it was postponed for pandemic purposes.

There’s no doubt that Resurrections is an event picture that has many devotees of the series ready to rush out. That said, it’s a major question mark as to how high this gets. While this is certainly an experience many will want to catch on the biggest screen possible, there is the option to view it simultaneously on HBO Max. Plenty of viewers not of the die-hard persuasion could choose to watch from the comfort of the couch. And while I’m sure many younger viewers are familiar with parts I-III – they may not have the reverence for it that fans, say, 35 and up do. Furthermore there is that pesky Spider-Man hanging around gobbling up the Yuletide dollars.

Don’t get me wrong. Resurrections could have a huge opening and amass $70 million from Wednesday to Sunday. Reloaded took in over $90 million for its start and held the title of highest grossing R-rated pic for over a decade until Deadpool replaced it. On the other hand, Revolutions couldn’t keep up and petered out with $139 million total.

One rather obvious comp is Dune, another sci-fi spectacle that followed 2021’s Warner Bros pattern of premiering their theatrical fare on HBO’s subscription service. It made $40 million over the traditional opening weekend. I’m estimating that Resurrections won’t hit that number from Friday to Sunday, but that the extra two days could bring in $45-$50 million.

The Matrix Resurrections opening weekend prediction: $26.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $40.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Sing 2 prediction, click here:

Sing 2 Box Office Prediction

For my The King’s Man prediction, click here:

The King’s Man Box Office Prediction

For my American Underdog prediction, click here:

American Underdog Box Office Prediction

For my A Journal for Jordan prediction, click here:

A Journal for Jordan Box Office Prediction

The Ice Road Review

Liam Neeson’s The Ice Road finds its inspiration from two classic pictures in 1953’s The Wages of Fear and 1977’s Sorcerer. The plots are similar by placing truck drivers in dangerous situations with nearly impossible odds to succeed. In Wages and its remake, it regarded the transportation of finnicky nitroglycerin over rough terrain. Though explosives are involved here, Road mostly pertains to what lies beneath. This is where ears of fans for the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers may perk up.

A mining disaster in Manitoba traps 26 workers. The only way in reaching the remote locale to rescue them is hauling hefty rigs over the frozen tundra. Signing up for the job is Neeson’s toothpick chomping Mike McCann and brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an ex-Vet suffering from PTSD and aphasia, a condition which limits his ability to communicate. Others along for the ride due to their particular sets of skills are Laurence Fishburne as a seasoned driver and Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a rebel with a cause whose brother is among those closed in and about to run out of oxygen. There’s also Tom (Benjamin Walker), a company man supposedly there to assess insurance risk.

The Ice Road volleys back and forth between the motorists on their slick mission, the captive workers making life or death decisions as their breathing slows, and the corporate overlords more concerned with not ruining their profits. Neeson has, of course, made his own profitable second career with these mostly generic action thrillers. With Jonathan Hensleigh (writer of Die Hard with a Vengeance and Armageddon) behind the directorial wheel, we have another middling entry for the Taken lead.

As the credits rolled, it struck me how little real action or visual thrills there are here. Some of this could be budget related. When the ground cracks and mayhem occurs, we never see below the surface and that might have been cool (pun intended). Neeson doesn’t sleepwalk through the role nor does Midthunder. As for brother Gurty, he does have a pet mouse that comes in handy at one point. Ultimately this tale of ice and anonymous ski goggled henchmen is primarily stuck in mediocrity.

** (out of four)

A Marvel Cinematic Oscar History: Best Actor

I was rewatching Avengers: Endgame over the weekend and it once again struck me how many famous actors are in that thing. I mean… seriously. It’s rather amazing. This got me thinking and yes, current world events may have given me an opportunity to do so:

Just how many performers that have been in Marvel Cinematic Universe entries have won Oscars or been nominated for Oscars? I knew the number would be high, but the answer still astonished me. In fact, you have to back to 1981 for a year where no actor that eventually appeared in the MCU didn’t receive a nomination.

If you count Marvel’s next two pictures (Black Widow, The Eternals) and then count the 23 movies prior that started in 2008 with Iron Man, it encapsulates 110 acting nominations and 20 wins! I am not yet putting Christian Bale in there though he’s rumored to be playing the villain in the fourth Thor flick. I’ll wait for confirmation on that. If you did count Bale, the numbers go to 114 nods and 21 Academy victories.

Due to this research, I’m writing 4 blog posts dedicated to each acting race and we begin with Best Actor:

The leading man category makes up 33 out of the 110 nominations with 6 wins. The victorious gentlemen are as follows:

Jeff Bridges, the main baddie in Iron Man, won in 2009 for Crazy Heart

William Hurt, who appeared in The Incredible Hulk and other MCU titles, took Best Actor in 1985 for Kiss of the Spider Woman

Anthony Hopkins, aka Thor’s Dad, was stage bound in 1991 for his iconic role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Ben Kingsley, who sparred with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, is a 1982 recipient in the title role of Gandhi

Michael Douglas, who appeared in both Ant-Man pics, was Best Actor in 1987 for Wall Street

Forest Whitaker, who costarred in Black Panther, took gold in 2006 for The Last King of Scotland

Aside from the winners, here are the other 27 Actor nods:

Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., for 1992’s Chaplin

Terrence Howard, who was in the first Iron Man, for 2005’s Hustle & Flow

Jeff Bridges scored two additional nominations for 1984’s Starman and 2010’s True Grit

Edward Norton, who was Hulk before Mark Ruffalo, for 1998’s American History X

William Hurt, like fellow winner Bridges, also landed two other nods for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God and 1987’s Broadcast News

Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2 and more, for 2004’s Hotel Rwanda

Mickey Rourke, the villain in Iron Man 2, for 2008’s The Wrestler

Anthony Hopkins, following his Lambs victory, was nominated twice more for 1993’s The Remains of the Day and 1995’s Nixon

Tommy Lee Jones, from Captain America: First Avenger, for 2007’s In the Valley of Elah

Jeremy Renner, aka Hawkeye, for his breakthrough role in 2009’s The Hurt Locker

Robert Redford, who was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, surprisingly only has one acting nod for 1973’s The Sting. He is, however, a twice nominated director and won in 1980 for Ordinary People 

Bradley Cooper, Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, has been nominated thrice with no wins: 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, 2014’s American Sniper, and 2018’s A Star Is Born

Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Doctor Strange, for 2014’s The Imitation Game

Chiwetel Ejiofor, also in Doctor Strange, for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Sylvester Stallone, who popped up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, for his signature role in 1976’s Rocky

Michael Keaton, the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming, for 2014’s Birdman

Matt Damon, who had a memorable cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, is twice nominated for 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2015’s The Martian

Daniel Kaluuya, Black Panther costar, for 2017’s Get Out

Laurence Fishburne, supporting player in Ant-Man and the Wasp, as Ike Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It

Jude Law, from Captain Marvel, for 2003’s Cold Mountain 

Whew. And there you have it. I’ll be back at it shortly with the Best Actress nominees who got their Marvel on!

The Mule Movie Review

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 The Mule 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 The Mule 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 The Mule 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 Gran Torino, 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.

**1/2 (out of four)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum 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.

*** (out of four)

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/

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Box Office Prediction

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 John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum 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 John Wick 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, Chapter 2 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.

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum opening weekend prediction: $45.8 million

For my A Dog’s Journey prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/10/a-dogs-journey-box-office-prediction/

For my The Sun Is Also a Star prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/10/the-sun-is-also-a-star-box-office-prediction/