Men in Black: International Movie Review

You won’t need one of those neuralyzer doohickeys to forget Men in Black: International, which extends the rust developed from part two of the franchise on. Will Smith has moved on from this series to dealing with aliens in Netflix pics and being the man in blue in Disney remakes. Tommy Lee Jones has retired as well. So the Marvel Cinematic duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok don the sunglasses in this reboot. Their chemistry was better with the MCU team and that movie had a funnier alien in the guise of Jeff Goldblum.

Hemsworth is the hunky Agent H, top operative at the U.K. MiB branch run by Liam Neeson’s High T. Thompson is essentially a fangirl of the super secretive force who’s been aware of their existence since childhood. She recruits herself to the suit and is assigned by Emma Thompson’s Agent O (reprising her Men in Black 3 part) to travel overseas and partner with her Thor. The plot involves stopping a nasty species that goes by the Hive. One of the baddies is an arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson that had an inter species love affair with H. Some of the other villains are kept secret for most of the running time, though you’ll see it coming from a galactic mile away. And there’s Kumail Nanjiani voicing the CG creation Pawny. He gets in a few mildly amusing lines.

F. Gary Gray has taken over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld and he doesn’t have to top a high bar of its predecessors. 1997’s original was a fun summer blockbuster melding science fiction and comedy with genuine chemistry from the two leads. I struggle to recall anything about the first sequel. #3 was a slight improvement if only for Josh Brolin’s uncanny impression of a young Tommy Lee Jones.

I doubt many have much of an affinity for this franchise beyond what came 22 years ago. And while International does indeed trot the globe from Paris to London and Morocco and New York to Italy, it mostly feels flat.

** (out of four)

Men in Black: International Box Office Prediction

The Men in Black are back onscreen for the first time in seven years, but they look a lot different this time around. Subtitled International, this is a sequel/reboot of the franchise that ruled the summer 22 years ago. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are nowhere to be found. Instead it’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles with F. Gary Gray taking over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Liam Neeson, and Emma Thompson (reprising her role from 2012’s MIB3).

Despite its two stars being part of this season’s behemoth Avengers: Endgame, audiences might be skeptical to revisit a two decade old series that they identified with Smith (currently headlining the hit Aladdin). Comparing the opening grosses of the MIB trilogy that preceded it is tricky. All three opened over holiday weekends with the first two over July 4th and the third over Memorial Day weekend. Their traditional Friday to Sunday grosses were consistent in the low to mid 50s. When factoring in the extra holiday additions, parts one and two got into the 80s with #3 nearing $70 million. It’s worth mentioning that each entry earned less domestically overall than the previous one.

Men in Black: International, holiday or no holiday, looks bound for the lowest premiere yet in the franchise. I’ll say low 30s.

Men in Black: International opening weekend prediction: $30.7 million

For my Shaft prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/06/shaft-box-office-prediction/

For my Late Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/__trashed/

For my The Dead Don’t Die prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/09/the-dead-dont-die-box-office-prediction/

Widows Movie Review

Like Michael Mann’s Heat over two decades ago, Steve McQueen’s Widows is a heist movie more concerned with the personalities of the people planning them. The similarities don’t stop there. It’s got a sprawling cast with many familiar faces and an overall somber tone. This is a genre marked mostly by its entertainment value. Heists are fun onscreen with the numeric Ocean’s being the highest profile recent examples.

Unlike Heat, its central planner doesn’t pull these crimes because he’s great at it and doesn’t have a personal life. Here it’s the personal lives that lead to the planning in the first place. And in this one, it’s “she’s”. Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) works for the Chicago Teachers Union and is married to career thief Harry (Liam Neeson). What I’m about to write isn’t exactly a spoiler considering the title. Harry and his crew have a job go awry and they’re all killed. Besides Veronica, the widowed women include business owner Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), abused spouse Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and new mom Amanda (Carrie Coon).

Their mourning period is disrupted by their husband’s past illegal dealings. Windy City crime lord Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) was ripped off by them and he’s ready to collect. He’s running for an alderman spot against corrupt politico Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Mulligan fancies himself a man of the people and lives close to the dilapidated neighborhood he wishes to represent. He might as well live on another planet. Manning wants to enter government life to get away from a life of crime, but seems to understand that they go hand in hand in this transactional and blood soaked Chicago.

Veronica, Linda, and Alice are put in a desperate spot. A clue left behind by Harry leads them to plan a robbery of Mulligan’s dirty money while trying to keep his political opponent off their backs (Amanda chooses to not to participate). Mulligan and Manning have enforcers on their team. The former’s is his controlling and ruthless father (Robert Duvall). The latter’s is his henchman (Daniel Kaluuya), who’s sadistic and seems to genuinely enjoy his works of depravity.

There are many subplots in Widows and McQueen manages to pull it off in mostly satisfying fashion. Some work better than others. The relationship of Veronica and Harry is a complicated one that’s given emotional heft by a shared loss. The same can be said for Alice’s character. She’s been a victim her whole life it seems. There’s an empowerment element with her that makes her perhaps the easiest character to root for. Rodriguez’s story has less meat on the bones. They pick up another conspirator in Belle (a memorable Cynthia Erivo), a driven woman who serves as the driver.

You’ll not be surprised to find the performances are first-rate, particularly Davis, Debicki, and Kaluuya (there’s not a mediocre one in the bunch). The score, editing, and cinematography are also noteworthy. McQueen wrote the script along with Gillian Flynn, known for her twisty works like Gone Girl. She’s created compelling female characters there and elsewhere and she does so here. If there’s an issue, it’s that her proclivity for twists reaches a tad too far with one (which I won’t spoil). I found it unnecessary and you’ll likely recognize what I’m referring to upon viewing.

And Widows is worth viewing as it gives us some characters you want to follow. There’s nothing remarkable about the heist they’re trying to pull. The acting and technical work often does fit that description.

*** (out of four)

Cold Pursuit Box Office Prediction

As they say, revenge is a film best served with Liam Neeson in it and Summit Entertainment hopes that holds true next weekend with Cold Pursuit. The action thriller casts Neeson as a snow plow driver avenging the murder of his son with his particular set of skills. Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland is behind the camera and costars include Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman, and William Forsythe.

We are a decade past the star’s career resurgence with the sleeper hit Taken and its two sequels. What followed were $20 million plus openers like Unknown and NonStop. The sub genre of Neeson tough guy flicks, however, has seen its grosses dwindle in recent years. A Walk Among the Tombstones, Run All Night, and last year’s The Commuter all debuted in the low double digits to low teens range.

Reviews have been surprisingly strong and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 93%. Several critics have praised an apparent well-placed sense of humor. Yet I’m skeptical that will give Cold Pursuit a hot premiere. I’ll predict this falls right in line with his later entries.

Cold Pursuit opening weekend prediction: $12.8 million

For my The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/29/the-lego-movie-2-the-second-part-box-office-prediction/

For my What Men Want prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/30/what-men-want-box-office-prediction/

For my The Prodigy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/31/the-prodigy-box-office-prediction/

Widows Box Office Prediction

Widows is Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 2013’s Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave and it boasts an impressive cast and its own awards buzz. Viola Davis headlines the heist thriller alongside Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson.

Opening next weekend, the film sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could potentially contend in Best Picture, Actress (Davis), Supporting Actor (Kaluuya) and its Adapted Screenplay from Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn. So how will that translate to box office bucks?

I believe the likelihood is that Widows will succeed in appealing to action fans and manage to bring in a sizable female audience. Yet it should also be the type of performer that experiences solid holds from weekend to weekend and not necessarily have a huge opening. Mid teens appears to be the correct forecast for its start.

Widows opening weekend prediction: $15.8 million

For my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/06/fantastic-beasts-the-crimes-of-grindelwald-box-office-prediction/

For my Instant Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/instant-family-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Widows

Five Oscars ago, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave took home Best Picture and it’s been five years for his follow-up to debut. That picture is Widows, a heist drama based on a 1983 British miniseries and it’s premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

Reviews for the film are encouraging, but I’m not too sure they’re strong enough for a realistic shot at Best Picture, Director, or Adapted Screenplay (by the director and Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn) nods.

As for the actors involved, that could be a different story. An impressive supporting cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. Most of the ink, however, has been reserved for its star Viola Davis. She won Supporting Actress just two years back for Fences. It appears she could factor into the lead Actress race this time around, though competition could be steep. If there’s anything chance at supporting players being recognized, both Daniel Kaluuya (nominated for last year’s Get Out) and Elizabeth Debicki have been singled out in some reviews.

Bottom line: Widows is doubtful for Best Picture, but Davis and maybe a supporting performance or two could be in the mix.

The film opens domestically on November 16. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Just over a decade ago, Joel and Ethan Coen finally broke through with Academy voters via No Country for Old Men. Premiering in Venice today is their latest effort The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Originally conceived as a six-part Netflix series, the brothers Coen chose to combine this tale of violent Western vignettes into a feature film. Its cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, and Brendan Gleeson.

Reviews overseas indicate that Ballad contains great moments and some uneven ones. I wouldn’t expect this to be a contender in Picture or Director. As for its actors, Neeson and Waits have been singled out. Yet again, their inclusion is Supporting Actor could be a reach.

Ballad does stand a better chance at possible recognition for Original Screenplay (depending on strength of competition) and its cinematography.

Bottom line: Ballad could factor into down the line races, but don’t expect this to play in the largest prize pool.

Following an expected theatrical release, Scruggs debuts on Netflix on November 16. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…