Remaking Hitchcock is always a tricky proposition, but Ben Wheatley is venturing into that territory with the October 21st Netflix release of Rebecca. The 1940 version from the Master of Suspense is the only film in the legend’s filmography to win Best Picture at the Oscars (though it did not land Hitchcock a directing victory). Armie Hammer, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd headline this iteration.
The original source material is actually the 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel and some reviews are saying this 2020 take is actually more faithful than Hitch’s adaptation. Yet it’s getting nowhere close to the raves of what preceded it 80 years ago. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a mixed 54%.
In 1940, the trio of Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson were all nominated by the Academy. These would be the roles played now by Hammer, James, and Scott Thomas. While some critics have focused on the work of the latter, I find it doubtful that Scott Thomas could nab her second nomination (her first was 1996’s The English Patient).
Even with the so-so reviews, Rebecca could still get some nods. The Production Design and Costume Design have both been singled out. In my weekly Oscar prediction updates, I had this just on the outside looking in at 6th in the costuming race and I have this making the cut in fifth in Production Design. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Oscar winning director Danny Boyle, who clearly enjoys playing in multiple genres, tries his hand at a musical comedy next weekend with Yesterday. The high concept pic puts forth the theory that only one aspiring songwriter (Himesh Patel) rememberers The Beatles and cashes in on the world’s memory loss. Costars include Lily James, Kate McKinnon, and Ed Sheeran.
Mr. Boyle, as mentioned, has a varied filmography that includes Trainspotting and its sequel, 28DaysLater and its follow-up, Best Picture winner SlumdogMillionaire, and SteveJobs. When Yesterday premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, its so-so reception killed any potential awards chatter. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 68%.
While there’s legions of Fab Four fans out there, I don’t see this turning into a summer sleeper. I believe this will struggle to reach $10 million.
Yesterday opening weekend prediction: $9.1 million
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend, the comedic fantasy Yesterday comes with plenty of behind the scenes players with awards credentials. The high concept story imagines a world where the songs of The Beatles have all been forgotten, except by a young aspiring songwriter (Himesh Patel). It’s his duty to re-educate the populace about the Fab Four. Costars include Lily James, Kate McKinnon, and Ed Sheeran (playing himself).
The aforementioned pedigree starts at the top. Director Danny Boyle has had one of the most eclectic filmographies in memory. His works include a Best Picture winner (2008’s SlumdogMillionaire) and a nominee two years later (127Hours). They also include cult favorites such as Trainspotting, the acclaimed zombie tales 28DaysLater and 28WeeksLater, and sci-fi thriller Sunshine. There’s also SteveJobs, which never materialized as the awards contender that prognosticators thought it could be.
Additionally, the screenplay comes from Richard Curtis. He received an Oscar nod 25 years ago for FourWeddingsandaFuneral. Other written works of note include NottingHill, BridgetJones’sDiary, and LoveActually.
As you can see, it’s pretty clear why Yesterday could be looked at as an Oscar player today due to the talent involved. Yet after its festival debut ahead of its June release, reviews are telling a different story. Some are positive, but others are decidedly not. Some critics are breaking out their best Beatles puns with one stating it never quite comes together.
Bottom line: we’ll see if Yesterday can manage to be a profitable crowd pleaser, but don’t expect this to be a factor come with nominations down the line. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In one sense, Boots Riley’s SorrytoBotherYou is conventional with its pro-labor and anti-corporate message. How it gets there is wildly unconventional, often original, occasionally hilarious, and clearly from a new filmmaker making his voice and views heard. Riley comes from the world of hip hop and his political perspectives are unmistakable in short tracks. With nearly two hours to work with here, his words can’t possibly be as tight and controlled. This film is messy, but rarely a mess. Like the best music in the genre, it’s not easily forgotten. Similar to a bass line or lyric that won’t escape you, moments here have the same effect.
LaKeith Stanfield is Oakland native Cassius Green, who’s struggling to find a job that pays the bills. He lives in a garage with his artsy girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He owes lots of back rent to his uncle (Terry Crews) that owns the property. While the Golden State area looks current, the picture is set in an alternate reality. There’s a massive conglomerate that goes by WorryFree. We see ads on TV that promote a life of not paying bills and free housing. The catch? A lifetime contract of servitude. It’s absolutely an allegory for the director’s view of today’s workforce. While WorryFree seemingly appeals to many, this is not so for Cassius, Detroit, and lots of protesters.
Instead, Cassius finds work as a telemarketer and he initially finds it mundane and challenging. That is until a coworker (Danny Glover) imparts his secret of success. That recipe is using his “white voice”. Those voices are provided by recognizable faces for main characters including David Cross, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt. Cassius suddenly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder once the modulation happens. It leads him to gain the designation of “Power Caller”. That means moving to a swanky floor where only the Caucasian voice is allowed to be used. This also means he becomes a scab to his fellow workers and to Detroit. His financial rise soon puts him in touch with the leaders of WorryFree and its CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).
Once that partnership is forged, SorrytoBotherYou veers into genuinely unexpected directions (trust me on this one). Riley, however, never strays too far from the overall message. He’s got a fine cast to deliver it. Stanfield (best known for his supporting role in GetOut) is terrific and we’ve certainly never seen Hammer like this before. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments. One involves a passive aggressive argument Cassius has with friend and coworker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). Another pertains to Steve’s unexpected reaction to Cassius’s reaction when a key plot point is revealed.
When we get to the third act, its unconventional tone gallops into an entirely new gear. It’s not totally successful, but I found myself admiring Riley’s kitchen sink approach to it. For viewers looking for something that’s often remarkably different, Bother hits those notes with enough frequency for a solid recommendation.
Arriving just over 10 years to the day after its predecessor, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again dances into theaters next weekend, looking to be queen of the box office over other sequel competition. The 2008 original was based on a popular stage musical incorporating the music of Swedish super group ABBA and it turned into a behemoth at the multiplex. Returning cast members include Meryl Streep (in her first ever sequel), Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgard, and Dominic Cooper. Newbies include Lily James, Andy Garcia, and Cher. Ol Parker takes over directorial duties from Phyllida Lloyd.
Mamma Mia! held the distinction of being the highest grossing live-action musical of all time until 2017’s Beauty and the Beast topped it. It opened to $27.7 million and legged out quite well to a $144 million domestic total. The worldwide haul was a fantastic $615 million. Ten years is a significant gap between sequels, but the fan base seems likely to turn out and there’s little else marketing an older and female crowd. Two others sequels debuting over the weekend – The Equalizer 2 and Unfriended: Dark Web – are going for different demographics.
It seems reasonable to me that Again could debut about 20% higher than the first and it remains to be seen if it holds as well as part 1 in subsequent weekends.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opening weekend prediction: $33.5 million
Winston Churchill died 100 years after Abraham Lincoln. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is now regarded as one of, if not thee nation’s most revered leaders in perilous times. Like Lincoln. And like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln from 2012, Joe Wright’s DarkestHour focuses on a short period when both men’s leadership abilities were put to their most strenuous tests. Lincoln featured Daniel Day-Lewis embodying the 16th President of the United States in memorable and Oscar-winning fashion. Hour has Gary Oldman with an equally towering performance that is also barreling toward Academy gold.
The picture takes place in May 1940 as Churchill becomes the doubted but consensus choice to succeed Neville Chamberlain as PM of England. He’s known as much if not more for his failures in previous offices than his successes. Churchill enters the position at a precarious moment for the country. Hitler is on the march, conquering European countries with sights set on England. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is suspicious of the new leader. Office holders, especially Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), are pleading for Churchill to cut a deal with the Nazi Party.
It is Churchill’s instinct to fight on the battlefield and with his detractors. He gets support from his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas). His historic decision-making and speech dictation is witnessed by new personal secretary Elizabeth (Lily James). The key choices he must make involve Operation Dynamo, which was just chronicled in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.
Oldman, buried under impressive makeup that render him barely recognizable, excels in making Churchill a force of nature. We’ve seen Oldman’s chameleon like abilities to disappear into a character before and it’s on full display here. The Prime Minister’s boozing and oratory prowess and connection to his countrymen are also displayed. The supporting players are all just fine, if understandably relegated to the sideline in favor of a far larger personality. Those in Churchill’s orbit probably came to realize they were part of his show. Same here with Mr. Oldman.
DarkestHour doesn’t quite reach the heights of dramatic impact as the films mentioned from Spielberg and Nolan. It is, however, a well-crafted tale of leading with gut and gusto at a juncture when it was needed and with Oldman spearheading the eventual charge to victory.
In his filmography which includes ShaunoftheDead and ScottPilgrimvs. theWorld, Edgar Wright has shown a flair for infusing a vast music catalogue to mix with inventive action. It’s on display at the highest gear in BabyDriver. Only Quentin Tarantino rivals and probably tops this director at it. For the majority of its running time, Driver merrily coasts in its own reality (like Quentin’s projects do) and it’s often a thrill.
Despite sounding like a Dreamworks animated project where a precocious infant gets an Uber license, the title refers to Ansel Elgort’s name and profession. His job is to ferry bank robbers around and make grand escapes upon completion. This is done at the direction of criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey, oozing sarcasm and smarminess as only he can do). Baby is rarely disconnected from his ear buds. A childhood tragedy that took the life of his musician mom has left him with tinnitus or a “hum in the drum” as Doc calls it. This means he is constantly blaring a seriously cool playlist that permeates the car chases that are his occupational hazard.
It turns out Baby is not involved in his line of work on a voluntary basis. He’s ready to move on, especially after meeting lovely waitress Debora (Lily James) who’s ready to ride off into the sunset with him. Yet there’s always that last job and it involves working with thieves Bats (Jamie Foxx, who’s having a grand time) and hot and heavy and psychotic couple Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). Baby has a moral compass when it comes to his work. His coworkers don’t always share that view.
BabyDriver takes little time getting the audience accustomed to its style. Between the chases (of which are expertly handled), we get plenty of tuneful fun. Some of the tracks are meant to get Baby motivated to do his assignments. Others are meant to further the courtship of him and Debora. Elgort and James have a winning chemistry here. You want them to hit that open road into happily ever after.
Only in the last few minutes does Driver somewhat stall when it becomes less enamored with its own hyper universe and becomes a more traditional action thriller. Thankfully there’s plenty of joyful noise that precedes it.
Over this holiday weekend, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has become quite the little engine that could box office success story. The critically lauded mash-up action thriller musical comedy has taken in $30 million since its Wednesday debut, standing out as original programming in a season filled with sequels and reboots.
So the question is: could Oscar notice? While Driver is not normally the type of flick that Academy voters celebrate, there is bound to be a significant contingent of admirers that will push for its inclusion in Best Picture and Director.
It probably won’t happen, but it’s feasible. I’ll also throw out the possibility that it could contend in both Sound races: Mixing and Editing, as well as maybe Editing itself. Of course, the sound races will likely feature heavyweights such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Greatest Showman, Transformers: The Last Knight, Blade Runner 2049 and others. However, much of Driver’s praise has focused on its pulsating soundtrack throughout.
A mashup of all kinds of genres which has already garnered significant critical praise, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver cruises into multiplexes a week from today. The musical action crime comedy stars Ansel Elgort (most known for The Fault in Our Stars) as the title character with a supporting cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Elza Gonzalez.
When Baby was birthed at the South by Southwest Festival this spring, it did so to great acclaim. The pic stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and marks another well-regarded flick from the maker of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
The question is how will this hot buzz translate to box office dollars? There’s plenty of competition around, but audiences could be ready for something original (especially in the midst of many sequels and reboots).
That said, Baby Driver also could perform just decently out of the gate before maintaining a seemingly inevitable cult status. Taking its Wednesday premiere into account, I’ll say a low double digits three-day roll out with a five-day in the mid teens is most likely.
Baby Driver opening weekend prediction: $10.9 million (Friday to Sunday), $15.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Based on a 2009 novel, the works of Jane Austen get a scary injenction with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, out next weekend. The horror comedy features Cinderella star Lily James alongside Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey. Interestingly at one time, Natalie Portman was tapped to headline this and David O. Russell was attached to direct.
Coming out on Super Bowl weekend, its tough to see this breaking out in any significant way. The marketing campaign has been iffy and it’s not like there hasn’t been plenty of zombie offerings in the past few years. I’m not at all confident this will approach $16.3 million managed by another mashup, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, in the summer of 2012. In fact, unless horror aficiandos really turn out, I think this grosses about half that figure.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opening weekend prediction: $8.1 million