The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Review

Director Tom Gormican and his cowriter Kevin Etten’s reverence for Nicolas Cage is on full display in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. So is their affection for the kind of action packed and occasionally aimless buddy comedies that Cage might’ve starred in 30 years ago without all the meta sprinklings. Oh, and there’s also a deep reservoir of digging Paddington 2. 

Playing a fictionalized version of himself (he might even be more normal in this), Nicolas Cage is smarting from the loss of a movie role when he decides to give up acting. He’s also estranged from his 16-year-old daughter (Lily Sheen) and ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) – or is at least always making everything about himself. Facing financial woes as described by his agent (Neil Patrick Harris), he accepts a million dollar payday to jet to the Spanish Mediterranean. The assignment: hang out with billionaire Javi (Pedro Pascal), who may also be the head of a crime syndicate. His host is a huge fan of the actor and this allows for references to obvious titles like The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off and National Treasure. Most amusingly, the 1994 Secret Service romp Guarding Tess costarring Shirley MacLaine is given its share of exposure.

CIA agents Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz (two funny people given nothing funny to do) are convinced that Javi has kidnapped the daughter of a politician. His guest of honor is recruited with breaking her out. For much of the running time, Talent coasts on just that of Cage and Pascal. Their chemistry clicks as they start plotting their own screenplay which this often mirrors.

Unlike, say, the brilliant Being John Malkovich – Gormicon’s invention feels like more like a novelty item. Yet it is a frequently witty one mixed with a surprising amount of sincerity. In fact, I found myself wanting it to dig a bit deeper at times. The screenplay attempts to say something about its two protagonists always being forced to act like someone they’re not before it gets distracted by the next reference (The Bees!). In Cage’s massive filmography filled with triumphs, turkeys and Tess‘s, there’s an enjoyable enough catalogue to sift through.

*** (out of four)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Box Office Prediction

Nicolas Cage may not always be picky with his projects and that gets him into hot water in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, out April 22nd. The acclaimed comedy casts the eccentric national treasure as an exaggerated (?) version of himself who accepts $1 million from Pedro Pascal’s superfan to attend a birthday party. It goes downhill from there. Tom Gormican directs and the supporting cast includes Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tiffany Haddish.

When Weight premiered in March at South by Southwest, it did so to sizzling reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at a clean 100%. That should get a decent amount of cinephiles in multiplexes to see what all the buzz is about.

That said, I wonder if the concept is a little too inside baseball for general audiences. Additionally, plenty of viewers have grown accustomed to dialing up Cage’s new pics on streaming services and not in theaters.

Some forecasts have this reaching double digits in its debut, but I’m going a bit under that.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent opening weekend prediction: $7.9 million

For my The Bad Guys prediction, click here:

The Bad Guys Box Office Prediction

For my The Northman prediction, click here:

The Northman Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage was probably close to a third Oscar nomination for last year’s Pig and now he’s earning kudos for playing himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The meta comedy finds Cage in a sticky situation when he accepts a hefty payday to attend the birthday party of a billionaire drug lord. Pedro Pascal is that financier and the supporting cast also includes Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tiffany Haddish. Tom Gormican directs.

Prior to its April 22nd release, Weight dropped at South by Southwest and reviews currently stand at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Cage has become known for alternating acclaimed indie projects with dreadful direct to streaming material. This certainly appears to fall into the former designation.

Could awards voters take note? It might be a bit too out there, but Original Screenplay is not out of the question. A Best Comedy nod from Critics Choice next year is also a decent possibility. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

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)

Oscar Predictions: The Matrix Resurrections

In the last year of our previous century, The Matrix was a game changing action spectacle that influenced many pictures that followed in the 21st century. The Oscars took notice. It was nominated for four Academy Awards (Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects) and won all of them. In fact, it came in second in terms of number of victories behind only Best Picture winner American Beauty.

Four years later, the series became a trilogy when The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions both premiered in 2003. The story was different that time around. Neither film received a single nomination. That was a year in which The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was crowned in many a race (including three that The Matrix took).

Tomorrow marks the release of The Matrix Revolutions from Lana Wachowski with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reprising their iconic roles. Today is when the Oscar shortlists were revealed in Sound (now just one competition) and Visual Effects. Revolutions showed up as a hopeful on each top ten list.

So will the fourth Matrix manage the nod or two that its two predecessors could not? Probably. Visual Effects seems likely even though it would be shocking if fellow Warner Bros property Dune doesn’t win. Sound is a bit more iffy though it’s got a 50/50 shot.

Bottom line: Resurrections appears poised to put this franchise back in contention in those two races and those two races only. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

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

Downsizing Movie Review

Director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor enter new genre territory with Downsizing, but it’s filled with the themes found in their previous efforts. A central character searching for meaning in life, marital strife, and classism are on display. Unlike prior features, science fiction elements and a bigger budget are in the mix. This is a story loaded with intriguing prospects  that doesn’t lead to a totally rewarding whole.

A prologue shows the advent of a monumental discovery by Norwegian scientists – the ability to shrink humans to only five inches tall. The reasoning to do it is to save the Earth by significantly reducing pollution and overpopulation. Not all citizens who choose to go through the procedure are hardcore environmentalists. There’s also the added bonus that downsizing is a financial boon. Every dollar in big world translates to about a grand in the smaller one.

This is the primary reason why occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig) choose their new path. The Omaha couple agree to downsize and populate the colony of Leisureland. In Nebraska, they’re scraping by. They will be millionaires post op. A surprise happens on the way to the procedure. Paul goes through with it, but Audrey backs out and leaves him.

Lonely Paul must adjust to his tiny new surroundings and life. His eventual divorce agreement causes him to trade his Leisureland mansion for an apartment (albeit a pretty nice one). Up to this point, Downsizing is pretty nifty. The leadup and explanations of how this new world works are fascinating. There’s some prejudice involved with the full size humans meeting those about to become small. Should they get full voting rights, for instance? We also discover there’s nefarious governments that forcibly shrink their dissidents.

Further exploration of themes like these could have made a potentially rich experience. Downsizing goes a different direction. Paul’s upstairs neighbor is a party animal played with expected gusto by Christoph Waltz. It’s through this freewheeling character that Paul meets Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese political activist who was punished by that government. She’s an amputee and cleaning lady with a heart of gold. Ngoc Lan takes Paul to the slums of Leisureland where he begins to medically assist its poor residents. He also begins to fall for his companion.

The picture, at this juncture, largely abandons its sci fi leanings and concentrates on issues of self-worth, love, and political themes. Of course, all these things have been present in many great science fiction efforts. However, the tone of Downsizing is a shifty one. There’s moments of satire that aren’t biting enough and an earnestness that can come off cloying. That latter description could sometimes apply to Damon’s work. Payne has directed a number of actors to Oscar nominations. His lead here displays the same syrupy conviction in which he once bought a zoo. Chau is a different story. She creates a character whose backstory might have been really rewarding if shown onscreen. Unfortunately, Ngoc Lan eventually becomes just the love interest to the blander protagonist.

Payne and Taylor deserve a degree of credit for crafting this odd concoction. There’s some original thoughts here and some sequences are truly impressive, especially the downsizing procedure itself. That said, the emotional payoff the filmmakers are reaching for never quite reached me. There are moments in About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska that did so more often and with an appreciated higher level of subtlety. So while I admire Downsizing for some big ideas, the overall impact is smaller.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Downsizing

Blogger’s Update (09/19/17) – What Venice giveth, Toronto and Telluride taketh away. Since my original writing of this post on 08/30, Oscar prospects for Downsizing have dimmed due to mixed reaction from the aforementioned festivals.

A major piece of the 2017 Oscar puzzle has come into focus today with the debut of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing at the Venice Film Festival. This picture has been circled on the calendar of Academy Awards prognosticators since it was announced. Why? For starters, this is Payne’s seventh directorial feature and his previous five efforts have all received Oscar attention. For 1999’s Election, Payne received a nod for Adapted Screenplay. 2002’s About Schmidt landed two nominations in the acting races for Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. 2004’s Sideways nabbed five nominations, including Picture, Director, and a win for Payne and writing partner Jim Taylor for Adapted Screenplay. 2011’s The Descendants also received five nominations, with Payne winning once again for Adapted Screenplay. His last film, 2013’s Nebraska, garnered six nominations including Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. His last five movies have resulted in a total of seven acting nods.

So yeah… pretty much anything Payne puts out is an automatic Oscar contender. That does not look to end with Downsizing, his science fiction comedic drama that has drawn rave reviews out of the gate. It’s not out until December 22, but trade reviews are up and they’re glowing with praise. The Hollywood Reporter: “Big and beautiful” and arguably his best film. Variety: “playful, spectacular, mischievous, and audacious”. Interestingly, both reviews reference it as like as a live-action Pixar feature.

Downsizing has a highly recognizable cast that includes Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, and Jason Sudeikis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Damon in the mix for Best Actor, based on early word. Yet it’s a name you probably haven’t heard that you’ll soon become familiar with. Playing a Vietnamese refugee, Hong Chau has been singled out for her work and I’d venture to say she will be receiving a Supporting Actress nomination here.

Before today, Dunkirk was the only picture that I feel confident saying will receive a Best Picture nomination. Downsizing is now the second and it will probably land Payne directing and original screenplay (along with Jim Taylor) recognition. Beyond that – Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and even Visual Effects categories are all feasible.

Bottom line: Downsizing just announced itself as a potential force this awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Todd’s Top 10 Most Awaited Fall 2017 Movies

Well folks – summer is winding down and on the movie calendar, that means fall ushers in Oscar contenders, film festivals, and all kinds of other eagerly awaited releases! Today on the blog, I bring you my 10 most awaited pictures of the season. Getting the list down to that number wasn’t exactly easy, so I’ll cheat a bit and mention some that just “missed the cut”. They include sequels (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Thor: Ragnarok), star vehicles like American Made with Tom Cruise and Roman Israel, Esq. with Denzel Washington, and Academy contenders like Battle of the Sexes, The Greatest Showman, Suburbicon, Darkest Hour, All the Money in the World, and The Disaster Artist.

Yet here are the ten that my personal movie calendar is most looking forward to (listed alphabetically):

Blade Runner 2049

Release Date: October 6

35 years after Ridley Scott made his landmark sci-fi pic, Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve enters this visually stunning world with Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and Robin Wright and Harrison Ford returning as Deckard.

Downsizing

Release Date: December 22

It may not be out until Christmas, but buzz will be out soon for this Oscar hopeful as it screens in Venice in just days. Alexander Payne’s fantastic filmography includes Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska. His latest is a sci-fi comedy/drama starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and (get used to hearing this name) Hong Chau, who’s already garnering Supporting Actress talk.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

It

Release Date: September 8

Fall essentially kicks off with this adaptation of one of Stephen King’s greatest works. Trailers for It looks scary as hell and it could compete for both biggest September debut ever and highest horror opening of all time.

Justice League

Release Date: November 17

DC’s version of The Avengers has been the subject of shaky buzz, but I’m curious to see how Batman, Aquaman, The Flash, and others meld together. Oh… there’s another one in the form of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who just happened to headline the summer’s unexpected largest domestic hit (beating out other superheroes like the Guardians and Spidey).

mother!

Release Date: September 15

Darren Aronofsky’s latest looks to be in the vein of his Oscar nominated Black Swan and that’s a very good thing. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer star and if this trailer is any indication, we’re in for something very intriguing.

Murder on the Orient Express

Release Date: November 10

Michelle Pfeiffer makes another appearance on this list as she’s part of an impressive ensemble embroiled in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famed novel. Kenneth Branagh directs himself in the lead as Hercule Poirot. Other familiar faces include Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, and Josh Gad.

The Papers

Release Date: December 22

As in the Pentagon Papers and the Washington Post‘s battle with the Nixon administration to release them. You think this one has Oscar bait potential? It’s directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Phantom Thread

Release Date: December 27

Here’s how little is really known about this project… we’re not even sure Phantom Thread is its title. What do we know? It’s master filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest and reunites him with his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis.

NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

The Shape of Water

Release Date: December 8

Visionary director Guillermo del Toro’s latest looks to be a visual and potentially dramatic winner judging from its trailer. Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon star in this 1960s set tale of a woman’s friendship with a strange creature.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Release Date: December 15

Last, but oh so far from the least. Rian Johnson takes over directorial duties for the year’s most anticipated release with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gaining significantly more screen time and Carrie Fisher making her final bow as Princess Leia.

And there you have it, folks! Let us look forward to a hopefully glorious autumn season…

Smurfs: The Lost Village Box Office Prediction

Columbia Pictures hopes that moviegoers have the blues in a good way next weekend when Smurfs: The Lost Village debuts. This is the third pic in the franchise based on the 1980s cartoon and the studio has made a change-up. While 2011’s The Smurfs and its 2013 sequel were a mix of live-action and animation, The Lost Village cuts the human aspect and is of the fully drawn variety. That means Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria are nowhere to be seen, unlike the first two.

Voice over work is provided by familiar faces that include Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodgriguez, Jack McBrayer, Ellie Kemper, Danny Pudi, Ariel Winter, and Julia Roberts. Kelly Asbury, who handled directorial duties on Shrek 2, is behind the camera.

The 2011 Smurfs was a hit, opening to $35 million with an eventual $142M domestic haul. Part two did not fare as well, premiering to $17 million and $71M overall.

Competition for family audiences is considerable. Beauty and the Beast will still be bringing in the bucks in weekend #4, Powers Rangers will be in its third frame, and The Boss Baby will be entering its sophomore weekend.

That said, I expect The Lost Village to outdo what the second movie did out of the gate. I anticipate an opening in the high teens to low 20s. That likely means a third place showing behind Baby and Beauty. Whether or not that’s enough to push forward with planned sequel Smurf & Turf (in which the characters become embroiled in a vicious gangland war) remains to be seen.

Smurfs: The Lost Village opening weekend prediction: $20.4 million

For my Going in Style prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/29/going-in-style-box-office-prediction/

For my The Case for the Christ prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/03/the-case-for-christ-box-office-prediction/