Oscar Watch: The Way Back

Ben Affleck has certainly had a fascinating history with Oscar voters. He’s a double winner who has never been nominated for the profession he’s known best for. In 1997, Affleck (along with Matt Damon) took home the Best Original Screenplay trophy for Good Will Hunting. Fifteen years later, his directorial effort Argo was named Best Picture and as a producer, he picked up his second Academy Award. However, he’s one of the few filmmakers whose project was victorious in the biggest race while he was snubbed in the directing category.

This Friday, Affleck stars in Gavin O’Connor’s basketball drama The Way Back. Playing a coach battling addiction problems, some early reviews are calling it his finest performance to date. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 85%. O’Connor’s previous sports related picture, 2011’s Warrior, nabbed Nick Nolte a Best Supporting Actor nod.

In addition to being ignored for Director with Argo, Affleck also failed to garner a Best Actor nod. As mentioned, he’s yet to pick up recognition in that space. There was some buzz he could get a nomination alongside his Gone Girl costar Rosamund Pike in 2014, but it never materialized.

Could The Way Back change that? Doubtful. The release date is awfully early and box office prospects don’t look too encouraging. Affleck could get a second bite at the apple in December with Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. That historical drama features the actor in a supporting role alongside Damon and Adam Driver. Affleck cowrote the screenplay and we could see another example of his writing skills being noticed as opposed to his own performance. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Robin Hood Box Office Prediction

The latest cinematic iteration of the famed rich stealing and poor giving hero hits theaters over Thanksgiving with Robin Hood. The action-adventure comes from TV director Otto Bathurst with Taron Egerton in the title role, Jamie Foxx as Little John, Ben Mendelsohn playing the Sheriff of Nottingham and Eve Hewson as Maid Marian. Jamie Dornan and Tim Minchin are among the supporting players.

It’s only been a little over eight years since the last Hood landed onscreen. That was Ridley Scott’s expensive epic starring Russell Crowe. That high-profile summer pic managed to gross just over $100 million, but still fell short of projections considering it was from the Gladiator team. It was 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner that was the massive blockbuster at $165 million overall.

Buzz for this reboot seems very muted and trailers leave an ambivalent feeling. I’m very skeptical Robin Hood hits its target audience. Looking at Turkey Day frame comparisons, I’m stuck on Ron Howard’s 2003 Western The Missing. I see it hitting below double digits for the traditional portion of the weekend with just over $14 million for the five-day.

Robin Hood opening weekend prediction: $9.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $14.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Ralph Breaks the Internet prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/13/ralph-breaks-the-internet-box-office-prediction/

For my Creed II prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/creed-ii-box-office-prediction/

For my Green Book prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/17/green-book-box-office-prediction/

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

1982’s Blade Runner has been reworked and remastered more in the past three decades plus than most classic albums. Along with Alien, director Ridley Scott created a one two punch of science fiction classics in a span of just three years. While the former spawned a series of sequels and offshoots, it’s not until 35 years later that a proper Blade Runner sequel has arrived.

Mr. Scott serves as executive producer because he was busy making the mediocre Alien: Covenant. So it’s Denis Villeneuve handling behind the camera duties one year after his highly rewarding alien pic Arrival. He proves himself as a natural choice to revisit this dystopian future that’s been an incredible influence on many sci-fi experiences that followed.

That influence has mostly been in its bleak look and astonishing production design. 2049, as the title tells us, takes place 30 years after what we saw in the early 1980s. Our central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant who serves the LAPD like Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the original. These days, K’s kind are programmed to be more obedient and their primary function is in slave labor. K’s day job involves hunting down old school replicants. In the ultra stylish night, he invents a relationship with the gorgeous holograph Joi (Ana de Armas).

One of K’s assignments leads to a startling discovery that suggests replicants have the ability to procreate. The existence of a being of that ilk is troubling to K’s boss (Robin Wright), fearing a war will break out between humans and replicants. The revelation also intrigues Wallace (Jared Leto), the blind owner of the corporation that manufactures the product. He envisions this as a considerable financial opportunity and tasks his chief enforcer (Sylvia Hoeks) to find the now grown child.

This all eventually leads back to Deckard, with Ford completing a trifecta of revisiting signature late seventies and early eighties roles. It also involves his romantic interest Sean Young from the original. She returns in the archival footage manner. 2049 expands the Blade Runner universe and also expands the running time, clocking in nearly 45 minutes longer than part 1. In that respect, the sequel takes a bit longer to get its motor running.

Luckily for us, the visuals that were so special 35 years ago are remarkable here as well. There are sequences that are bleakly beautiful. Those expecting a full update on Deckard’s dealings may be surprised to find he doesn’t appear until about two-thirds through the proceedings. This is Gosling’s picture to carry most of the way and he does so with a quiet intensity.

Like Villeneuve’s Arrival, this is a sci-fi venture more steeped in its themes than action sequences. Violence comes in short and sudden bursts and that’s in line with two of the filmmaker’s other efforts Prisoners and Sicario. It’s no accident that I’m comparing 2049 just as much to those three movies as I am with the Scott original. Villeneuve succeeds in making this long gestating follow-up his own while clearly valuing an adoration of the first. That doesn’t happen too often as even Scott has fallen short with his return to Alien world. The legions of admirers of what came 35 years ago should be pleased.

***1/2 (out of four)

All the Money in the World Movie Review

Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is made with all the competence in the world you would imagine from this filmmaker retelling one of the most famous kidnappings in modern history. It’s a story built for a cinematic rendering that’s moderately successful in its execution. The screenplay from David Scarpa takes liberties with what really happened on occasion, but sticks to many of the bizarre facts surrounding the taking of John Paul Getty III.

In 1973, 16-year-old Getty (Charlie Plummer) was living a carefree life in Rome when he was abducted.  The demands for ransom were based on good cause. Getty’s grandfather is J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, no relation to the actor playing his grandson). Not only is the elder Getty currently the wealthiest man on Earth, the oil tycoon is the wealthiest man to ever walk it. There’s one significant issue: he’s also notoriously stingy and his potential heirs are not enjoying his riches.

That means young Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) must ask her former father-in-law for the $17 million demanded for his safe return. Paul’s father (Andrew Buchan) is essentially out of the picture both literally and figuratively – off somewhere in a drug induced haze. Mr. Getty has no interest in paying. Some of his reasons seem valid as he figures it will be open season on all his grandkids if he acquieses. Most of his actions re-enforce his reputation as a persnickety cheapskate.

Mr. Getty does direct one of his advisers, former CIA man Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to investigate. He believes at first that Paul may have set up the snatching himself for a generous payday. When that wrongheaded theory proves false, a lengthy negotiation develops between Gail, Mr. Getty, and a rather large group of crime figures involved in Paul’s capture.

All the Money in the World, of course, has its own notable backstory as Kevin Spacey filmed the entire role portraying Mr. Getty. When numerous sordid allegations came forth about him, director Scott made the unheard of decision to recast the role with Plummer just weeks before its release. You wouldn’t know of the behind the scenes drama upon viewership. The 88-year-old gives a strong performance as the unlikable billionaire who never seems to recognize normal human emotion or find a dollar he doesn’t attempt to stretch as far as humanly possible. Similar acclaim goes to Williams as the mother desperately trying to come up with solutions when everyone else assumes she can just snap her fingers and cash magically appears. Another solid performance worthy of mention is Romain Duris as Cinquanta, one of the kidnappers who develops a bond with Paul and is far more sympathetic to the situation than his grandpa is. The weak spot is Wahlberg. He’s an actor capable of fine work, but I never managed to fully buy him here as the hardened CIA man.

Some of the events depicted here are accentuated for dramatic effect, including an ending for Mr. Getty that didn’t follow until years later. Most of the time, the picture glides by on Scott’s sturdy direction and its inherently compelling tale of inheritors with a bad benefactor.

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Ridley Scott is now nearly 40 years into his Alien franchise which started with his 1979 classic and preceded Alien: Covenant with the often confounding Prometheus from 2012. Scott has now made half of the six series entries. In many ways, this latest one is the least effective of all. It’s not bad and I’d say none of them have been (middling, yes). Covenant, however, lies in a strange place. The dark visual splendor and occasional jump horror scares are present at times. Memorable characters are not and that’s different than when we were rolling with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and others. The film is indeed a sequel to Prometheus, which was more of an existential exercise about where we come from and not a traditional xenomorph flick. Covenant wants to cover that territory, as well as bringing H.R. Geiger’s famed creature more in the frame.

There’s another crew in deep space and they’re on a colonization mission occurring a decade after the events of Prometheus. The membership of this crew (the Covenant) differs from previous ones in that they’re married couples. When a malfunction on the ship wakes them from their long slumber, they must deal with that quickly. A longer term problem is an unexpected xenomorph presence onboard which soon causes a growing widow population.

Katherine Waterston is Daniels and she’s basically new Ripley, but not as interesting. Danny McBride brings a little gravitas to the party as Tennessee, the ship’s pilot. Billy Crudup is the anointed captain. Yet it’s a Prometheus holdover that gets the most attention. Michael Fassbender is back as David, the android who stood out in the predecessor. When the crew must land on a planet they weren’t supposed to, they find him. Finding out what he’s been up to since the end of Prometheus takes up plenty of screen time. Fassbender doubles his time as he also plays Walter, a newer model droid that part of the Covenant crew. Their dynamic is somewhat intriguing in moments, but I never got over one big issue. I simply wasn’t begging for the unanswered Prometheus questions to be filled in, as that picture didn’t ultimately warrant the curiosity.

The talented Mr. Ridley never struggles to master production design and visuals. True here. And he strives to bring the gory action that we previously expected from this franchise. It’s here, but the mayhem is inflicted upon characters we won’t remember for long and with a xenomorph who’s popped out of better written people before.

** (out of four)

2017 Golden Globe Predictions

The most high-profile Oscar precursor arrives Sunday night when Seth Meyers hosts the Golden Globe awards. Of course, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association operates a bit differently by divvying its major categories (Picture, Actor, Actress) into Drama and Musical/Comedy.

As has been a common theme lately, one of the “Musical/Comedy” entries is a bit questionable – Jordan Peele’s Get Out. To be fair, it is a difficult picture to classify. The Golden Globes can often shed some light on Oscar contenders or solidify front runners. Here are my predictions, race by race, on who and what will emerge victorious and my runner-up picks:

Best Picture (Drama)

Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Predicted Winner: The Shape of Water

Runner-Up: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Picture (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees: The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman, I, Tonya, Lady Bird

Predicted Winner: Lady Bird

Runner-Up: The Disaster Artist

Best Director

Nominees: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World), Steven Spielberg (The Post)

Predicted Winner: del Toro

Runner-Up: Nolan

Best Actor (Drama)

Nominees: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Tom Hanks (The Post), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Predicted Winner: Oldman

Runner-Up: Chalamet

Best Actress (Drama)

Nominees: Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Meryl Streep (The Post), Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World)

Predicted Winner: Hawkins

Runner-Up: McDormand

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

Predicted Winner: Franco

Runner-Up: Jackman

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees: Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul), Helen Mirren (The Leisure Seeker), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes)

Predicted Winner: Ronan

Runner-Up: Robbie

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Predicted Winner: Plummer

Runner-Up: Rockwell

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Hong Chau (Downsizing), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Predicted Winner: Janney

Runner-Up: Metcalf

Best Screenplay

Nominees: Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Predicted Winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Runner-Up: Lady Bird

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

Predicted Winner: Coco

Runner-Up: Loving Vincent

Best Foreign Language Film 

Nominees: A Fantastic Woman, First, They Killed My Father, In the Fade, Loveless, The Square

Predicted Winner: First, They Killed My Father

Runner-Up: A Fantastic Woman

Best Score

Nominees: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Predicted Winner: Dunkirk

Runner-Up: The Shape of Water

Best Song

Nominees: “Home” from Ferdinand, “Mighty River” from Mudbound, “Remember Me” from Coco, “The Star” from The Star, “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

Predicted Winner: “This is Me”

Runner-Up: “Remember Me”

I’ll have a recap up Sunday night with how I did! Until then…

Oscar Watch: All the Money in the World

When the Golden Globe nominations were announced early last week, there were three rather significant surprises. All the Money in the World, which is out Christmas Day, garnered a trio of nominations that no one really saw coming: Ridley Scott for his direction (even though the film itself failed to get a Picture nod), Michelle Williams for Actress, and Christopher Plummer for Supporting Actor.

This begged the question: could the Globes love translate to Oscar affection? The true-life kidnapping thriller had its review embargo lifted today and answers have become (somewhat) more clear. Early critical reaction is positive and it stands at 89% at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes.

Much of the praise is indeed focused on the direction and the two performers listed above (Mark Wahlberg will not factor into Best Actor). Yet we all know the picture has generated unexpected publicity in the last few weeks. Mr. Plummer took over the role of J. Paul Getty when Kevin Spacey became embroiled in scandal. The latter had already shot his entire supporting part and even a trailer was released with Spacey prominently featured.

Amazingly, it was a month and half ago that Plummer was brought in to replace him and director Scott has delivered the finished product in time for release. This unprecedented move has certainly brought Money a lot of attention. It’s certainly possible that the Hollywood Foreign Press (who bestows Globe nominations) were rewarding Scott for his quick turnaround and Plummer for his rapid filming of the role.

Will Oscar follow? Probably not. Many of the overall positive reviews have quibbled with script aspects and delivery. I do not see a Best Picture nomination as likely and that should put Scott out of the running. However, if Money somehow manages to be nominated in the biggest category, Scott would probably follow suit. I would not bet on it (even though many thought Scott was snubbed two years ago for The Martian).

As for the two actors nominated for Globes, Best Actress is incredibly crowded in 2017. It’s hard to dispute Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) as the five front-runners for the five spots with performers like Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) and Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul) waiting in the wings. I simply don’t see room for Williams at this point.

Plummer could be a different story. Supporting Actor is fairly busy, but I see only Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) as absolute sure things for nominations. My weekly Monday predictions will still probably leave Plummer on the outside looking in, but he’s definitely got a chance.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…