Oscar Watch: The Devil All the Time

The Gothic thriller The Devil All the Time, based on the 2011 bestseller by Donald Ray Pollock, is in theater this weekend in limited fashion before a Netflix release this coming Wednesday. Directed by Antonio Campos, the pic boasts an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson (who’s everywhere at the moment with Tenet and The Batman trailer out).

Reviews out are of the mixed variety as Devil holds a 64% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some critics have gone out of their way to praise the performances of Holland and Pattinson. The latter, in particular, seems likely to find an awards friendly role sooner than later with his impressive post Twilight output.

However, this is highly unlikely to be it. In addition to the several negative reviews, Netflix is simply too busy this season to make this film a priority. The streamer looks to have several legitimate contenders on their hands in the near future with Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Hillbilly Elegy – all of which have actors that they’ll campaign for. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Paterno Movie Review

Paterno opens during an important football game as the 84-year-old Penn State coaching legend is going for a personal NCAA record in wins. The elderly team leader sits up high in a press box and not on the sidelines, plotting out the victory. He’s removed, but involved. It’s an allegory for what follows. This is the central question of the massive scandal that follows and the rendering of the subject’s legacy in the public view. How removed was Joe Paterno in the Jerry Sandusky saga? Or how involved was he?

The HBO effort marks the second collaboration of director Barry Levinson and leading man Al Pacino for the cable network. Their first was 2010’s You Don’t Know Jack, in which the Oscar winner played Dr. Kevorkian. Levinson also made last year’s The Wizard of Lies, which cast Robert De Niro as Ponzi scheme maker Bernie Madoff. That picture had some issues with its story structure and so does this.

The tale unfolds in November 2011 over a week’s period of time that feels like an eternity for those in Happy Valley. When former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with multiple accounts of child sexual abuse, the focus soon turns to what the iconic Paterno (Pacino) knew and when. It’s a startling turn of quick events that results in the coach’s dismissal, as well as others involved with the college.

Breaking the explosive story is local reporter Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), whose sordid tale is ignored for a bit. And then everyone in the world pays attention. It’s this work that would result in a Pulitzer for her and the downfall of a living and breathing institution. This journalistic expose is done in a setting where many of the Penn State faithful are in a haze and in denial about what’s happening. Many don’t want to believe Paterno could have done any wrong in failing to report his knowledge of Sandusky’s evil.

This plot line of the bravery of reporters and the victims to shed light on Sandusky’s crimes and the inability of university officials to do the right thing is the fascinating one. However, Paterno the movie spends most of its running time holed up in Paterno the man’s home as he’s in crisis control mode with his family and advisors.

It does provide Pacino an opportunity for a choice role, just as his other HBO projects have in the 21st century (both Jack and 2003’s Angels in America). He is successful in mimicking the look and mannerisms of the coach. Paterno is played as a man seemingly incapable of understanding the gravity of the unfolding storm around him. The same goes for many in State College.

There’s a remarkable sequence where people take to the streets to protest JoePa’s firing as Sara watches. She knows that she is largely responsible for their vitriol, but also instrumental in putting away a monster. A deeper dive into how that happened could have been intriguing. Paterno largely removes itself from that process while providing a slightly disappointing but well-acted experience from those involved.

**1/2 (out of four)

It Comes at Night Movie Review

It Comes at Night is a bleak, brisk, sometimes effective horror thriller that’s well-acted and filmed. The decision to not overly explain the events causing the characters to be holed up in a house together seems wise. However, when the credits roll, you might find yourself asking it that’s all there is.

Trey Edward Shults writes and directs this tale of a world gone to hell. A nasty and unexplained outbreak has seemingly wiped out a hefty portion of the world’s population. If you become symptomatic, you need to be put down. That’s how we’re introduced to Paul (Joel Edgerton), wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and 17 year-old boy Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as they do what they have to with Sarah’s ill father.

The family lives in their boarded up home with one entrance/exit. Days are spent rationing food and water. Their sad existence is interrupted one evening by intruder Will (Christopher Abbott), who assumes the house is vacant. He’s seeking shelter for his family – wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their toddler son. The family ends up moving in and for a brief time everything seems ok.

Deserved kudos go out to Shults for crafting a screenplay that doesn’t burden itself with explaining the plague that’s put everyone in that house. This story is more about how the characters function in that claustrophobic existence. Travis is a teenager with attractive young woman Kim all of a sudden present. Paul is always cognizant that you can’t trust anyone beyond family.

Night is a slow burn of distrust and eerie atmosphere that eventually reaches a conclusion you both dread and suspect. Shults is clearly a talented filmmaker, but I can’t deny the feeling that the picture ends up feeling a bit slight and too simplistic. It’s not without its cliches (there’s a family dog that you just know will factor in). There’s a dream sequence over reliance. No fault belongs with the actors who are all solid. Edgerton again proves he can nail an intense performance.

Genre fans will probably find enough to admire here, but Night comes in effective spurts and not a totally cohesive whole.

**1/2 (out of four)

Logan Lucky Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/17): I am revising my Logan Lucky prediction down to $10.5 million on the eve of its debut.

The eclectic Steven Soderbergh is back in theaters with heist comedy Logan Lucky, debuting next weekend. It marks the director’s first theatrical release in four and a half years since Side Effects and first picture altogether since 2013’s Behind the Candelabra which premiered on HBO.

Lucky is headlined by many familiar faces, including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig (getting raves for the role), Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, and Sebastian Stan. Reviews have been quite pleasing and it stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, being frequently compared to the Ocean‘s trilogy that Soderbergh made.

Even with the solid reviews and a NASCAR tie-in (the film’s heist takes place at a race), there could be some issues with this completely breaking out. There is direct competition in the form of The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and it’s more likely to debut a bit higher. The mid August release date is also not one that lends itself well to openings above $20 million.

I’ll predict Lucky‘s number falls in the low to possibly mid teens, as it will hope to leg out well in future weekends (and may well do so).

Logan Lucky opening weekend prediction: $10.5 million

For my The Hitman’s Bodyguard prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/the-hitmans-bodyguard-box-office-prediction/