Oscar Watch: Old

In 1999, M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout smash The Sixth Sense received six Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director, the supporting work of Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette, and the screenplay that infamously shocked the moviegoing masses. It ended up winning none of them and since then, Shyamalan’s filmography has resulted in just one other nomination for his next 10 features (Original Score for The Village).

Conversely, we have seen 23 nods and some victories for the auteur’s work at the Razzies (which annually celebrates the worst in film). This includes four nominations each for Lady in the Water and The Happening, 8 for The Last Airbender, six with After Earth, and one for Glass. 

This brings us to Old, his latest pic opening tomorrow. The review embargo lifted today and it currently sports a somewhat decent 61% Rotten Tomatoes score. That said, many critics say it encompasses the best of Shyamalan and the worst (get ready for some clunky dialogue).

No, Old will not contend for Best Picture at the Oscars (but it may not get Razzie love either). However, just a look at the trailers and TV spots indicates it could play in one race. The plot involves its cast of characters rapidly aging on a scenic beach and that involves makeup.

The Makeup and Hairstyling category is one where critical kudos doesn’t mean much. I give you previous pics such as Click, Norbit, The Lone Ranger, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil as evidence.

There will be more likely nominees in the mix such as Cruella and House of Gucci and Jessica Chastain’s forthcoming transformation as the title character in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Yet perhaps Old could have a shot here and my sixth sense says that’s at least feasible. On the flip side, perhaps when nominations come out – we will discover Old‘s viability had been dead the entire time. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Old Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/21): I am revising my Old prediction down from $22.8 million to $19.8 million

What will be the ending to the next M. Night Shyamalan opening weekend story? That’s a tough one with Old, the filmmaker’s latest thriller debuting July 23rd. Based on a graphic novel, the pic places its cast in a beach setting where they inexplicably begin rapidly aging. That’s about the biggest nightmare Hollywood can imagine and Universal Pictures is banking that the horror will translate onscreen. The cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Eliza Scanlen, Alex Woolf, Abbey Lee, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, and Embeth Davidtz.

Over the past six years, Shyamalan has experienced a career resurgence with his budgets getting lower and his grosses far exceeding the price tag. 2015’s The Visit took in a surprising $25 million out of the gate ($65 million overall domestic gross). 2017’s Split started off with a cool $40 million ($138 million haul) and its 2019 follow-up Glass earned $46 million over the long MLK frame with a $111 million eventual take.

In a summer filled with sequels and reboots, Old could have the advantage (despite being based on a property) of looking like something fresh. You could even say – what’s Old is new. The trailers and TV spots are pretty effective. It is competing for some of the same audience with the G.I. Joe franchise overhaul Snake Eyes. However, my gut says this could manage to overshadow it.

The aforementioned predecessors from the director kicked off in a less competitive timeframe. I still believe Old gets pretty close to the $25 million achieved by The Visit and gives it a solid chance at topping charts over Snake Eyes.

Old opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million

For my Snake Eyes prediction, click here:

Snake Eyes Box Office Prediction

The Father Review

Florian Zeller’s The Father takes us devastatingly into the mind of a man who’s losing his own to dementia. Based on the director’s 2012 play Le Pere, the film is not an easy watch due to both its emotional themes and often confusing storyline. However, the latter is on purpose as The Father is frequently told from the viewpoint of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) as he has lost his grip on time, place, and reality.

Primarily taking place in a London flat, Anthony is being cared for by his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) as the picture opens. It doesn’t take long to realize he suffers lapses in cognition. Anne tells her father that she will soon move to Paris because she’s fallen in love. Shortly thereafter we see Anne in the form of another woman (Olivia Williams) and she’s married to Paul (Mark Gatiss), which puts Anne’s recent tale of French relocation into question. Paul is later seen in the form of another being (Rufus Sewell) with Colman’s iteration of Anne back in the mix.

This is the puzzle piece in which we, the audience, are constantly piecing together. It’s soon apparent that we are subject to Anthony’s failing perspective. The Father covers the familiar issues involved with dementia in often unfamiliar ways: elder abuse, the exhaustive toll on family members, the brief moments of clarity that justify soldiering on.

There’s also the issue of another daughter who Anthony holds in high regard, but has seemingly disappeared from the scene. We see glimpses of Anthony’s gregarious personality when he lays on the charm for a prospective new caretaker (Imogen Poots). It coincides with his sometimes dismissive treatment of Anne.

All of this is held together by a masterful performance from Hopkins. Despite his movie star persona, it takes virtually no time in its 97 minutes for the Oscar winner to disappear into the role. The supporting cast is all first-rate, but our emotions rise and fall with Anthony’s own. For those with first-hand experience with this awful illness, The Father is a challenge to witness. For any moviegoer, it’s also an example of a unique take on the subject with a brilliant performance in the center of the tragic confusion.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Father

French playwright Florian Zeller saw his play Le Pere (translation: The Father) debut onstage in 2012 to massive critical acclaim. Now Zeller has directed a version of it for the silver screen and it’s debuted at Sundance. The Father casts Anthony Hopkins as a man suffering from dementia who moves in with his daughter (Olivia Colman).

Sony Pictures Classics has already nabbed distribution rights and buzz suggests the performance of Hopkins is magnificent. Next weekend, Sir Anthony is up for Supporting Actor for playing a Holy Father in The Two Popes and it marks his fifth nomination. Yes, it’s early in the year but critical reaction opens up the very real possibility that The Father could mark his sixth. Of his current quintet of Academy recognition, he’s won once and that was his first recognition for his iconic Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. He’s not expected to pick up the trophy on February 9th for Popes. 

Colman could find herself in the mix as well and it would come two years after she scored a surprise Best Actress victory for The Favourite. It’s not clear at this juncture whether Sony would campaign for her in lead or supporting.

Many Sundance selections garner a bit of fire that is doused as the season rolls along. I have a hunch that may not be the case here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Judy

It’s been quite some time since Renee Zellweger has been in the minds of Oscar voters for consideration, but that looks to change in 2019 with Judy. The film finds the actress portraying screen legend Judy Garland in the final tumultuous year of her life. Rupert Goold directs with a supporting cast including Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, and Michael Gambon.

While reviews for the picture itself are of a mixed nature, critics are praising Zellweger’s work as the troubled star. At the beginning of this century, the performer was recognized three years in a row. In 2001 and 2002, she scored back to back nods in lead actress for Bridget Jones’s Diary and Chicago. 2003 brought Zellweger a Supporting Actress win for Cold Mountain.

Academy folks love a good comeback story and Zellweger looks primed for a fourth nomination here as Judy. I’d suspect that would be the extent of any recognition for Judy as a whole. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Gods of Egypt Box Office Prediction

Saddled with a rather inexplicable reported $140 million price tag, action fantasy saga Gods of Egypt hits screens next weekend. It may be lucky to capture a third of its massive budget domestically and be one of the costliest flops of 2016’s first quarter.

Directed by Alex Proyas, who gave us Dark City and I, Robot, Gods features some recognizable faces including Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush, Rufus Sewell, and Chadwick Boseman. The Lionsgate release comes just a week after Risen and the week before London Has Fallen and with Deadpool still making a killing. In other words, there’s a lot of competition for the genre crowd.

I just don’t see Gods doing any significant business. Anything over $20 million would surprise me and I believe this will struggle to even reach $15M for a majorly disappointing start.

Gods of Egypt opening weekend prediction: $13.9 million

For my Eddie the Eagle prediction, click here:


For my Triple 9 prediction, click here:

Triple 9 Box Office Prediction

Hercules Movie Review

For all the partially deserved fanboy flack that Brett Ratner gets for his middling X-Men entry, 2006’s The Last Stand, the truth is that the guy knows how to create fairly passable entertainment. I would apply this to everything from Red Dragon to After the Sunset to Tower Heist. His latest is Hercules. This is not a re-teaming with Eddie Murphy focusing on Sherman Klump’s nephew, but a significantly loose reimagining of the Greek god tale with its tongue often firmly planted in the strong cheekbones of its star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If taking on this well worn story sounds like a big undertaking and effort for Mr. Ratner (if only there were a term to better describe that), he doesn’t embarrass himself even if the final product is just mildly satisfying.

Johnson is a natural choice to play the son of Zeus (or is he?) and we find this version of Hercules as a for hire mercenary with a band of merry misfits. They include his young nephew who hates that his legendary uncle won’t let him fight. We have a knife thrower and a dude who doesn’t speak, but we know he will eventually at an “important moment”. And we also know the nephew will get his chance to show his bravery. The most interesting of the Herculean back up group is played by Ian McShane who can apparently see his the details of his own demise. The pic has a little fun with this detail. Rounding out the team is basically Xena, Warrior Princess.

We soon arrive at our hero and team’s latest mission which is to save a village led by a Lord played by John Hurt and his daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) with her young boy who shall be king one day. That is if Hercules and company can save them. Family issues are also front and center with Hercules himself and we learn details of his tragic history relating to why he was banished from Athens.

Our nemesis is someone who may or may not be a centaur and we have a couple of laughs from that detail as well. We get a series of battle sequences and inspirational speeches as the beleaguered village must learn war tricks from the title character. Training montage included. It’s all familiar territory with the one welcome difference being that the screenplay doesn’t take itself seriously like most efforts in the genre.

The vibe gets a bit more toned down in the third act and by that time, these proceedings begin to wear out their welcome. It’s actually the early battle sequences that are most impressive before becoming a little repetitive (some occasional dodgy creature CG doesn’t help). Like Ratner flicks before it, passable is an apt word for description with Hercules.

**1/2 (out of four)