2018: The Year of Josh Brolin

He’s been an Oscar nominee for Milk, the star of Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men, a Man in Black for the third entry of that franchise, and (of course) the big brother in The Goonies. And in 2018, Josh Brolin was unquestionably the king of the summer sequel, setting up roles that will continue for some time.

It all started with the summer season’s biggest blockbuster – Avengers: Infinity War. As villainous Thanos, Brolin pretty much stole the show against the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. A few weeks later, the actor starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, which stands as the year’s fifth top earner. Sicario: Day of the Soldado followed shortly after that with Brolin reprising his role as a CIA agent barking orders to Benicio del Toro. That follow-up managed to top the gross of its 2015 predecessor.

We can expect to see him in all three of these parts again. In summer 2019, Thanos will be back in Avengers: Endgame. He’s signed a four picture deal to be Cable in that cinematic universe. A third Sicario feature is planned.

In a career that kicked off over three decades ago alongside One-Eyed Willy and Sloth, Brolin established a trio of characters that we’ll likely see onscreen for the foreseeable future.

2018: The Year of Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt has had a decade filled with acclaimed performances in high-profile features including Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario (she sat out its sequel this summer), and The Girl on the Train. In 2018, this rose to an even greater level with a pair of very different titles.

In April, Blunt headlined the horror pic of the year with A Quiet Place directed by her husband John Krasinski. Her role as an expectant mother trying to protect her unborn baby and other children from monsters drew critical raves. The film debuted to a stunning $50 million and took in $188 million domestically.

This month, she took on the iconic role made famous over 50 years ago by Julie Andrews in the Disney sequel Mary Poppins Returns. Reviews were mostly strong for it as well, especially for Blunt’s take on the British nanny. It, too, should leg out to a stateside gross approaching $200 million.

2019 is expected to be a quiet one for the actress while she’ll star alongside Dwayne Johnson in the summer of 2020 with the Mouse Factory’s Jungle Cruise. As for this year, it was anything but quiet for Ms. Blunt.

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)

Oscar Watch – Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t the only high-profile sequel to a 2015 release coming to a theater near you this month. Sicario: Day of the Soldado follows up on the critically acclaimed Denis Villeneuve crime drama that garnered three Oscar nominations in that year. Soldado debuts a week from tomorrow and reviews are already out.

The verdict? Somewhat mixed as it stands at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes at press time. That’s a pretty far cry from the 93% that its predecessor earned. Interestingly, I’ve seen at least two critical reactions that compare it to Rambo: First Blood Part II. Go figure. Even with its great buzz from reviewers, 2015’s Sicario missed out on the big nominations, including Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Benicio del Toro for Supporting Actor. The pic did receive nods for the Cinematography of Roger Deakins, the late Johann Johannsson’s Score, and Sound Editing. Deakins does not return here and he finally won a long deserved statue for last year’s Blade Runner 2049. Villeneuve was busy with 2049 as well and Stefano Sollima takes over directorial duties here.

Bottom line: the Soldado reaction leaves it as an extreme long-shot for any recognition, while part 1 found itself more in the mix.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado Box Office Prediction

Not your traditional summer sequel involving superheroes, dinosaurs or animated characters, Sicario: Day of the Soldado arrives in theaters next weekend and hopes to serve as counter programming to said seasonal blockbusters. The pic is a follow-up to 2015’s Sicario, Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed crime thriller that garnered three Oscar nominations. Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin (this summer’s reigning sequel king) reprise their roles from the original, though Emily Blunt does not appear (she’s been busy with A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns). New costars include Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, and Matthew Modine. As for Villeneuve, he’s moved onto Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 and Italian director Stefano Sollima is now on board. The original’s screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan (who also is responsible for Hell or High Water and Wind River), is back penning this sequel.

Sicario opened in the fall of 2015 and its first wide release weekend brought in $12.1 million with an eventual gross of over $46 million domestically (it earned $85 million total worldwide against a reported budget of $30 million). Soldado may manage to slightly outpace that debut number of part 1 and a sequel is apparently already in the works. That premiere could put it in a battle for third place with the weekend’s other newcomers (Uncle Drew) and behind Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Incredibles 2.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado opening weekend prediction: $13.8 million

For my Uncle Drew prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/19/uncle-drew-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Mary Magdalene

In 2016, the directorial debut of Garth Davis was Lion and it earned an impressive six Oscar nominations. His follow-up is an ambitious one – Biblical drama Mary Magdalene. The film casts previous nominees Rooney Mara in the title role with Joaquin Phoenix portraying Jesus.

Anything featuring this director, the subject matter, and the leads is bound to lead to Oscar curiosity. Yet buzz out today strongly suggests otherwise. Reviews have been rather weak with one major trade publication deeming it a sophomore slump.

While Phoenix has been singled out for his performance, he is far more likely to garner a nod for other pictures he’s got in the 2018 hopper. They are Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and You Were Never Really Here and they’ve already been covered on the blog.

Besides the unimpressed critical reaction, there are other issues. While Magdalene is scheduled to roll out internationally in various countries in the coming days and weeks, it’s U.S. distribution is uncertain. The pic was originally scheduled for release from the beleaguered Weinstein Company and is currently without a release date.

There is one possible exception to its Academy chances. The film is composed by Johann Johannson, a previous nominee for The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Mr. Johannson died unexpectedly on February 9 and there could perhaps be a push to honor him posthumously.

Bottom line: don’t look for Mary Magdalene to have any real impact come Oscar time next year.

Wind River Movie Review

For his first directorial effort, Taylor Sheridan has taken cues based on his past acclaimed screenplays to effective order in Wind River. Like his written work the year prior in Hell or High Water, this picture concerns a group of citizens who feel invisible and cut off from society in many aspects. In High Water, it was West Texas dwellers in the hot desert sun who saw the American dream pass them by. In River, it’s the inhabitants residing in sub zero temperatures on an Indian reservation in Wyoming that bears the film’s title.

As Sheridan has brought the issue of crime into both Sicario and High Water, it’s a homicide that awakens the characters sense of injustice. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a fish and wildlife officer who discovers the body of an 18-year-old girl in the frozen tundra. His job typically consists of hunting predators eating the livestock. This new discovery means he’ll assist in hunting a different form of predator. It’s young FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who gets the call to provide federal assistance and she finds herself out of her element in the seemingly constant snowstorm elements.

Much like High Water, there are genre aspects that are familiar. What sets that movie apart and the same holds true here is a fascinating landscape to watch it in. Not every character that Lambert and Banner investigate is involved in the grisly crime, but they all seem bonded by the consequences of their far-off existence in this remote world.

It’s a pleasure to watch the talented Renner in a role that doesn’t involve assisting The Avengers or Ethan Hunt. His backstory is the emotionally charged one as his own young daughter suffered a similar fate to the victim here. There are moments where Renner reminds us of his significant dramatic abilities. Most of the other players exist to advance the plot (Olsen’s role is rather underwritten), but solid support is provided by Graham Greene as the sheriff and Gil Birmingham as the grieving father. Jon Bernthal turns up briefly as the victim’s boyfriend in a sequence that goes from sweet to horrific in a matter of seconds.

Wind River is a visually striking experience that easily proves Sheridan’s abilities behind the camera can match his writing. The West Texas residents of High Water may have been troubled and outraged by their lot in life, but they also had a sense of pride of where they came from. The people of Wind River feel the same. And our time spent with them is worthwhile.

*** (out of four)