It’s usually not a confident signal when the distributor releases a trailer for a film one week before its release. Yet that is the case with 20th Century Studios and The Empty Man, a horror pic out this Friday. Based on a 2014 graphic novel, David Prior directs with a cast including James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, and Joel Courtney.
Originally slated for August before its COVID related delay, there was even some jesting whether this feature actually existed before real footage emerged a couple of days back. Whether audiences know of its existence is a good question. As new titles have trickled out in October, we’ve seen The War with Grandpa and Honest Thief start off in the $3-4 million range.
Empty could benefit from the lack of product out there, especially in its genre. However, the low key approach in its marketing (to be kind) makes me think it won’t hit those marks.
The Empty Man opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million
The substance abuse drama Four Good Days has debuted at Sundance and the subject matter sure seems potentially Oscar friendly. Glenn Close plays the mother to Mila Kunis’s addicted daughter. Rodrigo Garcia is behind the camera and he’s already directed Close to one Academy nomination in 2011 for Albert Nobbs.
Yet the buzz emanating from Utah suggests Days could fall short with awards voters. Reviews are decent, but nowhere near the level they need to be for Picture consideration. So let’s discuss the two leads. In 2018, Close was the front runner for Actress with The Wife until Olivia Colman (The Favourite) scored an upset victory. Having never won, there’s probably a feeling more than ever that Close is overdue. Kunis likely just missed a Supporting Actress nod for 2010’s Black Swan and any hailed performance could vault her to the top of voters minds.
However, this simply might not be the movie to make it happen for either. In that sense, Days reminds me of two 2018 titles with similar themes that also failed to garner Academy attention: Beautiful Boy and Ben is Back. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Melissa McCarthy is back in theaters after a two-year absence when Life of the Party debuts next weekend. The comedy marks her third collaboration with her husband/director Ben Falcone after 2014’s Tammy and 2016’s The Boss. It’s her first appearance onscreen since the Ghostbusters reboot in the summer of 2016. The pic casts her as a divorced mom who goes back to college and ends up in the same class as her daughter. Costars include Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Maya Rudolph, Jacki Weaver, Julie Bowen, Matt Walsh, and Stephen Root.
The previous efforts of McCarthy with Falcone has yielded results in the low 20s at the box office. Tammy opened to $21 million with an eventual gross of $84 million. Two years later, The Boss premiered with $23 million and $63 million overall. It certainly is possible that Life could start out in the same range, but I could also see this falling just a tad lower.
I’ll project Life of the Party doesn’t quite reach $20 million, which should easily be enough for it to place second to the third weekend of Avengers: Infinity War.
Life of the Party opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million
Jordan Peele’s GetOut is certainly something you don’t see everyday – a mashup of social commentary on race, horror, and comedy. That technically may be an uncomfortable mix of genres, but the writer/director mostly pulls it off in an effort that often feels quite fresh and is sometimes downright invigorating.
The pic begins with a prologue of an African American male wondering the streets of an affluent neighborhood looking for the right address. A car starts to follow him. It doesn’t seem like anything new to him, but it ends in a decidedly frightening result.
Cut to the present as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to leave the city for a weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents place. Rose doesn’t feel it’s important to inform them that he’s black, even though he warns her it might’ve been worth mentioning. He’s right. The suburban area where her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) dwell is lily white. Her dad believes bonding with Chris involves calling him “my man” and insisting he’d vote for Obama had he been eligible for another term.
There are exceptions to the prominently Caucasian community. The family has a groundskeeper and maid who are black. Chris feels something is off with them. He’s right. He also is creeped out when Mom tries out her hypnosis skills on him. She presents it as a way to stop his smoking (like Greg Focker meeting the parents, he has the same habit). Chris suspects there’s something more sinister at play. Once again, his antenna is pointing in the right direction.
One of the more clever aspects in the writing of GetOut is showing how Chris’s radar is always switched on around people of the opposite race. The reactions to him in this foreign world to him are strange, but not enough to have him running. At least for a while.
As the story unfolds, awkward interactions with the family and others turns to horror. In the third act, that genre takes over and provides the kind of scares and laughs that we cherish in it. GetOut works in other ways. All performances are solid starting with leads Kaluuya and Williams. Special shout outs go to Betty Gabriel as that off kilter maid and Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s buddy who provides major comic relief.
Once the plot is completely revealed, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions that a prequel could surely have a ball with. The writer and director doesn’t totally stick the landing in my view. Saying more would go into spoiler territory. That said, GetOut is sharp and potent. Peele became known from Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” for laugh out loud moments filled with timely satire. They’re here coupled with more blood. Kudos to him for believing this curious melding could work. He’s right.
We have seen numerous takes on the raunchy wedding comedy and MikeandDaveNeedWeddingDates is, well, another one. A grouping of actors who’ve done the genre in considerably better work before on film and television, the pic is stale and uninspired. It even wastes its gorgeous Hawaiian locale in a way that ForgettingSarahMarshall didn’t.
The title characters are actual people – the Stangle Brothers – whose life story inspired the events that take place here. Dave (Zac Efron) and Mike (Adam DeVine) lead an aimless and hard partying existence while running a liquor business. We’re not really shown many of their wild exploits. In fact, Dave seems like a somewhat well-adjusted and dull dude. Mike, with DeVine’s performance unsuccessfully attempting to ape a younger Jack Black, is more of an annoyance.
Brothers Stangle are called in by mom and dad when their little sister Jeanie (the coolly named Sugar Lyn Beard) is about to tie the knot. They’re asked to bring dates with the idea that they’ll be less prone to make a scene. So they put out an ad on social media which catches fire, culminating with appearing on Wendy Williams’s show.
When they finally choose their matches, it’s the equally aimless and wild duo of Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza). The girls are in it for the free vacay with Alice having the additional motivation of getting over recently being left at the altar. They try to act like good girls but bad things happen across the ocean.
What follows is a buffet of sex and drugs humor that does precious little to differentiate itself from other bawdy buffets we’ve been served up before. One central theme – “Hey, these gals are just as self-absorbed as the dudes!” – doesn’t add much. Like their male counterparts, Kendrick and Plaza have shined in superior material but can’t elevate this stuff. I don’t know what actually occurred or not in this story that bills itself as “sort of” true. I do know that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to hang with the real people and know for sure there’s not enough laughter in the 99 minutes watching others play them.
This past weekend, comedic drama Hello, My Name Is Doris impressed box office observers by making nearly a million dollars on just 128 screens. The film premiered at the SXSW Film Fesitval days ago to positive response with a current rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The bulk of the film’s praise has been devoted to its lead star, Sally Field, playing an older woman romancing a younger man. If distributor Roadside Attractions is able to mount a credible campaign, Field could find herself in line for her fourth nomination in just under 40 years. In 1979, she was victorious in Best Actress for her title role in Norma Rae and in 1984, won again for Places in the Heart. In 2012, she was nominated in Supporting Actress in Lincoln.
This is highly likely to be the only category where Doris could be a factor. Costars including Max Greenfield, Stephen Root, Natasha Lyonne, and Tyne Daly shouldn’t garner attention. While reviews are strong, March is awfully early in the Academy’s season and her inclusion may depend on how solid the race for Actress becomes (a question mark currently).
That said, Field is a beloved performer whose track record with the Academy has been sterling over four decades. They’re capable of liking her – really, really liking her. It’d be foolish to completely count her out.