Bird Box Movie Review

Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, imagines a post apocalyptic world where we all must develop a blind side. How fitting, I suppose, that Sandra Bullock is the headliner. It is she and some of her cast mates that holds this concoction together, at least for a while.

We first meet Bullock’s Malorie as she instructs two young children that they are about to embark on a dangerous trip with her. She is soon rowing and rowing and rowing a boat not so gently down a choppy stream to an unknown destination. They’re all blindfolded.

A flashback to five years earlier finds the pregnant Malorie getting a checkup with her sister (Sarah Paulson). She seems none too excited about her impending delivery. Different complications arise as people start committing suicide suddenly all over the globe. It’s soon discovered opening your eyes and looking at some never seen creatures brings on the self violence.

Our soon to be parent manages to hole up with a group of strangers that includes the home’s boozy owner (John Malkovich), another expectant mom (Danielle Macdonald), and a war vet (Trevante Rhodes) who connects with Malorie. It’s in these initial scenes where Bird Box is at its most engrossing. There’s nothing terribly fresh here as the group figures out how to survive, but there’s some interesting characters and actors playing them to make it worthwhile. Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery, and rapper Machine Gun Kelly are part of the eclectic mix as well.

This gets about an hour’s worth of mileage from its premise and the wrinkle of the sighted having to go blind is a newish twist once they venture out (thank goodness for GPS). Eric Heisserer’s screenplay never concerns itself with what the heck really happened to cause this anyway. We do know birds can sense the monsters. The unexplained phenomena of what did happen isn’t all that important, but total ignorance is a tad surprising. Heisserer did significantly superior work with his adapted script for Arrival.

The picture is as much an allegory about motherhood than it is a science fiction horror thriller. There’s also elements of M. Night Shyamalan’s unfortunate The Happening. It had more unintentional laughs than this, but it also found cooler ways for spellbound victims to off themselves.

Bullock’s performance is committed and she certainly makes this watchable. The Oscar winner has played maternal instinct impressively before (the already mentioned The Blind Side, Gravity) and we see it here. Yet the true gravity of this whole situation never feels as suspenseful as it quite should. Maybe it’s the details left unseen or maybe it’s the familiar themes we’ve seen plenty of times already.

**1/2 (out of four)

Best Actress: A Look Back

Back at it again with my look back at major Oscar races from 1990 to the present! We’ve arrived at Best Actress. If you missed my previous posts covering the Supporting performers, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with those posts, I’m selecting my top 3 least surprising winners and top 3 upsets. I’m also giving you my personal pick for strongest and weakest fields from the past 28 years.

For starters, here’s the list of winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Kathy Bates, Misery

1991 – Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Emma Thompson, Howards End

1993 – Holly Hunter, The Piano

1994 – Jessica Lange, Blue Sky

1995 – Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking

1996 – Frances McDormand, Fargo

1997 – Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love

1999 – Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry

2000 – Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

2001 – Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

2002 – Nicole Kidman, The Hours

2003 – Charlize Theron, Monster

2004 – Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

2006 – Helen Mirren, The Queen

2007 – Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

2008 – Kate Winslet, The Reader

2009 – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

2010 – Natalie Portman, Black Swan

2011 – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

2012 – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

2013 – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

2014 – Julianne Moore, Still Alice

2015 – Brie Larson, Room

2016 – Emma Stone, La La Land

2017 – Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

When it comes to Best Actress, I must say it’s probably the race with the least amount of genuine upsets. Nearly every year, there’s a pretty strong front-runner and they win – even more so than in Actor and the Supporting players. Of many non-surprises, here’s my top ones:

3. Holly Hunter, The Piano

Hunter’s work as a mute piano player in Jane Campion’s period piece was the clear favorite over significant competition that included Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do With It? and the previous year’s winner Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day. 

2. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars had already received nods for Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman and there was little question that Brockovich would earn Roberts her first and only (so far) trip to the Oscar stage.

1. Charlize Theron, Monster

Theron’s metamorphosis into serial killer Aileen Wuornos swept all precursors. The rest of the field was also fairly weak that year, making her the obvious victor.

And now the “upsets”…

3. Kate Winslet, The Reader

While not a surprise when she won Oscar night, the multi-nominated Winslet was expected for much of the year to get a nod for Revolutionary Road instead. Yet it was this Stephen Daldry drama that was selected instead.

2. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

This was a two-way contest between Cotillard and veteran Julie Christie for Away from Her, with many believing the latter had the edge. It didn’t turn out that way.

1. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry and Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

This #1 comes with a caveat. It wasn’t much of an upset by the time Swank won her double Oscars. What’s interesting here is that she single-handedly denied two prime opportunities for the winless Annette Bening to get a statue for American Beauty and Being Julia. 

We move to the fields. For weakest field, I’m selecting 1994 when Jessica Lange won for the little-seen Blue Sky. Other nominees were Jodie Foster in Nell, Miranda Richardson in Tom&Viv, Winona Ryder for Little Women, and Susan Sarandon in The Client. 

Strongest group in my opinion goes to 2010 with Natalie Portman’s victorious role in Black Swan. The rest of that impressive field is Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence’s first nomination in Winter’s Bone, and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

Best Actor is next, folks! Stay tuned…

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

The Founder Box Office Prediction

Michael Keaton has had the rare feat of appearing in the last two Best Picture Oscar winners with 2014’s Birdman and 2015’s Spotlight. For awhile, The Founder (out next weekend) was looked at as potential awards bait. Keaton headlines the biographical drama playing Ray Kroc, the man who acquired what would become the multi billion dollar McDonald’s franchise. John Lee Hancock directs and his previous efforts include The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks. Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, and B.J. Novak costar.

The Founder has had a shifty journey to the big screen. It was originally tapped to debut in November before being pushed up to August before being pushed back to January. It had a very limited release in December to qualify for Academy consideration, but that probably won’t matter much. While reviews so far have been decent (81% on Rotten Tomatoes), it’s likely to receive zero nominations. This won’t be a Keaton trifecta for Best Picture.

What does it all mean for the box office? While any moviegoer is certainly familiar with the subject matter, I don’t that see that translating to much business. That said, the pic comes with just a tiny reported $7 million budget. I’ll predict it mkea under that in its first weekend for a mid single digits start.

The Founder opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million

For my xXx: Return of Xander Cage prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/10/xxx-return-of-xander-cage-box-office-prediction/

For my Split prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/10/split-box-office-prediction/

For my 20th Century Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/20th-century-women-box-office-prediction/

For my The Resurrection of Gavin Stone prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/the-resurrection-of-gavin-stone-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Hidden Figures

Reviews are out today for Hidden Figures and its Oscar chances are becoming (somewhat) more clear. From Theodore Melfi, who last directed Bill Murray to acclaim in St. Vincent, the pic focuses on three African American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who were instrumental in the space flights of the 1960s. Other costars include Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons.

The most common two words that writers are using for Figures must be music to 20th Century Fox’s ears: crowd pleaser. Early tallies put it at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, though some of the reviews aren’t exactly raves. Still, with audiences possibly responding positively to it, it stands a real shot at a Best Picture nod. It could fit a similar slot to both 2009’s The Blind Side and 2011’s The Help. Melfi seems unlikely to make the cut in the Director race.

Acting categories could provide possibilities in both Supporting races. Henson will be campaigned for in Lead Actress and as has been discussed at length on this blog, that’s an extremely crowded category and she looks unlikely to get in. As for Supporting Actress, word is that Monae stands a better shot than Spencer for recognition. In Supporting Actor, Costner is getting good ink and could factor into a very uncertain race at press time. Figures also could receive an Adapted Screenplay nomination.

This Thursday, I’ll have my predictions updated and it will provide greater guidance on how Hidden figures into it all.

Oscar Watch: The Founder

Another day, another piece of the Oscar puzzle coming into more focus as The Founder has screened for critics. The film is a biopic of Ray Croc, the man behind the McDonald’s franchise. Michael Keaton stars with John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) directing. Costars include Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, Patrick Wilson, and John Carroll Lynch.

This has been fairly low on the radar screen of many awards prognosticators. Part of that could be due to its consistently shifting release date over the past few months. It was originally scheduled to debut this Friday and then was pushed up to August before being pushed back to December and its wide release won’t come until January. Got all that?

Nevertheless, The Founder found some positive critical reaction as of yesterday and it currently stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Will it get a Best Picture nomination? Most likely not, but it could be a factor in one particular race. Michael Keaton has been on a roll lately (he’s appeared in the last two Best Picture winners – Birdman and Spotlight). The Best Actor race appears to be rather fluid, with only Denzel Washington (Fences) and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) as seemingly sure things. Keaton could easily find himself in the mix with Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Joel Edgerton (Loving), Tom Hanks (Sully), Warren Beatty (Rules Don’t Apply), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), and others. It could also make a play for Best Original Screenplay, though that could be more of a long shot.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (10-6)

We have now reached Top Ten of the Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses in box office history.

And now, numbers 10-6 before we reach our finale tomorrow…

10. Jennifer Lawrence

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games, X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 9 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle)

Lowest Grosser: Garden Party (2008) – $10,000

Overall Rank: 57

9. Anne Hathaway

Career Earnings: $2.3 billion

Franchises: The Princess Diaries, Rio, Alice in Wonderland

Highest Grossing Picture: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $448 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Get Smart, Valentine’s Day, Alice in Wonderland, Rio, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, Rio 2, Interstellar)

Lowest Grosser: Song One (2015) – $32,000

Overall Rank: 52

8. Sandra Bullock

Career Earnings: $2.4 billion

Franchises: Speed, Miss Congeniality

Highest Grossing Picture: Minions (2015) – $336 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (Minions, Gravity, The Blind Side, The Proposal, The Heat, Speed, A Time to Kill, Miss Congeniality)

Lowest Grosser: Who Shot Patakango? (1992) – $2,000

Overall Rank: 47

7. Emma Watson

Career Earnings: $2.6 billion

Franchises: Harry Potter

Highest Grossing Picture: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $381 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 10 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, This is the End, Noah)

Lowest Grosser: Colonia (2016) – $15,000

Overall Rank: 32

6. Elizabeth Banks

Career Earnings: $2.7 billion

Franchises: Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 8 (The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect 2, Seabiscuit, The 40 Yr. Old Virgin

Lowest Grosser: Ordinary Sinner (2003) – $4,000

Top 5 manana!