Oscar Watch: Capone

Originally scheduled for a theatrical release prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Trank’s Capone hits the VOD circuit tomorrow and reviews are out. The biopic casts Tom Hardy as notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone during the last illness ravaged years of his life. The supporting cast includes Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Kyle MacLachlan, and Matt Dillon.

While it currently sports a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating, the number does not quite tell the tale. Some critics are simply savaging it while others are far more kind. It’s probably safe to say that Capone will spur much chatter on both sides. The director became known to many moviegoers based on 2012’s well-received sci-fi tale Chronicle before his 2015 Fantastic Four reboot that was a commercial and critical flop.

Much of the review space has centered on Hardy’s work. Similar to his performance in Venom, some writers are calling it an inspired and somewhat bonkers portrayal. Others say it is just plain bonkers. A Supporting Actor nominee for 2015’s The Revenant, don’t expect a second nod here.

In fact, the level of vitriol from some makes you wonder if Capone could be a contender for some Razzie nods at the end of 2020. As for Oscar contention, the enthusiasm is steered in a different direction. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Way Back Box Office Prediction

Director Gavin O’Connor is known for his sports dramas like 2004’s Olympic hockey recounting Miracle with Kurt Russell and the MMA pic Warrior starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. The filmmaker is back in the genre next weekend with The Way Back, which centers on Ben Affleck as a basketball coach struggling with addiction. Costars include Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar, and Glynn Turman.

O’Connor’s biggest box office opening came outside the genre in 2016 with his thriller The Accountant, which also starred Affleck. That pic surprised prognosticators with a debut of nearly $25 million. Miracle had the Disney marketing machine behind it (and a well-known story about a game that just celebrated its 40th anniversary). It made nearly $20 million. On the other hand, Warrior struggled with just over $5 million.

The Way Back, despite Affleck promoting it all over sports media, is not expected to be a breakout success. Solid reviews (not out yet) could help it achieve more than the expected  range of high single to low double digits. As of now, that general forecast appears likely.

The Way Back opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my Onward prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/02/27/onward-box-office-prediction/

Venom Movie Review

A comic book origin story that often masquerades as an otherworldly buddy comedy, Venom will likely be remembered for the weirdly inspired performance of Tom Hardy and not much else. We’ve seen the title character before with Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. The alien creature made of black goo played as a superfluous extra villain in that picture. Now Venom is ready for his closeup.

Hardy is Eddie Brock, a San Francisco investigative reporter with a lovely DA fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) and a penchant for asking one too many questions. He does just that with gazillionaire inventor Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who’s a beloved mogul in the community. He’s also, unbeknownst to the masses, experimenting on poor people with a mysterious alien life form that his company the Life Foundation discovered in outer space. Eddie’s inquires into these practices lead to his firing as a journalist and the dissolution of his romance.

A few months later as Eddie is down on his luck, one of Drake’s scientists spills the beans to him about further tomfoolery at the Foundation. This leads to a break-in at their research facility and one of those nasty and gooey extraterrestrials attaching themselves to Eddie. It turns out these visitors intend to destroy Planet Earth.

Yet we also find out that Eddie’s new inhabitant of his vessel has a sense of humor. And Hardy’s performance filled with strange noises, facial tics, and general bizareness makes for an often memorable duo. Venom himself is inside Eddie’s head constantly with what sounds like Christian Bale’s basement octave range from The Dark Knight series. I’m really not sure if Hardy’s work here is what you’d call good, but it’s definitely not forgettable. He seems committed to whatever the heck he’s decided Brock/Venom is and that itself is fun.

Unfortunately there’s lots of other forgettable aspects to the movie itself. This would include lots of the dialogue, the action sequences, Williams as the love interest, and Ahmed as the bad guy. Important stuff generally. It’s also amusing how crystal clear it is that director Ruben Fleischer (who’s done better with Zombieland) and the screenwriters so want this to be rated R. I assume Sony said otherwise, but the script has to reach the absolute highest level of profanity and heads being bitten off without achieving the restricted tag. I will give the writers a thumbs up for setting this in San Francisco and avoiding the umpteenth climactic battle at the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can’t deny that Hardy’s bewildering and bewitching and sometimes annoying acting nearly make this worth of the price of admission. There’s just a bit too much muck attached to it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Venom Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures hopes to kick off a franchise and set an October opening record next weekend when Venom debuts. The picture’s namesake is an anti-hero spawned from the Spider-Man comics. Moviegoers first saw him in the form of Topher Grace in SpiderMan 3. That rendering of the character didn’t sit too well with comic book aficionados.

The studio hopes this version changes that. Ruben Fleischer, best known for Zombieland, serves behind the camera. Playing Venom and his alter ego Eddie Brock is Tom Hardy. Costars include Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, and Woody Harrelson.

Sequels and spin-offs are hoped for and the marketing campaign has been pervasive. The reaction to trailers has been mostly positive, but word is that reviews won’t be published until the day before release. That’s not always a good sign. Similar buzz greeted Suicide Squad (among others) and it managed to meet expectations and gross $133 million in its first weekend. That stands as the largest August debut ever.

The correlation is that Venom could do the same in October, but estimates aren’t as high here. This is expected to gross between $60-$70 million. Even if it reached the low-end of that spectrum, this would top October record holder Gravity at $55 million. I’ll note that Halloween (out October 19) also stands a solid shot at exceeding that.

My feeling is this will meet projections, but on the lower end of the spectrum. How it performs in subsequent weekends will be dependent on buzz and that may be the biggest indicator on whether Sony gets its longed for cinematic universe.

Venom opening weekend prediction: $62.5 million

For my A Star Is Born prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/a-star-is-born-box-office-prediction/

Dunkirk Movie Review

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has moments and plenty of them which are simply breathtaking. We expect the director of The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar to serve up a visual treat as he enters the war genre and he does. Yet I didn’t quite anticipate occasional moments of emotional resonance and the tight running time that keeps it moving at a brisk pace. This is an often epic experience in a truncated frame. That decision by the director and his editors allow Dunkirk to capture the fierce urgency of warfare told from three perspectives.

The film recounts the Battle of Dunkirk in Northern France in 1940. The British and their French allies are on the losing side of this particular conflict with the Nazis and evacuation plans are underway. Nolan chooses not to tell the events in a traditional or linear manner. Three stories are highlighted – by land, sea, and air. I list them in that manner because the land piece develops over a week’s time. Our action on the water happens in a day. The air portion is a matter of just an hour.

On land, we meet a number of soldiers desperately searching for escape while trying to help their wounded fellow countrymen. We also listen in on the strategies of the military higher-ups, led by Kenneth Branagh’s sturdy commander.

On the water, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) answers the call to take his own boat to help pick up soldiers from the extraction area. He brings his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend (Barry Keoghan) along with him. On their way to their destination, they come upon a lone soldier (Cillian Murphy) who is experiencing shock from a U-boat attack.

In the air, Tom Hardy’s Air Force pilot and two fellow fighters must furiously try to down Nazi planes bombing those waiting in the evacuation region, while keeping an eye on their own fuel.

All of this activity unfolds in just over 100 minutes in a picture you’d expect to run closer to three hours. Character development is at a minimum but that’s not a demerit. Dunkirk captures the hectic nature, uncertainty, and chaos of war. With Nolan at the helm and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema behind the lense, it’s also filled with beautiful imagery on a beach filled with soldiers, on the expansive ocean, and in the clouds. The screenplay gives us just enough focus on its characters to make certain situations emotionally resonant. This especially holds true with the sea portion and Rylance’s determined skipper and Murphy’s battle weary soldier.

The time jumping element is one that would make Tarantino proud. That aspect adds an often fresh perspective to the well-worn WWII genre and its glorious and inglorious tales. By its conclusion, we marvel at personal acts by humans caught up in impossible situations in the fog of battle. In a week, a day, and an hour, Dunkirk expertly shows it.

***1/2 (out of four)

Dunkirk Box Office Prediction

Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors whose name can bring in audiences and his box office power will be tested next weekend when Dunkirk lands in theaters. The World War II pic looks to appeal to action fans, as well as adult moviegoers looking for something beyond sequels and reboots. Reviews are embargoed until Monday, but early word of mouth is quite solid. There could be even be Oscar buzz for categories outside of the expected technical nominations it should nab.

The cast is a mix of relative unknowns (Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden) and more familiar faces (Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance). Early forecasts for its opening weekend potential have ranged everywhere from $30 million to possibly $60 million.

My feeling is that it will basically fall between that. Five of Nolan’s last six pictures have made over $45 million out of the gate (the outlier is 2006’s The Prestige). Of course, there’s the Dark Knight trilogy, which doesn’t serve as any sort of fair comparison. The better comps in the director’s filmography are 2010’s Inception and his last effort, 2014’s Interstellar. The former made $62 million and had the benefit of being Nolan’s follow-up to the phenomenon that was 2008’s The Dark Knight. The latter earned $47 million for its start.

I believe Dunkirk will experience a very similar opening to Interstellar with a great chance that it will experience smallish drop-offs in subsequent weekends and play well throughout the month of August.

Dunkirk opening weekend prediction: $44.7 million

For my Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-box-office-predictions/

For my Girls Trip prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/girls-trip-box-office-prediction/

 

 

The Revenant Movie Review

Chewing scenery.

It’s a movie term used for describing when performers overact. Think Al Pacino or John Travolta over the last 20 years. In Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant, we can use it differently. The landscapes presented here are a feast for us. They’re stunning. This is a tale of revenge best served cold with wintry scenes of blood soaked beauty.

Set in 1823 in the U.S. territories that later became the Dakotas (though this was mostly filmed in Canada), Leonardo DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, based on a real frontiersman. Along with his half Native American boy Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), widowed Glass is assisting a team of trappers through the rough terrain. The group is attacked and the few survivors includes schemer Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who clearly has not taken a liking to Glass and his mixed offspring.

The violent scenes of the trappers being massacred pale in comparison to the grisly scene that soon follows courtesy of a grizzly bear that attacks Glass, pummeling him to within an inch of his life. The surviving crew (including Domhnall Gleeson’s Army captain Andrew Henry and Will Poulter’s noble Jim) do what they can to help him. Fitzgerald has other ideas and his plan leaves Hawk dead and Glass left for dead.

The Revenant follows Glass’s journey back through the wild to find Fitzgerald under hellish conditions. Famously, Inarritu’s production reportedly could have used the same word for its conditions. The pic is shot using only natural light courtesy of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who might as well been given his Oscar the day shooting commenced. There’s also little reliance on CG effects. That bear attack looks real. Frighteningly so.

Whatever harsh times Inarritu and his team experienced, the rewards are present onscreen. DiCaprio is one of his generation’s very finest actors and his commitment here is evident. In Mad Max: Fury Road (what a 2015 for Hardy), the actor barely said a word. By contrast, he’s a chatterbox here who’s constantly rationalizing his devious behavior in his Southern drawl. DiCaprio is the quiet one. He grunts more in pain than verbalizing it. Both performances are remarkable.

The unflinching violence comes infrequently in The Revenant, but when it does it is effective and jarring. Yes, the two and a half hour runtime probably could have been trimmed. After all, this is essentially a B movie revenge story told with an A Team of technicians, led by its director. Having said that, it would’ve left less minutes for those landscapes. Those amazing landscapes.

***1/2 (out of four)