Freaky Movie Review

The joy of witnessing Vince Vaughn in the body of an awkward teenage girl provides intermittent comedic thrills in Christopher Landon’s Freaky. It’s just too bad there aren’t more of them in the latest spotty but certainly watchable low-budget horror flick from the Blumhouse shop. If you have seen the director’s two Happy Death Day pictures, you won’t be surprised he’s behind the camera with this. The first Death reconfigured the Groundhog Day concept to the slasher genre while its sequel veered more toward a sci-fi Back to the Future vibe. Freaky‘s influence is simple and in the title without mentioning the word Friday.

Our body swap involves an urban legend but very real serial killer who goes by the Blissfield Butcher and is played by Vaughn. Millie (Kathryn Newton) is the high schooler mourning the loss of her father while her alcoholic mom coddles her. When the Butcher swipes a mysterious ancient dagger from his previous killing in an attempt to off Millie, it switches their forms. This is just in time for Friday the 13th and they have 24 hours to reverse the effect.

I’ll use this opportunity to praise title cards. I enjoyed how in the lead up to the big day, we see “WEDNESDAY THE 11TH” and “THURSDAY THE 12TH” in bloody scrawl font as if they’re meant to provide a jolt. When Millie does inhabit the Butcher’s 6’5″ frame and has a long pined for romantic moment with her crush, it provides the funniest scene of all (Vaughn’s humorous talents are on full display there).

Yet Freaky is also tonally challenged. Millie’s tragic family dynamics feel slightly forced. The backstory involving that mystical knife called La Dola might be something its makers hope to explain further in a sequel. I’ll credit the screenwriters for finding a couple of Friday the 13th style inventive ways to off lustful adolescents, but the film isn’t exactly scary.

This is more occasionally funny than truly freaky and it ends up being about as entertaining as both Happy Death Day experiences. It succeeds from time to time with its mashup of well known properties, but leaves a bit to be desired.

**1/2 (out of four)

Freaky Box Office Prediction

A slasher version of Freaky Friday comes from the Blumhouse shop with the release of Freaky next weekend. The low budget horror flick features a high school senior (Kathryn Newton) who switches bodies with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn). Christopher Landon (who made Happy Death Day and its sequel) directs and costars include Katie Finneran and Alan Ruck.

Shot for a reported $5 million, its studio has often excelled at turning a tidy profit for its ventures. Early reviews are encouraging with an 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating with particular praise for its two leads. The theatrical window here is unique as it opens on Friday on the 13th and will be available for streaming just three weeks later in early December.

The solid critical reaction and Blumhouse’s marketing talents could push Freaky to make its budget back in the initial weekend. I’ll project that it will.

Freaky opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million

Daily Streaming Guide: March 28th Edition

In these times, it’s certainly important to laugh and today’s Streaming Guide gives us two goofy comedies currently available on HBO’s viewing services:

2010’s MacGruber is a feature-length treatment starring Will Forte’s inept MacGyver type character that he originally debuted on SNL. It was not a hit upon release, but has found many fans over the past decade. I found it to be frequently uproarious with memorable supporting turns by Kristin Wiig and Val Kilmer. There’s also an, ummm, love scene between Forte and Wiig that won’t leave your psyche anytime soon.

2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was a blockbuster a decade and a half ago. Headlined by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, this silly sports tale about something we all played in gym hits more than it misses. In hindsight, the inspirational scene with Lance Armstrong towards the end seems… dated. Yet this is certainly good for some laughs.

That does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Seberg

Kristen Stewart seems to have found another acclaimed indie role with the premiere of Seberg today at the Venice Film Festival. From director Benedict Andrews (best known for Una), the pic casts Stewart as actress Jean Seberg (best known for 1960’s Breathless), whose career was put in jeopardy by her association with an African-American activist played by Anthony Mackie. Costars include Jack O’Connel, Margaret Qualley, and Vince Vaughn.

Reviews for the film itself are a bit shaky. Yet it’s Stewart once again being singled out for her strong work. The Twilight performer has had a run of applauded roles in titles such as Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. The Academy has yet to take notice and I’m skeptical they will here considering competitors in higher profile material. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Fighting with My Family Box Office Prediction

WWE Studios hope to get fans out of the arena and into the multiplexes next weekend with the release of Fighting with My Family. The comedic drama is a biopic of female English wrestler Paige and her quirky brood. She’s played by Florence Pugh. Stephen Merchant (best known for his acting and collaborations with Ricky Gervais) directs with a supporting cast including Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, and Vince Vaughn. The world’s most famous brawler turned thespian Dwayne Johnson executive produces and plays himself.

Family premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rather strong reviews. It stands at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. With a reported budget of just $11 million, this should have no trouble turning a profit.

It’s a little tricky to figure out how this sport’s fans will turn out. The film is being released on a very limited basis tomorrow in four venues and it will be worth keeping an eye on its per theater average. Some may choose to simply wait for the On Demand release and watch this tale like they typically view wrestling itself. The participation of Johnson only helps, however. I’ll estimate that this basically grosses its budget out of the gate.

Fighting with My Family opening weekend prediction: $10.8 million

For my How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World prediction, click here:

Hacksaw Ridge Box Office Prediction

After a decade away from behind the camera, Hacksaw Ridge marks Mel Gibson’s directorial return. The World War II true-life tale casts Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector who nevertheless ended up being awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic exploits on the battlefield. Costars include Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, and Rachel Griffiths.

The reported $45 million production debuted at Venice Film Festival in September to very positive word of mouth. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 94% and it seems to be gaining some traction as a potential awards contender. Ridge is the first war drama of November, but will be followed up quickly just a week later with Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. 

Gibson, of course, is an Oscar winner for his direction of 1995’s Braveheart and struck box office gold in 2004 with his follow-up, The Passion of the Christ. 2006’s Apocalypto was his last job as director and it grossed $50M domestic. The last decade has been an interesting one for Mr. Gibson – notable more for tabloid fodder than anything on the silver screen. His acting jobs have ranged from supporting roles in Machete Kills and The Expendables 3 to direct to On Demand action flicks like Get the Gringo and Blood Father. 

It’s a legitimate question whether or not his name adds anything here. None of its stars carry much box office potency either (though Garfield will also soon headline this fall’s eagerly awaited Martin Scorsese drama Silence). What might help is the encouraging critical buzz swirling around it. I don’t expect an opening above $15 million, yet this could be a slow burner that experiences small declines in subsequent weekends. I’ll predict the most likely scenario is a low double digits opening and potential for growth as the season wears on.

Hacksaw Ridge opening weekend prediction: $12.1 million

For my Doctor Strange prediction, click here:

For my Trolls prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Hacksaw Ridge

It’s been a decade since Mel Gibson has been behind the camera with Apocalypto and these last 10 years have been bumpy ones for the Braveheart Oscar winner. He’s been the subject of controversies and tabloid fodder. His screen appearances have been primarily limited to B movie action flicks of varying quality.

Yet the Venice Film Festival has vaulted him back into the Oscar race with Hacksaw Ridge, his World War II drama which has screened to positive buzz and some sterling reviews. It stars Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, and Rachel Griffiths. The Lionsgate release hits screens stateside in November.

Some of the reaction for Hacksaw has used the C word in describing it for Gibson. As in Comeback. Whether or not Academy voters are willing to overlook his personal life and past transgressions and nominate it for Picture or Director is very much an open question. Even with its solid notices, I have Hacksaw currently on the outside looking in. If the film hits with audiences in two months, that dynamic could change.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – A Look Back

On this Throwback Thursday and on the evening of the debut of the franchise reboot Jurassic World, it would be obvious to pontificate about the original Jurassic Park. It opened 22 years ago today and is widely and deservedly considered a modern day classic. I, however, chose to go in a different direction and talk about The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which stood as one of the most breathlessly awaited sequels ever in the summer of 1997. While the dino sequel certainly has its share of moments, impressive visuals and well constructed action sequences – the thrill, as the late B.B. King put it, is gone – mostly.

The Lost World picks up four years after the events of the original and stars Sam Neill and Laura Dern are nowhere to be found (they would come out of extinction for the third installment). Instead Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the wise cracking comic relief from part one is the headliner. He’s still understandably shaken up from the events that transpired on Isla Nublar and things don’t improve when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) informs him that there was always a second island where the replicated dinosaurs are developed. To add insult to injury, Ian’s girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore), a paleontologist, is already on the island documenting them. It’s all part of Hammond’s way of protecting his money grubbing family from turning the island into a theme park, which he knows darn well didn’t work out so hot four years ago.

This all leads to Malcolm going after Sarah, along with his young daughter and an eco activist videographer (Vince Vaughn, fresh off Swingers). As you might expect, it’s not a simple mission and the new island finds plenty of angry dinosaurs while Malcolm and company also must contend with a separate team led by Hammond’s greedy nephew and a hunter (Pete Postlethwaite) whose mission is to bag a T. rex.

With Steven Spielberg returning behind the camera, it’s no surprise that there are cleverly directed action sequences. The most thrilling involves a trailer and slowly breaking glass. Problem is, while the first Jurassic was so influential, World often feels like leftovers. For moviegoers too young to remember the release of Park in 1993, there’s really no way to properly explain just how awe struck it left audiences. We had never seen visuals like it and hearing that T. Rex growling loudly in our eardrums was exhilarating. When that film’s characters gasped at the creatures the first time they saw them, so did we. The Lost World has its fun moments, but the fresh factor is eliminated. Taking Ian Malcolm from an effective supporting player to hero doesn’t always work and his wise cracks might be more plentiful but they’re twice as corny. The other human characters contribute little. Don’t get me wrong – the dinosaurs look friggin sweet and there’s more of them but a better viewing experience it does not make.

By the time we arrive at the climax set in San Diego, the sight of T. Rex terrorizing the city seems like little more than Spielberg’s chance to make a short Godzilla tribute. We see a relic of the past terrorize the city, including a Blockbuster Video, another relic from the past. As Jurassic World is about to premiere, it will be the 1993 version we have in our hearts and minds for comparisons sake. The quality of this sequel is justified as a mixed bag, which explains it having been mostly lost in the world of conversation this week.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Box Office Prediction

Three years ago, we saw a sleeper hit with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the British comedy/drama which earned an unanticipated $46 million domestically. That was enough to warrant a sequel which opens wide Friday. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features returning cast members Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Dev Patel (who’s pulling double duty this weekend with Chappie). Richard Gere and David Strathairn also join the mix.

Reviews have been mostly positive so far as it stands at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, just under the 78% earned by its predecessor. John Madden (the director not the sports dude) is back behind the camera. It would seem likely that this second helping may not quite match the numbers of the 2012 original stateside, but I still envision a fairly decent opening. I have this debuting a little higher than Unfinished Business, the Vince Vaughn comedy that opens against it. That’s bad news for Business, considering it premieres on roughly twice as many screens.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Chappie prediction, click here:

For my Unfinished Business prediction, click here:

Unfinished Business Box Office Prediction

Three comedy performers known for appearing in successful raunchy R rated comedies headline Unfinished Business, out Friday. They are Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, and of course, Tom Wilkinson (??). The picture follows the trio on a European business trip gone wrong. Sienna Miller costars.

While Vaughn and Franco have been involved in genre hits like Wedding Crashers and Neighbors, it’s very hard to imagine this entry joining that company or doing anywhere near their box office numbers. Commercials for Business have done little to inspire confidence. Vaughn, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a losing streak lately. His reunion with Wedding Crashers costar Owen Wilson, The Internship, petered out at only $44 million domestically. His last pic Delivery Man only earned $7.9 million out of the gate.

I simply don’t see Unfinished Business doing anything other than lackluster business in its debut and believe it too will fail to reach double digits for its premiere.

Unfinished Business opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million

For my Chappie prediction, click here:

For my prediction on The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, click here: