Tag Archives: mother!

When Harry Met Movies: First Impressions — Column

This site lists me as Associate Editor and Co-Chief Film Critic, but a more accurate title might be Executive Film Noob For Life. The Social Network is a film that I should probably watch instead of writing this column, while Seven Samurai and Mulholland Drive are films that I should watch before doing either of those things. I know that Citizen Kane is THE CITIZEN KANE of all films past, present and forthcoming, but don’t ask me to tell you why. I think it’s because there’s a snow globe of particular symbolic weight, but that’s the best I can do. Neither can I tell you anything about Fellini, other than that they’ve got great lunch specials and killer marinara.

In a vain attempt at regaining credibility — admitting that I haven’t seen The Social Network makes such a task more or less insurmountable — I’ll assure you that I can speak somewhat intelligibly about the beginnings of the French New Wave and Claude Chabrol’s La Beau Serge, but that’s only because I saw it for the first time two weeks ago in a film class. The week before that, I discovered Singin’ in the Rain and last Thursday I watched my first Alfred Hitchcock film (Rope).

The gaps in my knowledge of film might be many, but within them lies some degree of excitement — watching things for the first time is always special, particularly if it’s one of those (many) movies I should have seen by now. While everyone else gets to grin slightly at the familiar, decades-old dance numbers of Gene Kelly, I get to watch them with a wide, dumb smile. Similarly, there’s nothing like discovering and delighting in the macabre of Hitchcock, or the perennial freshness of the French New Wave. It’s like that scene from Wonder Woman, when Diana tries ice cream for the first time and tells the vendor that he should be proud of himself (Gene, Alfred, Claude, you all can take a bow).

I bet you wish you could remember the exact moments leading up to that first spoonful of ice cream, the unique joy during it and the “You should be proud of yourself!” after. I bet you wish you could recall the initiating thrills of Star Wars; what it was like to fall for a jump scare in Jaws — I certainly wish I did. Therein lies the upside to the admittedly wide gaps in my film knowledge. I get to preserve the memory of a first viewing more fully, to etch in my mind, in vivid detail, what it was like to fill those gaps.

Of course, not every movie goes down like a gob of Cherry Garcia, but even then, simply leaving the theater is an occasion to remember. The overwhelming relief that flooded me at the end of Transformers: The Last Knight (it was a press screening, so don’t get mad at me for paying for a ticket) is something I won’t want to forget anytime soon, especially since I suffered through its relentless quest of disorientation with one of my best friends from high school — fitting, since our years of secondary education and that franchise can be described with more or less the same words. Most recently, I’ll never forget the mad dash a friend and I made for a consolatory cup of ice cream after mother!, the way we both knew what we wanted as soon as we left the theater, and how I stumbled over my words as I ordered.

I’ve begun ranking movies as I see them, and recording where I saw them. If applicable, I write down the people I saw them with. Movies are an essential part of my life, and I want to remember, if not capture, the feeling of watching them for the first time. I have a lot to catch up on, but that’s not something to be ashamed of since there’s so much joy to be had in filling those gaps. It’s a task whose enormity does not preclude its own infinite capacity to delight, horrify or inspire.

‘When Harry Met Movies’ is a weekly column from Associate Editor and Co-Chief Film Critic Harrison Tunggal about movies that shape us and why we love them.

 

Featured image via MGM.

Box Office Report: ‘It’ eats new releases ‘American Assassin’ and ‘mother!’ to remain on top in second weekend

Monster hit It once again took home the top spot at the box office, drawing in an estimated $60 million this past weekend, bringing the domestic total of the Stephen King adaptation to $218.71 million. With many weekends still left to devour, It already stands as the eighth largest domestic grossing film of the year and will jump past The Fate of the FuriousLogan and Despicable Me 3 to the fifth spot by the end of next weekend. By the end of its run, the film could challenge Spider-Man: Homecoming, which brought in $1.875 million this weekend to hit $330.26 million domestically, and even, if it has as strong of legs as it seems rearing up to, the $389.8 million of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

New releases took the second and third spots of the weekend. The Michael Keaton-starring action film American Assassin racked up an estimated $14.8 million domestically. On a $33 million production budget, the film looks like it might just make its money back, needing to reach about $70 million worldwide to turn a profit.

Darren Aronofsky’s art house horror film mother! struggled at the box office, only making an estimated $7.5 million, likely due to an incredibly unmarketable story (and thus, poor trailers), a shifted release date and divisive reception from both critics and fans. With word of the intense reactions to the film spreading, it would be hard to imagine it fairing any better relatively next weekend. On a $30 million production budget, Aronofsky’s latest is shaping up to lose money. It’ll need strong international showing to prove otherwise.

The Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Home Again took home an estimated $5.33 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $17.13 million. The film will turn a profit on its $12 million production budget, likely ensuring that many more cookie cutter studio rom-coms will continue to be made.

Wind River is turning out to be one of the more successful independent films of the year, catching an estimated $2.55 million in its fourth weekend wide, during which it has stayed between the 7th and 3rd spot — the middle of the pack.

Finally, Dunkirk incredibly maintains a top ten spot for the ninth weekend in a row — the entirety of its release — pulling in an estimated $1.3 million to shoot its domestic total up to $185.14 million. It seems like Christopher Nolan’s war film will pretty much, by the end of its run, match the domestic take of Interstellar, which made $188 million in US and Canada markets. Worldwide, Dunkirk is pushing $510 million, currently sitting at $508.34.

All films will have trouble doing similar relative business next weekend due to the releases of Kingsman: The Golden CircleBattle of the Sexes and Stronger. Hopefully, the order will be more interesting then.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Opinion: ‘mother!’ shows when cinema goes too far

Trigger Warning: Sexual and physical violence

Warning: I spoil the movie. It may be difficult to fully understand some of what I mean here as I don’t fully explain the plot. Wikipedia has a good summary, if you don’t care to see the movie.

No one has ever made a movie like mother! In terms of craftsmanship, the film is masterful on every single level. The cinematography, editing and sound design all coalesce into a climax that shouldn’t visually work, but somehow does in the most exhilarating of ways. The actors — every single one of them — commit to the story and the “vision” of director Darren Aronofsky. If the Oscars were judged solely based on merit and skill, Aronofsky would be the undeniable Best Director winner.

But it pains me to say all of that because mother! is, at least to me, a deeply horrifying and disgusting film. mother! shows when cinema goes too far.

Aronofsky has a message in his latest film. Well, he has a lot of messages. He comments on humanity both generally and in various specific ways. He shows humanity’s destructive nature on both the individual level and the large scale, through an intimate eye and an epic scope. It’s a message sent and a message received. To some, that message is valuable, and what makes the film so special. In my eyes, it becomes harmful.

Films can absolutely showcase and comment on the terrible aspects of people, on how people can be grossly and horribly damaging. But, as I see cinema, I feel that it is the responsibility of the filmmaker to indict, to firmly make a statement that those things are morally reprehensible, and not just show people being morally reprehensible.

Yet, Aronofsky avoids doing this, specifically in regard to sexual harassment and sexual assault. On many occasions, Jennifer Lawrence’s character is looked at inappropriately, called incredibly offensive things and even groped. Most audiences members, hopefully, will be disgusted by this. And because Aronofsky is making this grander statement that humanity is destructive, for a second, it slips by as another destructive aspect. But there is no indictment. It’s presented as though it’s obvious, as easy to reject. But Aronofsky has the moral responsibility to do the rejecting himself, and he never makes that indictment himself. It’s one thing to show that humanity is destructive. It’s another to indict them for being so.

And that leads me to a larger problem with the way this film presents its commentary. Like I said, it’s stated as obvious. Aronofsky shows us the horrors of mankind as the state of things, as the inner nature of humanity, as inevitable and cyclical. And some may see that as a poignant depiction. In our current times, it’s difficult not to be pessimistic.

But, as I see cinema, a filmmaker can’t just take that stance because a film is inherently subjective. Film is inherently something that the filmmaker presents as their opinion. When Aronofsky offers his opinion — simply, “this is the state of things” — without indictment and without a morality check, it becomes a lazy and regressive opinion.

Don’t get me wrong. A film can end on a pessimistic note. A film can say that things suck and that innocent people are unfairly affected. But — again, this may just be me personally — I have to at least feel that indictment. Think about The Wolf of Wall Street. Some people didn’t like that film because it didn’t sufficiently indict Jordan Belfort for his heinous acts. On the other end, think about Fruitvale Station. The film ends with the tragic death of Oscar Grant at the hands of cops. But the entire film leading up to that point is an indictment of the people and forces in society that could allow for that tragedy to occur.

Indictment can be in theme. It can be in a single moment. It can lie within a single character. It can be presented in its structure or even by a single line of dialogue. Something has to be there. And with mother!, I saw nothing. I felt nothing. Others may have gotten something. But I felt an excessiveness meant to beat us over the head, and I asked “For what cost? Why is this worth it?”

I got no answers.

What I did find, however, was tone deaf male privilege in how Aronofsky approaches his film. Again, filmmakers can make commentary on the poor state of things, and they can use shocking, disturbing and upsetting imagery to do so.

But there’s some imagery that goes too far. There’s some imagery that we should never see, as no message should be worth presenting things so vile — at least in the way that it’s done so here.

As a man, Aronofsky might have given little thought to depicting Jennifer Lawrence’s character being horrifyingly beaten by a crowd, and called a “cunt.” He might’ve thought that it served his message well.

As a man, Aronofsky might have given little thought to depicting a very physical death of an infant. He might’ve thought that it served his message well.

And while, as a man, I don’t personally have connection to these things and I’m not an authority to make a declarative statement, I can understand that there needs to be restraint and extreme care when tackling such content because these are realities and fears of women and mothers. And, as a man, Aronofsky had a responsibility to at least consider his approach because he is not an authority in understanding the impact of those images.

But he presents them so explicitly, directly and viscerally. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there is undoubtedly a way of portraying these things in all three ways, but with a sense of restraint and extreme care, with an awareness that he cannot show these images with singularity. I don’t care how hard it would be to figure out how to do that because it’s his responsibility to.

Some have spoken about how mother! is a subversive studio film, about how critics should think before slamming it as it would discourage a studio from making an original movie that’s so out of the ordinary, that breaks all of the system’s rules.

But I’ll gladly rail against mother! because I don’t want subversive films like this. Movies are more than just their craft. They’re more than just having a message. mother! fails to rectify itself in offensive and embarrassing fashion, and to uphold it as Aronofsky’s masterpiece is, in my opinion, ignorantly ironic. Javier Bardem’s character is a poet and writes a supposed masterpiece. This leads to unbelievable fame that proves incredibly harmful to Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Yet, Bardem’s character shows no care, acknowledgement or awareness of these effects.

In fact, Lawrence’s character literally hands over her heart as she dies so that Bardem’s character can literally restore life from its ashes and do it all again to another woman. He’s not punished. He’s unchanged. It was a moment where Lawrence’s character could’ve rejected him, resulting in indictment and punishment — but Aronofsky is oblivious to that.

Don’t hand over your praise, your hearts to Aronofsky. Don’t let him harm people. Don’t let him do it again. “For the sake of the art” is not a good enough reason.

‘mother!’ Review: Jennifer Lawrence captivates in this gonzo descent into hell

“Howl to the moon” was the phrase Darren Aronofsky used to opaquely describe his feelings behind mother!, an impeccably mounted, nearly impossible-to-digest-on-one-viewing allegory for the folly of mankind. And truly, love it or absolutely f*cking hate it, mother! can really only be described in that phrase.

To speak much about the story of mother! is a spoiler. What can be said, however, is that mother! is an equivalent to Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, but without the hope for life that Malick’s film glowed with. Rather, Darren Aronofsky’s film presents itself as a damning critique of many things, including, but not limited to religion, celebrity and marriage.

The brazenness of it all comes from the fact that mother! is obvious in its ambitions, but refuses to hold viewers’ hands, forcing them to confront its precipitous descent into humanity’s darkest depths.

Much admiration must be lobbed toward the stunning work of Aronofsky regular Matthew Libatique, whose cinematography is tightly framed here, and the incredible sound mixing crew, who, without any score, build a palpable sense of dread from everything that happens off-screen.

Most impressively, though, is Academy Award-winning Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to command the screen so effortlessly. The willingness of Lawrence to literally and figuratively bare it all, physically and emotionally, in this film is absolutely commendable, but that framing nearly verges toward exploitative. However, the film’s dirtiness and its treatment of her character is what the film asks viewers to ponder as they leave the theater.

Is mankind worth saving, or are we all doomed to destroy the things we should be loving and taking care of the most? Aronofsky refuses to give an answer, even if he suggests a pessimistic view. For cinephiles who like their films that way, mother! may stand as a landmark for years to come.

Grade: 9.4/10

Our full review of mother!

Featured image via Paramount.

Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ is an allegorical, savagely comedic nightmare — Full Review

“Howl to the moon” was the phrase Darren Aronofsky used to opaquely describe his feelings behind mother!, this impeccably mounted, nearly impossible-to-digest-on-one-viewing allegory for the folly of mankind. And truly, love it or absolutely f*cking hate it, mother! can really only be described in that phrase.

To speak much about the story of mother! is a spoiler, since the marketing has done a brilliant job of hiding its twists and turns, and because the film makes obvious references to the most popular book in the world. Essentially, an ego-driven writer (Javier Bardem) and his wife, an endlessly loving woman (Jennifer Lawrence), are met by an uninvited couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) — and the writer is happy for the couple’s admiration of his work, yet the wife realizes nothing and no one are quite like they seem.

From here though, the film becomes an admittedly pretentious, but gonzo exploration of the depravity that can be fit within one single house.

What can be said, without the fear of giving too much away, is that mother! is an equivalent to Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, but without the hope for life that Malick’s film glowed with. Rather, Darren Aronofsky’s film presents itself as a damning critique of many things, including, but not limited to religion, celebrity, global warming, immigration, war, trafficking, marriage, divorce and parenting.

The film is obvious in its ambitions, to the point where an engaged, literary-minded audience will quickly pick up the broad strokes at play. But the brazenness of it all comes from the fact that mother! also refuses to hold the audience’s hand, should they check out from this film’s delayed, but precipitous descent into humanity’s darkest depths.

If It is the ultimate crowd-pleasing horror film, then mother! is the ultimate soul-crushing one, albeit one brimming with the darkest of dark comedy — not far off from Dante’s playfully titled The Divine Comedy.

Much admiration, even from the audiences who reject the film’s aspirations and themes, must be lobbed toward the stunning work of Aronofsky regular Matthew Libatique, whose cinematography is tightly framed here, and the incredible sound mixing crew, who, without any score, build a palpable sense of dread from everything that happens off-screen.

Most impressively, though, is the Academy Award-winning Lawrence’s ability to command the screen so effortlessly. Aronofsky and Libatique wisely frame all of the film from her perspective, either with a tight close-up on her face or medium shots where she can still be seen within the frame even if another character is the focus.

The willingness of Lawrence to literally and figuratively bare it all, physically and emotionally, in this film is absolutely commendable, but that framing nearly verges toward exploitative. However, the film’s dirtiness and its treatment of her character is what the film asks viewers to ponder as they leave the theater.

Is mankind worth saving, or are we all doomed to destroy the things we should be loving and taking care of the most? Aronofsky refuses to give an answer, even if he suggests a pessimistic view. For cinephiles who like their films that way, mother! may stand as a landmark for years to come.

Grade: 9.4/10

Featured image via Paramount.

Jennifer Lawrence’s top 5 performances

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the biggest superstars on the planet right now, deemed by many as the next Meryl Streep; she’s already been nominated for four Oscars at the young age of 27, meaning that she has 31 years to catch up to Streep’s current number of 20 nominations — a task not too unthinkable.

Looking back at her career, Lawrence has surprisingly fewer notable appearances than one may first expect — perhaps a reminder of how young she is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because each performance is one that sticks, whether because of her immense talent, showcased in films such as Silver Linings Playbook and Winter’s Bone, or because she’s already cemented herself as a big franchise A-lister with leading roles in X-Men and The Hunger Games.

With Darren Aronofsky’s mother! releasing this Friday, Lawrence will only remind those that sadly and systemically undervalue her that she’s not going anywhere. She’s not the next Meryl Streep because she’s the only Jennifer Lawrence. And while this list may not host as many hot takes as others, it’s a rightful celebration of an undeniable talent.

5. The Hunger Games

Lionsgate/Courtesy

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) captures the fascination of the public, but in a slightly meta twist, Lawrence herself catapulted to the broader public’s radar. By then she had already been nominated for Best Lead Actress for her work in Winter’s Bone, but with The Hunger Games, Lawrence established herself as a heroine for the ages — the highest grossing action film heroine, to be precise. But don’t let the memory of Barnes and Noble’s endless supply of Katniss merch sully the performance Lawrence gives in the first Hunger Games film. She gives us a heroine who’s vulnerable and sympathetic, but never lets that get in the way of being a badass. Amid the flood of YA novel adaptations that descended upon cinemas in the wake of The Hunger Games, Lawrence’s turn as Katniss shows that the phenomenon began and ended with her undeniably strong performance.

— Harrison Tunggal

4. Joy

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

David O. Russell’s Joy is a bit of an unengaging slog, but Jennifer Lawrence isn’t one of the reasons why. In fact, she’s the only reason why the film is watchable in the first place. She embraces and envelops herself in the dynamic familial conflict and vulnerability of the character of Joy — a young inventor and businesswoman who builds a dynasty — reacting with a quiet energy and taking charge with such lively fervor; we almost feel the line “never… speak… on my behalf… about my business… again” in our bones, each brief pause breathing with badassery. She may not dive as deep into the mentality of the character as she does in performances ranked higher, but her utterly firm and assured commitment to the role reverberates off the screen.

— Kyle Kizu

3. Winter’s Bone

Roadside Attractions/Courtesy

The performance that started the hype around her talents, Winter’s Bone was a tiny little indie that did significantly better than anyone would have expected, largely in part due to Lawrence’s captivating leading character. Set in the rural Ozarks, Winter’s Bone features Lawrence as a 17-year-old tasked with taking care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings within a financially destitute family that is being threatened to have their housed foreclosed on since her meth-addicted father put the house up for bail. And he, for reasons waiting to be discovered in this twisty film, has yet to make his court date.

What’s so immediate about this film’s portrayal of this kind of life is both Lawrence and director Debra Granik’s refusal to allow stereotypes to percolate into the story. There’s an authenticity to the sadness, the courage and, ultimately, the hope Lawrence brings to this young heroine. One could immediately see the star power that Lawrence possesses, which has only been further proven in each film since.

— Levi Hill

2. American Hustle

Sony Pictures/Courtesy

Bat-shit crazy Jennifer Lawrence is the best Jennifer Lawrence: so it is written.

As Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle, Lawrence injects what could have been a stereotypical “wronged, manipulative wife” role with charisma, intensity and a touch of true malice. In one memorable scene, Christian Bale’s character calls his wife “the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate.” She does indeed spend a good portion of the film attempting to sway events through careful manipulation, but when the dam breaks, no one throws a tantrum like Lawrence. And for what it’s worth, just overcoming the sheer extravagance of American Hustle’s costuming was a feat for all involved— from that slinky white gown to her teased blond updo, it’s a noteworthy accomplishment that the most “extra” thing in the film was Lawrence herself.

— Kate Halliwell

1. Silver Linings Playbook

The Weinstein Company/Courtesy

While Jennifer Lawrence was already an Oscar nominated actress with seemingly endless potential at such a young age, it was really 2012 that catapulted her into super stardom and the charts of Best Actresses Working Today. Between The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, any actor could claim they owned the year. Leading a massive franchise and the biggest crowd-pleasing prestige film is quite the accomplishment, yet it’s her performance in that second film, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, that stands as her best performance in her already acclaimed career. With the premise of the film centered around deeply flawed people, Lawrence plays Tiffany, a young widow who battles depression and is ostracized in her town for having casual sex with many of the men in it after her husband’s passing. While the film rests on Bradley Cooper’s shoulders, who convincingly plays the manic-depressive Pat Solitano, Jr., Lawrence steals the show. Given almost equal weight in this tight balancing act of mental-issues-drama with dysfunctional family comedy, without Lawrence’s performance — which gives off bubbly optimism and a cold cynicism — the movie may not have had its silver lining.

— Levi Hill

Featured image via Paramount.

25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2017

2017 has proven to be one of the best years for film in recent memory, and the hits are bound to keep coming in the fall and winter. It Comes At Night may have led us down a dark and unsettling path earlier this summer, but we will likely remain wholly unprepared for the brilliant discomfort of Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. (This film has been described as more agonizing than Lanthimos’ previous work, The Lobster, which came this close to showing a man blind himself with a steak knife. Let that sink in.) Regarding films that don’t require an immediate, consolatory hug upon viewing, Baby Driver was a fun joyride — a perfect forbear for the frenetic energy of Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And then there’s a little indie coming in December called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a family drama about space people who should never have become parents.  

The following list represents the films that make us at MovieMinis spontaneously squee. But since the list only includes 25 films, it doesn’t truly represent the amount of squeeing we do. The cutting room floor is littered with heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg’s The Post, as well as The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. There are also Cannes darlings that didn’t make the cut (but which you should see anyway) such as Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Palme d’Or winner The Square. We feel a great pang of guilt for excluding Justice League (squee!).

Regardless, here are our 25 most hotly anticipated films from the remainder of the year.

25. mother!

Paramount/Courtesy

The illustrated posters of mother! were merely beautiful yet unnerving glimpses into the horror of Darren Aronofsky’s next film. Bring in the trailer and it seems as though the director is returning to the brilliance of the genre that he dabbled in with Black Swan. And if this film really will follow in that one’s footsteps, then audiences should expect committed and haunting performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as a story with some of the most affecting scares since, well, Black Swan. Let’s just hope it appropriately contextualizes the relationship between a 27 year old and a 48 year old because, if it doesn’t, that might be more frightening.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel/Courtesy

Taika Waititi is easily one of the funniest filmmakers working today — just see here and here. His films bring loads of heart and even more laughs, something direly needed for Thor, a franchise whose second entry literally self-proclaims doom and gloom. Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the magic of Jeff Goldblum, a colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic and elements of Planet Hulk, and Thor: Ragnarok could be one of the best MCU entries to date. Oh, and in the last shot of the most recent trailer, Hulk goes toe-to-toe with Surtur the fire demon. In the immortal words of Ricky Baker, “Shit. Just. Got. REAL!”

— Harrison Tunggal

23. Suburbicon

Paramount/Courtesy

Suburbicon pulses with star power. The film is written by the minds of the Coen brothers, George Clooney (doing double duty as director) and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. If that isn’t enough, it stars Matt Damon, who invokes his Jason Bourne days by taking a fire iron to some poor thug’s face. The film also includes Julianne Moore (her third film on this list, she’s in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Wonderstruck) and Oscar Isaac, whose mustache here deserves it’s own billing. Here’s to hoping that said mustache stays intact over the course of this darkly comic crime caper.

— HT

22. It

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Stranger Things, but a million times scarier. If that seems like an oversimplification of the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, it isn’t anything less than the utmost excitement condensed into seven words. Despite an initial rocky start (writer-director Cary Fukunaga left the project in 2015), It appears to deliver well-acted, visually stunning horror fare — such that will strike an existential fear of killer demon clowns into the hearts of a whole new generation.

— HT

21. The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix/Courtesy

Welcome back, Adam Sandler. No, seriously. After a string of critically lashed Netflix comedies, here comes Noah Baumbach to remind us all, that when Sandler wants to, he can be one of the most emotionally affecting actors on the screen. Throw in Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and the full support of Netflix, and The Meyerowitz Stories appears to be the first Netflix Oscar-contender that will gain traction among voters, audiences and critics when it releases in mid-October.

— Levi Hill

20. Coco

Pixar/Courtesy

Coco is a Pixar film. Need we say more? Well, we can. The film follows a young kid who dreams of becoming a musician and, through a spiritual connection with an ancestor, he enters the Land of the Dead. The trailer shows that the film will be a visual wonder, but the subject matter offers a look at Latino culture, one that mainstream cinema largely ignores. And with longtime Pixar veteran Adrian Molina stepping into the director’s chair alongside Pixar legend Lee Unkrich, Coco looks to be informed and genuine in its endeavors as well.

— KK

19. Mute

Netflix/Courtesy

Many may only think of Warcraft when they hear the name Duncan Jones, which is a shame because this is the director behind Moon and Source Code, two phenomenal sci-fi films. With Mute, Jones returns to the universe of Moon, but this time he takes us to the futuristic, seemingly Blade Runner-esque Earth within it. That tiny detail may be the biggest sign that this film could be special. Moon crafted such a thorough sense of society down on Earth, one that Jones has explored for years in planning for Mute, so the storytelling should be refined and invigorated.

— KK

18. Wonderstruck

Amazon/Courtesy

Todd Haynes’ upcoming Wonderstruck is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, and the last time Selznick’s work was adapted for the big screen, the result was the Martin Scorsese stunner Hugo. With Selznick himself penning the screenplay, Wonderstruck seems poised to deliver a timeline-hopping, visual treat that will remind us of that which fills us with childlike wonder — film, museums and, if the trailer is to be believed, cool David Bowie covers.

— HT

17. Battle of the Sexes

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Sometimes talent alone can put a film on this list. Recent Academy Award winner Emma Stone, comedic (and now dramatic?) powerhouse Steve Carell, the co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours will bring us Battle of the Sexes. But that title, and the story behind it, makes this film about more than just talent — or maybe precisely about talent, that which is underserved. The story of tennis star Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs is an uplifting and landmark tale, with a whole lot of lively fun throughout, that could make for a wonderful and necessary statement in today’s landscape.

— KK

16. The Death of Stalin

IFC Films/Courtesy

Armando Iannucci may be the king of political satire, his time as Veep showrunner offering us some of the most gut-busting commentary on the current state of D.C. Pair him with the juicy material of the Soviet regime in the immediate aftermath of Stalin’s death — utilizing a bluntly British angle (they’re not even attempting Russian accents) — and you’ve got a comedy to die for.

— KK

15. Roman J. Israel, Esq

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Nightcrawler is aging like fine wine, with many critics and movie fans looking back at it as not only an absolutely brilliant movie, but also a significant independent film and a vehicle for one of the best performances of the 21st century from Jake Gyllenhaal. So any movie that writer-director Dan Gilroy does next is on a must-see list. Cue Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film where Denzel Washington has an afro and plays a snazzily dressed defense attorney.

— KK

14. Last Flag Flying

Amazon/Courtesy

Honestly, if there is one film on this list that just can’t go wrong (outside of the movies that have already premiered), it is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Starring the dream-team worthy trio of Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, the film is a years-after sequel to the Oscar-nominated, Jack Nicholson-led and Hal Ashby-directed The Last Detail. With that set-up, Last Flag Flying could potentially end up being the de facto critics favorite with Linklater’s humanist style mixed with the socially angry, if touching tale of three Navy vets coming to terms with the world they live in that Ashby knocked out of the park back in 1973.

— LH

13. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Casual fans of indie cinema know Greta Gerwig as the magnetic star of films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and 20th Century Women, but those of us obsessed with the genre know that it’s behind the camera where she makes even more of an impact. After writing a number of successful indies, Gerwig will make her solo directorial debut this fall with Lady Bird. While not much is known about the plot, the film follows a high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) as she spends a year in Northern California. Joining Ronan is a heavy hitting cast of indie favorites that includes Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges.

— Kate Halliwell

12. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Fox/Courtesy

Matthew Vaughn established himself as an action director extraordinaire with the first Kingsman — the film’s church scene now infamous as one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in recent memory. With that style, Vaughn’s dry British wit, the brilliant cast and brand new American territory to explore, The Golden Circle is set to be one of the most fun films of the fall — and sometimes, fun is all we need.

— KK

11. Molly’s Game

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Aaron Sorkin is widely known as one of the great writers — of most mediums — of our time. The fact that Molly’s Game is written by him is enough reason to be excited, but the film is also his directorial debut, which elevates our hype tenfold. Even if the film isn’t good, it will be fascinating to see his visual style directly translated to the big screen. But it seems like there are too many pieces in place for this to be a dud — Jessica Chastain munching on Sorkin’s words is the dream performance we need.

— KK

10. Downsizing

Paramount/Courtesy

When every single one of your films (except your first) received Oscar nominations and endless critical heap, audiences will take notice when your next film comes out. And thus is the case with Alexander Payne, who, to this day, seems incapable of making a bad scene, let alone a bad movie. However, the science-fiction satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, promises to be a marked difference from the traditionally very naturalistic stories Payne has told in the past. Yet, that’s what it makes it this writer-director’s most intriguing project yet.

— LH

9. Hostiles

Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/Courtesy

Hostiles may not release this year as it currently doesn’t have a distributor, but it’s set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in a bid for an acquisition. Made by Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster and Timothée Chalamet, so it’s got a great chance of being picked up for an end-of-year release. And that team of talent is precisely why this movie is so salivating. Christian Bale is never anything less than entirely transformed, Rosamund Pike needs more roles after her Oscar-nominated, frightening turn in Gone Girl, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today and Timothée Chalamet is on the verge of breaking out with Call Me by Your Name later this year.

— KK

8. The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

The great Guillermo Del Toro returns to the big screen with The Shape of Water, which stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film’s stellar trailer teased a sweet romance with sci-fi elements, but also raised the possibility that The Shape of Water is a secret Hellboy prequel centering on Abe Sapien. Even though Del Toro has since debunked those rumors, we’re still thrilled to see him combine the things we love about his filmography — fairy tales with a touch of the macabre and of course, amphibian men.

— HT

7. The Disaster Artist

A24/Courtesy

James Franco can never be faulted for producing/starring/writing/directing in a seemingly impossible amount of projects in one year. What he could have been faulted for in the past, though, is that each project he stood behind the camera on felt like an interesting misfire. Not anymore. With stunning, Oscar-potential raves out of SXSW, Franco seems to have found the perfect source material for his stylings: the best worst movie of all-time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. With Franco directing and, more excitingly, playing Tommy Wiseau on the set of The Room, The Disaster Artist promises a hilarious, if pointedly tragic real-life story of a failed artist. But really, we can’t wait to hear “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” again.

— LH

6. The Florida Project

A24/Courtesy

Sean Baker turned heads and took home awards with his 2015 film Tangerine, notably shot entirely on iPhones. He returns this year with The Florida Project, which follows a six-year old girl (Brooklynn Prince, this year’s Jacob Tremblay) and her adventures living in a run-down motel near Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. With Willem Dafoe and a host of talented newcomers rounding out the cast, this one is not to be missed.

— KH

5. Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Getting another Denis Villeneuve film immediately after last year’s Arrival is already worth celebrating, but the fact that his upcoming project is a Blade Runner sequel (shot by Roger Deakins, no less) makes the occasion seem like Christmas — of the neon, steampunk, existentialist variety, of course. With Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford teaming up, the hype couldn’t be bigger for this film, which will hopefully answer the greatest question of our time — what happened to the other 2,047 Blade Runner sequels?

— HT

4. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The trailer alone launched one thousand Armie Hammer crushes and caused us all to stop and consider spontaneous trips to Italy; the film itself might cause actual meltdowns (in the best way). Timothée Chalamet and Hammer star in Luca Guadagnino’s book-to-screen adaptation as two bisexual Jewish men who fall in love over the course of a sun-drenched summer. The film has drawn rave reviews from early festival screenings and has film buffs all over the world hungry for its November release. Peaches, anyone?

— KH

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Following the surprise Oscar nomination for the dark (twisted) comedy/science fiction fantasy film The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell return with an even more twisted, full-on psychological horror film. The early reviews for Sacred Deer, out of the in-competition bow at Cannes, promise that it will blend the calculated coldness of craft found in a Stanley Kubrick movie mixed with the cynical social commentary found in the best genre films. Add in the rising star Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as what appears to be the villain (but nothing is that simple in a Lanthimos tale) and the where-is-she-not Nicole Kidman as Farrell’s estranged wife experiencing horrific acts she has no fault in causing, and Sacred Deer promises to be the feel-bad movie of the Fall movie season.

— LH

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

You don’t hire director Rian Johnson to make a cookie-cutter Star Wars movie. The man behind Looper, Brick and two of Breaking Bad’s most daring episodes seems poised to deliver — dare we say — the best Star Wars entry of all time. Forget getting answers to questions we’ve had since 2015 (Is Rey a Kenobi? Is Snoke actually Sy Snootles? Will Luke get a haircut?). We just want another Rian Johnson movie.

— HT

1. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Film

Jürgen Fauth/Courtesy

Quite simply put, There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the 21st century and Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in it is one of the best of all time. So, with Paul Thomas Anderson pairing up with DDL yet again for what is, apparently, DDL’s last performance ever, this film — rumored to be titled either Phantom Thread or Woodcock — will be a special one in the history of cinema, even if it’s not as breathtakingly affecting and engaging as TWBB (and, of course, it easily could be). Add in the rumors that the film is Fifty Shades of Grey if directed by Mike Leigh and we are more in than we’ve ever been for anything, honestly.

— KK

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Box Office Report: As summer closes, box office reaches historic low with top earner merely making $10 million

Box Office Report for the weekend of August 25 to August 27:

As the summer closes with its last weekend, the box office has reached the year’s lowest point and, as reported by Box Office Mojo, the worst weekend in about 16 years.

The Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson-starring The Hitman’s Bodyguard took home the top spot with an estimated $10.05 million, bringing up its domestic total to approximately $39.61 million. The film’s reported budget is $30 million, meaning that, despite it’s mostly negative reception as it sits at 39% on RottenTomatoes after 143 reviews, it will almost certainly make its money back, and then some. The weekend gross of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, however, is the lowest earning top spot of the year. One would have to go all the way back to the weekend of February 3-5, when M. Night Shyamalan’s Split made $14.42 million, to come close to a worse #1 earner. Some say that the film’s finalized weekend number — its ‘actuals’ — will dip, meaning that it could even sink below $10 million.

Annabelle: Creation placed second with an estimated $7.35 million. Taking place within the Conjuring franchise, which itself has crossed $1 billion, the film should cross $100 million domestically within the coming weeks (it currently sits at $77.88 million). With a budget of $15 million, the horror prequel will be, relatively, one of the year’s most profitable films.

New releases, though, proved incredibly unappealing, with the animated film Leap! being one of only two to break the top ten. The Weinstein Company acquisition, which premiered internationally last year, made only $5.01 million domestically.

Wind River, which performed well during a limited release, expanded to over 2,000 theaters, and took home an estimated $4.41 million at the domestic box office. The indie, coming from Sicario and Hell or High Water screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, features what many critics are calling Jeremy Renner’s best performance.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk stuck around in the top ten after its 6th weekend in theaters, raking in another $3.95 million to claim the 6th spot. At this point, the World War II epic has yet to fall more than 47% from weekend to weekend, and never more than 41% after its second weekend, showing that it has strong legs. With a domestic total currently sitting at $172 million, the film will soon beat The Boss BabyGet Out and The LEGO Batman Movie to become the highest domestic grossing film that is not a sequel or a franchise vehicle — an accomplishment that Nolan is incredibly familiar with.

After Spider-Man: HomecomingThe Emoji Movie and new release Birth of the DragonGirls Trip, like Dunkirk, finds itself in the top ten after its 6th weekend, making an estimated $2.26 million domestically. The all-Black, all-female comedy recently crossed $100 million domestically.

Finally, in a bid for the 5th spot on the “highest domestic grossing superhero films” list, which is currently held by Iron Man 3 at $409.01 million, Wonder Woman added 1,407 theaters, expanding to a total of 2,210. The DC Extended Universe picture took home $1.68 million, bringing its domestic total to $406.2 million. It should claim that 5th spot in due time, putting it behind only The Dark Knight RisesAvengers: Age of UltronThe Dark Knight and Marvel’s The Avengers respectively.

The following weekend may be even more abysmal, with very few new releases that could make any notable dent. Unless Tulip Fever somehow strikes a chord with audiences, next weekend’s top earner may be well under $10 million.

The one after that, however, will see the release of It, which Variety reports could make about $50 million domestically its opening weekend, according to early box office tracking. With Jennifer Lawrence’s mother!, Kingsman: The Golden CircleThe LEGO Ninjago Movie and Tom Cruise’s American Made coming in the weeks following, the fall season will hopefully reinvigorate the box office.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*