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  • It's Raining A-List Packages; 'Origin' and 'The Color Purple' Reviews; Costume Design Power Rankings

It's Raining A-List Packages; 'Origin' and 'The Color Purple' Reviews; Costume Design Power Rankings

Plus, my Oscars power rankings for Best Costume Design, and a look at Netflix's trailer for 'The Brothers Sun.'

Happy Friday, everybody!

While the Patriots pulled off an upset victory on Thursday Night Football, I watched The Color Purple, where I had a great time chatting with Variety’s Chief Film Critic, the always-wise Peter Debruge.

In tonight’s newsletter, you’ll read about Charlize Theron, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and Ryan Reynolds before I weigh in with my thoughts on Origin and The Color Purple, plus The Brothers Sun trailer and the Oscar race for Best Costume Design.

Read on for more, and once again, Happy Hannukah to all my fellow Jews out there! Spin those dreidels and set aside some gelt for me in the New Year, when I finally start charging for this newsletter. It is a labor of love, but labor all the same…

It’s Raining Packages: Charlize and Daniel! Olivia and Margot! Ryan and Simon!

Can you afford any of these movie stars? If so, you’re probably a streaming service…

Last night, I broke the news of a Bradley Cooper-Christian Bale package that had the town in a tizzy, which was subsequently confirmed by the trades. And then this morning, it was like the dam broke, and the trades reported on a flood of packages.

First up, Apple nabbed Two for the Money, a heist film pairing Oscar winner Charlize Theron with Daniel Craig, who will play career thieves who keep running into each other on various jobs.

Justin Lin will direct from a script by Dan Mazeau, and the two of them first started talking about the project during the early days of Fast X. That sequel featured Theron, who took a liking to the snappy rapport between the leads in the Two for the Money script and suggested that she be paired with Craig.

This sounds like an intriguing project, but it won’t go for a while, as Lin will next direct the indie movie The Last Days of John Allen Chau, which is expected to start production early next year in Thailand.

Next up, Ryan Reynolds is attached to star in a high-concept, ensemble-driven action-comedy from writer Dana Fox (Cruella) and producer Simon Kinberg. Deadline broke the news, reporting that there are seven bidders in the mix for the pitch, which will likely sell for seven figures. Hoo-rah!

Finally, Olivia Wilde is attached to direct the Christmas comedy Naughty, which hails from Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap banner. Jimmy Warden (Cocaine Bear) wrote the script, which Deadline describes as “Bridesmaids in the North Pole.” The story follows a woman who sets out on a quest to find Santa Claus and convince him to testify in her divorce hearing in the hopes of securing custody of her son from her horrible ex.

Robbie will produce with her LuckyChap partners Tom Ackerley and Josey McNamara, but it’s telling that there’s no studio involved in this one yet, as Wilde’s heat in the industry has cooled considerably following Don’t Worry Darling. She was red-hot off of Booksmart, and LuckyChap is arguably the hottest producer in town on the heels of Barbie, but I don’t sense buyers lining up the way they have been for Best of Enemies the new Ryan Reynolds project, or Two for the Money, which ultimately sold to Apple.

Then again, it’s the end of the year and given how the strike had buyers sitting on their hands, a handful still have funds that they’re eager to use, knowing that if they don’t, their budgets may wind up getting slashed next year. So clear the decks next week, because once the new year begins, everyone is going to be lining up to pitch. You might as well sneak a sale in now before the holidays… maybe you’ll even catch an executive in a generous mood!

Stay tuned to see where Naughty and Reynolds’ action-comedy land…

Review Corner: An Origin and The Color Purple Doubleheader Makes for a Heavy Thursday

It’s not racism, it’s caste, you see…

Yesterday, I saw Ava DuVernay’s Origin and Blitz Bazawule’s The Color Purple. I liked Origin a bit more than The Color Purple, but I can’t say I really loved either one of them. I don’t really care how that “makes me sound,” I’m just giving you my honest opinion, as I can’t really wrap my head around the reviews for either one.

Both of these films are, understandably, tricky for a white guy like me to review, though Origin, which is based on the novel Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (played here by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor), sets out to find a link between slavery and the Holocaust, so it does trade on “the pain of my people,” in a way. In fact, it seems to get caught up in the question of “Who suffered more?” and that’s an argument you just can’t win, no matter what side you take. DuVernay’s side is clear, and while there’s no question that Origin represents fine work on her part, and no denying that it’s a powerful and important film, it also felt overlong and way too repetitive.

That’s the problem with Origin — the writing. It often feels way too on the nose. You could even turn this movie into a drinking game: Take a shot every time someone says the word “caste,” and drop dead of alcohol poisoning before the end of the movie!

This is a very well-intentioned film, but it’s also so glaringly obvious at times that it undercuts its own point. For instance, Nick Offerman plays a plumber who shows up at Isabel’s home wearing a red MAGA hat. He’s not playing a character so much as he’s just playing that Red Hat — a symbol of racial intolerance.

I’m not even sure how I feel about how DuVernay uses Trayvon Martin here — as a symbol more than an individual person. But… perhaps that’s the point. The image of a Black man in a hoodie can represent all the victims of those tragic crimes, since, sadly, those incidents keep happening over and over across America.

I was definitely more into the first half of Origin, though my viewing circumstances changed during the second half. See, the power went out about 75 minutes into my screening. I’d made a big deal about having a screener for Origin and how I wanted to wait and see it on the big screen. And I did… for a while.

It didn’t take long for the power to be restored, maybe 5 or 10 minutes, but I had a lunch at 1 p.m. for which I did not want to be late. It then took another 5 minutes for the equipment to boot up and all that, and then the projectionist rewound the movie about 10 minutes, and I realized, “I’m screwed. I’m not gonna make it, even if I part traffic like Moses parting the Red Sea.” So I’m sitting there, watching the BBQ scene for a second time — the film’s momentum completely killed — and all I can think about is being late for this lunch. Plus, my phone is dead, so I don’t even know what time it is. I was left with little choice but to make an executive decision to bail.

After lunch, I finished watching the second half at home via screener, and through zero fault of its own, I just found it difficult to reconnect and get back on the film’s wavelength. At first, you’re meeting all these characters and seeing them in different situations, and it’s exciting and interesting, but since all of that is dispensed with in the first half, the second half dragged a bit.

In the first half of the film, several characters close to Isabel die, and I love the way DuVernay communicates their passing, with their bodies lying on a rustic bed of leaves. The imagery is quite beautiful and moving. But the second half begins to feel more academic. It shines again towards the end when an older white man relays a decades-old story of sharing a community pool with a young Black boy, and how the boy wasn’t allowed to touch the water on a hot summer day. It’s that kind of intimate, more personal story that you remember when you leave this film, and I think it could’ve used more scenes featuring that kind of approach.

But in the end, I was left with the nagging feeling that the best adaptation of Caste may very well have been a documentary in which real people tell those kinds of stories, which can often be more powerful than scripted moments.

Fantasia Barrino to others in contention for a Best Actress nomination: “I’m here!”

As for The Color Purple, I have to be honest… I wasn’t a big fan. The performances are all pretty good, and the film looks gorgeous, but I’m just not a big musical guy, and I didn’t really care for any of the songs in this film — none of which will I be downloading anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like certain musicals, like Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and Dreamgirls, and I love the work of John Carney, such as Once, Sing Street, and Flora and Son, but musicals where everyone breaks out into song and dance even though they just met a few seconds ago have never been my jam.

I’m not going to get into some big comparison between Steven Spielberg’s 1985 drama and Blitz Bazawule’s 2023 musical, but they are completely different things. The Color Purple is, obviously, a landmark novel for a lot of people, and it deals with some tough subject matter. A musical didn’t really feel appropriate to me, though I also understand how the point of the film may be how these Black women continued to sing their song in a world that wanted to silence them. Then it’s about strength, resilience, and perseverance…

Danielle Brooks is the standout as the fiery Sofia, but Fantasia Barrino does a good job as well as Celie. She was clearly cast because of her voice rather than he acting chops, but she rises to the occasion, and when she delivered her big line last night — a variation on “I may be poor, Black, and ugly, but I’m here!” — the theater went wild. That one line may be just enough to land her an Oscar nomination over, say, Margot Robbie.

So I’m not faulting Barrino or her co-stars, who do an admirable job performing the material here. I just didn’t love the glossy sheen behind this musical; it made it difficult for me to connect to the characters and feel their collective pain. Again, the largely Black audience that I saw the film with last night absolutely adored it, but this one just wasn’t for me, and I don’t see it being a real threat for Best Picture unless American Fiction is snubbed for some reason.


Origin: B

The Color Purple: C+

And now, here are my latest Oscars Power Rankings, which forecast who’s up and who’s down each week…

Oscars Power Rankings: Barbie Is in the Driver’s Seat in this Year’s Race for Best Costume Design

The fringe. The neckerchiefs. And don’t forget about those neon rollerblading outfits…

Best Costume Design

  1. Jacqueline Durran, Barbie

  2. Holly Waddington, Poor Things

  3. Jacqueline West, Killers of the Flower Moon

  4. Sophie Canale, Saltburn

  5. Francine Jamison-Tanchuck, The Color Purple

  6. Ellen Mirojnick, Oppenheimer

  7. Lindy Hemming, Wonka

  8. Stacey Battat, Priscilla

  9. Mark Bridges, Maestro

  10. Oliver Garcia, Chevalier

Analysis: I wanted to wait and see The Color Purple before weighing in on the Best Costume Design race, and I’m glad I did, as Francine Jamison-Tanchuck did a great job dressing that ensemble. Of course, a rising tide lifts all boats, so whether her work will be enough to stave off the Oscar juggernaut that is Oppenheimer remains to be seen.

It feels like the race this year is a three-way battle between two Jacquelines — Durran and West — and Poor Things costumer Holly Waddington. Right now, I’ll give the edge to Jacqueline Durran, whose Barbie and Ken outfits are now iconic and will surely be a Halloween couples costume for years to come.

Waddington also does a bang-up job in Poor Things, designing a variety of memorable outfits for Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter — yes, sometimes she does wear clothes! And I love some of her costumes for Mark Ruffalo and Jerrod Carmichael’s characters.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline West’s work in Killers of the Flower Moon is just as Oscar-worthy, given the way she taps into Native American culture and the Osage’s rich history.

Saltburn also feels like a safe bet, as that whole movie looks like a Vanity Fair spread, and the clothes just feel very classy, yet creative.

Of course, you can never count out Oppenheimer, as this branch loves its period pieces, while Wonka, Priscilla, Maestro, and Chevalier would all be solid contenders in other years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them managed to sneak into the final field of five.

Bits and Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)

  • The Force Awakens? - After a relatively quiet period of news, expect things to heat up on the Star Wars front in the weeks ahead. On today’s episode of The Hot Mic, I revisited a rumor that I shot down several weeks ago — that it looks like the next chapter of The Mandalorian could be heading to the big screen. I’d been operating under the theory that Daisy Ridley’s Star Wars movie would be the next Star Wars movie to go before cameras, but I’m now hearing that the odds are in favor of a different project featuring the further adventures of The Mandalorian characters. Could Jon Favreau be behind the camera of this mystery movie? I think that if you search your feelings… you know it to be true.

  • Coyote vs. Acme Update - There’s been a lot of chatter about Coyote vs. Acme, with various reports saying that Amazon and Paramount are most interested. Puck reported that Netflix also made a lowball offer. And that’s the thing, folks. No one wants to pay full price for this movie. Warner Bros. doesn’t even need to be made whole, by why would they sell the film to a rival for $35 million if they can get the exact same amount from the government without having to drive subscribers to a rival streamer? David Zaslav didn’t greenlight this movie, and no matter how bad a message it sends to creatives, he shouldn’t have to spend $40 million on a marketing campaign if he doesn’t believe in a movie that his predecessors greenlit. I know it’s fashionable to make Zas the bad guy, but the online furor is largely performative, as I suspect that everyone is going to quickly forget about this Looney Tunes movie, which feels like a bad bet, no matter how glowing the reviews are from Deadline and the director’s friends.

  • Condolences - To the friends and family of Ryan O’Neal, the handsome actor who had quite the run back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, starring in Love Story, Paper Moon, and Barry Lyndon. O’Neal retreated from the spotlight as he got older but he left behind a trail of strong performances in memorable movies. R.I.P.

Trailer Time: Could Michelle Yeoh’s New Series The Brothers Sun Be a Breaout Hit for Netflix?

Netflix dropped a trailer for The Brothers Sun, a new series about a Chinese crime family led by reigning Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. Justin Chien plays her gangster son, who has settled into his life as a ruthless killer when he’s forced to go to L.A. to protect his mother and younger brother (Sam Song Li) after their father is shot by a mysterious assassin.

I really like the energy of this trailer, which hints at some very cool action sequences. I’ve had the screeners sitting in my Netflix queue for a couple of weeks, and I’m going to do my best to check out this show during the holiday break, as it looks like it could be a lot of fun.

That’ll do it for me, folks! I’m off to my pal Karen McCullah’s holiday party tonight and I was told to bring an appetite, so I starved myself all day for this.

Have a great weekend!

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