Oscar Watch: Good Time

The Cannes Film Festival showcased a rather unexpected potential player in the awards derby with the crime drama Good Time, which debuts stateside in August. The film comes from indie directors Ben and Josh Safdie and finds Twilight star Robert Pattinson as a bank robber trying to break his brother out of jail. Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh are among the supporting cast.

Early word of mouth for the A24 offering has been quite positive. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and it was reportedly greeted with a six minute standing ovation in Cannes. Much of the praise has been awarded to Mr. Pattinson. If the pic is able to break out in any substantial way in the U.S., he could emerge as a dark horse candidate for Best Actor and the Original Screenplay could get some buzz as well.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…


Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Box Office Prediction

Dreamworks is the first studio with an animated feature for the summer season as Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie hits screens next weekend. Based on a series of well-known childrens books by Dav Pilkey, the film features the voices of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, and Thomas Middleditch. The screenplay comes from Nicholas Stoller, who made last year’s under performing Storks. 

Underpants is certainly more of a question mark than some of the other animated tales this season – namely Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3, both of which arrive in June. That said, Dreamworks has a mostly solid history of producing hits. 2014’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman debuted to $32 million, 2015’s Home exceeded expectations with $52 million, Trolls made $46 million last fall, and The Boss Baby opened to $50 million in March, outpacing its projections.

While I don’t see this effort getting past $40 million (though it could happen), I believe a mid 30s debut is in the cards as the studio likely hopes for a sequel (based on the title).

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie opening weekend prediction: $34.7 million

For my Wonder Woman prediction, click here:


Wonder Woman Box Office Prediction

The DC Cinematic Universe continues next weekend with the release of Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. spin-off of Gal Gadot’s version of the iconic character that first appeared in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Patty Jenkins, who hasn’t made a feature since directing Charlize Theron to an Oscar in 2003’s Monster, is the first female director to helm a big-budget comic book adaptation. It’s also the first of its genre to focus on a female protagonist.

In addition to Gadot’s Amazon princess, Chris Pine costars along with Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, and Danny Huston. DC is looking to replicate the smashing success that Marvel and Disney have accomplished in their series of Avengers flicks and spin-offs. The aforementioned Batman v Superman debuted in March 2016 to $166 million, which accounted for over half of its eventual $330M domestic haul. While that’s certainly a very solid gross, many critics and moviegoers weren’t blown away by what they saw. That said, Gadot’s Wonder Woman was considered to be a highlight among many.

The pic is not expected to approach BvS territory. Early estimates have been all over the map as to how it will open (anywhere from $65 to $100 million). A bright spot: word-of-mouth has been encouraging.

I believe Wonder Woman will make about half of what the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel achieved for its start over a year ago. Hopefully, fans will like what they see as they’ll only have to wait five and a half months to see the title character again in Justice League. 

Wonder Woman opening weekend prediction: $82.3 million

For my Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie prediction, click here:


Box Office Predictions: May 26-29

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and there’s two potential heavy hitters making their way to the multiplex: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth entry in the Disney franchise and Baywatch, the action comedy reboot of the 90s syndicated TV show. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:



Pirates should easily place first, though my prediction puts it under the debuts of the three previous series entries. Baywatch should place second barring a majorly disappointing opening.

I’m estimating that current #1 Alien: Covenant will slip to fourth with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 displaying a better hold in third. YA romance Everything, Everything should round out the top five.

And with that, here’s my holiday weekend Friday to Monday projections!

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Predicted Gross: $81.6 million

2. Baywatch

Predicted Gross: $36.4 million ($42.3 million projected Thursday to Monday debut)

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Predicted Gross: $25.3 million (representing a drop of 24%)

4. Alien: Covenant

Predicted Gross: $19.9 million (representing a drop of 45%)

5. Everything, Everything

Predicted Gross: $6.8 million (representing a drop of 42%)

Box Office Results (May 19-21) 

In a tight battle for #1, Alien: Covenant just managed to eek out a victory with $36.1 million. Despite mostly solid reviews, the sixth feature in the nearly 40 year-old franchise came in a bit on the lower end of expectations and under my $44.6M prediction.

Following close behind was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in its third frame. The Marvel hit dropped to second with $34.6 million (a tad above my $32.2M projection) for a grand total of $301 million.

Everything, Everything posted a decent third place showing with $11.7 million, right in line with my $12.3M estimate.

Snatched was fourth in its ho-hum run with $7.8 million (I said $9M) for a tally of just $33 million.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is still a bomb, but it was in the top 5 in its sophomore weekend and I didn’t predict it would be there. It grossed $7.1 million to bring its meager gross to $27 million.

I had Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul debuting in the five spot, but it was sixth with $7.1 million (just below my $8.1M estimate). This is a franchise worst debut for the series.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Another Cannes Film Festival screening has put two items in the same sentence that don’t really belong together: Oscar buzz and Adam Sandler. Yes, it’s true. When we think of Sandler pics premiering on Netflix over the last couple of years, quality doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

However, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) isn’t your typical Sandler fare. The comedic drama (or dramatic comedy if you will) is from acclaimed indie director Noah Baumbach, maker of The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha. Instead of David Spade and Rob Schneider, the costars here include Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Emma Thompson.

Early reviews from France suggest this is Mr. Sandler’ finest performance since at least PunchDrunk Love 15 years ago. And that has some folks whispering Oscar nomination. In all likelihood, even with strong notices and a current 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the star of Meyerowitz is probably a bit of a long shot. Yet a weak Best Actor race could change that dynamic come autumn.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Wonderstruck

The Cannes Film Festival started this week across the pond in France and that means some likely Oscar hopefuls are receiving their first screenings. One such picture is Wonderstruck, the latest from director Todd Haynes. It’s based on a 2011 novel by Brian Selznick, the same author who wrote the Hugo series in which Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Best Picture nominee is based upon.

Wonderstruck features Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in supporting roles and child actors Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds in lead parts. Reaction from the Cannes screening has been mostly positive and it currently stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Haynes’ three previous efforts have all garnered Oscar nods – 2002’s Far from Heaven, 2007’s I’m Not There, and 2015’s Carol. However, none of them got Best Picture nominations. Instead, the focus was on acting. That will likely apply here with some potential for attention on down ballot categories.

Based on early buzz, I’d keep an eye out for Simmonds, the teenage deaf actress said to be a standout. Wonderstruck could also make a play for Adapted Screenplay as well as Costume Design and Original Score. The film hits theaters stateside in October.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Baywatch Box Office Prediction

Will audiences be ready for Baywatch when it debuts over Memorial Day weekend?

The action/comedy is, of course, a reboot of the 90s TV show that ruled the syndication waves and improbably became one of the biggest programs across the world. This version of Baywatch has more intentional humor and it’s R rated. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron headline with Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra costarring. Seth Gordon, director of Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief, is behind the camera. And, yes, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson are said to cameo.

Last month, Paramount moved the release date from Friday to Thursday so my estimate here is for its five-day haul over the holiday frame. Besides the brand familiarity, Baywatch‘s biggest asset is Johnson, who’s had a stellar track record as of late (he’s also been garnering publicity for apparent political aspirations in the future).

The studio is clearly going for a Jump Street vibe here. This would be fortunate to make the $57 million accomplished by 22 Jump Street in its first five days. I don’t think it will get there. Some moviegoers may be inclined to check out Jack Sparrow and the buzz here feels less substantial than for the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill series.

I’ll predict Baywatch hits high 30s to low 40s for a second place showing behind Pirates.

Baywatch opening weekend prediction: $39.4 million (Thursday to Monday prediction)

For my Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Men Tell No Tales prediction, click here:


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Box Office Prediction

After a six-year hiatus, Jack Sparrow and company return Memorial Day weekend in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The Disney property represents the fifth pic in the 14 year-old franchise with Johnny Depp returning in the role that made him a global box office superpower (at least for a while). Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg are new directors to the series. Costars include Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, and apparently Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley reprising their roles (they sat out the fourth edition). Even Paul McCartney is said to have a cameo!

While Disney has been printing money with their Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar, and live-action animated reboots, Pirates is more of a risk. First, there’s the massive reported $320 million price tag. Then there’s the matter of Depp not being the draw he once was (tabloid fodder hasn’t helped much). It was just during the last Memorial Day weekend that the Depp/Disney combo resulted in the flop of Alice Through the Looking Glass. 

And there’s genuine curiosity as to whether the franchise has run low on steam. Let’s take a trip down Sparrow’s box office memory lane, shall we?

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Opening Weekend: $46.6 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $305.4 million

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Opening Weekend: $135.6 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $423.3 million

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Opening Weekend: $114.7 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $309.4 million

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Opening Weekend: $90.1 million; Overall Domestic Gross: $241 million

As you can see, the Pirates saga hit its high mark over a decade ago and the last entry in 2011 posted the lowest total domestic earnings. I believe the days of Pirates making $100 million in a weekend are over. Even though it shouldn’t have much trouble at all placing first over the holiday weekend, I’ll predict a four-day gross in the high 70s to low 80s is most likely.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opening weekend prediction: $78.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Baywatch prediction, click here:


Box Office Predictions: May 19-21

Summer 2017 keeps rolling along as three new titles populate the marketplace this weekend. They are Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant (the sixth film in the nearly 40 year-old franchise), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (the fourth film in the seven year-old franchise), and YA romance Everything, Everything. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:




As I see it, Covenant should manage a mid 40s debut. That’s under what its direct predecessor Prometheus accomplished five years ago, but it should be good enough to nab the #1 spot from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The Marvel hit should end its two-week reign atop the charts.

I’m predicting a third place showing for Everything, Everything with Snatched nabbing fourth in its sophomore frame and Wimpy Kid rounding out the top five. As for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it should plummet out of the top five in its second weekend after a terrible debut (more on that below).

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the weekend:

1. Alien: Covenant

Predicted Gross: $44.6 million

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Predicted Gross: $32.2 million (representing a drop of 50%)

3. Everything, Everything

Predicted Gross: $12.3 million

4. Snatched 

Predicted Gross: $9 million (representing a drop of 54%)

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

Box Office Results (May 12-14) 

As expected, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 easily dominated the box office in weekend #2 with $65.2 million, right in line with my $64.3M projection. The sequel has grossed $248 million thus far.

The Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn comedy did just OK in second place with $19.5 million, a bit shy of my $21.1M estimate. Not a bad opening for a $42 million budget, but this is well below the $30M achieved by Schumer’s Trainwreck two summers ago.

It took until the second weekend of summer to have a flop of epic proportions and that honor belongs to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The Guy Ritchie pic took in an embarrassing $15.3 million, well under my $24.4M prediction. Considering its reported $175 million budget, Warner Bros looks to lose a lot of cash on this ill-advised investment.

Holdovers populated spots 4-6. The Fate of the Furious was fourth with $5.4 million (I said $5.7M) for a $215M total. I incorrectly had The Boss Baby in fifth, but it was sixth with $4.4 million (I said $4.9M) for an overall tally of $162M. Instead, Beauty and the Beast rounded out the top five with $4.8 million to bring its massive cume to $494M. It is currently the 8th highest domestic earner of all time.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Fifty Shades Darker Movie Review

There’s a scene towards the end of Fifty Shades Darker where we find ourselves in Christian Grey’s childhood bedroom. He is engaged in deep conversation with Anastasia Steele. Instead of giving anywhere near a damn about what they were discussing, I found myself distracted by the movie poster in his room: The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel.

For the next couple of minutes, my mind wandered to the following questions: What made the set designers pick that 2000 sci-fi flick? What made them deduce that their lead character with a penchant for dominance and sadism would choose that film over any other? I thought about what age Christian would have been when it was released. 13 maybe? Here’s a guy, even as a youngster, that could have bought any movie poster, yet he chose The Chronicles of Riddick. Then I realized the fact that I was preoccupied with this minor piece of set decoration said a lot. I didn’t really care about anything else in that bedroom and anyone in it.

Fifty Shades Darker is the sequel to 2015’s smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey and continues the saga of that man with the Riddick poster (Jamie Dornan) and book editor Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). Their romance was originated in a series of wildly popular E.L. James novels. As I opined in my one star review of Grey, I tried my best to understand its mass appeal to viewers and readers, but just couldn’t get there. Yet here we are again. When we last left the lovers, they had broken up because Anastasia just couldn’t quite get there with Christian’s kinky preferences. It takes about ten minutes of screen time for her to inexplicably change her mind and they’re back at it.

Part two does bring some new dynamics and characters into the fold. Anastasia’s new boss (Eric Johnson) wants more than her editing services. Christian’s sexual mentor (Kim Basinger) keeps popping up, as does a former lover (Bella Heathcote) who’s still subservient to her former master. These subplots lead to jealousy on both ends. There’s also a bit of exploration of Christian’s troubled childhood. All of these items seem like wind up to whatever the inevitable third picture will bring. There’s no pay off.

Instead we get a whole lot of conversations between our two leads and two underwhelming actors playing them. More than anything, the Fifty Shades series rises and falls with the chemistry of Dornan and Johnson. Once again, its mostly non-existent. The franchise’s selling point is the sex scenes and even they’re nothing more than what you’d see on cable after dark.

That said, I’m awarding Fifty Shades Darker a whole half star more than Grey. Why? Good question. Johnson’s acting is probably a half star better. There is perhaps a half star’s worthy more plot developments than in the first. Or maybe the Riddick poster distraction put me in a better mood. Who knows? The more likely reasoning is I’ve become more numb to the pain this unfortunate series has inflicted on me.

*1/2 (out of four)