March 22-24 Box Office Predictions

This weekend at the box office, it’s all about Us – as in Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed and eagerly awaited follow-up to his breakthrough hit Get Out. It’s the only new wide release before us and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

I have the horror pic slated for a high 40s debut and that should easily nab it the top spot, knocking Captain Marvel off after two weeks in first. The opportunity for Us to climb higher (over $50 million) is certainly feasible.

The rest of the top five should be populated by holdovers Wonder Park and Five Feet Apart, which both exceeded expectations in their premieres, as well as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Us

Predicted Gross: $48.8 million

2. Captain Marvel

Predicted Gross: $36.4 million

3. Wonder Park

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

4. Five Feet Apart

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million

5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

Box Office Results (March 1517)

Captain Marvel easily held onto first in its sophomore frame with $67.9 million, a touch below my $71.3 million projection. The Marvel blockbuster has amassed $264 million in its first ten days of release.

Animated Wonder Park placed second with $15.8 million, well beyond my $10.3 million prediction. Considering its reported $100 million budget, that’s still nothing spectacular, but it is definitely on the highest end of estimates.

Romantic drama Five Feet Apart was third with $13.1 million, ahead of my $10.7 million forecast. Unlike Wonder Park, the price tag here was a measly $7 million and it nearly doubled that out of the gate.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was fourth with $9.2 million (I said $9.4 million) for $135 million overall.

I didn’t give Mr. Perry enough credit as A Madea Family Funeral rounded out the top five with $7.8 million compared to my $5.6 million take. The three-week tally is $58 million.

Spanish comedy sequel No Manches Frida 2 was sixth, opening with $3.8 million on under 500 screens. I was close at $3.4 million.

In seventh, the barely publicized alien invasion thriller Captive State took in just $3.1 million (I said $2.8 million).

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

Captain Marvel Movie Review

By the time the strains of “Just a Girl” blare over the speakers during a climactic fight scene, there is no doubt that Captain Marvel has adequately placed itself as a bridge between Avengers epics. That’s not an especially high bar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it answers the most important question needed before April’s Avengers: Endgame – who’s this new heroine that’s going to help the team we’re accustomed to seeing?

That would be Brie Larson as Vers. She’s part of the Kree alien race with persistent flashbacks to an old life on C53, a planet otherwise known as Earth. Her mentor is Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who helps her hone her mysterious superpowers. The flashback mentor is Mar-Vell (get it?) and she takes the form of Annette Bening as an all-knowing being who may have taught Vers in a previous life that’s fuzzy to her.

Since this is the MCU, we correctly suspect that purported good guys may become bad guys and vice versa. Vers and her team are battling another race called the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, always solid). They can take the form of any being they wish, so we see Mr. Mendelsohn in his bespectacled British form and in impeccable creature makeup.

Vers’s interactions with the Skrulls involves a crash landing in Los Angeles. Not today’s L.A., mind you, but 1995 L.A. where relics of the past like Blockbuster Video and two-way pagers exist. This time frame is mined for humor and its soundtrack that includes Nirvana and Salt n Pepa. We also meet Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in his pre eyepatch days and a rookie Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).

The Earth bound action gets us to a place where we can call Vers the Captain now. And clad in her Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, it get us one step closer to her joining Captain America, Tony Stark, and others decades later.

Captain Marvel is yet another origin story and it follows the tried and true MCU blueprint. Luckily for us, that familiar path includes picking directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) that are unconventional choices (they’re known for indie dramas like Half Nelson). It includes humorous touches that work and plenty of them come in the feline form of Goose, who steals some sequences.

Have there been stronger intros in this franchise before? Absolutely. As the first female MCU hero with a stand-alone tale, Larson is spirited. Is her back story as inspiring as what the DCU provided in Wonder Woman? I’d have to say no. And like many MCU pics before it, the villains here are standard – even with fine actors playing them. We will see if Larson’s character can become a fan favorite in this vast world. I’d say the jury is currently unsure. At the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, we learned she was needed. Captain Marvel provides some decently entertaining history as to why.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Booksmart

Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in Lady Bird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.

The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed Eighth Grade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.

Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Us Box Office Prediction

Next weekend we will find out if lightning strikes again for director Jordan Peele with the release of Us. The horror pic is Peele’s eagerly awaited sophomore effort and follow-up to his 2017 debut Get Out. That film rode a cultural wave of excitement and critical raves that resulted in a Best Picture nomination and an Oscar for Peele for his original screenplay.

Perhaps not since M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (his feature after The Sixth Sense) have we seen a movie that can sold mostly on “from the director of…”. Us centers on a family being terrorized by a brood that appears to be different versions of themselves. The cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker.

Any fears of a sophomore slump were eliminated this past weekend when Us screened at South by Southwest. Reviews are strong with 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Get Out exceeded opening weekend projections two years ago when it made $33 million for its start and legged out considerably to $176 million.

Us doesn’t have the benefit of unknown expectations. Peele’s name and some seriously effective trailers have prognosticators thinking this will exceed the first weekend of Get Out. Whether it experiences the smallish declines from weekend to weekend is a better question as Us should be more front-loaded with its earnings.

I’ll say mid to high 40s is where this lands with $50 million certainly being a possibility.

Us opening weekend prediction: $48.8 million

March 15-17 Box Office Predictions

Captain Marvel looks to make another giant pot of box office gold in its sophomore frame while a quartet of newcomers could struggle to get noticed. There’s the animated Wonder Park, youthful romantic drama Five Feet Apart, and alien invasion flick Captive State debuting and you can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

I’m not expecting much from the newbies. I didn’t do an individual post for Mexican comedy sequel No Manches Frida 2, which hits the smallest number of screens at around 450. It will likely post the highest per screen average of the premieres and I’ll forecast a $3.4 million debut for sixth place. That’s better than my take on Captive State. It opens in almost five times as many venues, but I’m projecting a measly $2.8 million.

Park and Feet could find themselves in a close battle for second. I’m giving the latter a slight edge. It’s also feasible that How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World could stay in the runner-up spot behind the latest MCU juggernaut.

Here’s how I have the top 5 playing out:

1. Captain Marvel

Predicted Gross: $71.3 million

2. Five Feet Apart

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million

3. Wonder Park

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

4. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Predicted Gross: $9.4 million

5. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

Box Office Results (March 1517)

I’ll give myself a little pat on the back with my Captain Marvel prediction as it made $153.4 million and I was just a million off at $154.4 million. That’s a sterling start for Brie Larson’s heroine and I look for this to fall around 53% in its second frame.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World fell to second with $14.6 million. I was a touch higher at $16.6 million. Total is $119 million.

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral was third with $12.4 million (I said $11 million) for $46 million overall in two weeks.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part made $3.8 million for fourth place. My $3.9 million forecast was right there. It’s nearly at the century mark with $97 million.

Alita: Battle Angel rounded out the top five with $3.2 million (I said $4 million) for $78 million to date.

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

Captive State Box Office Prediction

Originally slated to open last summer, the sci-fi alien invasion thriller Captive State touches down in theaters next weekend. Rupert Wyatt, best known for 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directs. John Goodman (no stranger to extraterrestrial beings as evidenced by 10 Cloverfield Lane) leads a cast that includes Ashton Sanders, Machine Gun Kelly, Alan Ruck, Kiki Layne, and Vera Farmiga.

The Focus Features release seems to be flying far under the radar. Many pics in this sub genre are high-profile releases with massive budgets. This comes with a price tag of only about $25 million. That was probably the catering receipt for War of the Worlds.

That said, I don’t see this recouping its minimal cost during the stateside domestic run. I’ll say this only reaches mid single digits (if it’s lucky) before it lifts off quickly to On Demand status. I’ll say it doesn’t even get there.

Captive State opening weekend prediction: $2.8 million

For my Wonder Park prediction, click here:

For my Five Feet Apart prediction, click here:

Vox Lux Movie Review

Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux portrays a star who is born out of tragedy and she manages to keep milking it for a seemingly infinite time. Natalie Portman is that star and her work here is certainly memorable. Unlike her Oscar-winning turn in 2010’s Black Swan (which also explored the highs and lows of notoriety), this movie never quite earns being blessed by her committed performance. It drew me in for a while before getting lost in its own pretentiousness and, eventually, a feeling of meaninglessness. Maybe that’s the point Corbet is going for with his script as he ruminates on the vapid nature of pop celebrity. However, when the message is that the main character isn’t ultimately worth paying attention to, it’s tricky to get invested.

We meet Celeste as a 14-year-old in 1999, as played by Raffey Cassidy. She and sister Ellie survive a school shooting, leaving Celeste with a gunshot wound to the spinal area. Her recovery inspires her to write a ballad that strikes a chord with the nation. When it’s time to cut a full album, it’s in the aftermath of 9/11 when her lightweight dance pop recordings (courtesy of Sia) are the kind of throwaway ditties that fit the airwaves. These horrific events turn Celeste into a superstar and ultimately a diva.

Forty minutes in, the story flashes forward to 2017. Now 31 years old and now in the diminutive but fierce form of Portman, Celeste is prepping a comeback tour while attempting to rid herself of certain baggage. There’s an at fault car accident from a few years back that caused injury. And there’s the breaking news of the day – a terrorist attack in Central Europe where the assailants dressed as characters from one of her old videos.

Celeste deals with all this as she’s an absentee mom to her own teen, also played by Cassidy. Her girl is raised primarily by Ellie (Stacy Martin) and that sister relationship is strained to its limit. Jude Law is the manager who puts up with the frequent tantrums and rock star behavior while indulging in it himself.

For a while, Vox Lux is unique enough with its subject matter to inspire hope. That’s for about an hour when it seems to be generating its thesis on stardom and tragedy. I will say I dug Willem Dafoe’s intermittent ironic narration. In the second half, it’s mostly about watching Celeste’s out of control behavior. In the realm of musical tales, this runs out of fresh notes to hit. What helps is that Portman is terrific. She just never quite elevates this above being an occasional fascinating misfire.

**1/2 (out of four)