Oscar Predictions – Minions: The Rise of Gru

Illumination Entertainment will rule the Fourth of July weekend at the box office when Minions: The Rise of Gru hits theaters on July 1st. This is the fifth entry in the franchise that began a dozen summers back with Despicable Me and the first in five years.

Some early reviews are out and they’re mostly indicating it’s a decent if unspectacular chapter of the series. With 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, that’s higher than the two previous pics – 2015’s Minions (55%) and 2017’s Despicable Me 3 (59%). Of course, Gru‘s number will soon rise or fall as more critics weigh in.

2010’s Despicable Me (81%) and its 2013 sequel (75%) fared better, but only part two received awards attention. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Original Song with Pharrell’s inescapable “Happy”. Due to Disney’s Frozen and the equally omnipresent “Let It Go”, it lost both.

Based on early buzz, I see no path for Gru to find its way to the Animated Feature derby. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2022 Oscar Predictions: June 23rd Edition

My final Oscar predictions for the month of June comes with some news out today that Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things is likely delayed until 2023. While I didn’t have it being nominated in any of the major races, it was listed in other possibilities in Picture, Director, Actress (Emma Stone), Supporting Actor (for Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo), and Adapted Screenplay.

As for other shifts, I’m putting Empire of Light back in the 10 BP nominees and that’s to the detriment of She Said. In Supporting Actress, I’m dropping Zoe Kazan in She Said from the high five in favor of Rustin‘s Audra McDonald.

I’ll additionally note that Top Gun: Maverick continues to rise as it flies to the #12 slot. Its continued box office domination increases the chances for BP inclusion. Time will tell if it breaks the top 10 or eventually falls out of favor. However, I have no doubt now that Paramount will mount a robust campaign considering its phenomenon status.

In Best Actor, the #1 position is back to Hugh Jackman (The Son) over Brendan Fraser in The Whale. Speaking of the former pic, I’ve moved Laura Dern’s work to supporting instead of lead.

You can peruse all the movement below!

Best Picture 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (E)

4. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (E)

5. Women Talking (PR: 6) (+1)

6. The Son (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Bardo (PR: 7) (E)

8. Empire of Light (PR: 11) (+3)

9. The Whale (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rustin (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities:

11. She Said (PR: 8) (-3)

12. Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 18) (+6)

13. White Noise (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Broker (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Amsterdam (PR: 14) (-1)

16. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 17) (+1)

17. Tar (PR: 19) (+2)

18. Elvis (PR: 20) (+2)

19. Decision to Leave (PR: 16) (-3)

20. Next Goal Wins (PR: 21) (+1)

21. Thirteen Lives (PR: 22) (+1)

22. Triangle of Sadness (PR: Not Ranked)

23. The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 24) (+1)

24. Till (PR: 25) (+1)

25. The Killer (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Poor Things

Armageddon Time

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (E)

4. Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (E)

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sarah Polley, Women Talking (PR: 6) (E)

7. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light (PR: 11) (+4)

8. Florian Zeller, The Son (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Hirokazu Kore-ada, Broker (PR: 10) (E)

11. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 14) (+3)

12. Noah Baumbach, White Noise (PR: 12) (E)

13. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: 9) (-4)

14. Maria Schrader, She Said (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Todd Field, Tar (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 2) (E)

3. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar (PR: 6) (E)

7. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Carey Mulligan, She Said (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 13) (+4)

10. Ana de Armas, Blonde (PR: 12) (+2)

11. Helen Mirren, Golda (PR: 11) (E)

12. Jessica Chastain, The Good Nurse (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Michelle Williams, Showing Up (PR: 14) (E)

15. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Emma Stone, Poor Things 

Laura Dern, The Son (moved to Supporting Actress)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Brendan Fraser, The Whale (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 6) (E)

7. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo (PR: 10) (+3)

8. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Christian Bale, Amsterdam (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Song Kang-ho, Broker (PR: 8) (-3)

12. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 14) (+1)

14. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans (PR: 12) (-2)

15. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives (PR: 15) (E)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 1) (E)

2. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (E)

3. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking (PR: 3) (E)

4. Hong Chau, The Whale (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 8) (+3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Laura Dern, The Son (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Actress)

7. Zoe Kazan, She Said (PR: 4) (-3)

8. Vanessa Kirby, The Son (PR: 6) (-2)

9. Jean Smart, Babylon (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Patricia Clarkson, She Said (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Sadie Sink, The Whale (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 11) (-2)

14. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam (PR: 14) (E)

15. Nina Hoss, Tar (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Anne Hathaway, Armageddon Time 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Colin Firth, Empire of Light (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Anthony Hopkins, Armageddon Time (PR: 9) (E)

10. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 13) (+2)

12. Russell Crowe, The Greatest Beer Run Ever (PR: Not Ranked)

13. John David Washington, Amsterdam (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Don Cheadle, White Noise (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Tom Hanks, Elvis (PR: 15) (E)

Dropped Out:

Willem Dafoe, Poor Things

Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Babylon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Empire of Light (PR: 9) (+5)

5. Triangle of Sadness (PR: 11) (+6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Bardo (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Rustin (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Broker (PR: 5) (-3)

9. The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Adapted)

10. Tar (PR: 10) (E)

11. Amsterdam (PR: 7) (-4)

12. Decision to Leave (PR: 8) (-4)

13. Cha Cha Real Smooth (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Don’t Worry Darling (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Bros (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Aftersun

Armageddon Time

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story 

Nope 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. The Son (PR: 2) (E)

3. Women Talking (PR: 4) (+1)

4. The Whale (PR: 3) (-1)

5. White Noise (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. She Said (PR: 6) (E)

7. Next Goal Wins (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Till (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Bones & All (PR: 12) (+3)

10. The Greatest Beer Run Ever (PR: 15) (+5)

11. The Killer (PR: Not Ranked)

12. The Good Nurse (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 13) (E)

14. Thirteen Lives (PR: 11) (-3)

15. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 14) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Poor Things 

The Banshees of Inisherin (moved to Original Screenplay)

Minions: The Rise of Gru Box Office Prediction

Illumination and Universal Pictures should light up the Fourth of July weekend at the box office with Minions: The Rise of Gru. The sequel to the 2015 spinoff prequel and the fifth overall entry in the Despicable Me franchise, Kyle Balda directs with Steve Carell returning to voice the title character. Other performers in the booth include Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, and Alan Arkin. How’s that for eclectic? I’m pretty sure this marks the first collaboration between Van Damme and Andrews.

This series has proved to be a financial windfall for its studio. All four previous pics have made over $250 million domestically. Minions took in $115 million out of the gate seven summers back with $336 million overall. Immediate predecessor Despicable Me 3 from 2017, while still a hit, wasn’t as high. It premiered with $72 million and ended up with $264 million.

Three years was previously the longest wait between films. The five year gap is a bit risky as some of its fans are simply older. We’ve also seen a very recent example of an animated disappointment with Pixar’s Lightyear. 

That said, I suspect Gru will rise to the occasion with a four-day holiday haul in the $75-85 million range. I’m starting out on the lower end of that scale, but my estimate could go up in the days ahead.

Minions: The Rise of Gru opening weekend prediction: $78.4 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Oscar Predictions: Mr. Malcolm’s List

Adapting her own 2009 novel, Suzanne Allain scripts the period piece dramedy Mr. Malcolm’s List. Out July 1st and apparently borrowing influence from Jane Austen, Emma Holly Jones makes her directorial debut. The cast includes Freida Pinto (from 2008’s Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire), Sope Dirisu, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, Zawe Ashton, and Theo James.

Early reviews are decent at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes with the bulk calling it a pleasant diversion. That’s hardly enough for it to contend for any major awards prizes. Furthermore, distributor Bleecker Street has a sketchy track record getting their films noticed (ask the ensemble from Mass last year).

There’s always the possibility of Costume Design, but I suspect heavier hitters are arriving in the fall. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

June 24-26 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.

In what should be an intriguing and potentially unpredictable weekend to close out the June box office, Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic Elvis and critically lauded horror pic The Black Phone debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both of them here:

Elvis Box Office Prediction

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

There’s plenty of possibilities for how the top 5 will look. While there’s no doubt about which quintet will populate the list, the order is up for grabs. I believe Elvis will open closer to the $51 million of Bohemian Rhapsody than the $25 million of Rocketman. That should be enough to earn it the title of Box Office King.

However, if it does premiere in the mid to late 20s range, the chances of a #1 start are considerably lower. We could legitimately see Top Gun: Maverick rise from 3rd to 1st. With a projected dip in the low to mid 20s, it should at least rise to 2nd place. That’s assuming current two-week champ Jurassic World: Dominion loses more than half its audience in its third go-round and Lightyear also sees a sophomore fall of around 55%. I’m assuming both.

And there’s the wild card that is The Black Phone. Horror titles often outdo expectations and with its aforementioned solid reviews, that could apply here. I’m sticking with a debut of just under $20 million and that would likely mean a fifth place reception.

Here’s how I envision perhaps the most fascinating box office weekend so far in the pandemic era looking:

1. Elvis

Predicted Gross: $35.6 million

2. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $34.8 million

3. Jurassic World: Dominion

Predicted Gross: $28.3 million

4. Lightyear

Predicted Gross: $23.2 million

5. The Black Phone

Predicted Gross: $18.6 million

Box Office Results (June 17-19)

In a major upset, Jurassic World: Dominion remained #1 for the second frame with $59.1 million. That’s stronger than my $54.8 million estimate as the threequel is up to $250 million in its first ten days. That’s $15 million under where predecessor was at four summers ago.

Jurassic‘s reign was unexpected because Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story spinoff Lightyear was widely anticipated to rule the charts. Instead it grossed $50.5 million for second place. That’s, ahem, $35 million under my projection of $85.5 million and less than half of what Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 made out of the gate. There’s plenty of think pieces out there for why Lightyear was a disappointment. It includes theories about politics, Disney Plus being the same day distributor for recent Pixar material, and the absence of Tim Allen as the voice of the title character. Any way you slice it, it’s a shocker.

Top Gun: Maverick continued its amazing run in third with $44.6 million – dropping a scant 14%. I was lower at $36 million. The biggest hit of the year (and of Tom Cruise’s career by far) is flying at $466 million as its domestic haul will reach $500 million shortly. As mentioned, if Elvis doesn’t reach my projection, it could see a return to the top spot. I wrote more about Maverick‘s unreal performance yesterday on the blog and it’s here:

Top Gun: Maverick – Lightyears Ahead of Expectations

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was fourth with $4.4 million compared to my $3.4 million take. The tally is $405 million.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie rounded out the top five with $1.1 million. I incorrectly had it outside the high five. It’s made $29 million.

I figured The Bad Guys would be fifth, but it was sixth with $1 million (I said $1.5 million)/ The overall take is $94 million.

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

X Review

We’re used to the virgin in slasher movies. It’s typically a she and she’s usually the one that survives. Ti West’s homage  to that genre and other ones has a little demented fun with that character. There’s not a virgin to be found in X, but there’s one who loses her porn flick virginity.

A prologue clues us in that we’ll see a significant body count in what follows. Set in rural Texas circa 1979, a troupe of six travels to a farmhouse to shoot an adult film. The director RJ (Owen Campbell) fancies it to be a cut above the rest of them (they always do in these pics). His girlfriend Lorraine  (Jenna Ortega) is part of the skeleton crew who isn’t thrilled to be on the shoot. On the flip side, Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and her bf Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi) are proud to be starring in the feature titled The Farmer’s Daughters. Mia Goth is Maxine, coke addled and desperate to be a star. She’s dating Wayne (Martin Henderson), executive producer of the big show.

The aforementioned farmhouse is owned by elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (played by Goth in heavy old age makeup). With a revivalist evangelical TV program playing on their set, we rightly assume they aren’t fully aware of what kind of shenanigans their guests are filming.  A slow build leads us to discover plenty of secrets about the couple.

is most obviously  a sadistic love letter to 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre though it telegraphs other influences. It even mentions 1960’s Psycho and how it became a different picture at midpoint. The same can be said here as the one day shoot is completed before a violent night rolls along. Halloween and The Shining get their due as do the cheapie grindhouse and skin flicks of the era it’s set in.

Where deviates a little from the formula is its occasional rumination on aging. Pearl, in particular, is reminded of what she’s lost in her elder state by the youngsters on her property. Her reaction won’t win her (or the script) any acclaim from the AARP. It does, however, give this a slightly unexpected and intriguing dimension.

My reaction was mixed overall. I found the lighting to be almost too dark at times. That said, there’s one scene in particular (you’ll know) where you’ll be glad it is. While is well-made and sometimes clever, its biggest fault is a common one for more high minded horror titles. I didn’t find it overly frightening. Furthermore, for a sendup of a brand where the killings are often violently creative – that’s in surprisingly short supply. The most passionate genre disciples will surely sing X‘s praises. I found myself somewhat less devoted.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: The Black Phone

After helming critically appreciated genre titles The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister (as well as the first Doctor Strange), Scott Derrickson is back in the horror lane this weekend with The Black Phone. Based on a short story by Joe Hill, the supernatural tale began garnering solid buzz when it premiered at Fantastic Fest last fall. Ethan Hawke is the most recognizable name in a cast that includes Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone.

Scary movies always face an uphill battle for awards attention. Despite its 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, I don’t foresee Phone dialing up a Best Picture nod. On the other hand, particular acclaim has been afforded to its young costars Thames and McGraw. In order for them to grab any buzz in the supporting fields, the film’s box office reception would need to be fantastic. While I’ve got it performing well, I am not envisioning it reaching that kind of level. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Top Gun: Maverick – Lightyears Ahead of Expectations

I’ve been at this box office predicting game for quite some time. If it gets stale for even a moment, something will come along to shock you. That happened this weekend. Twice.

First there’s the massive underperformance of Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear, which is barely topping $50 million for second place behind Jurassic World: Dominion. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow,  but it’s not often a tentpole release comes in over $30 million behind your (and many other prognosticators) estimates. It made less than half of the fourth Toy Story tale three years ago.

Today, however, it’s all about Top Gun: Maverick. If you’d told me a month ago that the long gestating Tom Cruise sequel would score the second (you read that correctly) best fourth weekend of all time, I wouldn’t have believed it. That’s second only to the fourth frame of Avatar. Better than any Star Wars episode. Better than any MCU adventure. Better than Titanic. 

Maverick, with its soaring reviews and word-of-mouth, has undeniably become a phenomenon. Its $44 million estimated haul this weekend brings its domestic tally to an astonishing $466 million. That’s already $200 million over Cruise’s previous largest stateside hit – 2005’s War of the Worlds. A gross of over $600 million in the US and Canada seems assured in addition to a worldwide total topping $1 billion.

To say this is lightyears ahead of expectations is one heckuva understatement. This is the rare breed of picture that is appealing to all ages and genders and is clearly warranting repeat viewings. I suspect Oscar voters will take notice. Categories like Editing, Sound, and Visual Effects are obviously on the table. So too is Lady Gaga’s theme song “Hold My Hand” which might be an early frontrunner to win. And with these mind boggling earnings – Oscar voters could vault this into Best Picture contention and Tom Cruise could be in the mix for Best Actor. That’s far from guaranteed… yet it was unthinkable before its release.

The word phenomenon doesn’t come around much with box office forecasting. When 2002’s Spider-Man made $114 in its first weekend, that word applied because no pic had done so before. The domination of Titanic when many thought it would be a flop definitely fits the bill. So does James Cameron’s follow-up Avatar (ironically its sequel seems destined to compete with Maverick for some tech Oscars). The MCU juggernaut has a handful of examples.

Top Gun: Maverick is a phenomenon and in its fourth outing, the buzz is towering over everything else in 2022.

Oscar Predictions: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Over a decade ago, comedian Jenny Slate and director Dean Fleischer-Camp teamed up for the acclaimed animated short films Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. They were centered on a character that fits the description of that title. At Telluride over Labor Day weekend last year, the feature length version of their creation was screened to winning reviews.

Slated for release on June 24th via A24, Shell‘s vocal contributions (besides Slate and Fleischer-Camp) include Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, and Isabella Rossellini. The mockumentary also includes Conan O’Brien, Lesley Stahl, and Brian Williams playing themselves.

With a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Marcel could certainly turn the heads of Academy voters. It might come down to how serious a campaign its studio wages for it and how various Disney and Netflix animated works are received in the months ahead. Bottom line – Shell should be in the mix for the five Animated Feature slots and my Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

After ringing up lots of positive reception last fall at Fantastic Fest, the supernatural horror pic The Black Phone arrives in theaters June 24th. Based on a short story by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Scott Derrickson directs. His biggest blockbuster is 2016’s Doctor Strange, but he’s a veteran of the genre including helming The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. His lead from the latter – Ethan Hawke – stars as a serial killer. Costars include Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone.

In September 2021, Phone garnered serious buzz at the Austin fest. While some reviewers nitpicked pacing issues, the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% with particular praise for its young performers Thames and McGraw. With a reported budget of under $20 million, this should be another profitable venture for Blumhouse. That production company is used to turning a tidy profit for many of their titles.

During the COVID era, frightening tales were generally immune from negative box office effects. I would look for Phone to earn its price tag back during the first weekend.

The Black Phone opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million

For my Elvis prediction, click here:

Elvis Box Office Prediction