Halloween Ends Box Office Prediction

The culmination of this iteration of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) battling  Michael Myers arrives on October 14th with Halloween Ends. Said to be Curtis’s final appearance in the 44-year-old franchise (though I’m sure Myers will manage to return in some form), David Gordon Green is back directing along with cowriter Danny McBride. It comes a year after Halloween Kills and four years behind Halloween which began the trilogy. It’s the 13th overall entry in the series overall. Costars include James Jude Courtney and OG Nick Castle doubling up again as the iconic slasher, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, and Kyle Richards.

2018’s Halloween was a juggernaut with a $76 million opening and $159 million eventual domestic haul. Kills still killed, but to a lesser degree with a $49 million start and $92 million overall take. Like its predecessor, Ends will be simultaneously available on Peacock.

In addition to the streaming option that could siphon away viewers, horror fans have had plenty to enjoy lately (Barbarian and Smile for example). That said, there’s obviously a built-in base here.

I do expect diminishing returns though not close to the disparity between 2018 and 2021. High 30s to low 40s is where I see it and considering the reported $20 million budget, that’s a profitable cut for Universal.

Halloween Ends opening weekend prediction: $40.7 million

Smile Review

Parker Finn’s Smile is essentially The Ring if that distorted VHS tape were replaced with a distorted facial expression. As these jump scare heavy horror pics go, this one usually hits the right notes (including with its sound design).

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a psychologist working at a busy mental ward. She makes the acquaintance of Laura (Caitlin Stasey), who witnessed her professor commit suicide. Ever since then, she’s been traumatized by an unseen being. Laura is a basket case until… she’s not and a creepy grin emerges. Those who’ve witnessed the trailer know that bloodshed follows.

What also follows (it follows… so to speak) is an evil spirit possibly latching onto the doctor and no one believing her. This includes her fiancee (Jessie T. Usher), an ex boyfriend who’s a cop (Kyle Gallner), and her sister (Gillian Zinser). Their skepticism is understandable as a family tragedy when Rose was 10 years old might explain her bizarre behavior.

Besides the mentions of It Follows and The Ring, Finn’s debut (he wrote it too) borrows plenty from earlier genre pieces. While originality isn’t its strong suit, there are a few legitimately hair raising instances. There’s one session with Rose’s therapist that’s far scarier than the bill.

Despite a few unnecessary shots that seem inspired by Inception, Finn seems like a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Bacon (daughter of Kevin and Kyra Sedgwick) is given a few good moments of genuinely convincing terror. This is genre work executed well as these characters smile though their arteries are bursting.

*** (out of four)

Emancipation Enters the Oscar Race

In an alternative universe, Emancipation might be in my top 10 predicted Best Picture nominees. I could potentially be discussing Will Smith’s chances of being the first back to back acting winner since Tom Hanks in 1993 and 1994.

I didn’t think this alternative universe could be a potential reality in the 2022 awards season. In 2021, Apple TV beat Netflix and others to the punch as CODA was the inaugural streaming Best Picture winner. For a while, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon appeared to be Apple’s best shot at making it two years in a row. That’s until it got pushed to 2023. In recent weeks, there was speculation that Ridley Scott’s Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix could make a jump to 2022. It wasn’t to be.

This has left Apple without a legit across the board Oscar player… until maybe today. Why? The streamer announced that Antoine Fuqua’s historical drama Emancipation will hit theaters for an awards qualifying run on December 2nd and then be available for home viewing on December 9th. The trailer was unveiled this morning.

And in case you’re still wondering why I’m skeptical… two words: The Slap. Yes, the slap heard around the globe when Chris Rock presented Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards and cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. And, of course, slap provider Will Smith giving his acceptance speech a few minutes later when he was victorious in Best Actor for King Richard.

Since then, many of Smith’s planned projects have entered turnaround status. Emancipation, in which he plays a slave who joins the Union Army, was already filmed. And Apple made the surprising decision in early October to get it out two months later. This surely means Smith will be subject to interviews where he’ll address The Slap sooner than later.

So… the obvious question: can Smith get nominated? Can the film itself do so in other categories? Even though the star resigned from the Academy in the aftermath of the incident, he can still be nominated (and he can attend if invited by other members). So while the short answer is yes… the real answer is more complicated.

My gut is that Smith’s work in Emancipation would have to be undeniably awards worthy to make the final five. Even that could be a stretch. Time heals controversies and not much time has passed. As for the film itself, it could surely garner nods from Best Picture on down (I’m curious if Ben Foster gets any chatter for Supporting Actor). Yet it starts off at a unique disadvantage.

We won’t know until reviews start surfacing and that could be a few weeks. I can only assume Apple will give this a major push for consideration. It’s a campaign that is an uphill battle for reasons unfathomable just a few months ago.

October 7-9 Box Office Predictions

Family friendly Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile hopes to make its mark on the charts and easily win the weekend as the star studded Amsterdam also debuts. My detailed prediction posts on the newcomers can be found here:

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Box Office Prediction

Amsterdam Box Office Prediction

We’ve had about a two month break between movies geared toward kids and that should help Lyle achieve a low 20s start. It’s unlikely to have any trouble hitting the #1 spot.

Despite the considerable ensemble of Oscar winners and nominees, David O. Russell’s first feature in seven years is garnering mostly mediocre reviews from critics. The marketing campaign has been so-so in my view. Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and company could elevate this to low double digits or even teens. However, I’m estimating it’ll flop in high single digits.

That would put it in third behind the sophomore frame of Smile. The horror pic got off to an impressive debut (more on that below) and I’ll say the second weekend dip might be in the low to mid 40s.

Holdovers The Woman King and Don’t Worry Darling should round out the top five. Bros had a very disappointing opening (more on that below too), but it did nab an A Cinemascore grade. If it manages a smallish decline, it might give Darling a run for its money in the five spot.

Here’s how I see it shaking out:

1. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Predicted Gross: $21.6 million

2. Smile

Predicted Gross: $12.9 million

3. Amsterdam

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

4. The Woman King

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

5. Don’t Worry Darling

Predicted Gross: $3.1 million

6. Bros

Predicted Gross: $3.1 million

Box Office Results (September 30-October 2)

Paramount is undoubtedly doing just what the title says as Smile opened widely to a pleasing $22.6 million. That’s ahead of my $18.7 million projection. The B- Cinemascore is actually fairly decent for a horror flick and it could play well next weekend before Halloween Ends arrives the following one.

Don’t Worry Darling cratered in weekend #2 with $6.8 million, not matching my $8 million call. Even with the 65% plummet, it’s nearly managed to outgross its budget domestically in just 10 days with $32 million (price tag was reportedly $35 million).

The Woman King was third and it also made $6.8 million to bring its three-week take to $46 million. I forecasted slightly more at $7.4 million.

The Avatar re-release was fourth with $5 million (I was more generous at $6.6 million) as the 2009 juggernaut now has $779 million in the bank.

Bros with Billy Eichner, billed as the first wide release LGBTQ rom com from a major studio, was a massive disappointment. In fifth place with only $4.8 million, it came nowhere near my $12.1 million prediction. You can bet the marketing department at Universal is furiously second guessing themselves today, but it struggled mightily to find an audience beyond coastal metro areas. That aforementioned A Cinemascore does indicate it could find plenty of fans eventually… just not in multiplexes.

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

Dune Review

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune arrives nearly three decades after David Lynch’s oft criticized version of Frank Herbert’s mid 60s sci-fi novel. It is source material that I’m frankly not familiar with so take that for what it’s worth. With the director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 at the controls, this is a technically masterful and consistently stunning looking experience. I also must admit that I didn’t get swept up in it no matter how amazing the desert landscapes appear (and do they ever).

Set 10,000 years in the future, the dense plot (as in often hard to follow) introduces us to the royal family of Caladan. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) is the leader of House Atreides, a land with a plentiful supply of water and bagpipes. His concubine is Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) who possesses the powers of Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of mystical beings thought to bear children with God-like abilities. Their offspring is Paul (Timothee Chalamet). One problem: the Lady was supposed to have a girl who eventually delivers this story’s version of The One, but she skipped a step.

The Atreides are ordered by Empirical decree to take over Arrakis, a planet with hardly any water (I’m uncertain about bagpipes). However, it is the only land with spice and that substances serves many purposes. First, it gets you high and gives one visions that might play into the plot later. Most importantly, it fuels interstellar travel and is therefore an extraordinarily valuable commodity. It’s what Gollum would be droning on endlessly about if this were another epic adventure. House Harkonnen and their rotund ruler (Stellan Skarsgard), the current Arrakis deed holders, are not going to give up those property rights without a fight.

We sense where all this is heading due to Paul’s visions of Chani (Zendaya). She’s a native of Arrakis and their citizens called the Fremen have learned to use their planet’s sandy and almost unlivable terrain to their advantage. They will need to accept Paul as their captain and that development… will or won’t happen in part two. Yes, part one is a subtitle here. Like some Marvel products that preceded this, you may find yourself realizing that not a lot really happens in this origin tale by the time two and a half hours has lapsed.

I recognize this may sound like sacrilege to the book’s devotees. There is plenty to praise in this immensely gifted director’s adaptation. The cast is uniformly top notch from Chalamet on down (FYI – Zendaya is a part II kinda thing because her participation is limited). Ferguson is perhaps the standout in a sprawling ensemble that includes Josh Brolin (as a trusted Atreides warrior), Javier Bardem (as a Fremen warrior), and Charlotte Rampling as a Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.

Dune worshipers forgive me. While I spent time marveling at the look and anticipating the unearthing of giant sandworms, I would put this behind Arrival and the Blade Runner follow-up without hesitation. Saying it feels like half a movie is easy criticism. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. It is tempting to recommend Dune based on spectacular work of composer Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Greig Fraser and the sound and visual effects artists. Yet I often found myself a bit shocked by my lack of awe in the story itself.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Before you call me crazy for penning this Oscar Predictions post, I’m not saying Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile will crawl into Best Picture consideration. And I’m not forecasting a Javier Bardem Supporting Actor nomination 15 years after he won for No Country for Old Men. I don’t need a coin to make those calls, friendo.

Yet the live-action/animated musical comedy for the kids could contend in one race. Shawn Mendes (the pop superstar who voices the title croc) has contributed some tunes to the soundtrack. One in particular called “Heartbeat” just debuted.

At present, unless your name is Lady Gaga with her ballad “Holy My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, the remaining four slots for Original Song are wide open. If the Academy wants another recognizable face crooning material… well, they might look to Taylor Swift with “Carolina” from Where the Crawdads Sing. Or who knows? Maybe this could pop up. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: All That Breathes

After winning the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance, All That Breathes has been winding its way through the fest circuit including Cannes and New York. The environmental doc from Shaunak Sen holds a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s slated for an eventual HBO Max streaming bow after a limited and awards qualifying theatrical run before year’s end.

As I’ve opined about many times on this blog, predicting Documentary Feature is often the trickiest category to nail down. Breathes certainly has the prerequisites to make the quintet, but that often doesn’t matter. Bottom line: this is certainly one that should be in the conversation. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Till

Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of lynched Emmett Till in 1955 has come into focus this weekend. Chinonye Chukwu’s Till premiered at the New York Film Festival prior to its October 14th theatrical release. Over the past several months, I’ve had Deadwyler either just making the Best Actress cut in fifth or on the outside looking in at sixth.

Now that reviews are out, it appears she’s fully in. Critics are raving about her work to the extent that Deadwyler is a threat to win. The Rotten Tomatoes score for the picture itself is 100% though many write-ups claim it’s her performance that elevates the material. It’s unlikely any costars get attention. They include Jalyn Hall as her slain son, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Ms. Deadwyler enters an already crowded Best Actress field where I’ve had Cate Blanchett (Tar) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) slotted in first and second. There’s also Michelle Williams and Universal’s curious decision to campaign for her in lead for The Fabelmans. Let’s not forget Olivia Colman (Empire of Light) and Viola Davis (The Woman King) or Ana de Armas (Blonde) and the as yet unseen Margot Robbie for Babylon (though I’m currently putting her in Supporting Actress).

Even with that considerable competition, Deadwyler seems pretty safe and there’s a narrative in which she moves past the aforementioned to claim gold. A better question is whether Till picks up any other nominations. Picture is not impossible, but I’d say it’s iffy. Adapted Screenplay is more feasible as that race is on the weak side (compared to 2022’s original hopefuls). There’s also an original song titled “Stand Up” that I expect to contend.

Bottom line: like Blanchett and Yeoh particularly, we have another close to sure thing in the lead actress field. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Best Picture 2014: The Final Five

The wealth was spread around on the Academy’s big night for the 2014 contenders as all 8 Best Picture nominees won an Oscar or more. Welcome back to my series where I speculate about what would’ve happened in that race if we were still at a fixed number of 5 BP hopefuls.

As you may know, the Academy expanded beyond a quintet starting in 2009. It’s fluctuated from anywhere between 5-10 (usually landing on 8-9) or a set 10 (the way it was in 2009-2010 and the way it is once again starting in 2021). In 2014, we had an octad.

If it were only 5, we know Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman would be in there. It won Best Picture in addition to 3 other victories for its Director, Original Screenplay, and Cinematography.

What of the others? Let’s speculate!

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s massive hit with Bradley Cooper as the late Iraqi War marksman Chris Kyle set a January opening weekend record that still stands today. It also picked up 5 additional nods for Cooper, the Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing (where it won), Sound Mixing, and Film Editing. Of the nominees, it’s by far the biggest earner.

Does It Make the Final Five?

I struggled here… but no. Here’s a key factor to remember – Sniper didn’t set that impressive box office record until a week after nominations came out. Furthermore, it failed to pick up a Best Picture nomination at the Golden Globes. As you’ll realize here, there’s only film that I’m confident wouldn’t have made the five. This isn’t it, but I’m leaving it off.

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age tale was filmed over 11 years and drew loads of acclaim. The 6 nominations included a win for Patricia Arquette in Supporting Actress.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. For a while, Boyhood was a threat to win and it scored directing, editing and screenplay mentions (which are usually critical precursors).

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The period comedy from Wes Anderson was his breakthrough with the Academy, tying Birdman for the most nods at 9. It also tied the BP recipient for most victories as it took home Production Design, Score, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. This was clearly a moment where awards voters and Mr. Anderson gelled. The key precursor boxes were also checked.

The Imitation Game

The historical drama with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing was right behind Birdman and Budapest with 8 nominations. The sole win was for Adapted Screenplay.

Does It Make the Final Five?

Yes. Once again, the trio of direction, screenplay (and a victory no less), and editing (plus the impressive nom haul) put it there.

Selma

Ana DuVernay’s MLK biopic received only one other nomination for its original song “Glory” (where it took the prize).

Does It Make the Final Five?

No and this is, by far, the easiest call of the group. Without inclusion for DuVernay or lead David Oyelowo (or screenplay or any tech category), it’s fairly surprising it made the BP cut at all.

The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor as Stephen Hawking and it picked up four other nominations.

Does It Make the Final Five?

No, but this was a very close call. I’m generally resistant to saying the Best Actor’s movie doesn’t get in BP (it hasn’t happened since 2009). Yet its misses in directing and editing contributed to this projection.

Whiplash

Damien Chazelle’s heralded directorial debut, like Theory, had a handful nods. They included a Supporting Actor gold statute for J.K. Simmons and an Editing victory.

Does It the Make the Final Five?

Yes. Let me say that Sniper or Theory could’ve gotten in over this. I ultimately sided with Whiplash for the editing win and its across the board critical praise.

Therefore my 2014 quintet is:

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

My thoughts on the 2015 BP derby will be up soon!

If you missed my earlier posts covering 2019-2013, you can access them here:

Best Picture 2009: The Final Five

Best Picture 2010: The Final Five

Best Picture 2011: The Final Five

Best Picture 2012: The Final Five

Best Picture 2013: The Final Five

Dog Review

When the two leads of Dog – one of the human variety and another of the canine persuasion – find their rhythm with each other, so does the film. That takes too long (about half of the running time) as we road trip though cartoonish potential threesomes and Mr. Magoo inspired humor. The screenplay from co-director Reid Carolin can’t seem to get out of its own way for the initial stretch. Fortunately Channing Tatum is the other co-director and his chemistry with the title character hits a stride in the back sections.

Tatum’s character was dropped into the Cool Sounding Movie Name Generator and out spat Jackson Briggs. He’s an ex Army Ranger doing menial jobs stateside and pining for a return of duty. When his former brother in arms dies in a car accident, he gets an assignment but not one sought. Briggs is tasked with transporting the deceased’s military dog Lulu from Washington State to the funeral in Arizona. Both Jackson and Lulu are suffering from PTSD. This is scheduled to be the latter’s final assignment as the aggressive hound will be euthanized following the burial.

While nothing in Dog says anything particularly fresh about its subject matter, the rapport between the stars elevates the material. It’s certainly their show as the supporting actors are bit players. Jane Adams and Kevin Nash show up as farmers of the up in smoke variety in one of the would be farcical excursions. Three Belgian Malinois portray the role of  Lulu. Tatum was inspired by a real road trip that he took with his ailing pooch in creating the story. The dramatic stuff works better than the attempts at comedy in the early goings. More of that may have helped and Dog is roughly (or ruffly) equal parts hit and miss.

**1/2 (out of four)