House of Cards: The Aftermath

It took just a few short weeks for Netflix to turn into a major player in the original TV series market.

This is all thanks to their series “House of Cards”, based on an earlier British show. I have already written one post about the program, published while I wasn’t even halfway through the first season’s 13 episodes. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it (and you should), I can tell you that “House of Cards” will be a huge factor at this year’s Emmys. Bet on it.

Kevin Spacey should and probably will be the equivalent of Daniel Day-Lewis for television this year, in the sense that he’s a definite frontrunner to win Best Actor. Expect co-stars Robin Wright, Kate Mara, and Corey Stull to also receive awards attention. And, of course, the directors, writers, and series itself should pick up nominations and possible wins.

Netflix is not required to release their viewership numbers in the way that networks and cable channels do. The company has said that “House of Cards” was a rousing success.

I believe it. Simply on anecdotal evidence, it seems like everyone where I work has watched (granted, I work in a political environment). It’s not just them, however. Many other friends have asked me about the series and revealed they’ve seen all 13 episodes. The common verdict? “Loved it.”

So did I. From its terrific performances, first-rate direction (that includes episodes from the brilliant David Fincher), sharp writing, and that great theme song that I couldn’t get out of my head, “House of Cards” delivers on all levels. I am so ready for Season Two.

Here’s another reason I trust Netflix’s assertions that the show was a hit: they’re greenlighting and producing more TV series.

On April 19th comes the horror/thriller series “Hemlock Grove” starring Goldeneye and X-Men actress Famke Janssen. It’s from executive producer Eli Roth (a Tarantino protege who directed the Hostel flicks). I can tell you I will certainly be watching episode 1 with the hope of binge-watching the series (like with “Cards”). The fact that Netflix hit it out of the park the first time around certainly contributes to my curiosity.

In May comes another Netflix series event: the return of “Arrested Development”, the critically-acclaimed FOX series that developed a deserved cult audience following its cancellation. Original stars Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, and others are back for the one-off season. The return of the show was at first being developed as a feature film until Netflix came calling.

In 2014, we’ll see at least two new dramatic series. Narcos focuses on the life of notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar and Sense8 is a sci-fi series from the Wachowskis, directors of The Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas.

As mentioned, it took 13 episodes of “House of Cards” to change the reputation of Netflix in a more positive way. This isn’t just where you can find some cheesy horror flick from the 1980s you’ve never heard of… it’s a place where you can find top-quality original programming.

Advertisements

Box Office Results: March 29-31

The Easter box office weekend went mostly as expected, with G.I. Joe: Relation opening on top with a solid gross of $51 million, just above my $49.5M projection. The sequel to the 2009 film posted good numbers, even though it’s unlikely to match the $150 million domestic gross of its predecessor.

Dreamworks animated The Croods dropped from the top spot to second, as expected. It earned $26.7 million, slightly lower than my $29.3M estimate.

Opening in third, as predicted, was Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. The picture gave Perry his best non-Madea opening of all time, grossing an impressive $21.6 million, above my $19.2M projection. Apparently, unless the name of the movie is Alex Cross, Perry still has a lot of clout at the multiplex.

In fourth, Olympus Has Fallen grossed $14.1 million in its sophomore weekend. I incorrectly guessed the action thriller would not fall over 50% and predicted a $16.8 million weekend. The film dropped 53%. Still, Olympus is a hit, giving star Gerard Butler his first successful pic in quite some time.

The bad news of the weekend fell to The Host, based on Twilight author Stephanie Meyer’s book. I was actually pretty low on my prediction compared to other analysts, predicting a $15.7 million opening weekend gross. The Host bombed, managing a meager $10.6 million. With a discouraging “B-” Cinemascore grade, there’s no way for the studio to spin it: The Host is a dud. With that bad of an opening, the film only managed a sixth place debut (I predicted fifth) and Oz The Great and Powerful got the five spot with $11.7 million.

Be sure to check back this week on the blog for next weekend’s projections, when the horror remake The Evil Dead and the 20th anniversary re-release of Jurassic Park open. Stay tuned!

Movie Perfection: Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, and A Psychopath

Funny thing how perception of what a film is supposed to be alters your view of it. When I saw Mary Harron’s American Psycho in 2000, I thought the picture was supposed to be a serious thriller about a serial killer. It’s not that.

When it didn’t match the genre wheelhouse I expected it to adhere to, I wasn’t sure how to react to what I’d just viewed. Not until I fully realized that American Psycho is meant to be a biting satire about 80s excess and materialism did I appreciate just how terrific the movie is.

I had a similar reaction to 1999’s Fight Club, which I certainly didn’t think was going to be more of a dark comedy than anything else. I’ve grown to love it.

Same with American Psycho. The film is special for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Christian Bale’s absolutely stunning performance as Patrick Bateman, a NYC investment banker in the late 80s who is absolutely bonkers crazy.

The picture, based on the Bret Easton Ellis bestseller, portrays Bateman as a power hungry man who cannot handle that there’s people who have more power than he does. He has a meltdown when a colleague shows him a new business card that Patrick believes to be superior to his own.

I won’t go over all the plot details of American Psycho. I will say that if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out on the career best performance of Bale. And, yes, I’ve seen The Fighter and The Dark Knight trilogy.

There are three scenes in Psycho that demonstrate the brilliance of Bale’s character to hilarious effect. They involve Bateman offering his critical take on the musical careers of Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis and the News, and Phil Collins/Genesis. All major artists in the late 1980s. All three sequences cut together are in the link below.

Bale’s performance is something to behold in these sequences. His acting coupled with the fabulous writing here make these scenes quite memorable. I have always loved how profound Bateman thinks he’s being when he extols the virtues of Whitney’s “Greatest Love of All” and compares Phil Collins’ solo work to his group work in Genesis. This is a man (a crazy one) who truly feels that all of his words are enlightening.

American Psycho has moments of true hilarity and these scenes are the prime example of them. Christian Bale is perfect in this role and his monologues on three popular 80s performers is Movie Perfection. Enjoy!

Olympus Has Fallen/White House Down: A “Same Movie” History

If Olympus Has Fallen has not completely given you your fill of films where the White House is taken over by terrorists, just wait a couple of months. In late June comes White House Down from Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow director Roland Emmerich. This one features Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx and is expected to be one of the summer’s biggest hits.

The Olympus/White House Down example of very similarly plotted movies is nothing new for film fans. Far from it…

Let us travel back to the 1980s where in 1987 and 1988, we got not one, not two, but THREE comedies about a teenager switching bodies with an older man. There was Like Father, Like Son with Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron.

And Vice Versa with Judge Reinhold and “Wonder Years” star Fred Savage:

And 18 Again with George Burns and Charlie Schlatter:

None of them did too well at the box office, but Like Father, Like Son was the clear winner with $34 million, compared to Vice Versa‘s $13 million and 18 Again‘s anemic $2.5 million.

In 1989 and 1990, we were treated to two comedies about a cop being paired up with a dog. In ’89, it was Jim Belushi in K-9.

In ’90, it was Tom Hanks in Turner and Hooch.

It was Mr. Hanks for the win, as Turner and Hooch grossed $71 million and K-9 made a decent $43 million.

In 1992, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and 1492: Conquest of Paradise both opened. They had some things in common: they were both about Christopher Columbus, for starters. They both featured some recognizable talent. The Discovery was conceived by Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) and had a cast featuring Tom Selleck and Marlon Brando. Conquest of Paradise was directed by the great Ridley Scott, with a cast that included Gerard Depardieu and Sigourney Weaver. And… they were both huge box office disasters. With a $45 million budget, The Discovery grossed only $8 million domestically. With a $47 million budget, 1492 made only $7 million.

Late 1993 and summer 1994 gave us the battle of two Wyatt Earp films. There was a clear and unexpected winner. Tombstone starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer was not expected to gross more than Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid. Then a funny thing happened: Tombstone turned out to be a kick-ass Western that delighted audiences. By the time Wyatt Earp rolled around six months later, audiences had seen the Earp movie they wanted to. Tombstone made $56 million. Earp managed only $25 million.

1997 saw two volcano related disaster flicks. First, Dante’s Peak with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton.

Less than three months later came Volcano starring Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche.

Both had big budgets and were considered financial disappointments, though Dante’s Peak won the competition with $67 million. By the time Volcano made only $49 million, audience anticipation had clearly hollowed out (I’m sorry).

1998 featured two flicks about giant asteroids heading to Earth. First up: Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact with Tea Leoni and Morgan Freeman.

Two months later: Michael Bay’s Armageddon with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and that Aerosmith song.

Both were commercial hits in the summer of ’98. Armageddon was the #1 grosser of the season with $201 million. Impact earned a solid $140 million.

That same year, moviegoers were treated to two animated pics about insects. There was Dreamworks Antz:

And, of course, Pixar’s A Bug’s Life:

Both titles were critical and commercial successes. Antz sits at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $90 million. It couldn’t quite compete with Pixar, however. A Bug’s Life, while slightly lower on the Tomato meter with 92%, grossed $162 million.

The year 2000 gave us two sci-fi movies about Mars. There was Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars starring Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise.

Then there was Red Planet with Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Mission to Mars would win with a decent $60 million gross, while Red Planet bombed with only $17 million.

Just last year we saw dual Snow White live-action films. There was Mirror Mirror with a cast that included Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer. Geared more towards kids, Mirror Mirror managed a respectable $64 million.

Just a couple of months later was the more serious Snow White and the Hunstman starring Kristin Stewart, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth. It did considerably better to the tune of $155 million domestic.

There are other examples: 1998/1999 saw The Truman Show way outdoing EdTV, both about a guy whose life is a reality show. In 2006, the magician themed thriller The Prestige ($53 million) outdid The Illusionist ($39 million).

So the Olympus Has Fallen/White House Down phenomenon is nothing new. What path will this pair follow compared to the others mentioned? I’m predicting it’ll look most similar to Deep Impact/Armageddon. Deep Impact came first and grossed more than pundits predicted… just like Olympus is doing. There was little doubt, though, that Armageddon was the more high-profile pic and would gross more, with its major director and bigger stars. That is also the case with White House Down. We will know in June when Down debuts. Olympus Has Fallen is the first title of 2013 that I’ve seen (earlier this week) and I can tell you that I found it to be a fun throwback to 80s “hard R” action flicks. I hope White House Down is of the same quality.

Box Office Predictions: March 29-31

A trio of new titles debut over the Easter weekend frame to compete with the second frames of hits The Croods and Olympus Has Fallen.

There is little doubt that G.I. Joe: Retaliation, with The Rock, Channing Tatum, and Bruce Willis will reign supreme over the weekend. I wrote an extensive post on Monday going over my prediction for G.I. Joe‘s debut. It can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/g-i-joe-retaliation-box-office-prediction/

Just as the #1 title is virtually assured, #2 will almost certainly belong to the second weekend of Dreamworks animated feature The Croods. The film had an impressive debut with over $43 million on opening weekend. A typical fall for this would be around 30-35% and that’s what I expect.

Things get more complicated after that. Slots 3-5 could be any order among the following three movies: the new Tyler Perry feature Temptation, the new fantasy pic The Host, and Olympus Has Fallen.

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor seems destined to open in line with just about every other non-Madea Perry feature. That would put it in the range of a mid-teens to low-twenties opening weekend gross. It’s even got Kim Kardashian in it!

The Host is based on a novel by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. The film is directed by Andrew Niccol, who directed the well-regarded 1997 sci-fi flick Gattaca. He also wrote 1998’s The Truman Show. Niccol’s last feature was not well-received critically or commercially, 2011’s In Time with Justin Timberlake. The Host has the potential of gaining a big audience among teenage girls and it could certainly gross above $20 million. However, I just don’t see a great amount of enthusiasm and I’m predicting it will not reach that mark.

Finally, Olympus Has Fallen scored a very solid debut last weekend, grossing over $30 million. Audiences seem to really dig it as it earned an “A-” Cinemascore average. While titles like this often drop 50% or more in their sophomore frames, I am projecting Olympus will not fall that far.

And with that, my predictions for the Easter box office weekend:

1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Predicted Gross: $49.5 million

2. The Croods

Predicted Gross: $29.3 million (representing a drop of 33%)

3. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

Predicted Gross: $19.2 million

4. Olympus Has Fallen

Predicted Gross: $16.8 million (representing a drop of 45%)

5. The Host

Predicted Gross: $15.7 million

As always, I’ll have updated posted throughout the weekend with a final report on Sunday!

2013 Oscar Predictions: 25 Early Best Picture Contenders

If it seems a little early to be speculating on what movies might receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination for 2013… well, not really. Granted, most of these titles don’t even have trailers yet and the majority won’t be released until fall. Some don’t even have set release dates at the moment.

However, I realized that if this blog existed one year ago today and I had produced a list of 25 potential films, I would have included Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. These composed six of the nine features nominated and the winner.

Scouring over the list of movies coming out in the remainder of the year, some things are for certain: there will be surprises. Films that come out of nowhere on the festival circuit that will become contenders. Also: some of the movies mentioned here will simply not pan out, not get very good reviews, and disappear from consideration. A 2012 example: Hyde Park on Hudson, with Bill Murray playing President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It certainly would have been on my list of consideration one year ago today. The picture was released, wasn’t well-received, and came and went quickly. Finally, I’m guessing at least five of the titles mentioned here will end up getting Best Picture nominations. Among the 25 titles I’m listing, I will note my Top Five most likely contenders for the big prize at this juncture.

And with that, here are 25 Early Best Picture Contenders for the 2013 Oscars:

August: Osage County

This family drama, from director John Wells (known more for his TV work on ER and The West Wing) has an impressive cast that includes Oscar darling Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, and Ewan McGregor. Release Date: November 8.

Before Midnight

This is Richard Linklater’s third in his series of romantic dramas starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, following 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. The two earlier titles received enormous critical acclaim and the Academy may feel it’s time to honor them by honoring this one. The picture screened recently at the Sundance Film Festival to very positive notices. Release Date: May 24.

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s latest picture starring Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett. It’s a roll of the dice with Woody’s films. In 2011, his Midnight in Paris was his highest grosser of all time and earned a Best Picture nomination. In 2012, his To Rome in Love opened to mediocre reviews and box office and received zero awards attention. Impossible to know where this one falls, but it’d be foolish to leave it out of the running right now. Release Date: July 26.

The Butler

Director Lee Daniels got the attention of the Academy when his feature Precious scored a Best Pic nod in 2009. His follow-up, last year’s The Paperboy, was met with critical scorn. The Butler sounds like more an awards contender, with Forest Whitaker playing a real life person who served as a White House butler for eight Presidents. The Butler will certainly garner attention for Whitaker’s performance. It includes an impressive supporting cast: John Cusack, Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Rickman, and Jane Fonda, among others. Release Date: October 18.

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass is the man responsible for directing the second and third Jason Bourne flicks, as well as United 93. This feature focuses on the Somali Pirate hostage incident of 2009 and stars Academy heavyweight Tom Hanks. Release Date: October 11.

The Counselor

Ridley Scott directs this thriller about an attorney (Michael Fassbender) who gets involved in the world of drug trafficking. Scott has directed his share of Best Pic nominees and winners, including Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. This boasts a heckuva supporting cast, including Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem. Release Date: November 15.

The Dallas Buyer’s Club

Matthew McConaughey has experienced a career resurgence as of late, with critically acclaimed performances in The Lincoln Lawyer, Magic Mike, and Bernie. This film could earn McConaughey an Oscar nod, playing a HIV positive man in the 1980s who begins smuggling alternative medicine into the U.S. McConaughey underwent a drastic weight loss to play the character. A nomination for him seems quite possible, but if audiences respond to the movie as well, it could be a contender. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Diana

Focusing on the last two years of Princess Diana’s life, Diana may garner the most Oscar attention for Naomi Watts’s performance as the Princess. Once again, though, if the film is really good… Release Date: Fall 2013.

Elysium

The sci-fi thriller is director Neil Blomkamp’s follow-up to 2009’s District 9, which received a Best Picture nomination. That alone makes it a contender. Elysium stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Release Date: August 9.

Foxcatcher

Director Bennett Miller’s last two featues, 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball, both received Best Picture nominations. This drama focuses on the real life case of John duPont’s killing of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. With Steve Carell as duPont and Mark Ruffalo as Schultz, expect the actors to receive Oscar attention as well. Release Date: Fall 2013. TOP FIVE CONTENDER

Fruitvale

This indie drama that premiered at Sundance recently inspired a bidding war among studios that the Weinstein Company won (the studio that knows how to get Oscar nominations). For some historical perspective, two 2009 nominees (Precious, An Education), two 2010 nominees (The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone) and a 2012 nominee (Beasts of the Southern Wild) debuted as Sundance and were audience favorites, like Fruitvale was. So its chances seem solid at the moment. Release Date: Undetermined.

Grace of Monaco

Like Diana, this picture focusing on the life of actress and Princess Grace Kelly may get more awards attention for Nicole Kidman’s performance in the lead role, as well as costars Tim Roth and Frank Langella. And like Diana, it could get a Best Pic nomination depending on how good it is. Release Date: December 27.

Gravity

Director Alfonso Cuaron is one of the most acclaimed directors of the last decade, having made Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. This sci-fi drama stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Release Date: October 4.

The Great Gatsby

This one’s a big question mark. Director Baz Luhrmann’s retelling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and 1974 Robert Redford film boasts an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. Gatsby was pushed back from its original Christmas 2012 release date, a time period usually reserved for more award-worthy material. Its summer 2013 release date may boost its box office potential, but not its awards potential. Release Date: May 10.

Inside Llewyn Davis

You can never count any Coen Bros movie out of the Best Picture race. Three out of their last four features have received nominations (No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, True Grit). Davis focuses on the folk music scene in the 1960s and stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and Justin Timberlake. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Labor Day

Director Jason Reitman saw two of his films in a row, 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Up in the Air, receive nominations before his follow-up, 2011’s Young Adult got zero attention. This drama, starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Tobey Maguire, could be a return to form. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This Mandela biopic with Idris Elba in the title role could certainly receive attention for its star and the movie itself. It was picked up by the Weinstein Company and given a plum awards consideration debut slot. Release Date: November 29.

Monuments Men

George Clooney directs this World War II drama about a team of men sent to Germany to save priceless pieces of art before Hitler destroys them. With an all-star cast including Clooney, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and Matt Damon, this one is undoubtedly a major contender. Release Date: December 18. TOP FIVE CONTENDER

A Most Wanted Man

Based on a John le Carre, this thriller stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and Oscar darling Philip Seymour Hoffman. Release Date: November 2013.

Nebraska

Director Alexander Payne’s last two features, 2004’s Sideways and 2011’s The Descendants, both received nominations. That bodes well for this road trip drama starring veteran actor Bruce Dern and SNL alum (and MacGruber) Will Forte. Expect considerable attention for Dern for a Best Actor nomination. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Out of the Furnace

Scott Cooper’s directorial follow-up to 2009’s Crazy Heart (which earned Jeff Bridges a Best Actor win) is a crime thriller starring Christian Bale, Forest Whitaker, and Woody Harrelson. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Saving Mr. Banks

From director John Lee Hancock, who made the 2009 Best Pic nominee The Blind Side, comes this drama about the making of 1964’s Mary Poppins. With previous winners Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers, this could be a big hit and a nominee. Co-stars Colin Farrell and Paul Giamatti. Release Date: December 20. TOP FIVE CONTENDER

12 Years a Slave

The historical drama from Shame director Steve McQueen boasts a cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, and Paul Giamatti. Release Date: Fall 2013.

Untitled David O. Russell Project

Director David O. Russell has also seen his last two pictures, 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, earn nominations. This drama focuses on the Abscam political scandals of the 1970s and 1980s that brought down several Congressmen. Silver Linings costars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence join a cast with Fighter costar Christian Bale, as well as Jeremy Renner. Release Date: December 25. TOP FIVE CONTENDER

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese has seen four of his last five movies nominated (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Hugo). His latest is a crime drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, and Jean Dujardin. Expect this one to be considered a major player the whole way through. TOP FIVE CONTENDER

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Box Office Prediction

As Easter weekend approaches at the box office, all industry eyes are on the opening of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which has the very real potential of having the 2nd biggest opening of the year so far, behind Oz The Great and Powerful.

In order to do so, the sequel would need to beat the current #1’s opening weekend, The Croods, which just earned $44.7 million in its debut. This certainly seems like a real possibility.

To recap, 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra was met with high negativity from critics, earning a weak 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. It didn’t matter. When the original debuted in August 2009, it made an astonishing $54 million in its debut weekend, surpassing industry expectations. It went on to earn $150M domestically.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation was originally supposed to be released in June 2012, but was pushed to March 2013 in order to do more effects work. It’s also been said that the studio didn’t want to open the picture on the same day as Magic Mike, which featured Retaliation costar Channing Tatum. That may be code for… they wanted Tatum to be an even bigger star when this was released. Mission accomplished.

This film also brings in action vets Duane “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis to the mix, alongside Tatum. Though most major reviews have yet to be published, word is that Retaliation is a major improvement over its predecessor.

So… this would all lead you to believe that it will outgross Cobra, right? Not so fast. For starters, a summer opening usually means the potential for a bigger opening weekend period and by moving its release date, Retaliation eliminates that factor. There is also some lingering competition from Olympus Has Fallen, which had a great opening over the weekend and may experience a relatively small decline.

And then there’s the fact that while a lot of moviegoers saw the original… a lot of them didn’t really like it that much. Therefore, those same moviegoers may not rush out to see the sequel, even if it is supposed to be an upgrade.

The ceiling for Retaliation could be something like a $60 million opening. That would be fantastic and Paramount and Hasbro would be popping champagne bottles for a gross like that. My feeling is it will struggle to match the $54 million brought in by Cobra in its inaugural weekend. It could even struggle to have 2013’s second biggest weekend and outpace the $44.7M that The Croods made. Anything below $40 million would be a major disappointment and might cause the brass at Paramount and Hasbro to start drinking for different reasons.

Ultimately, I will predict that G.I. Joe: Retaliation gets to the second biggest weekend of the year, but doesn’t match Cobra‘s gross.

Final Prediction

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opening weekend: $49.5 million

Be sure to check back Wednesday for my full Easter box office predictions, as The Host and Tyler Perry’s Temptation also open and The Croods and Olympus Has Fallen enter their sophomore frames.

 

Movie Review: True Grit

2010’s True Grit is proof positive that with the right filmmakers and actors involved, you can bypass the notion that remakes cannot improve on the original.

Of course, there will always be those who maintain that the 1969 version starring John Wayne is the best. It certainly is a solid movie where the Duke won a Best Actor Oscar, the only of his storied career. For me, however, the slight edge goes to the remake.

The brilliant Coen Brothers decided to embark on this remake, their first Western, casting their Big Lebowski star Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, the role Wayne made famous. Cogburn is a surly, alcoholic U.S. Marshal enlisted by 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to find the killer of her father. It’s a simple plot (based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel) told well. Very well.

That’s what happens when the Coens are involved. True Grit includes a sterling supporting cast that includes Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger and Josh Brolin as the hunted man. Bridges is first-rate, even though Wayne fans will likely always consider their guy better.

To me, though, the True Grit remake belongs to Steinfeld. She’s the center of the movie and her performance is remarkable. It’s one of the best child actor performances I’ve seen, on par with Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense or Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine.

The other star of the film: Roger Deakins’ wonderful cinematography. True Grit is a beautiful picture to look at and makes the absolute most of its Western locales. The Coen Bros, known for their often quirky movies, play it mostly straight here. There is some well-placed humor (more than in the original), but this is a pretty straightforward classic Western tale. It’s just that most Westerns don’t have as much talent involved as True Grit does. It’s a very satisfying experience.

***1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Results: March 22-24

Dreamworks animated The Croods opened right on path with my prediction, topping the box office with an estimated $43.6 million, on pace with my $44.3M estimate. Gold star for Todd! The picture has a bright road ahead as it averaged an impressive “A” Cinemascore grade and has the benefit of kids being out of school with the Easter holiday approaching.

The White House action thriller Olympus Has Fallen also delivered a rock solid opening, earning an estimated $30.3 million, slightly above my $27.8M projection. Olympus brings great news for star Gerard Butler, who’s starred in a series of flops since his big breakout in 2007 with 300. It will be interesting to see how White House Down, a similarly plotted action flick with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, fares in June when it debuts. With an “A-” Cinemascore grade, Olympus seems to have audiences on its side.

In its third weekend, Oz The Great and Powerful fell to #3, grossing $21.5 million – just above my $20.7M projection. The film has amassed a giant $178 million since its opening. In its sophomore frame, Halle Berry’s The Call was fourth with $8.9 million, just below my $10M estimate.

Landing with a thud in the five spot is Admission with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. As I mentioned in my predictions post, the marketing for this one seemed soft and a lackluster debut seemed likely. Admission managed a weak $6.1 million, below my $7.6M projection. With a discouraging “B-” Cinemascore grade, it will fade fest and be available for your On Demand viewing quickly.

Finally, I overestimated Spring Breakers, the indie comedy with James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens. The film has an impressive limited opening last weekend. This translated to a pretty good wide release, grossing $4.8 million on only approximately 1,000 screens. It did not reach the lofty $6.8M that I projected.

Be sure to check back this week for predictions for the Easter Holiday frame when G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Host, and Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor all enter the competition. Stay tuned, my friends!

“Die Hard On A…”: A History of Die Hard Rip-Offs

Few films are so influential that they are used to describe a host of other pictures that followed it, but 1988’s Die Hard belongs in that category. I listed it in my top ten movies of all time and put it #1 when it comes to action flicks.

For younger moviegoers, they may ask, “What’s the big deal about Die Hard?”

The answer is plenty. Die Hard moved the action hero protagonist in a different direction. The hero of Die Hard, John McClane (Bruce Willis), is a sh*t talker and he’s sarcastic. This is different from what audiences were accustomed to in the 1980s with action stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

For me, though, the influence of Die Hard is clearest with its main villain, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). In many earlier action titles, the antagonist was not as important as the hero… or as interesting. This is not the case with Die Hard. The character of Gruber is stylish and smart. He seems like an even match for McClane. Gruber would influence countless villains that followed him.

Action movies would never be the same after Die Hard and the picture was copied in many ways. This led to the common description of future films as “Die Hard on a…”

For example, 1992’s Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes? “Die Hard on a plane”…

Or wait… isn’t 1997’s Air Force One the same? I guess that’s “Die Hard on the President’s plane…”

What about that same year’s Con Air? “Die Hard on a plane full on convicts…”

Let us not forget our waterways because 1992’s Under Siege is “Die Hard on a ship…”

And 1997’s Speed 2: Cruise Control? “Die Hard on a cruise ship”…

Its predecessor, 1994’s Speed, is “Die Hard on a bus…”

There’s “Die Hard in the mountains…” (1993’s Cliffhanger)

Die Hard at a hockey arena…” (1995’s Sudden Death)

Die Hard on a train…” (1995’s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory)

Die Hard at a boarding school…” (1991’s Toy Soldiers)

And, of course, there’s the four Die Hard sequels.

The brand has been talked about just this week as Olympus Has Fallen has opened and is being described as “Die Hard at the White House…”

There is no question this trend will continue into the future. People copy from the best. And when it comes to action flicks, Die Hard is just that.