Oscar Watch: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller has been one of the most dependable comedic stars of the past two decades. Yet he’s made nothing that garnered the Academy’s attention (with the exception of a Supporting Actor nomination for Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder). That could change this year with his directorial effort The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, in which he also stars.

The film is a remake of a 1947 Danny Kaye picture. Stiller plays a normal everyday Joe who decides to live out his adventurous fantasies across the world. The actor has had good luck with projects he’s chosen to direct, especially with his last two comedic efforts Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. Based on the trailer, this seems like the type of picture that may resonate with audiences if done well and also connect with Oscar voters. Actors known primarily for comedy have a checkered history (at best) with the Academy when they played more dramatic parts . Many thought Jim Carrey would receive a Best Actor nomination for 1998’s The Truman Show. It didn’t happen. That same year, Steve Martin was being mentioned as a potential Supporting Actor candidate for David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner. Once again it never materialized. Over the past ten years, however, we’ve seen examples that include a Best Actor nomination in 2003 for Bill Murray in Lost in Translation and Eddie Murphy for Supporting Actor in 2006 for Dreamgirls.

Critical reaction will be key and it’ll be awhile before the word is out on Walter Mitty. At press time, though, this looks like Stiller’s best opportunity so far for his film and his acting to receive awards attention. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which costars Kristin Wiig, and Sean Penn, is out Christmas Day.

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Football Movies: What’s Your Favorite?

College football starts today with the NFL just around the corner! To many of us, we’re perfecting our fantasy football teams and looking forward to the autumn season that lies before us. There is no shortage of football themed motion pictures so it begs the question: what’s your favorite one? Vote in this poll below:

What Is Your Favorite Michael Jackson Song?

A little something different today, my blog reading friends! Today would mark the 55th birthday of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop who continues to heavily influence the songs we hear on the radio right now. Justin Timberlake’s “Take Back the Night”? Bruno Mars’ “Treasure”? Both owe so much to MJ’s style and production. In honor of the Gloved One’s 55th birthday, I ask you: what is your favorite Michael Jackson song? I’ve put 12 choices, but feel free to choose your own if the dozen I’ve listed isn’t your top choice. And please leave comments!

2013 Fall Movie Preview: Jack Ryan, Riddick, Machete Kills

Some familiar characters make their way to the multiplex this fall in the latest edition of my 2013 Fall Movie Preview.

The current Captain Kirk, Chris Pine, is the fourth actor to take on the role of Jack Ryan in the film of the same name, out Christmas Day. Alec Baldwin originated the role based on Tom Clancy’s novels in The Hunt for Red October. Harrison Ford followed with Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Ben Affleck became Ryan (you might have heard casting news about him recently) in The Sum of All Fears. Kenneth Branagh, who last directed Thor, is behind the camera and costars in the pic along with Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner. Pine has had luck before in a known franchise with Star Trek and we’ll see if that trend continues. Not much is known about the plot, but the first trailer is expected to hit within days.

Before his most successful franchise, The Fast and the Furious flicks, Vin Diesel starred in 2000’s Pitch Black and then the 2004 sequel The Chronicles of Riddick. David Twohy (director of both) returns to helm Riddick, with Diesel in the title role. While Chronicles was considered a box office disappointment, Vin’s recent exposure in the wildly successful Furious pics could help the performanceIt’s out September 6.

Finally, Machete (played by Danny Trejo) made his debut in one of the fake trailers in 2007’s Grindhouse. That led to his own feature film in 2010 with Machete, which sends up 1970s revenge pics. It earned only $26 million domestically, but a sequel is following anyway with Machete Kills, out October 11. Director Robert Rodriguez is back again and the sequel (like the original) has one heckuva supporting cast that includes Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen (billed as Carlos Estevez), and Mel Gibson.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with previews of more autumn offerings soon!

Oscar Watch: Gravity

It’s not even September yet, but tonight on the blog I will make my first declarative statement about the Best Picture race at the Oscars:

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity will be nominated for Best Picture. I wouldn’t say pencil it in for a nomination among the five to ten films that will get recognized. You can use a pen. Director Cuaron will receive a nomination for Best Director.

Why so certain? Well, Gravity had its world premiere opening at the Venice Film Festival and many reviews are out as of this morning. You can peruse Dark Horizons’ recap of what the critics thought here:

http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/28361/first-reviews-for-gravity-arrive

Bottom line: they are in love with the picture, which is a thriller set in space starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Cuaron is known for directing visual feasts, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the first of the franchise in my view) and 2006’s Children of Men, which should have received a Best Picture nod. The reviews have gone out of their way to praise the visual look of Gravity and it will certainly receive nominations in multiple tech categories.

With all the praise that came out today, the chances of Bullock getting a Best Actress nomination and Clooney receiving Supporting Actor recognition have significantly improved. I would expect Gravity to be a big box office performer upon its October 4th release. And, now, its chances as a performer at the 2013 Oscars seem assured.

2013 Fall Movie Preview: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Frozen, Walking with Dinosaurs

Family audiences have had plenty to choose from when it comes to animated features in 2013. The Croods. Epic. Monsters University. Despicable Me 2. Turbo. Planes. This fall they can add three more possibilities to the mix.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (out September 27) is the sequel to the 2009 original which made a decent $124 million domestically and confused millions of young children’s culinary concepts with meteorology. Some recognizable names return for voice-over work including Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and James Caan in the Sony Pictures Animation release. It’s certainly been a good year for animated sequels so far (hello Despicable Me 2 and your $350 million domestic gross) and we shall see if Meatballs continues that trend.

Disney gets in on the action November 27 with the release of Frozen, loosely based on the works of Hans Christian Andersen. Disney and fairy tales is a combination known to work from time to time so expectations are understandably pretty high.

Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is based on a 1999 BBC miniseries and comes from BBC Earth Studios (not your typical purveyor of animated entertainment). Kids love dinosaurs and the 20th anniversary re-release of Jurassic Park this past spring did solid business. It’s out December 20 and that Christmas vacation time release could be a bonus.

So there you go parents! Three pictures to mark down for family night during the remainder of 2013. My fall movie preview will continue shortly on this here blog.

Labor Day Weekend Box Office Predictions: August 30-September 2

This coming weekend marks the official end of the summer movie season and there are three new entries to close it out: One Direction: This Is Us, Getaway, and Closed Circuit. Per usual, I made prediction posts on all three and they can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/one-direction-this-is-us-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/getaway-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/closed-circuit-box-office-prediction/

Since it’s Labor Day weekend, my predictions are for the four-day holiday weekend. Traditionally on this weekend, titles that have been earning solid money experience not only small declines from the previous three-day weekend, but often increases. This bodes well for both Lee Daniels’ The Butler and We’re the Millers, which held the top spots this past weekend. I don’t anticipate that will change over Labor Day.

I am predicting two of the newcomers take #3 and #4 (I expect Closed Circuit to open well outside the top five, likely the #8 or #9 spot). As for the five spot, I believe Disney’s Planes will see a slight increase and remain fifth, leapfrogging last weekend’s #3 and #4, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and The World’s End.

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

1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million (representing an increase of 20%)

2. We’re the Millers

Predicted Gross: $15.1 million (representing an increase of 15%)

3. One Direction: This Is Us

Predicted Gross: $14.9 million

4. Getaway

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million

5. Planes

Predicted Gross: $9 million (representing an increase of 7%)

Be sure to check the Facebook throughout the long weekend for updates and Monday for final results!

Closed Circuit Box Office Prediction

While the Labor Day weekend is traditionally seen as a dumping ground for studios to put out pictures they have little confidence in, there’s a reason Focus Features is releasing Closed Circuit over this holiday frame.

Two years ago, over the same weekend, the studio had a better than expected opening for The Debt, a British thriller starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington. That film opened to a robust $12.8 million over the 2011 Labor Day weekend, which unexpectedly put it at #2 behind The Help. 

Focus is certainly hoping lightning will strike twice with another British thriller. This one stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. That being said, the marketing for Closed Circuit has been way under the radar. Could it open with the same numbers as The Debt? It’s certainly possible, but I can also see it totally bombing on the same level that Paranoia did just a week ago with an awful $3.5 million debut.

Closed Circuit opens on Wednesday, unlike the weekend’s other debuts One Direction: This Is Us and Getaway. I just don’t buy that it’ll be a surprise mid-size hit like The Debt, but I don’t quite see it failing on Paranoia‘s level. So we’ll go somewhere in the middle.

Closed Circuit opening weekend prediction: $5.3 million (over the Friday-Monday Labor Day weekend), $7.2 million (over the Wednesday-Monday opening)

For my prediction on One Direction: This Is Us, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/one-direction-this-is-us-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on Getaway with Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/getaway-box-office-prediction/

Getaway Box Office Prediction

Stepping away from the horror genre where he’s had great success over the past year, Ethan Hawke stars in Getaway, an action thriller that pairs him with actress/singer Selena Gomez. After Spring Breakers earlier this year, Gomez is clearly making the transition to more adult roles and this continues that trend.

As mentioned, Hawke has had a nice career resurgence with horror hits Sinister last fall and The Purge this summer. He also starred in the critically acclaimed indie hit Before Midnight this year, his third romantic pic pairing with Julie Delpy.

Judging from the trailer, Getaway looks like it could be a fun B movie. However, I’m not sure audiences are too excited about this one and Labor Day weekend is traditionally a bit of a dumping ground for titles the studios don’t have huge faith in. A gross in the range of 2012’s Labor Day weekend flick Lawless with Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy seems about right. That film earned $10 million over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend and $12.8 million over the four-day holiday frame.

Once again, my prediction is for the four-day gross of the full Labor Day weekend.

Getaway opening weekend prediction: $11.8 million

For my prediction for One Direction: This Is Us, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/one-direction-this-is-us-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on Closed Circuit with Eric Bana, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/closed-circuit-box-office-prediction/

One Direction: This Is Us Box Office Prediction

And now, my friends, we arrive at the culmination of my movie blogging experience thus far: predicting the opening of a One Direction concert film!

One Direction: This Is Us opens this Friday and hopes to cash in on the English boy band’s fame and turn multiplexes into a party of screaming teenage girls. The timing of the release is somewhat curious. Its target audience is heading back to school and you have to wonder if an earlier summer release might have been more appropriate.

When looking at previous pop superstar concert flicks, there’s a wide range of box office openings. Before he went all R. Kelly and started peeing on things on camera, Justin Bieber had a huge opening with Never Say Never to the tune of $29.5 million. Michael Jackson’s This Is It (his posthumous concert footage pic) made $23 million in its debut and the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert film earned a whopping $31 million for its opening.

On the flip side, there’s Katy Perry: Part of Me, which sputtered with a weak $7 million debut. I believe the best comparison for This Is Us is probably The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, which managed an OK $12.5 million opening.

I know what you’re thinking… nearly 200 words into this post and I haven’t named my favorite member of One Direction. Jordan Knight? Johnny Gill? Lance Bass? Tito? I mean… how do you choose?

One truly interesting aspect of this concert flick is it director, Morgan Spurlock. You probably know him best as the documentary filmmaker who did Super Size Me and now has a weekly show on CNN. What attracted him to this? Beats me. Blogger’s note: I actually met Spurlock in downtown Columbus a couple of years back. He was filming a documentary and I had a pleasant five minute chat with him. Seems like a nice guy.

One Direction: This Is Us debuts over the four-day Labor Weekend so my prediction reflects my estimated Friday to Monday gross. The same will hold true for the other two debuts this coming weekend, Getaway and Closed Circuit.

One Direction: This Is Us opening weekend prediction: $14.9 million

For my prediction on Getaway with Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/getaway-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on Closed Circuit with Eric Bana, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/closed-circuit-box-office-prediction/