Box Office Predictions: July 4-6

Most years on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we see a massive tent pole picture making its debut, but this year it’s different. Three new pictures – the Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy, horror flick Deliver Us from Evil, and kiddie pic Earth to Echo all debut on Wednesday and will each attempt to compete with the sophomore weekend of Transformers: Age of Extinction. You can read my detailed predictions on the holiday newbies here:

While I’m predicting solid results for Tammy, OK results for Evil, and disappointing returns for Echo, it’s highly unlikely anything will manage to dislodge Transformers from the top spot. Therefore the Michael Bay robofest should be the first summer 2014 picture to stay #1 for two weeks straight.

And with that, my estimated top six for the fireworks frame (with five-day predictions for the new entries included):

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction

Predicted Gross: $42.2 million (representing a drop of 57%)

2. Tammy

Predicted Gross: $27.3 million ($42.9 million prediction from Wednesday to Sunday)

3. Deliver Us from Evil

Predicted Gross: $13.1 million ($20.6 million prediction from Wednesday to Sunday)

4. 22 Jump Street

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 44%)

5. Earth to Echo

Predicted Gross: $8 million ($12.3 million prediction from Wednesday to Sunday)

6. How To Train Your Dragon 2

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million (representing a drop of 42%)

Box Office Results (June 27-29)

Transformers: Age of Extinction was able to reach the biggest opening weekend so far in 2014 with exactly $100 million (leading some rival studios to question the accuracy of that number). This was right in the range of $98.6 million projection. While this is certainly a fine opening, there is a very good chance Extinction could end up being the lowest domestic grosser of the series thus far.

Staying in the #2 spot was 22 Jump Street with $15.8 million (above my $14.2M prediction) and the comedy hit’s three-week total stands at $140 million. Animated sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 was third in its third weekend with $13.2 million, right in line with my $13M estimate. The disappointing family flick has earned nearly $122 million and will fall far short of its predecessor’s $217M haul. Keeping with the sequel frenzy, Kevin Hart’s Think Like a Man Too dropped from first to fourth with a hefty 64% plunge and a gross $10.3 million (below my $13.8M prediction). Rounding out the top six were holdovers Maleficent with $8.3 million (I said $8.2M) and Jersey Boys with $7.7 million (I said $7.8M).

Until next time, my friends!

Will The Apes Rule Summer 2014?

Early reviews have been released for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, out on Friday, July 11 and they are something to behold. The critic from Hollywood Reporter has compared it to The Empire Strikes Back while Variety says it bests its predecessor in every way. Drew McWeeny at Hitfix says it’s one of the year’s best films.

The box office prospects for Dawn looked bright before this rapturous word-of-mouth began and this only greatly accentuates it. 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in August and quickly became one of the summer’s pleasant surprises. It received solid reviews and took in an impressive $176 million domestically.

Three years later – Apes could be in a legitimate position to claim the thrown of summer 2014’s largest grosser. This is due to a combination of certain pictures not meeting expectations. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 immediately come to mind. X-Men: Days of Future Past performed solidly, but should top out at around $235 million while Disney’s Maleficent may earn just under that.

The picture to beat (unsurprisingly) is Transformers: Age of Extinction, which got off to an estimated $100 million start this weekend. Still, that opening means a probable gross of between $250-$275 million and $300 million is a stretch.

Dawn‘s fawning reviews could lead to it being seen as a must-see event picture. We have seen examples of tent pole flick sequels outshining their predecessors in recent years. 2000’s X-Men earned $157 million while its better reviewed sequel X2 made $214 million, a $57 million improvement. 2002’s The Bourne Identity made $121 million while The Bourne Supremacy hauled in $176 million two years later… a $55 million improvement. 2011’s Captain America made $176 million (coincidentally Rise‘s gross) while its sequel The Winter Soldier will top out at over $260 million… about an $85 million upgrade.

And then there’s the largest example by a mile. 2005’s Batman Begins grossed $206 million domestically while The Dark Knight three years later earned an astonishing $534 million. While Dawn will get nowhere near that figure, it’s reasonable now to see a path close to $300 million, which would make it the season’s top dog… or ape.

Having said all that, the bots of Transformers could still end up on top. And as far as the full year’s top grosser – that crown should belong to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I when it debuts this fall. Regardless, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has become a real contender in summer 2014 and we will see just how much monkey business it manages very soon.

Earth to Echo Box Office Prediction

Relativity Media in conjunction with Disney Studios have teamed up for Earth to Echo, a kiddie pic which opens over the July 4th holiday weekend. Unless I’m missing something, this tale of four children who befriend an alien has been very under promoted and its box office prospects seem shaky at best.

The best hope that Earth to Echo has is capturing a family audience looking for anything to watch during the long weekend. There’s a case to be made: How to Train Your Dragon 2 has disappointed with its results and left a void. Having said that, many parents might be taking their kids to Transformers second weekend. And, truth be told, Dragon 2 and May’s Legends of Oz have proven that family audiences won’t automatically flock to a family film just because it is one.

Add all that up and I see a muted opening for Echo.

Earth to Echo opening weekend prediction: $8 million (Friday-to-Sunday), $12.3 million (Wednesday-to-Sunday)

For my Tammy prediction, click here:

For my Deliver Us from Evil prediction, click here:

Deliver Us from Evil Box Office Prediction

Horror flicks have not performed well as of yet in 2014 with failures such as Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Oculus, and Devil’s Due all failing to make an impact with audiences. This Fourth of July weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer’s production company attempts to reverse that trend with Deliver Us from Evil.

Scott Derrickson, who made well-received horror pics The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, directs this tale of a New York cop (Eric Bana) who investigates demonic possession activities in the city. Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, and Joel McHale (!) costar.

Horror films are historically tricky to predict. Some can make way more in their opening weekends that prognosticators like myself believe, but Evil seems to be flying somewhat under the radar. There’s also the fact that in the summer season – there’s a whole lot of competition out there. Transformers should still rule the box office over the holiday weekend. Ironically, Mark Wahlberg was originally attached to this project before dropping out, allowing Bana to come on board. Over the five-day weekend, it’s prospects of topping $20 million seem decent, though I wouldn’t be shocked if it falls even below that.

Deliver Us from Evil opening weekend prediction: $13.1 million (Friday-to-Sunday), $20.6 million (Wednesday-to-Sunday)

For my Tammy prediction, click here:

For my Earth to Echo prediction, click here:

Tammy Box Office Prediction

The Fourth of July holiday weekend will inform us as to whether or not Melissa McCarthy’s box office hot streak keeps rolling along with Tammy. Three summers ago, her supporting role in Bridesmaids earned her accolades and even an Oscar nomination. In 2013, Identity Thief with Jason Bateman opened to $34.5 million and The Heat with Sandra Bullock debuted to $39.1 million.

Tammy, more than any other McCarthy pic yet, rests on her shoulders. It is co-written and directed by her husband Ben Falcone and costars familiar faces like Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and Dan Aykroyd. Yet there’s no doubt the trailers and TV spots are focused on its star. McCarthy is one of the few comedic performers who can open a feature… or at least probably do so. Reviews aren’t out yet and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were mixed or negative. However, that didn’t hurt Identity Thief one bit and it likely won’t affect this.

This opens over the Fourth of July weekend so I’ll predict its traditional Friday-to-Sunday haul and its five-day take from its debut on Wednesday, July 2. Ultimately I believe Tammy will manage to earn in five days just over what The Heat did last summer. That should put it comfortably at #2 over the holiday after Transformers sophomore weekend.

Tammy box office prediction: $27.3 million (Friday-to-Sunday), $42.9 million (Wednesday-to-Sunday)

For my Deliver Us from Evil prediction, click here:

For my Earth to Echo prediction, click here:

Moonrise Kingdom Movie Review

There is a moment in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom when its central character, 12 year old orphan Sam (Jared Gilman), asks a fellow kid why he doesn’t like him. The response: “Why should I? Nobody else does.”

Such is young Sam’s lot in life. He’s been bounced around from foster home to foster home. Some might lazily (and accurately) describe him as quirky or eccentric, which is a term that could be used for pretty much every character in a Wes Anderson picture.

A chance meeting for Sam leads him to Suzy (Kara Hayward), a fellow 12 year old whose people skills are severely lacking as well. They become pen pals and hatch a plan to run away together. This all takes place on a small New England island circa 1965 and it is Sam’s Khaki Scout summer camp which allows for the opportunity to make an escape and pair up with Suzy.

Wes Anderson is known for his unique visual style and his screenplays (with Roman Coppola cowriting this time around) that rely on dry humor with occasional serious overtones. And that style is on full display in Kingdom, the director’s coming-of-age picture that follows the same path as many that have come before it. This might sound sacrilege to the legions of die hard Anderson followers. And don’t get me wrong – much of the clever dialogue and colorful characters you’d expect from his work is included.

While the picture’s two leads are young unknowns, this is filled with recognizable faces in supporting roles. We have Anderson mainstay Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents who are trapped in a loveless marriage. There’s Bruce Willis giving an understated performance as the island’s police captain who doesn’t have much to do until Sam and Suzy go missing together. Tilda Swinton turns up as a social services worker. And Bob Balaban plays an island local who serves as the film’s narrator, warning us of an impending storm that will work its way into the plot. The best supporting performance belongs to Edward Norton as Sam’s scout leader who cares a lot about his pupils and does a truly terrible job keeping track of them. On the downside, Anderson’s penchant for putting famous actors in over-the-top roles doesn’t always succeed here, particularly in the case of Harvey Keitel as a scout commander and Jason Schwartzman playing a scout official helping the young couple execute their grand escape. These two characters serve as examples of being too farcicial in a screenplay that doesn’t need them.

It is Sam and Suzy who are at the core here and if the casting of Gilman and Hayward didn’t work, neither would the entire movie. Luckily these young actors are very impressive and we enjoy watching their relationship blossom. These are two emotionally damaged kids who find a true friend in each other for the first time. Maybe it is true love as they believe. Maybe not. While the adults here spend most of their time worrying about Sam and Suzy, many of them are even more damaged. This includes Suzy’s parents and Willis’s character. Moonrise Kingdom has its fair share of laughs and it looks beautiful like every Wes Anderson production. Where it succeeds best is making you care just enough about Sam and Suzy that you hope they don’t grow up to be as unhappy and and lonely as the adults who populate their world.

*** (out of four)

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review

Director Wes Anderson is known for being in acquired taste and I’ve always found myself somewhere towards the middle with him. The strongest proponents of his work find Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and others to be brilliant. Frankly, I do not. However, I’ve yet to watch an Anderson picture and not come away with giving it a recommendation – some more highly than others (Tenenbaums is my personal favorite).

There is nothing about The Grand Budapest Hotel that changes that dynamic. Like his aforementioned efforts, some have found this to be a masterpiece and I disagree. Yet again – the aspects that are great are truly remarkable. The majority of the pic takes place in the 1930s when The Grand Budapest Hotel is a thriving business located in the made-up European Republic of Zubrowka. The head concierge is Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), with a penchant for romancing the wealthy older (much older) female clientele of the establishment. One current conquest is Madame D (Tilda Swinton with one heckuva old lady makeup job). It is Madame D’s murder that leads to her concierge lover being framed and he must clear his name with the assistance of his best Lobby Boy Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori). This is all set against the backdrop of the outbreak of World War II and Anderson’s screenplay manages to occasionally integrate the tragic elements of the war with the madcap events happening before us. The story is told in flashback with 1980s Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) recounting the pic’s events to a writer played by Jude Law. And even the Abraham/Law dynamic is a flashback itself with a modern-day Tom Wilkinson as an older version of Law.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is loaded with actors in supporting roles that Anderson has used many times. They include Adrien Brody as the Madame’s conniving son, Edward Norton as a police inspector, Harvey Keitel as an inmate helping Gustave, Jeff Goldblum as a lawyer tasked with the Madame’s complex will, and smaller roles from Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. There’s also Saoirse Ronan as Mustafa’s love interest. The cameos by Murray and Wilson felt a bit perfunctory to me, as if Anderson simply felt the need to include his usual standbys, but the director’s biggest admirers will probably appreciate their inclusion.

For all the considerable star power inhabiting Hotel, it’s the Gustave/Mustafa relationship that fills most of the brisk 99 minute running time. And it’s the until now unknown impressive comedic chops of Fiennes that is by far the highlight. Known for being a serious actor, the actor seems to relish playing this zany character and spouting Anderson’s dialogue. I suspect he may become yet another staple of the director’s troupe (I hope so).

The production design and cinematography are fantastic. This is an absolutely gorgeous picture to look at and Anderson evens shoots Hotel in three different aspect ratios in relation to each time setting.

As already stated, the most rabid aficionados of Anderson’s work will adore this. Somewhat surprisingly – Budapest managed to breakthrough to the mainstream more than any other of his pictures with a wonderful $162 million worldwide gross. I say surprisingly because I put this on the same level with most of his other efforts. This is a consistently amusing comedy with spots of true hilarity. The moments where Anderson injects emotion into all the craziness feels a little forced, more so than it did in Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom. And any comedy that puts Bill Murray in a scene and doesn’t let him do something funny earns a demerit.

Bottom line: if you’re in the Anderson makes pretentious fluff camp, you’ll still be. If you’re in the Anderson is a God camp, you’ll worship again. Or if you’re like me… you’ll appreciate its finest moments without coming close to uttering the word masterpiece.

*** (out of four)



Box Office Predictions: June 27-29

There’s just one newcomer entering the multiplex this weekend – but it’s a big one. Transformers: Age of Extinction is expected by many (including this blogger) to post the heftiest opening weekend of 2014 so far. You can read my detailed prediction post on it here:

My estimate for Extinction is actually a big lower than that of others so we’ll see how I do come Monday of next week. As for holdovers, I’m expecting the current #1 Think Like a Man Too to drop over 50% in its second weekend while 22 Jump Street might not quite lose half its audience in weekend 3. That could definitely mean 22 Jump Street remains second while Man Too drops to third.

DreamWorks animated financial letdown How to Train Your Dragon 2 should be 4th in its third weekend while a battle for fifth could ensue between the second weekend of Jersey Boys and fifth weekend of Maleficent.

And with that – my predictions for the weekend’s top six:

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction

Predicted Gross: $98.6 million

2. 22 Jump Street

Predicted Gross: $14.2 million (representing a drop of 48%)

3. Think Like a Man Too

Predicted Gross: $13.8 million (representing a drop of 53%)

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Predicted Gross: $13 million (representing a drop of 47%)

5. Maleficent

Predicted Gross: $8.2 million (representing a drop of 36%)

6. Jersey Boys

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million (representing a drop of 41%)

Box Office Results (June 20-22)

As predicted, Kevin Hart’s Think Like a Man Too topped the box office charts out of the gate, but it didn’t match my expectation. It took in $29.4 million, below my $38.2M estimate. The sequel couldn’t match the $33 million opening of its predecessor which was a bit of a surprise. Still, with a meager reported budget of $24 million, Man Too is quite a success.

22 Jump Street dipped to second with $27.4 million, right in line with my $27.3M projection. The Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum comedy sequel has amassed an impressive $109 million in just ten days.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 continued to underperform with $24.7 million in weekend #2, well below my $32 million estimate. The animated flick has not met expectations with $94 million so far. It will probably not match the performance of its predecessor’s $217 million. Most prognosticators figured it would easily surpass that number.

Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys had a muted debut at fourth with $13.3 million – below my generous $18.9M prediction. While the pic received mostly decent reviews, adult audiences treated the Four Seasons biopic with ambivalence. Disney’s Maleficent held up well in its fourth weekend with $12.9 million, outpacing my $10.4M prediction. The Angelina Jolie flick has earned $185 million so far and should blast past $200M shortly.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Transformers: Age of Extinction Box Office Prediction

This Friday, Transformers: Age of Extinction will attempt to score the biggest opening weekend of 2014 and its chances are pretty darn solid. That title is currently held by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which scored $95 million in its debut.

Director Michael Bay is back behind the camera just as he was for the first three installments. However, have an entirely new cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and Kelsey Grammer. The trilogy’s star Shia LaBeouf is nowhere to be seen… and he’s probably off doing something really weird somewhere.

Comparing the Age of Extinction‘s predicted gross to the other franchise entrees is a tricky proposition. That’s because the other films opened on Tuesdays or Wednesdays with some on Fourth of July holiday weekends. The third flick Dark of the Moon took in a whopping $180 million over a six-day period. The second Revenge of the Fallen grossed $200.1 million over five days while the original made $155.4 million over five days in 2007.

The premiere of Extinction is unlikely to reach those levels since it will only be for its traditional weekend haul (plus Thursday night grosses). It’s also a legitimate question as to whether the franchise has lost a bit of steam. As I see it, the big question is if this clears $100 million out of the gate. I’m not totally confident that it will. The range of how this opens could be $120 million on the high end. Anything below $90 million would be considered low, especially considering the openings of the first three pictures.

Ultimately, I believe the dinobots and decepticons and autobots will claim the title of #1 opening so far in 2014, but not by much.

Transformers: Age of Extinction opening weekend prediction: $98.6 million

The Insane History of U.S. Presidents on 24

SPOILER ALERT: If you are not caught up watching the current season of “24: Live Another Day”, you should probably go ahead and skip this post until you are. If caught up, enjoy!

OK, folks. I realize no one watches the show “24” for its realism and, if you do, I’m sorry. I am an unabashed huge fan of the Kiefer Sutherland program. When the show returned for an abbreviated season after four years off the air, I was highly skeptical. However, I’ll be damned if “Live Another Day” doesn’t incorporate everything great about the show and I’ve had a blast viewing it.

Events that took place in the latest episode struck me and it led me on a research mission of the show’s history. My suspicions were confirmed through my findings. On this TV program, being the President of the United States is pretty much the Worst. Job. Ever.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the evidence. If you look into the amount of time that has lapsed between the day that occurred in Season 1 and the day that’s currently happening this season, it spans a time period of 17 1/2 years. In real life time, that takes us back to the beginning of 1997 and a grand total of three U.S. Presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.

On “24”? There have been eleven (yes, ELEVEN) POTUS’s in that same time frame. That means the average President on the show serves less than two years in a real life era where we’ve had four of our last five commander-in-chiefs serve the full eight years.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

It’s important to remember that in Season 1 of “24”, eventual POTUS David Palmer was running for President. We are never informed as an audience who the current POTUS is at that time, but that unnamed individual constitutes the program’s first President.

Of course, when we arrive at the events of Season 2, Democrat David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is the President and that continues through Season 3. At the end of that season, Palmer’s reelection bid is thwarted and he decides against seeking a second term. Palmer is POTUS #2.

When we get to the fourth season, his Republican opponent John Keeler (Geoff Pierson) is POTUS #3. He spends the season not being seen much as he’s traveling on Air Force One. That is until the plane is shot down leaving President Keeler in critical condition.

This leads to Vice President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) becoming the show’s #4 POTUS. It is never revealed whether President Keeler died or not, but clearly he was unfit to resume office.

President Logan continues serving when Season 5 arrives. While President David Palmer represented the nobility of the office, President Logan is a corrupt monster who had a hand in the assassination of ex-President Palmer, which occurs moments into Season 5’s opening. A series of events leads to President Logan being arrested and resigning, therefore paving the way for Vice President Hal Gardner (Ray Wise) to become POTUS #5.

When Season 6 debuted, President Gardner is no longer around and it’s David Palmer’s brother Wayne (D.B. Woodside) in office as POTUS #6. It is assumed that President Palmer likely defeated President Gardner. During this season, a bomb explosion critically injures him and this paves the way for his VP Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) to become POTUS #7. It was never said on the show, but press materials later revealed President Palmer died of his injuries.

In between seasons six and seven, the show came out with a movie “Redemption”. In that film, Daniels is still POTUS serving the last hours of his term as Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is set to take office. She is POTUS #8.

Seasons seven and eight feature President Taylor in office. And yet circumstances in that eighth (and final traditional) season force her to resign. Though we never see it take place, we can only assume her VP Mitchell Hayworth (Cameron Daddo) became POTUS #9 in the show’s universe.

We now arrive at “24: Live Another Day” where James Heller (William Devane) is the current POTUS and the show’s #10. We first saw his character in Season 4 as President Keeler’s Secretary of Defense. For these keeping count, the tally of Presidents by party would be 6 Republicans (Keeler, Logan, Gardner, Taylor, Hayworth, Heller) and 3 Democrats (Palmer, Palmer, Daniels). The party affiliation of outgoing POTUS in Season 1 is unknown.

“24” also has made history in the world of Presidents. Of course, President David Palmer was the first African-American POTUS and this happened six years before President Obama in the real world. President Allison Taylor is the first female POTUS and we haven’t had one in real life… yet. And in “Live Another Day”, actor Devane’s real age is 76 – so any way you cut it, he’d be the oldest elected POTUS.

Of course, for anyone who saw Monday’s episode, President Heller’s term ended in spectacular fashion when he willingly allowed himself to be the victim of a drone attack in Wembley Stadium. And that, naturally, means his currently unnamed Vice President is “24”‘s #11 commander-in-chief.

So the bottom line is… why on Earth would anyone wish to run for the highest office in the land in the world of “24”??? To put this into proper context, 11 Presidents ago in reality was Dwight D. Eisenhower over 50 years ago.

Let’s just do a final recap on what being President on “24” is like:

POTUS #1: Unnamed (he’s the lucky one)

POTUS #2: David Palmer. Can’t run for second term due to controversies. Later assassinated.

POTUS #3: John Keeler. Shot down in Air Force One. He either dies or is unable to resume duties.

POTUS #4: Charles Logan. Forced to resign. In later appearances on show during Season 8, ex-POTUS Logan attempts suicide but survives. It’s revealed he will suffer permanent brain damage.

POTUS #5: Hal Gardner. It’s assumed he’s defeated by Wayne Palmer after filling out remainder of President Logan’s term.

POTUS #6: Wayne Palmer. Killed in bomb explosion.

POTUS #7: Noah Daniels. Defeated in general election by Allison Taylor after filling out remainder of President Palmer’s term.

POTUS #8: Allison Taylor. Forced to resign.

POTUS #9: Mitchell Hayworth. Ascends to Presidency after Taylor quits, it’s assumed. Nothing is really known about his Presidency.

POTUS #10: James Heller. Killed by a drone.


BLOGGER’S NOTE UPDATE (06/23/14): Well, “24”, you pulled a fast one on us like only you can do. For anyone who saw tonight’s episode – you will know that President Heller is, in fact, not dead. Therefore there has not been a completely unreasonable 11 POTUS’s in the history of the show, but a completely reasonable 10!!