The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Box Office Prediction

Three years ago, we saw a sleeper hit with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the British comedy/drama which earned an unanticipated $46 million domestically. That was enough to warrant a sequel which opens wide Friday. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features returning cast members Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Dev Patel (who’s pulling double duty this weekend with Chappie). Richard Gere and David Strathairn also join the mix.

Reviews have been mostly positive so far as it stands at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, just under the 78% earned by its predecessor. John Madden (the director not the sports dude) is back behind the camera. It would seem likely that this second helping may not quite match the numbers of the 2012 original stateside, but I still envision a fairly decent opening. I have this debuting a little higher than Unfinished Business, the Vince Vaughn comedy that opens against it. That’s bad news for Business, considering it premieres on roughly twice as many screens.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million

For my Chappie prediction, click here:

For my Unfinished Business prediction, click here:

Unfinished Business Box Office Prediction

Three comedy performers known for appearing in successful raunchy R rated comedies headline Unfinished Business, out Friday. They are Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, and of course, Tom Wilkinson (??). The picture follows the trio on a European business trip gone wrong. Sienna Miller costars.

While Vaughn and Franco have been involved in genre hits like Wedding Crashers and Neighbors, it’s very hard to imagine this entry joining that company or doing anywhere near their box office numbers. Commercials for Business have done little to inspire confidence. Vaughn, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a losing streak lately. His reunion with Wedding Crashers costar Owen Wilson, The Internship, petered out at only $44 million domestically. His last pic Delivery Man only earned $7.9 million out of the gate.

I simply don’t see Unfinished Business doing anything other than lackluster business in its debut and believe it too will fail to reach double digits for its premiere.

Unfinished Business opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million

For my Chappie prediction, click here:

For my prediction on The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, click here:

Chappie Box Office Prediction

Before he takes over the storied Alien franchise, District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp brings his next sci fi offering to audiences this Friday with Chappie. The robot centric picture features Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley as well as recognizable faces like Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and Dev Patel.

In 2009, the director broke through in a big way with District 9, the sleeper hit which ended up with a Best Picture nomination. District made $37 million out of the gate with an eventual domestic take of $115 million. His 2013 follow-up Elysium with Matt Damon didn’t quite live up to expectations, at the multiplex or critically. Elysium opened at $29 million with a final tally of $93 million.

I anticipate that Chappie will continue the trend of diminishing returns in Blomkamp’s filmography before it is certain to tick back up when he enters Alien world. Chappie hasn’t done enough to set itself apart with its trailers and TV spots. Still, it’s debut should easily be enough to open at #1, but I anticipate a premiere of under $25 million.

Chappie opening weekend prediction: $23.8 million

For my Unfinished Business prediction, click here:

For my prediction on The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, click here:

Oscar Recap 2014

Well it’s been nearly 24 hours since the 87th edition of the Academy Awards reached its conclusion and somewhere Neil Patrick Harris is still trying to make that “secret Oscar ballot” gag work. The show was, as usual, a mixed bag that went on far too long. It featured some solid musical numbers (Common and John Legend, Tim McGraw) and a truly memorable one with Lady Gaga paying tribute to the 50 year old Sound of Music, complete with a Julie Andrews cameo at the end.

Being the host is largely a thankless job but NPH did OK. I don’t think his performance was strong enough to warrant a return engagement, but you never know. I still say let Fallon and Timberlake do it or bring in Louis C.K. to really make things unpredictable.

There were some genuinely humorous bits like John Travolta making nice with Idina Menzel after butchering her name last year, but not close to enough to justify its laborious length which ran past midnight.

It was a mediocre ceremony that was truly made fascinating only by the real suspense generated with the top awards. OK, it was a given that Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette would take home acting trophies and they did. I admittedly let my heart and not mind pick Michael Keaton over Eddie Redmayne and was unsurprisingly proved wrong.

The genuine suspense came with Best Picture and Director where there was a real coin flip between Birdman and Boyhood. It got even more confusing when both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash started winning in categories they weren’t expected to. Could a massive upset be brewing with one of them?

Yet when Birdman took the Original Screenplay award over expected winner Budapest, it started to look like a good night for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s movie. He would win the Director prize and the film would win the biggest race of all.

This left Boyhood as the evening’s loser, picking up only Supporting Actress for Arquette. Birdman and Budapest won four awards with Whiplash at three. Interestingly, this Oscars had the rare occasion of all eight nominated features winning at least one race. My predictions were as uneven as the show… 12 for 20 and that is on the low end for this humble blogger.

So, all in all, a ho hum affair with some solid moments sprinkled throughout. By the end of the show, however, it wasn’t only Octavia Spencer that appeared exasperated by that flat NPH ballot gag.

Box Office Predictions: February 27-March 1

Two new pictures look to open in first and second this weekend at the box office as Will Smith’s con artist tale Focus and horror flick The Lazarus Effect with Olivia Wilde debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

I expect the Focus opening to not nearly be in line with your typical Will Smith action or science fiction extravaganza, but it should be enough to propel it to #1. Lazarus should see just over double digits, which I’ll predict will allow it the runner-up position.

As for holdovers, Fifty Shades of Grey experienced a massive drop-off in its sophomore weekend (more on that below). Its second to third weekend fall shouldn’t be quite as drastic, though I expect it’ll continue to lose more than half its audience. Kingsman: The Secret Service and SpongeBob should both experience percentage declines in the mid 40s and round out the top five.

And with that, my top five predictions for the coming weekend:

1. Focus

Predicted Gross: $21.3 million

2. The Lazarus Effect

Predicted Gross: $11.6 million

3. Fifty Shades of Grey

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million (representing a drop of 53%)

4. Kingsman: The Secret Service

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million (representing a drop of 46%)

5. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Predicted Gross: $9.3 million (representing a drop of 44%)

Box Office Results (February 20-22)

Everyone expected Fifty Shades of Grey to experience a precipitous decline in weekend #2, but 74% is a lot. The picture stayed #1, however, with $22.2 million – below my estimate of $29.2M. The erotic tale has grossed $129.1M so far.

Kingsman: The Secret Service earned $18.3 million in its second weekend and I predicted… $18.3M! Gold star! The comic book adaptation has made $67M and looks to top the century club.

SpongeBob was third in its third frame with $16.5 million, right in line with my $16.8M projection and its total stands at $126.2M.

Of the three newbies over the weekend, the Kevin Costner sports drama fared the best, as I predicted. It made $11 million, just outshining my $9.7M prediction. With a reported budget of only $17M, this was a solid result.

Teen comedy The DUFF, another low budget offering at just $12 million, also did commendable business with $10.8 million, above my $7.9M estimate.

Oscar nominee American Sniper earned $10 million (right under my $11.1M projection) and the gargantuan total for it is at $320M.

Finally, raunchy comedy sequel Hot Tub Time Machine 2 tanked with a tepid $5.9 million, not matching my $8.3M prediction. While the original is a cult hit, audiences clearly weren’t clamoring for a follow-up and highly negative reviews didn’t assist.

That’s all for now, folks!

Boyhood Movie Review

Much has been ballyhooed about the method in which Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was filmed and with legitimate reason. The 11 year period chronicling the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his family was indeed shot during that same period of time. From a visual standpoint, it’s remarkable to witness our actors aging in real time. This especially holds true for our central character who we follow from age 6 through his entrance to college.

Boyhood is grand and innovative in its shooting schedule approach and yet small and intimate and simple in the approach of the storytelling. We see Mason grow over time from a kid mostly disinterested in school to a lover of photography who may someday figure out a way to use his talents wisely. There’s a lot of the items young men (and women) may recognize from their own time in those pre-teen and teenage years. Embellishing your sexual history before having one. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol. There’s a scene in which Dad attempts the birds and bees talk with his children and it is probably the most realistic one committed to film. Since our tale takes us from 2002 to 2013, we also see the progression of video games and Apple products and also music. Mason’s sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) starts out singing hits by Britney Spears, but as our characters mature – Wilco and mixed tapes featuring Beatles members factor in. As a side note, there’s an amusing discussion at one point about whether another Star Wars would be made long before Linklater and company could have known there would be one. And I’ll be damned if little Ellar Coltrane doesn’t grow up to kind of look like Hayden Christensen.

In some ways, Boyhood is as much about Mason’s family. His parents had their two children young and they didn’t stay together. Mom is played by Patricia Arquette and Dad is Ethan Hawke. Like Mason, we see them grow. Hot rod vehicles become minivans. We see their screw ups too including bad relationships. What is notable about the screenplay is that we see it through the lens of Mason at the age he happens to be in. For instance, we don’t know what Mom does for a living until Mason would be at an age when he would care.

The picture is strongest in the first half of its deliberate two hour and forty five minute running time. One reason: the performances of Coltrane and Linklater work best at that juncture. They are kids acting like real kids and written that way. You don’t always have that in movies and it is refreshing here. We see them competing for their Dad’s affection because they only see him every once in a while. The groundwork that’s layed in the early stages here pave the way for understanding how the principal actors interact with one another later. Much credit is due to the performers. Arquette and Hawke do fine work here and a scene towards the end with Arquette in particular justifies the Oscar buzz.

The quibble with the second half is as follows: sadly, age doesn’t improve the acting of Coltrane and it shows. Linklater is going for something remarkable in his method of directing with the time gaps. His screenplay is aiming for nothing so grand. This is life filled with small moments and very occasional big ones. It’s certainly more grounded in realism than most others and we remain highly involved in the family’s story well beyond watching Mason’s hairstyle change. Still, I can’t pretend as if the limited acting ability of Coltrane isn’t sometimes a distraction because it was for me.

Boyhood takes its time with its characters and isn’t foolish enough to try some big reveal about the “meaning of it all.” It doesn’t try to wrap everything in a tidy bow at the conclusion either. Life will go on. Sometimes it’ll be boring. Sometimes you’ll get to have a moment where you may even realize it’s a meaningful one. The picture itself is one in which I’ll remember mostly for the cool way it was made and the occasional moments where it rises to near greatness. I’ll go ahead and admit that I believe some critics have overrated what my Boyhood experience was. I’m glad I got to spend time with these people though.

*** (out of four)



The Lazarus Effect Box Office Prediction

Relativity Media is hoping moviegoers are ready for some horror flick action as The Lazarus Effect debuts Friday. The supernatural pic features Olivia Wilde and Evan Peters from American Horror Story in its cast.

Lazarus is likely to be pretty much review proof, as most horror genre material is. Still it’s tough to see this really breaking through. The TV spots are decent, but not terribly effective and there seems to be a lack of buzz being generated.

This could really tank and open in the same range as Dark Skies from two years ago in late February. It managed just $8 million out of the gate. I think Lazarus will reach double digits, though not by a lot.

The Lazarus Effect opening weekend prediction: $11.6 million

For my prediction on Focus, click here:

Focus Box Office Prediction

Will Smith stars as a con artist alongside Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie in Focus, out Friday. The romantic comedic drama’s earning potential will rest solely on the Fresh Prince’s shoulders and it’s a legit question as to how strong that drawing power still is.

Of course from the mid 90s and the decade following, it was a different story with Smith. Films like Independence Day, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, I, Robot and Hitch were mega blockbusters. It has been two years since Big Willie Style headlined a film and it wasn’t a success story. M. Night Shyamalan’s sci fi dud After Earth took in just $60 million in the summer of 2013.

The expectations for Focus aren’t nearly as high as your typical fare starring Smith. In fact, I believe it will take in less with its opening than the aforementioned Earth. The budget is a surprisingly high $100 million, which means Warner Bros. is unlikely to see a return on their investment. Anything above $25 million would be decent, but I don’t see it reaching that.

Focus opening weekend prediction: $21.3 million

For my prediction on The Lazarus Effect, click here:

Todd’s FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

Well here we go! The Oscars honoring the best of 2014 in film air this Sunday and after many round of predictions, it’s time to man up and pick up the winners for the final time in all major categories, minus documentary and short film contenders. For each race, I will predict the winner and a runner-up. On Sunday evening or Monday, I’ll post a recap of how I did.

Let’s get to it:


Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Runner-Up: Richard Linklater, Boyhood


Predicted Winner: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Runner-Up: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything


Predicted Winner: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Runner-Up: Reese Witherspoon, Wild


Predicted Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Runner-Up: Edward Norton, Birdman


Predicted Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Runner-Up: Emma Stone, Birdman


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

Runner-Up: Whiplash


Predicted Winner: Ida

Runner-Up: Leviathan


Predicted Winner: Big Hero 6

Runner-Up: How to Train Your Dragon 2


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Into the Woods


Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: Unbroken


Predicted Winner: Into the Woods

Runner-Up: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Runner-Up: Whiplash


Predicted Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Runner-Up: Guardians of the Galaxy


Predicted Winner: American Sniper

Runner-Up: Birdman


Predicted Winner: Birdman

Runner-Up: American Sniper


Predicted Winner: Insterstellar

Runner-Up: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Predicted Winner: The Theory of Everything

Runner-Up: The Imitation Game


Predicted Winner: “Glory” from Selma

Runner-Up: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

My predictions reflect a belief that the following pictures will win multiple awards: Birdman (4) and Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel with 3.

And there you have it…. My final Oscar predictions! We shall see how I do come Sunday evening.


Dumb and Dumber To Movie Review

David Spade once said that when you see a classic rock band in concert and they proclaim that they’re about to perform a track off their new album, it’s essentially inviting the crowd to take a restroom break. At the conclusion of Dumb and Dumber To, scenes from the 1994 original are played next to this two decades later sequel. It has a likely similar effect to watching The Rolling Stones play “Satisfaction” while simultaneously playing some unknown new cut. Bottom line: this film feels very new album too much of the time.

The Farrelly Brothers and Jim Carrey created their zaniest and most consistently laugh out loud feature in ’94 with Dumb and Dumber and got an unexpectedly great assist from Jeff Daniels, who managed be to Carrey’s equal. There’s little doubt that the studio has probably been attempting for years to get the dim duo back as Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey). We can be sure of this because New Line even went as far as releasing a dud of a 2003 prequel which featured younger actors playing them. That didn’t go over so well with audiences.

It took two decades for the gang to reunite. If you think it may have a little to do with Carrey not having much box office success in recent years, you’re probably not dumb. When we begin, Lloyd is completing a moronic practical joke on his bestie that he’s managed to keep up since we last left them not realizing they could’ve run off with the bikini team.

We soon discover that Harry has a long lost daughter he wasn’t aware of from Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner, who if nothing else proves she’s a good sport). This leads our dynamically dumb duo on a trek to Santa Fe to find her. The daughter (Rachel Melvin) also is super hot and not very bright. Her adoptive father is a brilliant scientist whose trophy wife (Laurie Holden) is trying to off him, along with her boy toy (a sadly underutilized Rob Riggle). We could delve deeper into the plot, but let’s be real. It’s hardly important and to be fair, it wasn’t in the original either.

Dumb and Dumber To is about seeing Carrey and Daniels back amongst their most iconic roles. The actors reprise their roles with glee and often remind us why we found them so strangely endearing in the first place and in countless cable TV re-airings. They could’ve slept walk through their return and they do anything but.

Some of the gags work well due to them, like Lloyd being blissfully unaware that a highly agitated slobbery dog would rather rip out his larynx than play with him. Yet these moments are too far in between. A good portion of the proceedings here have an air of desperation. Bringing their blind neighbor Billy and creepy trucker Sea Bass back results in only retreading jokes that worked better when Ace of Base were chart toppers.

Our leads give it their all and we as an audience occasionally get rewarded. Not enough though, but this isn’t nearly as bad as it might’ve been. The greatest hits happened in 1994. The new material is often an excuse for that bathroom break in the middle of its countless bathroom jokes.

**1/2 (out of four)