Goodnight Dave

This is the kind of blog post that David Letterman would hate.

As the end is upon us for the host’s finale culminating a record setting 33 year run in late night TV, we have witnessed Dave’s genuine discomfort when his favorite guests bid their heartfelt tributes to him. For a very long time, the words heartfelt and Letterman didn’t mix and still mostly don’t. That has changed a bit in the last few years. We undoubtedly saw it when Dave returned the week following 9/11 and created a landmark moment where he somehow found the words to encapsulate the country’s mood. We’ve seen it occasionally when talking about his son Harry. And we’ve seen it with the praise of his staff members and personalities on the program, some of whom have been with him the whole ride.

The readers of this blog may have seen previous posts in which I discuss my personal take on my love of movies.

As I’ve stated before, for so many movie fans, the medium is simply an entertaining diversion. For others like me, it’s much more. Same goes for television and the people and characters who populate it. If you’re not a Letterman fan, this post likely won’t make much sense to you – so there’s your warning, ladies and gentlemen!

Simply put, David Letterman and his show have had an influence on me and not in a minor way. He’s been hosting his show, either on NBC at 12:30 or CBS at 11:30, for my entire cognizant life. His sense of humor has greatly informed my own and not in a minor way.

I count myself lucky to come from a family of people whose humor instincts fall on the side of irony and sarcasm. Like Dave’s. It’s in many ways a Midwestern comedic sensibility and last time I checked, Indiana and Ohio are in that region. David Letterman grew up in the same region of Indiana and at the same time as my mother. I believe she told me once it’s possible they went to the same prom at Broad Ripple High School.

Right around the time I was really getting into movies, I was REALLY also into Letterman. It was around 1993 when Dave moved over to CBS after he lost The Tonight Show to Jay Leno. I would tape his show every night on VHS and watch them usually more than once. He was a comedy genius to me just as he has been to so many. Among those names are people like Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern. Those kinds of people have considered him to be the real King of Late Night for the last couple of decades and the true heir to Johnny Carson’s throne. No offense to Jay Leno, but his show simply can’t hold a candle to the influence that Dave has had. If you wanna get technical, Leno’s career is because of his exposure on Letterman’s program in the 1980s.

Those endless VHS viewings on Dave’s early Late Show era developed my idea of humor. I was in junior high at the time. Everyday at lunch, I would present a Top Ten List to my schoolmates and it was mostly jokes about our group of friends. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t deliver that list with Letterman’s timing and mannerisms. Don’t get me wrong – I probably failed miserably but it was a helluva lotta fun. So… you could say Dave has been an important cultural figure in my lifetime.

In 2005, I was able to attend a taping of the show at the Ed Sullivan Theater. It was literally as if someone pulled me into my TV set. Surreal. I’ve been fortunate to see some celebrities in my life. With Dave, I was legitimately star struck.

I will leave it to the professionals to write their columns discussing Dave’s amazing history on the air. The classic interviews and musical moments and on and on. I just had to talk a little about what he’s meant to me. I fully understand that just as movies are that perfectly understandable diversion to many, Letterman is only that guy you sometimes fall asleep to. He’s been a whole lot more for me.

David Letterman has paved the way for so many who’ve followed him in the comedy world. That’s called a legacy.

David Letterman has more than carried on the legacy of his idol Johnny Carson and become the most important comedic figure in his format for the last 30 years plus. That’s called a legend.

On a significantly tinier scale, David Letterman has (unbeknownst to him) created endless hours of entertainment and helped a kid in northwest Ohio figure out what he found to be truly funny in this crazy world we live in. That’s called gratitude.

Goodnight Dave.

Box Office Predictions: May 1-3

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off this Friday and there’s a rather big release to start things off: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel’s sequel to the third highest grossing picture of all time. The event film stands a very legitimate shot at scoring the largest opening weekend in domestic box office history (breaking its predecessor’s record) and I’m predicting it will – barely. You can read my detailed prediction post on it here:

No other new release would dare stand in the way of Iron Man, Captain America, and their superhero compadres – so the rest of the top five will be populated by spring leftovers. Furious 7 will fall to the runner-up spot with Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, The Age of Adaline, and Home behind it.

And with that, my predictions for the weekend:

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Predicted Gross: $212.7 million

2. Furious 7

Predicted Gross: $9.6 million (representing a drop of 46%)

3. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Predicted Gross: $8.7 million (representing a drop of 41%)

4. The Age of Adaline

Predicted Gross: $8 million (representing a drop of 40%)

5. Home

Predicted Gross: $5.8 million (representing a drop of 29%)

Box Office Results (April 24-26)

As expected, Furious 7 led the box office for the fourth weekend in a row with $17.8 million, a bit higher than my $15.6M estimate. The massive hit has taken in $320 million so far.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 also managed to surpass my prediction in its second weekend with $14.7 million as compared to my $12M projection. The Kevin James sequel won’t reach the heights of the original, but it’s grossed a solid $43 million in ten days of release.

The romantic drama The Age of Adaline had a fairly decent roll out with $13.2 million, right on target with $13.3M prediction. It may hold up OK in subsequent weekends.

The animated Home took fourth with $8 million, outpacing my $6.5M estimate and its total is at $153M. #5 belonged to horror pic Unfriended in weekend two with $6.1 million, just under my $6.9M prediction and it stands at $25 million.

Critically acclaimed British sci-fi import Ex Machina opened sixth with $5.4 million (below my $7.1M projection, but still a pretty impressive start).

Finally, war drama Little Boy tanked in 13th place with just $2.7 million, just ahead of my $2.1M estimate.

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

The Babadook Movie Review

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook deals with the heaviness of a widowed mother raising her young son and throws in a horror flick to boot. This low budget Australian import announces a new director in Kent who holds tremendous premise. She knows her way about the genre and how to provide some spine tingling moments with her direction and in the screenplay.

Amelia (Essie Davis) has one 6 year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). On the date of his birth, her father was killed driving her to the hospital. To her relatives, neighbors and coworkers, she tries to pretend like everything’s fine. In reality, she can’t even speak her late husband’s name or have anything resembling a conversation about him. That’s not her only family issue. Samuel is a very troubled child whose disruptive behavior gets him kicked out of school. Quite literally, Samuel won’t let his mom have even a moment’s pleasure. He builds weapons to fight imaginary monsters. Yet as we all know in these types of films, maybe these darn kids know a little more about what’s really going on than the adults.

This is when Amelia comes across a graphic and ominous kids book called Mister Babadook, featuring a character who wishes to inflict harm on them. The concept is familiar – once you read about Babadook, you can’t get rid of him. From that moment on, The Babadook follows the playbook of the scores of demonic possession pics before it.

While there’s really nothing truly new going on here, there’s enough positives in Kent’s debut to satisfy horror enthusiasts. For starters, Davis gives a remarkable performance that must consistently shift between concerned and sleep deprived mother and, well, something else. Wiseman certainly acquits himself well and is highly believable as a freaked out youngster. The Babadook is as much about Amelia’s strange journey to confront her undealt with sorrow over her loss than anything else. It just takes a sinister children’s book psycho to deal with it.

*** (out of four)

Avengers: Age of Ultron Box Office Prediction

The 2015 Summer Movie Season kicks off in grand fashion as Avengers: Age of Ultron debuts and looks to Hulk smash records. The mystery surrounding how it performs in its opening is centered on one question: will it have the biggest domestic debut in movie history? In order to do so, it’ll need to top the record currently held by its 2012 predecessor. That magic number is $207.4 million.

All the favorites are back, including director Joss Whedon with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye, and more returning. Newbies include James Spader voicing the title character villain and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. There are two more Avengers features already planned for 2018 and 2019. While a number of reviews say it doesn’t quite match the original, its 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating is solid.

There is little doubt that Ultron is highly primed to become summer’s largest grosser. Whether or not it reaches the $623M eventual mark of The Avengers remains to be seen (that’s good for the 3rd biggest hit ever behind Avatar and Titanic).

Some prognosticators are estimating it may not quite reach the heights of 2012 in its opening. The floor would seem to be in the $180M range, which would be just fine but still $25M under the first. While that’s certainly possible, I do believe Ultron will debut with around the same number of its predecessor… and a bit higher. That means I’m predicting Ultron will set a new benchmark in the category of all-time record openings and Disney and Marvel will be popping the champagne corks come next weekend.

Avengers: Age of Ultron opening weekend prediction: $212.7 million

Ex Machina Box Office Prediction

A legitimate wild card this weekend at the box office could be Ex Machina, a British science fiction tale that’s been on the receiving end of positive reviews and impressive per screen averages in limited release. It opens nationwide Friday, though I’ve yet to see a screen count which makes a prediction a little more complicated. Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac are among the cast in the directorial debut of Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Dredd.

The critically acclaimed feature (it sits at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes) made nearly $800,000 on just 39 screens last weekend for a sparkling $20k per screen average. That could bode well for filmgoers looking for a more serious sci fi offering before the summer onslaught begins with Avengers next weekend.

Again, without a screen count, it’s a tricky projection but I’ll estimate Ex Machina finds its way into the top five.

Ex Machina opening weekend prediction: $7.1 million

Little Boy Box Office Prediction

The Kevin James sequel Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 may have slightly outdone expectations this past weekend, but his new picture out Friday seems poised to do minor business. James costars in Little Boy, a World War II drama with comedic elements that also features Emily Watson, Michael Rapaport and Ben Chaplin.

Opening on roughly 1000 screens, Little Boy has had a muted marketing campaign and early reviews have been underwhelming. The Open Road release actually seems like a prime candidate for an On Demand only debut and I’m a little surprised it’s premiering as wide as it is.

I’ll predict Little Boy does little b.o. activity at all.

Little Boy opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million

Box Office Predictions: April 24-26

The final weekend at the box office in 2015 will likely be memorable only as “the weekend before Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out” as that summer season kick off blockbuster may be poised for the largest domestic opening of all time.

As for this weekend, the romance The Age of Adaline with Blake Lively and Harrison Ford comes out. You can read my detailed prediction post on it here:

Adaline does have a shot at the top spot, but I’m projecting it will fall a bit short of Furious 7, allowing that enormous hit to have its fourth weekend at #1.

The real wild card this weekend is Ex Machina, a critically acclaimed British science entry starring Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac. My prediction post on it is here and I’m estimating it’ll land in fourth place:

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 got off to a healthy start last weekend and should lose about half its audience in its sophomore frame. Horror flick Unfriended should drop over 50%, as most pics of its genre in their second weekends do. Home, Dreamworks animated solid performer, should round out the top five.

There’s also Little Boy, a World War II comedic drama with Kevin James. Huh? I don’t expect much out of it as it should fall far outside of the top six:

And with that, my predictions for the weekend:

1. Furious 7

Predicted Gross: $15.6 million (representing a drop of 46%)

2. The Age of Adaline

Predicted Gross: $13.3 million

3. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Predicted Gross: $12 million (representing a drop of 49%)

4. Ex Machina

Predicted Gross: $7.1 million

5. Unfriended

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million (representing a drop of 56%)

6. Home

Predicted Gross: $6.5 million (representing a drop of 39%)

Box Office Results (April 17-19)

In its third weekend, Furious 7 was tops again with $29.1 million, just under my $30.4M estimate. The Universal juggernaut stands at $294 million.

Kevin James surpassed most expectations as his critically drubbed Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 earned $23.7 million, a bit higher than my $21.4M prediction. The sequel couldn’t match the $31 million accomplished by the original, but it wasn’t expected to and this is a solid result.

Similarly, the low budget horror entry Unfriended had a commendable $15.8 million debut, outpacing my $12.6M projection.

In fourth, Home’s $10.6 million haul came in below my $12.3M estimate and its total is at $142 million. In its second weekend, romantic drama The Longest Ride was fifth with $7 million. My prediction? Exactly that! It’s made $23 million in its ten days of release.

Disney’s nature documentary Monkey Kingdom made just $4.5 million for a weak 8th place showing, not reaching my $5.9M guess. Even further down the chart and outside the top ten, the James Franco/Jonah Hill drama True Story opened on around 800 screens and managed a paltry $1.9 million (under my generous $3.7M prediction). Even worse, Child 44 with Tom Hardy premiered on just over 500 screens. I thought it would eek out a $2.1 million gross, yet it bombed badly with just $621,000 for a 17th place debut.

And that’ll do it for now, friends! Until next time…

Let’s Be Cops Movie Review

Let’s Be Cops has roughly the effect of probably watching a student film trying to mimic a decent buddy cop comedy/action flick. And that may be an unfair insult to the work of students and their films. It’s amateurish, poorly written, and gives its actors (some of them quite talented, but you don’t see it here) little to work with. Director/co-writer Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas’s screenplay is mostly devoid of anything resembling originality and quite absent of many genuine laughs.

The concept is simple: two lifelong buddies have made a pact to leave Los Angeles by the time they’re 30 if they haven’t “made it”. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a struggling video game developer and Ryan (Jake Johnson) is a once promising college quarterback sidelined by a past injury. Clearly they haven’t made it and they’re prepared to return to Columbus, Ohio (I don’t know why my city had to be brought into this mess). A costume party interferes with their California split when they dress up as cops and – wouldn’t you know it! – they get mistaken for actual law enforcement. Suddenly women find them attractive! They can get into clubs easily! And they get caught up with some bad guy Albanians!

Let us count just some of the citations of mediocrity (to be kind) in this screenplay:

1) Jake’s past football glory days cause him to spend his days voluntarily teaching a bunch of young boys the game while cussing them out the majority of the time. It’s more creepy than funny.

2) Justin is supposed to be some genius video game developer whose bosses just don’t understand him, but his “genius” pitch for a game called Patrolman seems really familiar and dull.

3) The main baddie played by James D’Arcy is quite possibly the most cliched villain in a genre ripe with them.

4) Talented comic performers like Rob Riggle and Natasha Leggero are saddled with little to do.

I could go on and the same rule applies to Johnson and Wayans Jr., who can’t rise above the material despite their efforts. And there’s Andy Garcia as the time honored crooked cop (the true nature of his character is supposed to a big reveal, but you won’t care).

The screenwriters bank on this flimsy premise of watching these two play boy in blue providing consistent humor for 100 minutes. It would have been great if “Let’s Be Just A Little Original” would have made it into their game plan.

*1/2 (out of four)

The Age of Adaline Box Office Prediction

This Friday, the romantic fantasy The Age of Adaline will attempt to unseat Furious 7’s three week reign atop the box office charts. Blake Lively stars with Harrison Ford (who turned up in a pretty cool trailer this week) and Ellen Burstyn costar.

The pic’s early critical reaction has been positive as it sits at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still it’s difficult to see Adaline breaking through in a big way. The film should be moderately successful in bringing in a female audience as their choices have been somewhat limited as of late. Adaline should earn in the low to mid teens in the final weekend before the summer blockbuster onslaught begins. That will likely put it at #2 behind Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and company.

The Age of Adaline Box Office Prediction: $13.3 million

Summer 2015 Movies: The Predicted Century Club

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off two weeks from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron blasts into theaters. It will compete for the largest domestic opening of all time (where it needs to beat its predecessor) and is highly likely to be the season’s highest earner. That got me to thinking – while Ultron is poised to gross $500 million or higher, it’s been the $100 million mark that studios still like to brag about. This prompted me to look at the past five summer flick seasons and how many pictures reached that milestone.

In 2010, it was 13 movies that reached the mark: Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, and The Expendables.

Things improved in 2011 with 18 films reaching the century club: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: First Avenger, The Help, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Smurfs, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Green Lantern, Bad Teacher, and Cowboys and Aliens.

The low mark was the following year in 2012 with just 12: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3, Men in Black 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Magic Mike, and The Bourne Legacy.

Yet the high mark came the following summer in 2013 with 19: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Hangover Part III, Epic, Pacific Rim, and This is the End.

2014 dipped with 14: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, Lucy, The Fault in Our Stars, and Edge of Tomorrow. 

That averages out to 15 pictures earning $100M plus per summer over this decade.

So where do I have 2015 matching up? Not breaking records, but in good shape. My predictions for the year’s $100M earners is 16 and they are as follows (in order of release date): Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Fantastic Four. 

Of course, there’s always sleepers. And there’s others that I could have predicted but think will fall short: the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit, horror remake Poltergeist, the film version of Entourage, the Adam Sandler video game inspired action comedy Pixels, the Vacation reboot, and the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton are among them.

As predicted, summer 2015 should see its number of century club inductees on the slightly high end without reaching the heights of 2013. And as always, you’ll see box office predictions every Saturday from me on each and every one of ’em!