Paper Towns Box Office Prediction

Last summer, the box office potency of YA author John Green flexed its muscle when The Fault in Our Stars debuted to $48 million. On Friday, Paper Towns arrives and it’s another adaptation from one of Green’s bestsellers. It is expected that the involvement of his name alone should propel Towns to a healthy start.

The teen drama stars relative unknowns (though probably not for long) Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff. Reviews have been fairly strong and it currently holds a solid 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s easy to imagine that Towns will succeed in bringing in a hefty portion of its intended younger female demographic.

That said, nobody expects it to reach the heights of Stars and it shouldn’t. It could over perform and take in $30M+, but I feel a more likely scenario is an opening in the mid to high 20s. Either way, considering its tiny reported $2.4 budget, 20th Century Fox should be celebrating next weekend.

Paper Towns opening weekend prediction: $26.8 million

For my Pixels prediction, click here:

For my Southpaw prediction, click here:

Trainwreck Movie Review

In the past decade, we’ve witnessed Judd Apatow bring the best out of his comedic performers and vault them into big screen stardom. This has occurred in films he’s directed and produced. Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Seth Rogen in Knocked Up. Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. It happens again in a major way with Trainwreck, which announces stand up comedian and star of her acclaimed Comedy Central program Amy Schumer as a force onscreen.

Simply out, Amy’s got the It Factor. The film (which she wrote, marking the first time Apatow isn’t directing his own material) allows her to showcase her already known comedy skills but also a surprising amount of depth with dramatic material. Trainwreck is both an anti romantic comedy and a very real one. Amy plays Amy, a writer for a trashy men’s magazine who grew with up a philandering and alcoholic dad (Colin Quinn) who preached his dislike for monogamy to Amy at an early age. Her younger sister (Brie Larson) didn’t get the memo and she’s living a suburban life with her sweater clad husband and stepson with a baby on the way. It’s an alien existence to Amy, who relishes her sexual freedom. She’s Daddy’s girl for certain.

An unwanted writing assignment gives her the task of profiling sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader), medic to superstar athletes including his best bud Lebron James. Amy knows little about his field but soon does what she normally does and her one night stand with Aaron turns into something more. The two enter into a couple territory which petrifies her. He’s ready for it.

What follows is a pic that reverses the typical roles we’re used to seeing in the genre. Amy is more like the dude in this situation. Before her interaction with Aaron turns steady, this allows for some raunchy humor that we expect from the star and the director. A scene of dirty talk gone wrong with a Hulk like beau played by John Cena is a prime example.

Trainwreck, however, is often more serious than the trailers suggest. The subplots involving Amy’s family are treated with some somber undertones. A scene involving our central character at a funeral is wonderfully written and provides that aforementioned evidence of Schumer’s acting skills beyond  her ability to make us laugh.

The pic also provides more proof that Hader is a truly gifted performer and his chemistry with his costar is on point. Their union seems wholly believable and that’s a factor that’s sunk plenty of rom coms that fail. Not here at all.

Tilda Swinton is nearly unrecognizable as Amy’s shallow boss and she is given some amusing material to work with. The casting of Lebron could’ve felt purely like a gimmick, but his exaggerated version of playing himself (as a caring and sensitive cheapskate) is a trip.

This is ultimately Amy’s show though. Her screenplay’s mix of bawdiness with emotional substance usually plays well. There are times when the flaws of Apatow’s filmography creep in. Mainly, it could have certainly been about 20 minutes shorter (a staple with Judd). There’s also a bizarre film within a film displayed a couple times with Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei that adds nothing.

Where Trainwreck so often works is showcasing the real talent (in front of the camera and on the page) of its star. Schumer is satirizing the genre and also celebrating it, especially as it nears its conclusion. Like her relationship with Aaron, Trainwreck is a little bit messy. Like the character she plays, Trainwreck lacks a little bit of focus. It’s worth it in the end I must say. That applies to the union of our two lead cast members and the movie itself.

*** (out of four)

Pixels Box Office Prediction

It may have plenty of recognizable human stars like Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad, but Pixels box office success will likely rest with its other costars. That would be Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders, and many other characters from the iconic video games of many years past.

The Columbia Pictures release comes from director Chris Columbus (who made the first two Home Alone and Harry Potter pics and Mrs. Doubtfire) and has the fascinating premise of bringing the aforementioned arcade heroes and villains to life as they crash Earth. Pixels comes with a hefty reported budget of $110 million and has been very heavily advertised in recent weeks.

Sandler’s recent history at the multiplex has been mixed. This decade, the Grown Ups flicks have performed well, but there’s been flops such as That’s My Boy and last summer’s Blended. Yet, as mentioned, Mr. Sandler is not the main draw here. The film does give him a highly legit shot at his personal best premiere.

Pixels will rely greatly on moviegoers curious to see their favorite game creatures populate the silver screen and also hope to bring in youngsters who have no clue what an arcade really was. As I see it, there’s a pretty wide range for how this could perform. At worst, it could flop in the mid 20s and struggle to make its budget stateside. The ceiling for this could be as high as $60 million out of the gate if its robust marketing campaign succeeds. The competition for family audience is there – Minions will be in its third weekend with Ant-Man in its second and that could be a factor if it under performs.

I believe Pixels will post a solid opening and manage to become Sandler’s largest debut ever, just edging out his 2005 comedy The Longest Yard which made $47.6 million. How it holds up in subsequent weekends with largely be determined by the word of mouth, which is an unknown currently.

Pixels opening weekend prediction: $49 million

For my Paper Towns prediction, click here:

For my Southpaw prediction, click here:

Summer 2005: The Top Ten Hits and More

Last week on the blog, we took a trip down nostalgia lane recounting the top ten summer movies from 20 years ago and other notable pictures and flops from that season. This evening, we go back a decade and have a look at what had moviegoers buzzing way back in 2005.

That summer’s top hit was the one we expected it to be as it marked the end of one trilogy that was considered disappointing. Yet it’s a performer in the middle of the pack that started one of the most beloved recent trilogies in recent film history.

Let’s go back in time, my friends:

10. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Domestic Gross: $109 million

As Judd Apatow prepares to release his fifth feature with Trainwreck on Friday, this is where it started with him as this critically acclaimed comedy rocketed Steve Carell into movie stardom.

9. Fantastic Four

Domestic Gross: $154 million

Critics may not have dug it (27% on Rotten Tomatoes) but the adaptation of the famed Marvel Comic with Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis scored with audiences enough to warrant a 2007 sequel. A new franchise reboot hits theaters this August.

8. The Longest Yard

Domestic Gross: $158 million

Adam Sandler took over the Burt Reynolds role in this remake of the 1974 prison football comedy with Chris Rock and Reynolds himself costarring.

7. Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Domestic Gross: $186 million

The action comedy from director Doug Liman earned plenty of headlines due to the real life romance between stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and hefty box office came along with it. The couple will reunite onscreen again in this fall’s By the Sea. 

6. Madagascar

Domestic Gross: $193 million

With no Pixar film on the docket, Dreamworks Madagascar was the top animated feature of the summer and has since spawned two sequels and a spin-off.

5. Batman Begins

Domestic Gross: $205 million

It’s hard to remember now, but Chris Nolan’s reboot of the Dark Knight’s world did quite well, but wasn’t a mega ton blockbuster like its 2008 and 2012 sequels would be. Still, it immediately wiped the bad taste out of the mouth of audiences left by Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin from eight summers ago. Of course, this began the trilogy that has become the gold standard in superhero flicks.

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Tim Burton’s retelling of Roald Dahl’s classic book starred Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. It may not have the beloved status as 1971’s offering with Gene Wilder, but it made the studio very happy with its massive earnings.

3. Wedding Crashers

Domestic Gross: $209 million

The sleeper hit of the season paired Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and helped invigorate (along with #10 Virgin) the R-rated comedy. The two would appear again in the considerably less successful The Internship eight years later.

2. War of the Worlds

Domestic Gross: $234 million

Steven Spielberg directed Tom Cruise in this version of H.G. Wells renowned sci-fi novel and crowds turned out in droves so much that it’s Mr. Cruise’s highest grossing domestic earner of all time.

1. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Domestic Gross: $380 million

Sith easily took the crown for the summer’s champion and it concluded George Lucas’s second trilogy that received mixed reactions from critics and audiences… and that’s putting it kindly. This third episode is widely considered an improvement over Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Of course, we’ll see what JJ Abrams manages to do this December when Episode 7 is released… in case you hadn’t heard.

And now, some other notable pictures outside the top ten:

13. March of the Penguins

Domestic Gross: $77 million

This little French documentary that could astonished box office watchers with its magnificent stateside gross. Bottom line: people dig penguins.

18. Cinderella Man

Domestic Gross: $61 million

Critics mostly lauded Ron Howard’s Depression era boxing tale with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellwegger, but it under performed at the box office at the time of its release (not quite enough to put it in the total flop column though).

20. Crash

Domestic Gross: $54 million

Paul Haggis’s L.A. set racial drama came out of nowhere to score solid business. It went on to win Best Picture, which was a surprise over front runner Brokeback Mountain, which came out in the fall.

And now for the flops…

Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell headlined Nora Ephron’s Bewitched, based on the 1960s TV comedy. Audiences and critics reacted with ambivalence and the $85 million budgeted pic managed just $63 million domestically.

Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom captured none of the director’s Gladiator magic and it earned $47 million against its reported $130 million budget.

Michael Bay had found huge success with the Bad Boys movies, The Rock, and Armageddon, but his science fiction tale The Island with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson sputtered with a mere $35 million (rumored budget: $126M).

And, finally, Jamie Foxx was coming off Oscar glory in Ray but his action thriller Stealth was grounded with a $32 million gross against its $76M budget.

And that’ll do it, ladies and gentlemen, for our look back at the summer offerings of 2005. I hope you enjoyed and rest assured you’ll see posts next summer tapping our nostalgia for 1996 and 2006!

Box Office Predictions: July 17-19

Two new pictures look to make waves at the box office when they open this weekend: Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Judd Apatow directed Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck. You can read my detailed individual prediction posts on each here:

Ant-Man has a wide range of possibility for how it opens out of the gate. If it debuts on the low end of expectations (mid 5os), it could find itself playing runner-up to the second weekend of Minions. However, my projection has it reaching #1 fairly easily.

Minions could see its sophomore frame lose about half its audience after the massive premiere it achieved over the weekend. That should leave the critically acclaimed Trainwreck in third place with a projected healthy opening in line with what Bridesmaids accomplished four summers ago.

Blockbuster leftovers Jurassic World and Inside Out should round out the top five.

And with that, my top five projections for the weekend:

1. Ant-Man

Predicted Gross: $73.3 million

2. Minions

Predicted Gross: $56.9 million (representing a drop of 50%)

3. Trainwreck

Predicted Gross: $27.8 million

4. Jurassic World

Predicted Gross: $11.1 million (representing a drop of 39%)

5. Inside Out

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million (representing a drop of 40%)

Box Office Results (July 10-12)

As mentioned, the animated Despicable Me franchise spin-off Minions rocked the charts with $115.7 million, making it the second largest animated feature debut of all time (after Shrek the Third‘s $121.6M). This is well above my $96.4M prediction and finds this series in wonderful shape as it bodes very well for Despicable Me 3 in the summer of 2017.

Jurassic World was second with $18.1 million, edging my $16.3M estimate. The dino phenomenon stands at $590M domestically, good for fourth all time. Pixar’s Inside Out took third with $17.6 million, in line with my $17.3M projection and its total is at $284M.

In its second weekend, Terminator Genisys was fourth with $13.8 million, on target with my $14.5M projection. It’s made a middling $68M so far.

Horror flick The Gallows opened in fifth with a so-so $9.8 million, a touch above my $8.9M estimate while Magic Mike XXL was sixth in its sophomore engagement with $9.5 million, holding up considerably better than my $5.8M prediction. The sequel has taken in a less than expected $48M.

Finally, the Ryan Reynolds action thriller Self/less stumbled with an 8th place showing at just $5.4 million, well under my $9.7M prediction.

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

Ted 2 Movie Review

Like many comedy sequels before it, Ted 2 often has a troubling time justifying its own existence. Seth MacFarlane’s follow-up to his wildly successful 2012 hit finds the director a bit more unshackled with choreographed musical numbers and more abundant political humor. This doesn’t achieve the effect of making this more funny. To go down a cliched road, Ted 2 is bearable but struggles a bit to come to life.

When we open, Ted is tying the knot with girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and things are going smoothly in the talking bear’s world. Not so much for Johnny (Mark Wahlberg), who’s down on his luck after divorcing Lori (Mila Kunis, who doesn’t appear). Within a year, Ted and Tami-Lynn are fighting and they figure a solution to their problems may be a baby. Since Ted is anatomically challenged in that area, adoption comes into play and after Tom Brady humorously rejects the notion of being a sperm donor, it’s left to Ted’s longtime friend. It all leads down a dangerous road where Ted is eventually deemed not to be a person by the state and this is where our main characters enlist new lawyer and pothead Sam (Amanda Seyfried) to help.

Ted 2 clumsily draws comparisons of Ted’s plight to that of gays and African Americans. We expect nothing less from MacFarlane than seriously un-PC comedy, yet these jokes fall flat more frequently than they hit. In fact, nearly everything here just simply cannot match the freshness of the original. Returning characters like the Ted obsessed Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and Sam Jones (Flash Gordon if you recall) aren’t granted moments as uproarious as we’ve seen before. Whereas the relationship of Johnny and Lori was a strength in Ted, the forced romance between Johnny and Sam adds little.

Even with all those negatives, like a middling Family Guy episode, there are genuine laughs to be had. Many are throwaway lines and sight gags and MacFarlane and his cowriters Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild are too talented not to have some of the material succeed. Certain celeb cameos work more than others – Liam Neeson’s is a trip. There’s also smile inducing references to 80s genre classics of the past including The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And Morgan Freeman (as a top civil rights lawyer) is put to decent use mainly due to his voice, as Ted aptly points out when they meet.

As I began though, the sequels that populate film comedy usually can’t match what made its predecessor special. That holds true here and its occasionally preachy overtones don’t help. Ted 2 made this big admirer of the original sometimes happy, but not enough to warrant its second life on the screen.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Brooklyn

When John Crowley’s period piece immigration drama Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it quickly vaulted itself into the world of Oscar buzz. This holds especially true for its star Saoirse Ronan, who plays a 1950s Irish woman who travels to that titled burrow and finds romance with an Italian (Emory Cohen, whose performance is also receiving kudos). Domnhall Gleeson and Jim Broadbent are among the costars but it’s the other female cast member, Julie Walters, who’s also meriting Academy nod talk in the Supporting Actress race.

If Ronan were to find herself in the Actress mix, it would be her first recognition in that category, though she did pick up a Supporting Actress nomination for 2007’s Atonement. The pic appears to be somewhat similar in plot to Jim Sheridan’s 2003 acclaimed In America, which received nods for Screenplay, Actress (Samantha Morton) and Supporting Actor (Djimon Hounsou).

Early reviews are glowing (it’s at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Brooklyn appears likely at this juncture to be a player in the Best Picture derby with Ronan seeming like a lock. The film premieres stateside on November 6.

Trainwreck Box Office Prediction

Comedies from Spy to Entourage to Ted 2 have yet to become the breakout entry in the genre this summer and next Friday, Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck will throw its hat in the ring. The prospects for it are rather promising as the director has had a sterling track record in helping kick start the film careers of Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, and Kristin Wiig.

Trainwreck is the first major starring role for Amy Schumer, the popular standup who’s enjoyed critical acclaim with her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer”. The pic has an eclectic supporting cast that includes Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, John Cena, and, in his first movie role, NBA superstar Lebron James.

The early word is extremely positive and Trainwreck currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Looking over Apatow’s directorial resume, it would seem to stand a shot at earning his all-time record opening. In order to accomplish that, it’d need to surpass the $30.6 million made by Knocked Up eight summers ago. This is one comedy that could succeed in bringing in a male and female audience (on the male side, it probably doesn’t hurt that the pic was advertised heavily during the NBA Finals, when Mr. James was playing).

Ultimately, I think it will fall a bit short of Apatow’s best debut and open more in line with the Judd produced Bridesmaids, which took in $26.2M in the summer of 2011. Like that, this should do for Schumer what Bridesmaids did for Wiig – herald the announcement of a new comedic force on the silver screen.

Trainwreck opening weekend prediction: $27.8 million

For my Ant-Man prediction, click here:

Ant-Man Box Office Prediction

Next Friday, the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is unveiled as Ant-Man makes its debut. Unlike some of the more recent entries like the Avengers and Captain America and Thor sequels, there is uncertainty as to how well this one will perform.

The title character (played by Paul Rudd) is certainly not one of the better known comic book heroes in Marvel lore and the film is said to be more comedic than anything previously contained in the MCU. It’s also said to feel smaller in scale than what we’re used to, especially compared to the gargantuan scope of the Ultron pic from two months ago. With that said, early reviews have been mostly solid and it stands at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics have noted it should be an audience pleaser.

Peyton Reed directs with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly backing up Rudd in the supporting cast. Ant-Man will attempt to bring in both action fans and families as the studio has done with these pictures on an amazingly consistent basis. In some ways, Ant-Man has some similarities to last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Its box office prospects was met with skepticism for quite a while with some of the same complaints lobbed at it. Too light, too comedic, not enough name recognition for the property. That’s until Guardians picked up scorching word of mouth prior to its release and the result was it became last summer’s biggest grosser.

It would be rather shocking to see Ant-Man approach the $94 million roll out that Guardians enjoyed. There could be a wide range for how this opens. It could exceed projections and see low to mid 80s or it could compete with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk’s $55 million opening for lowest start to any pic in the MCU.

My gut says the more probable scenario is Ant-Man just managing to outdo the premieres of two other Marvel franchise openers, 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, which both made $65 million out of the gate. That puts my estimate in the low to mid 70s, which would be considered a very nice beginning for this next potential franchise.

Ant-Man opening weekend prediction: $73.3 million

For my Trainwreck prediction, click here:

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 2005: A Look Back

We’ve arrived at day three of my look back at the top 10 Billboard Summer Songs from the past 30 years, 20 years and tonight – from 10 years ago. If you missed my first two posts, they should be linked at the bottom of this here post. As with the previous entries, I’ll offer my thoughts on each track on a scale of 1 (summertime blues) to 10 (summertime classic). And I’ll reveal the all important answer as to whether said song is on my iTunes.

Let’s get to it with the ten most listened to songs of summer 2005:

10. “You and Me” by Lifehouse

OK, the list isn’t starting out so well. I’ve never been a fan of this band and “You and Me” (which I had completely forgotten about) didn’t change that. Listless and dull pop rock.

My Rating: 3

Is It On My iTunes? No

9. “Let Me Hold You” by Bow Wow featuring Omarion

The Columbus based rapper dropped the Lil from his name and entered grown folks territory with this R&B flavored ditty that samples Luther Vandross. It’s a perfectly passable radio diversion that is easily forgotten.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes? No

8. “Just a Lil Bit” by 50 Cent

Two years prior, 50 had a hip hop classic with “In Da Club”. This one isn’t close to that classic but it’s a pretty good effort from Mr. Cent.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

7. “Lose Control” by Missy Elliot featuring Ciara and Fat Man Scoop

Now we’re getting somewhere! This is a genuine club banger from Missy and her brilliant producer Timbaland. Sounds as fresh today as it did a decade ago.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

6. “Pon De Replay” by Rihanna

This is how it all started for superstar Rihanna and her debut single is a reggae influenced dancehall jam. Even better work would follow, but this was a nice start.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

5. “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” by The Black Eyed Peas

The first single off their album Monkey Business, “Phunk” employs the sound we’ve come to expect from BEP. It’s goes down well and is easy to dance to, but this is not among their very best work.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My iTunes? No

4. “Behind These Hazel Eyes” by Kelly Clarkson

The inaugural American Idol champion followed up the massive “Since U Been Gone” with another tailor made hit to belt out alone in the car and only feel slightly guilty about it.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

3. “Don’t Cha” by The Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes

The group may have been manufactured but this single is a pop gem with a rap assist by Busta Rhymes that came from producer Cee-Lo Green.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? No, but it should be

2. “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani

You might have grown sick of it, but this Pharrell produced infectious groove was a monster hit for a reason. It’s impossible to forget, especially that addictive chorus from No Doubt’s lead singer.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

1. “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey

It was a juggernaut of a song and a major comeback for Miss Mariah. It’s a slow tempo and simply produced track and there’s nothing really wrong with it, but it’s far from one of my favorite tunes from her.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

And there you have it! The summer songs of 2005. I hope you enjoyed reading my throwback look back at the seasonal hits of 1985, 1995 and 2005.