Oscar Watch: The Walk

Opening today in limited IMAX release is Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, which recounts the true life tale of French high wire artist Philippe Petit’s adventures walking across the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center over 40 years ago. The pic had its premiere last week at the New York Film Festival and it certainly has its admirers (to the tune of a solid 84% on Rotten Tomatoes). Could it be a factor in the Oscar race?

The answer: doubtful. While reviews have been mostly positive, they haven’t been over the moon and many critics have said the film is only really worth it for a thrilling last forty minutes or so. As the lead, Joseph Gordon Levitt has gotten fine notices but appears to be a long shot in the Best Actor race. It’s worth noting that Gordon Levitt was once seen as a potential double threat for a nod in 2015 until his title performance in Oliver Stone’s Snowden was pushed to 2016. Supporting players Ben Kingsley and James Badge Dale appear unlikely to be factors.

Even with reviewers praising the directorial effort of Zemeckis (who won in 1994 for Forrest Gump), his nomination seems improbable. If the movie itself becomes a runaway hit, it could sneak into Best Picture but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Two areas where The Walk could garner notice is in Visual Effects and Cinematography, yet those races are bound to be crowded as well.

Bottom line: at this time, I wouldn’t list The Walk as much of a threat for Academy attention, but it could always be subject to change.

Box Office Predictions: October 2-4

Two new adult themed titles compete against the second weekend of the record setting animated pic Hotel Transylvania 2. They are the Ridley Scott sci fi pic The Martian with Matt Damon and border crime thriller Sicario, which has earned great reviews and expands nationwide after a stellar limited release. You can peruse my detailed individual prediction posts on each here:



The Martian shouldn’t have much trouble opening #1, though my prediction is a bit below what some other prognosticators have it pegged at. I don’t believe it’ll reach the September record that the Transylvania sequel just set, but you never know (more on that below).

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Transylvania 2 should drop to second with all other holdovers dipping in the low to mid 40s range. That could mean a close competition for the five spot between Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Everest while the Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro comedy The Intern should have fourth to itself.

That means I’m predicting Sicario will open third in its expanded roll out.

And with that, a top six predictions for this weekend:

  1. The Martian

Predicted Gross: $40.3 million

2. Hotel Transylvania 2 

Predicted Gross: $26.2 million (representing a drop of 45%)

3. Sicario

Predicted Gross: $13 million

4. The Intern

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

5. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Predicted Gross: $8.2 million (representing a drop of 44%)

6. Everest

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million (representing a drop of 42%)

Box Office Results (September 25-27)

As mentioned, the Adam Sandler animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 beat its own predecessor’s record for the biggest September debut in box office history. I incorrectly had it grossing less out of the gate than the original three years ago, but it took in a terrific $47.5 million, blasting past my $34.1M estimate.

The Intern had a stellar debut with $17.7 million, a bit under my $19 million prediction and represents a nice mid size hit for Ms. Hathaway and Mr. De Niro.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials dipped to third in its second weekend with $14.2 million, a little under my $16.1M prediction and the YA sequel stands at $51 million.

The mountain climbing action thriller Everest expanded nationally and posted results that were less than expected. It earned $13.2 million, below my $17.6M estimate.

Johnny Depp’s Black Mass rounded out the top five in weekend #2 with $11 million, under my $13.5M forecast. Its two week total is at $42 million.

Finally, Eli Roth’s long delayed horror flick The Green Inferno opened in ninth place with just $3.5 million – though it did exceed my $2.5M prediction.

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

Sicario Box Office Prediction

After a successful limited run in theaters and following very positive buzz stemming from the film festival circuit, the border crime thriller Sicario expands nationwide this Friday. From Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve, the acclaimed pic stars Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. As mentioned, reviews have been strong and it currently sits at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s even some Oscar buzz going for it and there’s already been a spin-off film greenlit based on del Toro’s character.

While all these signs are encouraging, there will be serious competition from Ridley Scott’s The Martian for adult moviegoers and it’s an open question as to how well Sicario performs when it ventures out of larger metro markets.

I believe a debut is most likely in the low to mid teens and the pic could perform well with minor declines in subsequent weekends.

Sicario opening weekend prediction: $13 million

For my prediction on The Martian, click here:


The Martian Box Office Prediction

Director Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about making science fiction movies and this Friday, The Martian is his latest. The lost in space pic is riding a wave of solid buzz (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and its all star cast includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

With a reported $108 million budget, 20th Century Fox is hoping for robust results. It should have no issue opening atop the charts, but how high it goes is an open question. For comparison sake, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity debuted to $55 million on the same weekend two years ago. Last year’s similarly themed Interstellar took in $47 million out of the gate. Scott’s last sci fi effort Prometheus made $51 million in the summer of 2012 for its start. Damon’s previous genre pic Elysium premiered to $29 million in August 2013.

That’s a rather wide range of grosses for The Martian to open in. I’m skeptical that it tops $50 million, though its positive reviews don’t hurt. I also don’t believe it’ll gross as low as Elysium did as that film’s buzz was far less solid. Add it all up and I believe the most probable scenario is a premier in the high 30s to low 40s.

The Martian opening weekend prediction: $40.3 million

For my Sicario prediction, click here:


The Maze Runner Movie Review

The Maze Runner is another film that can thank its existence to the YA… Hey, that’s the little kid from Love Actually!!! The one that played Liam Neeson’s son!! The kid that played the drums while his elementary school crush sang Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” and broke numerous airport protocols with the help of Mr. Bean so he could get a kiss on the cheek from her!! Yes, that was my honest first reaction during about the first 15 minutes of this movie as I saw actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grown up. Let it be known: I adore Love Actually and I’m not afraid to say it.

Where were we? Ahh yes. The Maze Runner indeed is another film, like Divergent, that can thank its existence to the recent YA boom made largely popular by the Hunger Games and their movie adaptations. This, too, is based on a popular series of novels by James Dashner and deals with teenagers put in perilous situations where they must learn to work together. We open with 16 year old Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, who was 22 when this was made) waking up in a strange land where he has no recollection of who he is or how he arrived there (and not like a blacked out college kid that drank too much the night before way). The large field he finds himself in has been dubbed The Glade by its inhabitants, who are all also young boys in the same predicament. Including Love Actually dude!! Thomas soon learns that he’s the latest arrival in a series of men that arrive like clockwork every month. They’re surrounded by an enormous maze and the field dwellers have spent considerable time attempting to figure out how to get out of it with no luck.

There are rules in the community. Only men tasked as “runners” are permitted to enter the maze for investigatory purposes. If you don’t make it out by a certain time of day, you’re a dead man and scrawled names on the maze wall serve as their memorial. Thomas is understandably confused but also intrigued and his tenacity to solve the maze riddle is not totally met with approval, especially from Gally played by Will Poulter (the dude who sang TLC’s “Waterfalls” in We’re the Millers). There’s also Alby (Ami Ameen), who’s the resident OG (Original Glader). And Chuck (Blake Cooper), Thomas’s portly sidekick who is basically the community’s Chunk from The Goonies. And then a girl shows up (Kaya Scodelario), who actually knows her name and also seems to know Thomas. She’s not given a whole lot to do and I’m assuming her role becomes more pronounced in the sequels. There’s also that kid from Love Actually!!

Once Thomas and his cohorts enter the maze after he jumps the line to become a Runner, we soon discover it might be the gigantic robot spider creatures (or Grievers) causing a good deal of the problems. These creatures (who frankly look quite CG) contribute to the action sequences, which are handled fairly well but are nothing special or new whatsoever.

Eventually Patricia Clarkson shows up to explain the plot and also because it’s a rule that at least one Oscar nominated actor appear in these pictures, a la Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet. As far as acting is concerned, O’Brien gives a serviceable performance as our lead, but 16? I don’t think so. Poulter stands out a bit, proving he can play a jerk after only knowing him as a virginal sweetie from We’re the Millers. And Love Actually kid is just fine.

Ranking The Maze Runner among the first editions of these YA novel based adaptations is rather simple. It isn’t as good as The Hunger Games but it’s better than Divergent. The plot is somewhat ridiculous once we are apprised of it, but director Wes Ball moves things along and it’s mostly entertaining while it lasts (though it kind of loses steam as it goes along). It sets itself perfectly up for a sequel (which is currently #1 at the box office) and there’s just enough in this original that I’ll likely watch its follow up like I did this one. On the couch and less surprised at seeing that Love Actually drummer boy kid.

**1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: September 25-27

It could be a highly unpredictable weekend at the box office as three new releases come out and another expands wide. We have Adam Sandler’s animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 2, the Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro comedy The Intern, and long delayed Eli Roth horror pic The Green Inferno. Additionally, Everest expands wide after its impressive roll out on a few hundred IMAX screens this past week. You can find my detailed prediction posts on the three newbies here:




As I see it, Transylvania should really have no trouble winning the weekend, though I have it pegged to gross less than its predecessor did three years ago. I also look for The Intern to have a healthy debut just under the $20M range.

The big question mark is Everest. I think the range of grosses for its wide release premiere could be as low as $12 million to as high as the mid-20s range. Ultimately I think it reaches a gross somewhere in the high teens for a third place showing.

The Green Inferno looks like a flop and my $2.5 million estimate for it leaves it well outside the top five.

As for holdovers, current champ Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials should lose close to half its opening audience while Johnny Depp’s Black Mass may not fall quite that far.

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

  1. Hotel Transylvania 2

Predicted Gross: $34.1 million

2. The Intern

Predicted Gross: $19 million

3. Everest

Predicted Gross: $17.6 million

4. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Predicted Gross: $16.1 million (representing a drop of 47%)

5. Black Mass

Predicted Gross: $13.5 million (representing a drop of 41%)

Box Office Results (September 18-20)

YA sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials got off to a commendable start while not reaching the level its predecessor managed a year. Trials earned $30.3 million, a bit below my $33.8M estimate.

Johnny Depp’s acclaimed Whitney Bulger biopic Black Mass (which is earning Oscar buzz for its star) made $22.6 million out of the gate, below my $27.9M prediction. This is still a nice start and I look for it to continue doing well in subsequent weekends.

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit was third in weekend two with $11.5 million, higher than my $9.7M prognostication. The low budget horror title has taken in $42 million so far.

Last weekend’s champ The Perfect Guy dropped to the four spot with $9.6 million, in line with my $10.2M estimate and its two week total stands at $41 million.

The aforementioned Everest was fifth on an IMAX only limited release with $7.2 million, a tad under my $8.6M forecast. Still, its future is looking pretty bright.

Finally, the faith based thriller Captive with David Oyelowo and Kate Mara stalled even worse than I predicted with just $1.3 million for 11th place. I estimated $2.3 million.

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

Oscar Watch: Sicario

This weekend, crime thriller Sicario played on six screens and posted the highest theater per screen average so far in 2015. The film, which stars Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin has been riding on a wave of solid buzz since it debuted on the festival circuit. Sicario comes from director Denis Villeneuve, who made 2013’s acclaimed Prisoners and will soon helm the Blade Runner sequel.

If Sicario continues its impressive box office performance (it opens wide October 2), it could be in the conversation for a Best Picture nomination. The same could be said for Blunt in the Actress race and del Toro (who won in 2000 for Traffic) in Supporting Actor. As has been discussed on this blog before, while Blunt is getting raves – the category of Actress is especially crowded this year and it could hinder her. I would say that as it currently stands, it may be a long shot for any nominations to occur, but it’s certainly a possibility. It also may not hurt that its border patrol theme is in the news a lot thanks to certain Presidential candidates.

Oscar Watch: Truth

One of the more eagerly anticipated titles to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival was James Vanderbilt’s Truth. The pic focuses on the controversy that enveloped CBS newsman Dan Rather and his reporting of President George W. Bush’s National Guard service during the 2004 election. Robert Redford plays Rather with Cate Blanchett playing his producer. Costars include Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Elisabeth Moss.

After its festival debut, reviews were mostly positive and it currently sits at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Having said that, Truth probably didn’t break out enough to gain major awards traction. Redford is a long shot to be in the mix for Best Actor and while Blanchett earned strong notices, she’ll most likely be a player in the lead actress category for Carol and not this.

So while Truth didn’t crash and burn like some other titles did at Toronto, it’s chances of real Oscar attention appears limited at best. It comes out October 16.

The Green Inferno Box Office Prediction

Known mostly for his one two punch of Hostel pics a few years ago, director Eli Roth is back with The Green Inferno, out Friday. The horror title plants a group of student activists in the Amazon where they’re kidnapped and terror ensues. There are no big names among the cast and it comes with a meager $6 million budget.

The small budget should be a silver lining as I don’t expect big results for this. Inferno was originally scheduled to be released a year ago but financial difficulties with its studio held it back. The marketing campaign hasn’t been too strong and lots of horror fans may have gotten their current fill with The Visit.

Debuting on a relatively small 1500 approximate screens, I believe The Green Inferno will flame out and be ready for VOD quite soon.

The Green Inferno opening weekend prediction: $2.5 million

For my Hotel Transylvania 2 prediction, click here:


For my The Intern prediction, click here:


The Intern Box Office Prediction

This Friday, Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro headline the workplace comedy The Intern and in a sea of male driven titles like Black Mass and Everest, this will attempt to break through to a more female audience. It may succeed.

The pic comes from director Nancy Meyers, whose resume includes hits like What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. It marks Hathaway’s return to a genre where she’s seen successes like The Devil Wears Prada. The Intern has been heavily marketed and is probably mostly critic proof (reviews have yet to be released at press time).

While the film will almost certainly have to settle for the runner up spot behind animated kiddie sequel Hotel Transylvania 2, I believe The Intern could potentially debut above $20 million. However, my prediction puts it a bit under that.

The Intern opening weekend prediction: $19 million

For my Hotel Transylvania 2 prediction, click here:


For my The Green Inferno prediction, click here: