The Masked Saint Box Office Prediction

The faith based and sports themed drama The Masked Saint will attempt to bring in Christian audiences when it debuts January 8th. Saint, budgeted at a meager $3.5 million, tells the story of a pro wrestler (Brett Granstaff) turned small town pastor. Costars include Diahann Carroll and the late wrestler Roddy Piper.

Pics of this genre are notoriously difficult to predict and it’s not rare that they come in with larger numbers than anticipated. With that said, this seems to be flying under the radar and even with a decent turnout of the faithful, reaching double digits is likely a stretch. I’ll predict The Masked Saint manages between $3-6 million which should top its budget in three days.

The Masked Saint opening weekend prediction: $4 million

For my The Revenant prediction, click here:

For my The Forest prediction, click here:


The Forest Box Office Prediction

It’s not January without a horror flick offering or two at the box office and The Forest starts it off with its release on January 8th. It stars “Games of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney.

The Forest is set in Japan and the supernatural fright fest will attempt to bring in genre fans. It could be a tall order. Those looking for a violent experience on the silver screen may be preoccupied with The Revenant or the sophomore weekend of The Hateful Eight. This pic’s marketing campaign has done little to set itself apart and a debut above double digits is certainly questionable. I’ll predict it falls just under that mark for a mediocre start.

The Forest opening weekend prediction: $8.7 million

For my The Revenant prediction, click here:

For my The Masked Saint prediction, click here:

The Revenant Box Office Prediction

One year after winning the Directing Oscar for Best Picture winner Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu unleases The Revenant in theaters next Friday and the box office results could be quite impressive. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the 19th century brutal tale of survival (complete with well publicized bear attacks) and the buzz has the actor in line to finally receive his elusive Academy Award. Costars include Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter.

The Revenant looks like a good possibility for its own Picture nomination and reviews have mostly been solid, as it stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has garnered much notice for its reported hellish production shoot. It will need to earn serious money domestically and overseas with a budget of around $135 million.

The marketing campaign for The Revenant has been strong and Leo is one of the few performers who legitimately brings out audiences due to his sterling track record. I suspect this will post an opening gross anywhere from the high 20s to high 30s and if it over performed, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to me.

The Revenant opening weekend prediction: $33.2 million

For my The Forest prediction, click here:

For my The Masked Saint prediction, click here:

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino’s “worst” picture is far better than most director’s best pictures and so it is with The Hateful Eight, his 8th effort (if you count the two Kill Bill’s as one). Incorporating aspects of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and a little Django Unchained and Kill Bill for good measure, Eight finally gave me a Quentin experience that I wouldn’t award four stars. That doesn’t mean it isn’t well worth the time – far from it. It just means it can’t quite measure up to what he’s given us for the last two decades plus.

The Hateful Eight could be a stage play and it wouldn’t surprise if it is someday. The pic takes place almost exclusively in a stagecoach and in a lodge known as Minnie’s Haberdashery sometime shortly after the Civil War. The stagecoach holds John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her execution in nearby Red Rock, Wyoming. Along the way they pick up company: bounty hunter and possible war hero Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and former Confederate militia man Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Ruth is dubious of their separate appearances along the journey for two reasons: a nasty blizzard is approaching and there’s a $10,000 bounty on Daisy’s demented head. Nevertheless, they make it to the aforementioned Minnie’s where the owner is nowhere to be found. Instead, they find an old Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a Mexican (Demian Bichir) tasked with looking after the lodge, a mysterious cowboy (Michael Madsen) who claims he’s headed home for Christmas, and the man (Tim Roth) who just happens to the one that’s supposed to hang Daisy in a couple of days.

Inclement weather bounds these eight souls (and a couple more) together at Minnie’s and we soon learn that no one may be who they say they are. It sets up a nearly three hour mystery where the character’s motivations are constantly examined and reexamined. And in a true QT style, there are long monologues by the principles outlining their pasts and what they see going down in the future – with Jackson’s Warren often getting the juiciest and filthiest dialogue. Those of us (like me) who have truly loved the writer/director’s screenplays will relish so much here. We have an abundance of wicked humor mixed with menace. And those of us who cherish his stylized violence will find it in plentiful supply in spots. Heads explode as they should in this man’s oeuvre.

Tarantino knows better than most directors the importance of casting and he uses his company of regulars including Jackson, Roth, Madsen, and Russell (who gave one of the performances of his career in Quentin’s Death Proof) to fine effect. Yet it’s Goggins (who had a smaller role in Django Unchained) and Leigh who pretty much steal the proceedings. They are the characters among the eight whom you may find yourself thinking of the most when the lights come up.

As mentioned, the primarily claustrophobic proceedings are sometimes offset by glorious shots of the Western landscape courtesy of impeccable camerawork by Robert Richardson. There’s also a terrific Ennio Morricone score to boot (we also expect amazing music in QT’s pics and it’s here). The Hateful Eight is divided into chapters just as in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. There’s time shifting like we’ve seen in many of his works. And for the first time, every once in a while it feels like a Tarantino “greatest hits” instead of a singular great movie. Most of the time, it just feels great for fans like me that put him on a higher pedestal than his contemporaries. There’s a reason for it. He deserves it. It may have taken 22 years for me to downgrade one of his pictures from four stars to something slightly less, but Quentin Tarantino and his dialogue are still a bloody treat.

***1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: January 1-3

2016 should come in just as 2015 went out with Star Wars: The Force Awakens continuing its historic record breaking run all over the globe. As I see it, I look for its third weekend to hover right around the $100M mark as it blasts forward with becoming the highest grossing domestic earner of all time.

The big opening this weekend is Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which debuted in limited release to scorching results. I look for it to come close to $30M over the three day weekend and reach mid 30s for its five day haul (it premieres wide on Wednesday), which should be enough to edge out the second weekend of Daddy’s Home. You can read my detailed prediction post on it here:

There are a host of Christmas holdovers in their second and third frames which should dominate the rest of the Top Ten (without November’s Hunger Games likely rounding out the list). The New Year’s weekend usually sees Christmas products experiencing smallish declines and this year should be no different. Point Break is likely to see the heftiest fall while I anticipate good holds for Joy, Concussion, and The Big Short.

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

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Predicted Gross: $98.7 million (representing a drop of 33%)

2. The Hateful Eight

Predicted Gross: $29.2 million

3. Daddy’s Home

Predicted Gross: $25.9 million (representing a drop of 33%)

4. Joy

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million (representing a drop of 37%)

5. Sisters

Predicted Gross: $9.2 million (representing a drop of 35%)

6. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Predicted Gross: $9.1 million (representing a drop of 30%)

7. Concussion 

Predicted Gross: $8.6 million (representing a drop of 22%)

8. The Big Short

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million (representing a drop of 26%)

9. Point Break 

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million (representing a drop of 47%)

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million (representing a drop of 30%)

Box Office Results (December 25-27)

The Christmas holiday produced great results (and mediocre ones) for some newbies while Star Wars: The Force Awakens continued its domination and became the fastest pic to gross a billion dollars worldwide. Awakens took in $149.2 million, in line with my $151.6M estimate for a ten day domestic total of $540M. It looks to extend its #1 streak next weekend and beyond.

While the billion $ Star Wars action deservedly got the most press, the other big story of the weekend is the terrific performance of the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy Daddy’s Home. Despite lackluster reviews, Home scored with $38.7 million, more than doubling my meager $16.5M prediction.

Jennifer Lawrence and her go to director David O. Russell scored a decent opening with Joy. It placed third with $17 million, above my $14.9M projection. The comedic drama, which got mixed reviews, is highly unlikely to reach the grosses of the star and director’s previous outings, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

The Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters actually increased its gross during its sophomore weekend with $14.1 million for fourth, ahead of my $10.4M projection for a nice total of $37M. The other flick in its second weekend, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip placed fifth with $13.1 million, not matching my $16.7M estimate. It’s earned an OK $39M and looks to come in well below its three predecessors in the animated rodent franchise.

Will Smith experienced the worst wide opening of his career with the NFL themed Concussion at $11 million for sixth place, under my $13.8M projection. However, an A Cinemascore grade could portend low declines in coming weekends.

Adam McKay’s critically acclaimed Oscar hopeful The Big Short got off to a robust start at seventh place in wide release with $10.5 million over the three day weekend and $14.5 million since its Wednesday roll out (outshining my projections of $8.1M and $10.6M, respectively).

In eighth, action remake Point Break posted the lowest of the newbies with just $10.2 million, a bit under my $11M prediction. Look for it to fade fast.

Ninth place belonged to the sixth weekend of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 with $5.2 million (under my $6.5M estimate) for a total of $264M.

I didn’t post a prediction for the limited release of The Hateful Eight, but it managed to crack the top ten with $4.6 million for an explosive per screen average of $46K on just 100 screens. That bodes well for its wide release on Wednesday.

The emergence of Tarantino’s latest pushed Creed and The Good Dinosaur to 11th and 12th place showings. Creed took in $4.6 million (I said $5.8M) for earnings of $96M. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur made $3.7 million (I predicted $4.9M) for a total of just $105M. To put that in perspective, Dinosaur has made just $105M at press time. The current lowest overall grosser of Pixar’s 16 offerings is 1998’s A Bug’s Life at $162M at that was 17 years ago when ticket prices were considerably less. Dinosaur will be lucky to reach $120M. Ouch.

And that’ll do it for now, folks! Until next time and next year with brand spanking new 2016 box office predictions…

Sicario Movie Review

Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario gives us a trifecta of characters who firmly believe they are doing what is right when it comes to our country’s war on drugs. They are frequently diverging opinions yet this is a picture smart enough to let the audience decide who is right. It’s also a technical masterpiece with its direction and screenplay sometimes reaching close to that level.

Meaning “hitman” in Spanish, Sicario plucks FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) from her current stateside activities to teaming with shadowy government officials (CIA?) to combat the brutal Mexican drug cartels. She believes her work in our borders isn’t making much of a difference and the prospect of this new venture is enticing. Kate is soon introduced to the cocky Matt (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), who head up a squad that also consists of military operatives who’ve seen action in the Middle East. The team is tasked with obtaining results and Kate and her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) soon learn just how far they’ll go to get them. Kate serves as the film’s moral compass in many ways, but Matt and Alejandro’s reasonings are not without merit. As they see it, nothing they do can possibly compare to the vicious acts of those they hunt and the end justifies the means.

As Sicario unfolds, we are witness to some brutal violence that is quick, realistic, and not at all glamorized. Viewers who have watched Villeneuve’s previous effort, 2013’s Prisoners, should know what they’re in for. With much credit to cinematographer Roger Deakins, this includes some startling set pieces including a showdown at the US/Mexican border that is intensely breathtaking. Even a convoy ride through Juarez is hair raising. There’s another sequence in an underground tunnel that is a triumph of camera work and lighting.

Taylor Sheridan’s script is not overly concerned with character development and we don’t know much about its lead subjects. Blunt is able to fashion her determined and lonely agent into a fascinating individual. We may have some trouble at first accepting the notion that her character would be placed in the situation she’s in, but this material is solid enough that I quickly forgave that. del Toro elevates his role into something even more special. His mysterious character’s motivations are revealed slowly to the audience and the screenplay smartly develops him this way to maximum effect. He’s not a man who wastes words and you hang on the ones he expresses. In many ways, Brolin has the least to work with but his swagger along with occasionally needed humor provide a bit of levity.

We have seen Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 pic Traffic take a more expansive look at this subject (it also earned Mr. del Toro a Supporting Actor Oscar). Sicario is more limited in its approach, but that does not take away from its power. Villeneuve and company know this war on drugs is complex at best and not winnable at worst. The primary trio here are working their way through it. Some have their tunnel vision set while another is attempting to make sense of it all.

***1/2 (out of four)

Daddy’s Home Movie Review

Daddy’s Home, the second teaming of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, is perfectly content to coast on its own innocuous brand of humor. This PG-13 laugher from a director and stars often known for R rated material takes its simple premise and often manages to squeeze the most out of it. That’s not saying a whole lot, but if you want a watered down and passable experience this holiday season, you could do worse.

The pic pits step dad vs. real dad as Ferrell’s Brad is a committed yet overly emotional radio executive raising two precocious kids with his wife (Linda Cardellini). He’s making headway with them in the step dad department until biological pop Dusty (Wahlberg) enters the picture. Dusty is a careless muscle bound character (who might be Special Forces) who still cares for his children at least as much as his abs. In fact, there are times when Brad reminds chiseled Dusty to put a shirt on, just like Steve Carell admonished him in Date Night. Soon our two leads are competing for their affection with ponies, playoff tickets to Lakers games (quite an unrealistic prospect currently), and tricked out tree houses with corporate sponsors.

Nothing in Daddy’s Home has much edge to it, even when it seems to be trying. We get supporting players like Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s sleazy boss and comic Hannibal Buress as a handy man who takes Dusty’s side in the dad wars. Both might’ve been more fun in a movie that wanted to push the envelope but that’s not what we have here.

Instead, Daddy’s Home drifts on the personality traits of Ferrell and Wahlberg that we usually see in their comedies. Director Sean Anders and his cowriters have no real fascination with exploring any real issues involved with absentee dads or the step fathers that coddle them. That screenplay frequently has the actors doing things that only make sense to move things along (Cardellini’s emotions in particular often veer wildly from segment to segment). The humor is wrung out of the opposite effect of what these two guys look like without their shirts on. Some of this material is undeniably amusing and often rather bland. The leads elevate it about as high as it can get.

When I think of Ferrell and Wahlberg together on the silver screen, it’ll be 2010’s raucous and quite hilarious The Other Guys that springs to mind. Daddy’s Home is the Other Movie, but it isn’t bad.

**1/2 (out of four)


Todd’s Weekly Oscar Predictions: December 25th Edition

Merry Christmas, loyal blog readers! As you may know, I am know providing weekly Oscar predictions in all the categories with the exception of Foreign, Documentary, and Animated Short Subject as we draw closer to the actual nominations being released in January. Each week you can read what’s changed and the altering of ranking provisions for what and who I believe will get nods for the best of 2015.

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

  1. Spotlight (No Change)
  2. Room (+1)
  3. Carol (+2)
  4. The Revenant (-2)
  5. The Big Short (+4)
  6. Mad Max: Fury Road (+1)
  7. The Martian (-1)
  8. Brooklyn (-4)
  9. Bridge of Spies (-1)

Other Possibilities:

10. Inside Out (No Change)

11. Straight Outta Compton (+8)

12. The Hateful Eight (-1)

13. Beasts of No Nation (+4)

14. Trumbo (-1)

15. Creed (+5)

16. Steve Jobs (+2)

17. Son of Saul (-3)

18. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (-6)

19. Sicario (-3)

20. The Danish Girl (-5)

DROPPED OUT: Joy, Love and Mercy, Anomalisa


Best Director

  1. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight (No Change)
  2. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road (+1)
  3. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant (-1)
  4. Ridley Scott, The Martian (No Change)
  5. Todd Haynes, Carol (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. Lenny Abrahamson, Room (+1)

7. Adam McKay, The Big Short (+4)

8. Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies (-2)

9. Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight (+1)

10. John Crowley, Brooklyn (-1)

11. Cary Fukanaga, Beasts of No Nation (+5)

12. Ryan Coogler, Creed (+5)

13. Laszlo Nemes, Son of Saul (-1)

14. J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (-6)

15. F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton (Previously Unranked)

DROPPED OUT: Jay Roach (Trumbo), Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs), Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl)


Best Actor

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (No Change)
  2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs (No Change)
  3. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl (No Change)
  4. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo (No Change)
  5. Matt Damon, The Martian (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Johnny Depp, Black Mass (-1)

7. Will Smith, Concussion (No Change)

8. Steve Carell, The Big Short (+4)

9. Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes (-1)

10. Michael Caine, Youth (-2)

11. Michael B. Jordan, Creed (+2)

12. Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies (-2)

13. Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul (-2)

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Damon. OUT: Depp.

Best Actress

  1. Brie Larson, Room (No Change)
  2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn (No Change)
  3. Cate Blanchett, Carol (No Change)
  4. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy (+1)
  5. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road (No Change)

7. Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams (+1)

8. Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back (-1)

9. Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold (-2)

DROPPED OUT: Carey Mulligan (Suffragette), Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van), Lily Tomlin (Grandma)


Best Supporting Actor

  1. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (No Change)
  2. Sylvester Stallone, Creed (+3)
  3. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation (+1)
  4. Christian Bale, The Big Short (+5)
  5. Michael Keaton, Spotlight (-3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Michael Shannon, 99 Homes (No Change)

7. Paul Dano, Love and Mercy (-4)

8. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight (-1)

9. Tom Hardy, The Revenant (-1)

10. Benicio del Toro, Sicario (+1)

11. Jacob Tremblay, Room (-1)


Best Supporting Actress

  1. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl (No Change)
  2. Rooney Mara, Carol (No Change)
  3. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (+1)
  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight (-1)
  5. Helen Mirren, Trumbo (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jane Fonda, Youth (+1)

7. Rachel McAdams, Spotlight (-1)

8. Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria (No Change)

9. Joan Allen, Room (+1)

10. Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy (-1)


Best Original Screenplay

  1. Spotlight (No Change)
  2. Inside Out (No Change)
  3. The Hateful Eight (No Change)
  4. Bridge of Spies (No Change)
  5. Ex Machina (+5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Straight Outta Compton (+5)

7. 99 Homes (+1)

8. Son of Saul (-2)

9. Love and Mercy (-4)

10. Sicario (-1)

11. Youth (+1)

DROPPED OUT: Mad Max: Fury Road (in Adapted Screenplay category), Joy, Trainwreck

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Ex Machina. OUT: Love and Mercy.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Carol (+2)
  2. The Big Short (+2)
  3. Room (-2)
  4. Steve Jobs (+1)
  5. Brooklyn (-3)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Martian (No Change)

7. Beasts of No Nation (+2)

8. Trumbo (-1)

9. The Revenant (-1)

10. Anomalisa (No Change)

11. Mad Max: Fury Road (Previously Unranked)

12. The Danish Girl (-1)

13. Creed (Previously Unranked)


Best Animated Feature

  1. Inside Out (No Change)
  2. Anomalisa (No Change)
  3. Kahlil Gobran’s The Prophet (No Change)
  4. Shaun the Sheep Movie (No Change)
  5. The Peanuts Movie (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Good Dinosaur (-1)

7. When Marnie Was There (No Change)


WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: The Peanuts Movie. OUT: The Good Dinosaur.

Best Cinematography

  1. The Revenant (+1)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (+1)
  3. The Hateful Eight (-2)
  4. Sicario (+1)
  5. Son of Saul (Previously Unranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Martian (-2)

7. Carol (-1)

8. Bridge of Spies (-1)

9. In the Heart of the Sea (Previously Unranked)

DROPPED OUT: The Danish Girl

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Son of Saul. OUT: The Martian

Best Production Design

  1. Carol (No Change)
  2. The Danish Girl (No Change)
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (No Change)
  4. Brooklyn (+3)
  5. Bridge of Spies (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. Cinderella (-2)

7. The Hateful Eight (+2)

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (+2)

9. The Revenant (-3)

10. MacBeth (+1)

11. The Martian (-3)

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Brooklyn. OUT: Cinderella.

Best Editing

  1. Spotlight (No Change)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (No Change)
  3. The Big Short (+1)
  4. The Revenant (-1)
  5. Steve Jobs (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Martian (+1)

7. Bridge of Spies (+1)

8. The Hateful Eight (-2)

9. Room (No Change)

10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Previously Unranked)

Best Costume Design

  1. The Danish Girl (+3)
  2. Carol (-1)
  3. Cinderella (-1)
  4. Brooklyn (-1)
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Suffragette (+1)

7. The Hateful Eight (+2)

8. Far from the Madding Crowd (-3)

9. MacBeth (+1)

10. The Revenant (Previously Unranked)


WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Mad Max: Fury Road. OUT: Far from the Madding Crowd.

Best Makeup and Hairsyling

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (+3)
  2. Carol (No Change)
  3. The Danish Girl (-2)

Other Possibilities:

4. Black Mass (+1)

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (-2)

6. The Revenant (+2)

7. Mr. Holmes (Previously Unranked)

DROPPED OUT: Pan, The Hateful Eight

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Mad Max: Fury Road. OUT: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Best Visual Effects

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (+2)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (-1)
  3. The Martian (-1)
  4. Jurassic World (No Change)
  5. In the Heart of the Sea (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Walk (-1)

7. The Revenant (-1)

8. Ex Machina No Change)

WHAT’S CHANGED – In: In the Heart of the Sea. OUT: The Walk.

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (No Change)
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (+2)
  3. The Revenant (-1)
  4. The Martian (-1)
  5. The Hateful Eight (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sicario (-1)

7. In the Heart of the Sea (+1)

8. Jurassic World (-2)

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (No Change)
  2. The Revenant (No Change)
  3. The Martian (No Change)
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (No Change)
  5. In the Heart of the Sea (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sicario (No Change)

7. The Hateful Eight (No Change)

8. Jurassic World (No Change)


Best Original Score

  1. The Hateful Eight (No Change)
  2. Bridge of Spies (+5)
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (+1)
  4. Carol (-2)
  5. The Danish Girl (No Change)

Other Possibilities:

6. Spotlight (-3)

7. Mad Max: Fury Road (+3)

8. Steve Jobs (Previously Unranked)

9. Inside Out (Previously Unranked)

10. The Revenant (-4)

DROPPED OUT: Sicario, Brooklyn, Southpaw

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: Bridge of Spies. OUT: Spotlight.

Best Original Song

  1. “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground (No Change)
  2. “So Long” from Concussion (+6)
  3. “See You Again” from Furious 7 (-1)
  4. “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey (+1)
  5. “Simple Song #3” from Youth (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey (-3)

7. “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre (-3)

8. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” from I’ll See You In My Dreams (Previously Unranked)

DROPPED OUT: “One Kind of Love” from Love and Mercy

WHAT’S CHANGED – IN: “So Long” and “Simple Song #3”. OUT: “Love Me Like You Do” and “Writing’s on the Wall”

These Christmas Day predictions reflect my current belief in this nomination breakdown:

10 Nominations

Mad Max: Fury Road

9 Nominations


7 Nominations

The Revenant

6 Nominations

The Danish Girl, The Martian

5 Nominations

Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Hateful Eight, Spotlight

4 Nominations

The Big Short, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs

3 Nominations


2 Nominations

Inside Out, In the Heart of the Sea, Son of Saul, Trumbo

1 Nominations

Anomalisa, Kahlil Gobran’s The Prophet, The Peanuts Movie, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Joy, 45 Years, Creed, Beasts of No Nation, Ex Machina, Sicario, Jurassic World, The Hunting Ground, Concussion, Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7, Youth

And there’s my Christmas Day Oscar picks, my friends! The next update will come to you on New Year’s Day…

The Martian Movie Review

Matt Damon waits for one of the longest rides home in film history during Ridley Scott’s The Martian, both a love letter to the space program and the power of science and positive thinking. When we think of director Scott’s contributions to the science fiction genre, we normally think brilliantly grim (Alien, Blade Runner). More recently – mixed bag grim (Prometheus). Not the case here. The Martian is infused with laughter and an often amusing star turn role by its anchor.

We open in 2035 with Damon’s astronaut Mark part of a manned mission to the Red Planet along with colleagues that include the Commander (Jessica Chastain), Kate Mara, and Michael Pena. A massive dust storm wreaks havoc and leaves the crew believing Mark has perished and they are forced to leave the planet without his body. Of course he has survived and so begins Mark’s new solo mission: learning how to survive as the only inhabitant on a planet with little food or other necessities on his left behind vessel. Lucky for him, he’s a brilliant botanist who comes up with clever (sometimes disgusting) ways to harvest food.

NASA soon learns that Mark is alive and this sets off a furious effort to pick him up. This is no easy task to say the least and it involves the question of whether to inform his crew (on their way back to Earth) of his survival. There’s delicate involvement with the Chinese space program. Kristin Wiig (in a small but fascinating role) plays NASA’s media consultant, who must navigate the organization’s own land mines. And there’s the head of NASA, played winningly and by Jeff Daniels. Other familiar faces turning up as government scientists include Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean.

While Mark’s situation seems dire, he handles his circumstances with an often lighthearted touch (and occasional profanity laced tirade to his bosses). The Martian goes out of its way to explain the science behind rescuing our protagonist and it’s fascinating enough that it makes you ponder whether younger viewers may reconsider career choices. In short, it makes science look awfully cool and important.

Damon has shown real comedic talent before (see Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!) and he excels at it here, along with his more known ability at drama. Even with the welcome humor, this is by no means a straight up comedy (memo to the Golden Globes).

As Mark is a shining example of optimism under pressure, Jeff Daniels’ NASA chief is an example of calm under pressure. His performance is an example of strength and understatement. Damon may own this show, but Daniels earns marks for most interesting supporting player.

The visual look from Scott is the beautiful kind of feast we would anticipate from this visual auteur. Drew Goddard’s screenplay, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, keeps things moving along with quirky touches that include a disco heavy soundtrack. It is only in the final stretches of The Martian that we see how the world is captivated by Mark’s long hoped for journey back home. It’s not really a necessity to see it because we just assume. We are entertainingly captivated, too, with lots of smiles along the way.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Hateful Eight Box Office Prediction

Quentin Tarantino is back behind the camera with Western whodunit The Hateful Eight, which unspools in cinemas on New Year’s Eve following a limited release on Christmas Day. The titled Eight are Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, and Michael Madsen. The three hour epic hopes to replicate the massive success of Tarantino’s last two efforts, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained.

Both of those pics earned Best Picture nominations and made a killing at the box office. Basterds took in $38 million out of the gate, leading to an overall gross of $120 million. Django marked career highs, with a $63 million debut over a long Christmas week three years ago and an eventual take of $162 million.

The Hateful Eight does (for the most part) have critics on its side with a current rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, Quentin has a built-in audience of movie lovers who will rush out to see anything he stamps his name on. The pic’s wide release was pushed up by one week to capitalize on its solid buzz (and maybe to avoid direct competition with The Revenant). The release date change does make me wonder if it’s capable of reaching the heights of his two predecessors, partly because people have plans on New Year’s Eve and are often, um, relaxing on New Year’s Day. Also, while reviews are strong, this is not receiving the level of awards buzz that his two predecessors did.

Even with those potential demerits, The Hateful Eight should score an opening in the $25-$30M range for what will likely be a sturdy #2 posting behind the third frame of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

**Blogger’s note (12/28): with today’s announcement that the film will open on Wednesday (12/30) instead of Friday, my prediction has been altered to reflect that late breaking change.

The Hateful Eight opening weekend prediction: $27.2 million (Friday to Sunday), $36.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)