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)