Oscar Watch: Hands of Stone

Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, the boxing biopic Hands of Stone hopes to be the next film in that genre to garner Oscar attention, much like Rocky, Raging Bull, and The Fighter before it.

The pic focuses on the legendary Roberto Duran, played here by Edgar Ramirez and casts Robert De Niro as his trainer Ray Arcel. Of course, Mr. De Niro won his only lead Actor gold statue for his lauded role as Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980 and he would competing here for Supporting Actor.

Hmmm. A legendary actor with an acclaimed pugilist picture to his credit maybe making a return to the Red Carpet? Sounds a bit like last year when Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Supporting Actor for Creed and surprisingly lost to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. In order for Hands of Stone to receive serious Academy attention for the big race (Picture), it would’ve needed even better reviews than Creed. While early reviews are fairly solid, that didn’t happen and you can pretty much count out that possibility. Same goes for Ramirez in Actor.

As for De Niro, the Weinstein Company (who are no slouches at awards campaigning) may pull out all the stops for their actor being recognized. It’s unlikely to occur, however. The great story with Stallone was the near 40 year lay-off between nominations and the connection with him playing the same role being recognized so many decades apart. De Niro, on the other hand, was just nominated four years ago for his work in Silver Linings Playbook. 

While Hands of Stone (being released domestically on August 26) could be a mid-size hit come late summer, Cannes has shown it’s improbable that it’ll be on the minds of Academy voters.


Box Office Predictions: May 20-22

The third weekend of summer 2016 brings some intrigue into the season as the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron raunchy sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, app based animated tale The Angry Birds Movie, and Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling action comedy The Nice Guys all debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each one of them here:




All three titles have question marks. All three titles could over perform or under perform. And as I see it, it could create a genuine three-way race for the top spot between Neighbors, Birds, and current two-week champion Captain America: Civil War.

Meanwhile, The Nice Guys has been the beneficiary of solid reviews and a robust marketing campaign and it could certainly rise above the mid-teens gross I have it pegged at. Having said that, it’s difficult to see it moving into the top 3. The Jungle Book should round out the top five.

The closeness of that top 3 reflects my belief that there will only be about a $4 million difference between those pictures, with Neighbors being the victor, Captain America and his avengers friends and foes in second, and those Birds taking third. We shall see how it all shakes out in this highly unpredictable frame which will get even more interesting when potential heavy hitters X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass arrive Memorial Day weekend.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for this weekend:

  1. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Predicted Gross: $38.2 million

2. Captain America: Civil War

Predicted Gross: $35.1 million (representing a drop of 51%)

3. The Angry Birds Movie

Predicted Gross: $34.5 million

4. The Nice Guys

Predicted Gross: $14.4 million

5. The Jungle Book

Predicted Gross: $10.9 million (representing a drop of 36%)

Box Office Results (May 13-15)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier easily remained #1 (as expected) for the second weekend in a row as it grossed $72.6 million, just under my $76.8M estimate. The Marvel tale has amassed $295M in ten days. It will come in under the number of the two Avengers entries but has already become the highest grossing Cap flick as The Winter Soldier topped out at $259M domestic.

Disney held the runner-up position again as The Jungle Book swung another $17.1 million (in range with my $18.6M prediction) for a five-week total of $311M.

The George Clooney/Julia Roberts thriller Money Monster debuted in third with $14.7 million, managing to come in at the top end of its expectations and managing to top my $12.7M prediction. While it will almost surely drop out of the top five this weekend, look for it to have fairly smallish declines and maybe reach an eventual gross of $50-$60M.

Opening lightly in fourth place was the Kevin Bacon horror flick The Darkness with $4.9 million, just under my $5.6M prognosis. Look for the low-budget Blumhouse offering to be VOD ready soon.

Mother’s Day plummeted in weekend #3 since it didn’t have that whole actual Mother’s Day holiday working this time around. The rom com earned $3.2 million (below my $4.7M forecast) for a total of $28M.

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

Oscar Watch: Loving


Earlier this year, I wrote an Oscar Watch post for the Jeff Nichols sci-fi drama Midnight Special, which premiered to mostly positive feedback at the Berlin Film Festival. Yet since then – it was released to soft box office numbers and its awards prospects have considerably dimmed.

Nichols, director of acclaimed pics such as Take Shelter and Mud, may have another Oscar ace up his sleeve though as Special is not his only 2016 feature. His 1950s set interracial romance Loving has just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and early word is encouraging. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star as a Virginia couple whose marital union was illegal at the time. Both performances are garnering strong notices and it’s possible that both could find themselves factors in the Actor and Actress categories. Frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon has a supporting role that’s said to be too small for any legit chance in Supporting Actor.

Helping even further, Focus Features has set a U.S. release date of November 4, right in the heart of Oscar season. If Loving is able to break through with audiences in the way it’s currently doing with the festival crowd overseas, it could find itself receiving Academy love in the Picture and Director races, too. Time will tell.

The Revenant Movie Review

Chewing scenery.

It’s a movie term used for describing when performers overact. Think Al Pacino or John Travolta over the last 20 years. In Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant, we can use it differently. The landscapes presented here are a feast for us. They’re stunning. This is a tale of revenge best served cold with wintry scenes of blood soaked beauty.

Set in 1823 in the U.S. territories that later became the Dakotas (though this was mostly filmed in Canada), Leonardo DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, based on a real frontiersman. Along with his half Native American boy Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), widowed Glass is assisting a team of trappers through the rough terrain. The group is attacked and the few survivors includes schemer Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who clearly has not taken a liking to Glass and his mixed offspring.

The violent scenes of the trappers being massacred pale in comparison to the grisly scene that soon follows courtesy of a grizzly bear that attacks Glass, pummeling him to within an inch of his life. The surviving crew (including Domhnall Gleeson’s Army captain Andrew Henry and Will Poulter’s noble Jim) do what they can to help him. Fitzgerald has other ideas and his plan leaves Hawk dead and Glass left for dead.

The Revenant follows Glass’s journey back through the wild to find Fitzgerald under hellish conditions. Famously, Inarritu’s production reportedly could have used the same word for its conditions. The pic is shot using only natural light courtesy of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who might as well been given his Oscar the day shooting commenced. There’s also little reliance on CG effects. That bear attack looks real. Frighteningly so.

Whatever harsh times Inarritu and his team experienced, the rewards are present onscreen. DiCaprio is one of his generation’s very finest actors and his commitment here is evident. In Mad Max: Fury Road (what a 2015 for Hardy), the actor barely said a word. By contrast, he’s a chatterbox here who’s constantly rationalizing his devious behavior in his Southern drawl. DiCaprio is the quiet one. He grunts more in pain than verbalizing it. Both performances are remarkable.

The unflinching violence comes infrequently in The Revenant, but when it does it is effective and jarring. Yes, the two and a half hour runtime probably could have been trimmed. After all, this is essentially a B movie revenge story told with an A Team of technicians, led by its director. Having said that, it would’ve left less minutes for those landscapes. Those amazing landscapes.

***1/2 (out of four)


How to Be Single Movie Review

How to Be Single is about four single gals finding their way in the Big Apple and if that sounds like “Sex and the City”, you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s Alice (Dakota Johnson), our central Carrie character. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the inappropriate Samantha like friend. Lucy (Alison Brie) is the Charlotte-ish hopeless romantic who’s constantly trolling dating sites for true love. And Meg (Leslie Mann) is the career woman (and Alice’s older sister) whose got it together, but realizes she needs a baby. Kind of like Miranda.

Alice is just embarking on her first dip into the single pool when she breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and sees what NYC has to offer. It includes a bartender (Anders Holm) that has the playa life down cold and a sweet widower and dad (Damon Wayans Jr.) still getting over his wife’s death. There’s also the ex-flame (Nicholas Braun) who keeps turning up. Truth be told, none of these relationships are terribly interesting or well-written and Dakota Johnson still seems to be struggling to infuse much personality into her performances. This is also a problem that plagued Fifty Shades of Grey, which was far more dreadful than this.

If anything, How to Be Single is just kind of dull and conventional. It sold itself as a raunch fest, but it’s not. My favorite moments involved Mann and her earnest younger boyfriend (a funny Jake Lacy), yet the script never succeeds in juggling its separate plot lines. More of those characters might have worked. Maybe. The screenwriters might have figured out a way to make them tiresome, too.

** (out of four)


The Nice Guys Box Office Prediction

Shane Black was known as a high-priced screenwriter in the 1980s and 90s with features like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight to his credit. In 2005, he made his directorial debut with the critical hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then made a mega-hit in 2010 with Iron Man 3. His third feature is The Nice Guys, out next weekend.

Set in 1970s L.A., this buddy cop action/comedy stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and its release date could be a hindrance for box office success. Many comedy fans may turn their attention to its competition, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Strong reviews could help and that could get this to low teens.

Even though trailers and TV spots have been pretty darn funny in my view, among newbies Neighbors and Angry Birds – it’s highly likely that Nice Guys will finish last. It stands a better shot at becoming a cult hit than an actual one.

The Nice Guys opening weekend prediction: $14.4 million

For my Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising prediction, click here:


For my The Angry Birds Movie prediction, click here:


The Angry Birds Movie Box Office Prediction

The Angry Birds Movie, out next weekend, marks a first as the animated tale is our inaugural film to be based on an app. Millions worldwide have spent countless hours flinging those ill-tempered fowls into various structures and we’ll soon find out whether they wish to spend a couple of hours watching them on the silver screen.

Based on the Rovio Entertainment game, Birds features the voices of many familiar names including Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Sean Penn, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage. Reviews have been mixed with a 47% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Frankly, Angry Birds is a big question mark. A high-profile family friendly animated flick should perform quite well in the month of May. However, without the Disney brand or well-established franchise tag (Ice Age, Rio, Madagascar, etc…), it’s unclear whether kids and their parents will flock (get it?) to this.

The range of possibility for this opening is wide, but I’ll go with a mid 30s debut.

The Angry Birds Movie opening weekend prediction: $34.5 million

For my Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising prediction, click here:


For my The Nice Guys prediction, click here:


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Box Office Prediction

Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Rose Byrne are back experiencing homeowner drama in a hopefully funny way with Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, out next weekend. This time, it’s the ladies turn to wreak havoc on Mr. Rogen’s famiy with Chloe Grace Moretz leading the way. Nicholas Stoller returns to direct with Dave Franco and Ike Barinholtz back in supporting roles.

Two years ago, Neighbors turned into a major summer hit with a $49 million opening and $150 million domestic gross. A sequel was quickly greenlit and here we are today with the follow-up hoping to match its predecessor’s numbers.

It could be tough to do. There is some genre competition with Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling’s The Nice Guys opening on the same day. Additionally, many comedic sequels open under the original in general. The fact that only two years has passed could help though. Reviews have been decent as it stands at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, just under the 73% of the first.

I’ll predict Neighbors 2 rises to just under $40M, about $10M less than what came before it and it’ll probably manage to just reach triple digits when all is said and done.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opening weekend prediction: $38.2 million

For my The Angry Birds Movie prediction, click here:


For my The Nice Guys prediction, click here:


Box Office Predictions: May 13-15

The second weekend of summer should bring further domination from Captain America and his Marvel friends and foes as Civil War will easily reign supreme in weekend #2. There are two new entries: Jodie Foster’s thriller Money Monster starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and the Blumhouse horror flick The Darkness. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts of each of them right here:



As I see it, Money Monster will likely settle for a third place showing with Mother’s Day and The Darkness fighting it out for the four spot.

Civil War had an impressive opening that still came in below many prognosticators (including this one) were saying… more on that below. These Disney/Marvel ventures typically drop in the mid-high 50s and I expect the same here (the first Avengers pic, it’s worth noting, dropped just 50%).

As for The Jungle Book, I expect a fairly small decline for it (as is typical with many pictures in the second weekend of May) and it should have no problem staying in the runner-up position.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the weekend:

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Predicted Gross: $76.8 million (representing a drop of 57%)

2. The Jungle Book

Predicted Gross: $18.6 million (representing a drop of 24%)

3. Money Monster

Predicted Gross: $12.7 million

4. The Darkness

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

5. Mother’s Day

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million (representing a drop of 58%)

Box Office Results (May 6-8)

Summer 2016 started off as so many others have in recent years with Marvel ruling the charts as Captain America: Civil War took in $179.1 million. That’s good for the fifth largest domestic opening of all time, nestled between other MCU entries Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3. The debut is just fine, but also on the lower end of its expectations (I put it at $205.6M).

The Jungle Book fell to second after three weeks on top with $24.4 million, in line with my $23.5M projection for a total of $287M.

Perhaps the story of the weekend was Mother’s Day, which jumped 32% in its second weekend to $11 million (more than doubling my meager $5.1M prediction). Lesson to be learned: a movie called Mother’s Day (no matter how bad its reviews may be) is going to do well on Mother’s Day. Its two-week total is $22M and I would expect a pretty big dip next weekend.

The Huntsman Winter’s War was fourth with $3.9 million (I said $4.5M) for a weak $40M haul while Keanu rounded out the top five with $3.2 million (I went higher with $4.9M). Keanu‘s total is just $15M. Zootopia was sixth – also with $3.2 million and under my $4.8M prognosis for a $328M tally.

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

The Darkness Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions specializes in low-budget horror flicks and they’ve got once teed up for early summer with The Darkness, out next weekend. Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell star in a tale of a Grand Canyon vacation bringing back a supernatural being. David Mazouz, Matt Walsh, and Jennifer Morrison costar. Greg McLean, who directed Wolf Creek, is behind the camera.

The studio has seen their share of genre successes, including the Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Insidious, and Purge franchises. There’s also been some relative disappointments, such as Dark Skies, Oculus, The Gallows, and The Green Inferno. 

The Darkness doesn’t seem to have much buzz going for it and appears unlikely to light up the box office. I’ll predict this doesn’t reach double digits.

The Darkness opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Money Monster prediction, click here: