Ranking Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino made a little news recently when he indicated that he’s likely to direct just two more feature films. Whether this holds true or not – we shall see.

For loyal readers of this here blog, you may have picked up that Q.T. is my personal favorite director working today. It got me thinking – how would I list the nine pictures that this mad genius has directed?

Well, I went ahead and did it and it is sure wasn’t easy, but here goes…

9. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Last year’s Western – with a dash of Agatha Christie murder mystery thrown in – is the first and only Q.T. pic that I didn’t award four stars (it got three and a half). As I put it then – even Tarantino’s “worst” is better than most director’s “best”. That holds true here and it’s pretty darn solid.

8. Death Proof (2007)

One half of the double feature Grindhouse (the other is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror), Death Proof is a gloriously fun homage to 1970s car racing features with a terrific twisted turn by Kurt Russell. One of the few Tarantino projects that flopped. It didn’t deserve to and is a must-see.

7. Django Unchained (2012)

It’s his highest grossing movie to date. Django is the controversial revenge flick set during slavery times that earned Christoph Waltz his second Oscar for a Q.T. entry and gave Leo DiCaprio a sinister role, showcasing a side of his we had yet to witness.

6. Jackie Brown (1997)

The pressure to follow-up Pulp Fiction was immense, but Quentin came through with this crime tale based off an Elmore Leonard novel. Not as ambitious as what came before, but it’s a dynamite genre piece with an amazing cast led by Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in perhaps his career best performance.

5. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

Fanatics are divided as to their preference between part 1 and 2. Volume 2 rates just a bit lower for me yet it’s remarkable nonetheless.

4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The one that started it all. A heist picture like we had never seen – Dogs educated us quickly as to what the Q.T. experience would be. Lots of pop culture references, first-rate acting, and bursts of violence. The opening credits sequence is one of the most memorable in cinematic history.

3. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

The first edition of Bill truly has an aura of a filmmaker feeling completely free to do whatever the hell he wants. Mixing martial arts, blaxploitation, anime, Western themes, De Palma homages, and more – it’s a dizzying and exhilarating ride.

2. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Q.T. is surely the only man with the cojones to change the ending of World War II and he does so in this brilliant and often hilarious tale with an Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz performance that is arguably the best performance in any Tarantino work.

  1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

The pinnacle. Containing every element of what makes Quentin the force he is, Pulp Fiction is not only my favorite work of his – it ranks behind only the first two Godfather films as my all-time best picture.

Let’s hear your order, blog friends!

P.S. – This post is likely to lead to another list in the near future: “The 25 Greatest Quentin Tarantino Movie Scenes”… stay tuned…

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Nine Lives Box Office Prediction

Next weekend, the family comedy Nine Lives attempts to answer important queries such as…

Did Kevin Spacey lose or a bet or something?!?!?

The pic casts the two time Oscar winner and star of the acclaimed “House of Cards” as a rich businessman who experiences an accident that traps him into the body of a cat…

No seriously. What does distributor EuropaCorp have on Spacey??? 

Costars include Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken and directorial duties are handled by Barry Sonnenfeld (who’s had his share of hits with the Men in Black and Addams Family franchises)…

For that matter, what is Sonnenfeld doing directing this??? I mean, he did Wild Wild West, but still…

Who knows? Maybe Nine Lives will turn out to be a classic family comedy, but it sure doesn’t look like it judging from the trailer, which I thought might be a Funny or Die spoof or something when I first viewed it…

Mr. Spacey – if you’re doing this movie against your will, send us a signal or something…

I’ll predict this makes about a million bucks or so for each life in the title and decent odds that President Underwood spends conversations int the future trying to live it down.

Nine Lives opening weekend prediction: $9.8 million

For my Suicide Squad prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/26/suicide-squad-box-office-prediction/

For an explanation of why Kevin Spacey is in this movie, I got nothing…

Suicide Squad Box Office Prediction

One of the most eagerly awaited titles of 2016 arrives next Friday when the Suicide Squad invades theaters and looks to set some records along the way. The Warner. Bros comic book adaptation has been the beneficiary of positive buzz and terrific trailers. David Ayers writes and directs this tale of DC supervillains that are banded together to try and do some good. The cast includes Will Smith, Margot Robbie (generating her own considerable buzz in her role as Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Viola Davis, and Jared Leto as The Joker (not to mention an apparent Ben Affleck appearance as Batman). 

My sense is that Suicide Squad is poised for a massive debut. There are a couple of records that it should have no problem accomplishing. Will Smith’s largest opening is I Am Legend at $77 million. The current August record is Guardians of the Galaxy at $94 million. Consider those records toast.

Recent stories have put the expected opening weekend at $125 million. That is beginning to look like a low bar to this prognosticator. This seems to have at least an equal amount of anticipation and buzz as another harder edged comic book flick from earlier this year, Deadpool. That pic was expected to earn in the mid 60s or so for its roll out and ended up making $132 million out of the gate. Additionally, Deadpool was rated R while this Squad is PG-13 (which could even bring in more eyeballs).

Add all that up and my estimate puts Suicide Squad at the 15th highest domestic opening of all time – right between Furious 7 at $147.1 million and The Twilight Saga: New Moon at $142.8 million for what looks to be a major new franchise.

Suicide Squad opening weekend prediction: $144.3 million

For my Nine Lives prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/26/nine-lives-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: July 29-31

**Blogger’s Note: Mid-week numbers for NERVE has significantly upgraded my estimate to $10.8M for Friday to Sunday and $16.3M for Wednesday to Sunday. These changes are reflected in the breakdown for the top 10 below. – TT

***Blogger’s note 2 (07/28/16) Cafe Society opening on less screens that I anticipated. My $3.8M Estimate now revised down to $2.3M, outside of top ten.

The final weekend of July comes at us with three new debuts: Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne, raunchy comedy Bad Moms, and techno thriller Nerve. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/jason-bourne-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/bad-moms-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/nerve-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, Mr. Bourne should have no trouble ruling the charts and I have the fifth franchise entry (and first with Damon in nearly a decade) falling just short of the series high debut of $69 million for 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. 

It’s after that where things get a little more interesting. The battle for second place could be a close one as I have Bad Moms posting a very solid debut that may put it in close proximity to the second weekend of current champ Star Trek Beyond. 

As for the rest of the top five, The Secret Life of Pets should easily hold the fourth spot while a three-way battle for #5 should be fought between Ghostbusters, Lights Out, and Ice Age: Collision Course (all of which posted similar grosses this past weekend). I’m estimating Ghostbusters will have the smallest decline of the trio and manage to stay put at the five spot.

Then there’s Nerve, which opens Wednesday. I’m not expecting much out of it – so much so that I’m placing it ninth after Finding Dory in 8th.

AND we have another title that count enter the top ten this weekend as Woody Allen’s Cafe Society expands nationwide. It’s been performing well in limited release and could have a decent roll out elsewhere. There’s no theater count yet, which makes this estimate a bit tricky – but if it opens on around 900 screens (par for the course for Woody pics), I’ll put it at $3.8 million. That would be good for 10th place just ahead of The Legend of Tarzan. 

So we shall expand my typical top 5 predictions and go with a top 10 for this weekend:

  1. Jason Bourne

Predicted Gross: $67.6 million

2. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $28.5 million

3. Bad Moms

Predicted Gross: $26 million

4. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

5. Ghostbusters

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million

6. Nerve

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $16.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

7. Lights Out

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

8. Ice Age: Collision Course

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

9. Finding Dory

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

10. The Legend of Tarzan

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24)

As expected, Star Trek Beyond easily topped the box office with $59.2 million, reaching beyond my $53.4M prediction. Both its predecessors in the current iteration of the franchise made over $70M for their starts, but this is still a respectable showing and should be enough to see the series chugging along.

The Secret Life of Pets slipped to second after two weeks on top with $29.6 million, above my $24.9M projection. The smash hit animated feature has amassed $260M so far and surprised all by accomplishing more in weekend 3 than Ice Age: Collision Course in weekend 1 (more on that below).

Perhaps the brightest spot of the weekend belonged to third place Lights Out, the critically acclaimed micro budgeted horror flick which earned $21.6 million. That’s a quadrupling of its $5 million price tag and a doubling of my meager $10.2 million projection. Good reviews and James Wan’s participation clearly helped.

The aforementioned Ice Age: Collision Course proved to be a franchise on thin ice as family audiences mostly rejected it. It grossed $21.3 million for fourth place (below my $28.3M estimate) for an embarrassing franchise low by a lot – the previous low was the 2002 original’s $46.3M. Ouch.

Ghostbusters rounded out the top five in its sophomore frame with $21 million (just above my $19.8M forecast) for an $86 million total.

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

Ghostbusters Movie Review

After over a quarter century of dormancy, the Ghostbusters have been rebooted with a female team and an appreciation for what came before it. Maybe too much appreciation. The 2016 iteration may not be ‘fraid of no ghosts, but perhaps it is of its own 1984 shadow and what followed it.

The concept here isn’t much different. Take a talented director (Paul Feig) and fill the leading roles with SNL related stars. Here it’s Melissa McCarthy (a favorite SNL host) along with former cast member Kristin Wiig and current ones Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. They’re the new Ghostbusters and the New York City setting is the same. Wiig is a Columbia professor who once cowrote a paranormal related book that she’s trying to forget about. McCarthy is her coauthor who’s now stuck in a dead-end job at a technical college along with McKinnon (she handles gadgets). Jones is an MTA employee who finds that ghosts are real in the bowels of the city’s subway. The NYC setting provides one of the most abnormal moments here when the team chows down on Papa Johns pizza. In New York City?!?!?! Product placement is vital, people…

Ghouls and goblins begin to sprout up in the Big Apple and soon the foursome find themselves in business, even if the city’s leaders don’t wish to acknowledge the presence of them or those they’re hunting. The Annie Potts secretarial duties are handled by a game Chris Hemsworth, showing off the same occasional comedic abilities he showed in another subpar 80s relaunch last summer, Vacation.

And there’s cameos by way of the franchise before it – both in human and special effects form. They serve more to make us nod in knowing appreciation than actually laugh. As for the Ghostbusters themselves? McCarthy and Wiig acquit themselves fine and have their strong moments, as does Jones. The weakest link is McKinnon, whose over the top antics work well in five minute SNL sketch bursts but seem out of place and rather annoying here.

Perhaps what hinders Ghostbusters from being a satisfactory experience is the fact that the melding of science fiction and comedy felt fresh over 30 years ago with Ivan Reitman’s original. Since then, we’ve seen everything from Men in Black to more obvious (and less pleasing) knock offs like Evolution and The Watch to name just a couple. The injection of a gender change isn’t enough to make this feel new and the CG effects add nothing out of the ordinary either. It is the ghosts of genre past that ultimately haunts what we see here.

** (out of four)

Crimson Peak Movie Review

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is both a gothic romance and a ghost story that finds the director and his team of visual wizards absolutely crushing the production design of the late 19th century era we find ourselves in. I love movies set in this time period. I adore the Victorian look and the giant sets that pay close attention to detail. I especially dig it when horror is injected into this world. It seems to just fit. Think From Hell or Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman remake and so on and so forth.

The issue with Crimson Peak is while my eyeballs were more than satisfied – the gothic romance occurring here isn’t terribly interesting and the ghost stuff isn’t too scary. We have intermittent outbursts of gory happenings that sometimes jolt us, but they’re found late in the proceedings. This is after I’d determined that there’s more to meet the eye than the substance of what’s filling the sumptuous sets.

Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing of Buffalo, New York, daughter of an aristocratic businessman (Jim Beaver) and aspiring writer of ghoulish tales. She’s got a bit of experience with her musings as she’s been visited by the CG rendering of her late mother. Ghost Mom has one key message to impart – “beware of Crimson Peak”. Edith’s path soon crosses with Englishman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who’s trying to hawk an invention to her father. He’s not buying what Sharpe is selling, but Edith is quite taken with him.

A confluence of circumstances – some of which involves a bit of ultra violence – sends Edith with Thomas to his family home in England. Thomas’s creepy sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) makes up the rest of the trio at Allerdale Hall, the run down manor that is the aforementioned triumph of the designers behind it. This massive and beautifully rendered estate has another name. I’ll give you a guess.

The screenplay by del Toro and Matthew Robbins doesn’t exactly keep you guessing as to story developments and we see many coming from a mile away. What did surprise me is how flat a number of the performances are from Wasikowska to Hiddleston (he has moments, but that Loki charm is buried for long stretches) to Charlie Hunnam in the thankless role of Edith’s lifelong friend whose romantic interest in her is not reciprocated. Chastain is a terrific actress and she’s about the only one who sometimes rises above the material in a part that reminded me of Mrs. Danvers from Hitchock’s Rebecca.

Yet I could never shake the feeling that Peak just isn’t as frightening as it should be. Then there’s the feeling that the pic is centered on this connection between Edith and Sharpe and it’s a connection we don’t really feel. All that said, the look of it all is damn near enough to give it a bloody recommendation but not quite.

**1/2 (out of four)

 

Everybody Wants Some!! Movie Review

Richard Linklater brings his Dazed and Confused sensibilities to the early 1980s in Everybody Wants Some!!, focused on a college baseball team enjoying the spoils of boyhood in a slightly more grown up world than high school. The entire proceedings take place in a late August weekend before classes begin at an unnamed Texas university.

Ace pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) is a freshman moving into one of two run down joints that  house the team’s 16 players. Speaking of joints, we’ve got ’em along with lots of beer. There’s also the natural competitive nature of these young lads in full display (some of whom look far too old for college, by the way). This isn’t limited to the baseball field and it includes pool, ping pong, flicking knuckles, and chasing coeds. As you might imagine with Linklater, it’s all backed by a killer soundtrack with lots of rock but also some Sugarhill Gang (rap was just revealing itself to the masses here) for good measure.

Some!! is successful in showing the wide eyed awe of that time when anything seems possible and the night can take you anywhere (hangovers don’t really exist at this age). The 80s setting brings Jake and his mates smack dab into the social scene that dominated 1980 and conflicted with itself on occasion – discos, country western bars, punk rock moshpits.

Along the way, Jake meets a theater major (Zoey Deutch) who exposes him to yet another new and different crowd. All in a weekend. Linklater knows how to spring a certain era to life and that holds true here. Is it as memorable as Dazed or as brilliantly written? It is not, yet it’s a pleasant, sometimes raucous, and sometimes sweet experience. Fun while it lasts and ultimately a bit forgettable. That describes what’s happening with the people in Everybody Wants Some!! and for us as well.

*** (out of four)

Nerve Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (07/28) – Mid-week numbers have necessitated a major upgrade in my Nerve prediction. I’m keeping the original post below with my (extremely) low ball estimate, but I now will predict numbers of a $10.8M Friday to Sunday gross and $16.3M Wednesday to Sunday gross. 

The team behind the creepy 2010 documentary Catfish and its MTV series spin-off returns to theme of online high jinks in the thriller Nerve, out Wednesday next week. Based on a 2012 YA novel, the pic is directed by the aforementioned Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and stars Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, and Juliette Lewis.

This pic seems to be flying quite a bit under the radar and I just don’t envision this being able to break out. It appears to me that Lionsgate likely has a flop on their hands. For a movie about social media based gaming – unless this somehow involves capturing Pokemon, I don’t expect Nerve to strike much of one with audiences.

Nerve opening weekend prediction: $4.4 million (Friday to Sunday), $5.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Jason Bourne prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/jason-bourne-box-office-prediction/

For my Bad Moms prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/bad-moms-box-office-prediction/

Bad Moms Box Office Prediction

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn headline the raunchy R rated comedy Bad Moms, hitting theaters next weekend. The pic will attempt to bring in a sizable female audience whose significant others may be busy with Jason Bourne. It could be a formula for success.

Moms is directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who are responsible for writing 2009’s The Hangover and the marketing campaign isn’t shy about highlighting that. Costars include Christina Applegate, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jay Hernandez.

The simple concept – Moms Gone Wild! – should be an easy sell for a summer comedy. It may not reach the heights of last summer’s critically lauded Trainwreck (another female driven R rated comedy), but I don’t see much reason why it wouldn’t match or top another one – 2014’s The Other Woman, which managed $24.7 million out of the gate.

Bad Moms opening weekend prediction: $26 million

For my Jason Bourne prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/jason-bourne-box-office-prediction/

For my Nerve prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/nerve-box-office-prediction/

Jason Bourne Box Office Prediction

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return to their blockbuster franchise after nearly a decade when Jason Bourne hits theaters next weekend. Originating from the novels by Robert Ludlum, this sequel may succeed in not being a box office letdown as a number of others have this season. Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, and Riz Ahmed are among the costars.

Let’s take a trip down Bourne franchise history lane, shall we? In 2002, The Bourne Identity became a summer sleeper hit with a $27 million debut and $121 million overall domestic gross. The numbers increased with the 2004 follow-up The Bourne Supremacy (when Greengrass took over directorial duties). It had a $52 million premiere and $176 million eventual tally. In 2007, third entry The Bourne Ultimatum hit the high marks with a $69 million opening and $227 million take.

It was after Ultimatum that Damon and Greengrass departed the critically acclaimed and audience approved pics. 2012 brought The Bourne Legacy, which cast Jeremy Renner as a new operative. While it scored a respectable $38 million debut, its $113 million domestic haul was a franchise low.

Four years later – the team behind the two most successful Bourne‘s return and my hunch is that moviegoers will be ready for it. This is quite simply a well-regarded series and it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Damon is coming off an Oscar nominated turn and mega-hit with The Martian. The question to me is whether or not this manages to top the opening of Ultimatum. It might and it wouldn’t surprise me, but my projection has it falling just short of that $69M number for a movie in which sequelitis should not apply.

Jason Bourne opening weekend prediction: $67.6 million

For my Bad Moms prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/bad-moms-box-office-prediction/

For my Nerve prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/20/nerve-box-office-prediction/