Monthly Archives: January 2017

Oscar Watch: Call Me by Your Name

The Sundance Film Festival of 2017 has come and gone, but this blogger is still sorting out the potential Oscar buzz coming from it. Even though it’s the earliest fest, Sundance has a habit of showcasing film or two and performers that get Academy nods a year later.

Perhaps no other picture generated more buzz this time around than Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, a gay love story set in Italy during the 1980s. Based on an acclaimed 2007 novel by Andre Aciman, Name stars Timothee Chalamet (a relative unknown who’s appeared on Showtime’s “Homeland”), Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg, a fine character actor who’s popped up in everything from Steve Jobs to Arrival to Doctor Strange to Miss Sloane as of late.

Buzz on this romance is terrific thus far and it sports a 100% current Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s leaving Sundance with the strongest potential for Oscar voter notice along with Mudbound (which I already posted about). Picture, Director, Actor (Chalamet) and Supporting Actor (Hammer or Stuhlbarg) appear to be in play, as well as Adapted Screenplay.

Of course, it’s very early but Name appears to be a real contender.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Box Office Predictions: February 3-5

The first weekend of February brings new titles to the marketplace to compete with holdovers and a football game on Sunday. They are: long gestating horror sequel Rings and sci-fi teen romance The Space Between Us. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/25/rings-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/26/the-space-between-us-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, both The Bye Bye Man and Split exceeded their opening weekend expectations (more on the terrific Split earnings below). It’s been a bountiful 2017 thus far for the horror genre and I believe Rings will debut just north of $20M for a first place showing.

The Space Between Us should struggle to reach the top 5 and my mid single digits forecast for it leaves it on the outside. Current #1 and #2 Split and A Dog’s Purpose should slide down a spot with awards hopefuls Hidden Figures and La La Land rounding out the top five.

And with that, a top 6 predictions for the weekend:

1. Rings

Predicted Gross: $20.3 million

2. Split

Predicted Gross: $14.4 million (representing a drop of 43%)

3. A Dog’s Purpose

Predicted Gross: $12.5 million (representing a drop of 31%)

4. Hidden Figures

Predicted Gross: $10.7 million (representing a drop of 24%)

5. La La Land

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million (representing a drop of 32%)

6. The Space Between Us

Predicted Gross: $6.7 million

Box Office Results (January 27-29)

If the $40 million opening didn’t convince you, the second weekend of Split solidified director M. Night Shyamalan’s major comeback. The horror thriller took in $25.6 million in its sophomore frame (higher than my $18.5M forecast) to bring its total to $77 million. The century mark is in its sights and it experienced the smallest week 2 decline of any Shyamalan effort since The Sixth Sense.

Despite controversy, A Dog’s Purpose brought in a pleasing $18.2 million for a solid second place showing. This was much more than my $10.3M projection, which I revised down from an original estimate of $17.9M. Should have stuck with my first thought…

Hidden Figures (which won the main SAG prize yesterday) was third with $14 million compared to my $12.8M prediction. The Oscar nominee now stands at $104M.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter posted a franchise low debut in fourth with just $13.6 million, just below my $14.6M estimate. Look for it to fade fast.

La La Land rounded out the top five with $12.2 million, above my $9.9M guesstimate. Like Figures, it also joined the $100M+ club as it’s made $106M.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage was sixth in weekend #2 with $8.6 million, in line with my $8.9M estimate for a weak tally of $33M.

Sing was seventh with $6.4 million (I said $5.6M) to pad its now $257M take.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey posted a career low wide opening with Gold. It only managed a 10th place debut with $3.4 million (I went higher with $5.4M).

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Get Out

A horror flick written and directed by a comic actor potentially receiving Oscar attention? Get out, you might say! And Get Out is right and it’s the name of a Sundance premiere that’s drawing lots of positive attention.

This is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” and last year’s so so Keanu. It focuses on a black man dating a white woman. When it’s time to meet her parents, he discovers a rather scary community where others of his race have a tendency to disappear. Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener star in this rather bold premise with a pretty darn effective trailer.

The film’s Sundance debut has drawn raves and it stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The chances of this getting into the Best Picture convo is unlikely. However, depending on level of competition, it could be in the mix for Peele’s Original Screenplay if voters remember it nearly a year after its February 24th domestic debut.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2016 SAG Awards Predictions

The final major awards ceremony before Oscar takes place tonight on TBS and TNT as the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards airs. These awards and winners are voted by fellow thespians, so the races are a bit different in the sense that there’s no Best Picture per se. Instead it’s Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and the five nominated pictures contains one rather glaring omission: La La Land, even though it’s the front runner at the Academy Awards.

We do have the other acting races we’re accustomed to, as well as Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. Let’s break each category down one by one with my predicted winners for this evening.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture 

Nominees: Captain Fantastic, Fences, Hidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Predicted Winner: Moonlight

Analysis: The recipient here could solidify its status as Most Likely to Win Best Picture at the Oscars if La La doesn’t. I’ll predict the SAG voters give the edge to Barry Jenkins acclaimed drama over Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester, just like the Globes did.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Predicted Winner: Casey Affleck

Analysis: The five nominees match five for five with the Academy. Affleck has received the lions share of precursors thus far and I expect that to continue here. Washington is the only other possibility.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Amy Adams (Arrival), Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Predicted Winner: Natalie Portman

Analysis: Yes, I’m going for the minor upset here as Stone is the likely front runner. Only the two of them and Streep match the Oscar nods, as SAG honored Adams and Blunt instead of Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Ruth Negga (Loving).

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion)

Predicted Winner: Mahershala Ali

Analysis: A win by either Bridges or Patel wouldn’t surprise me, but Ali has picked up a lot of critics prizes. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, surprise Globe winner for Nocturnal Animals, isn’t present here.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Predicted Winner: Viola Davis

Analysis: Another exact match with Oscar and I expect the same result – a win for Ms. Davis. Anything else would be a surprise.

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, Jason Bourne, Nocturnal Animals

Predicted Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

Analysis: This is a tough one as either of the comic book flicks could win. Still, I’ll go with the only nominated Best Picture at the Oscars. By the way, why Nocturnal is present here baffles me.

And there you have it! Happy watching tonight…

Split Movie Review

Over the past two decades, audiences have witnessed the many personalities of director M. Night Shyamalan in his works. For instance, there’s his previous effort The Visit where I wrote that he seemed to thumbing his nose at both critics and moviegoers based on their disappointment for some of his films. There’s the Shyamalan that was heavily influenced by Spielberg and Hitchcock that contributed to high marks like The Sixth Sense and Signs. We have the comic book aficionado that made Unbreakable pretty special. And there’s whatever was going on his head while writing The Happening and its killer trees and pro hot dog chatter.

With Split, Shyamalan seems in the mode of returning to his former box office glories by throwing in everything that made his blockbusters break through. Not all those traits work, but they’re present in nostalgia inducing manner. There’s the stilted dialogue and characters reacting to dangerous situations that seem off kilter. On the other hand, there are occasional moments of truly well crafted tension. Some of the actors miss the mark, but you wonder if it’s because that’s how Night directed them. Finally, there’s one performance that is pretty awesome to behold and, yes, a major surprise ending that is quite satisfying.

Welcome back to the mixed bag of a world that Shyamalan creates with his pen. Split opens with three teen girls leaving a birthday party. Two of them (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula) are your typical kids while Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) is more of an outsider. Quickly into our screen time, they are kidnapped by Dennis (James McAvoy), who locks them in a small yet very clean room as he’s got serious OCD. Then, the trio finds out they were also nabbed by Patricia, a proper sounding English older lady. They were also taken by Hedwig, a shy nine year old boy. There are others as these personalities (23 of them) all live inside the head of McAvoy’s Kevin and Casey and her sort of friends have to figure out a way for one of them to let them out.

The action in Split is not confined to Kevin/Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig’s choice of holding rooms. On the outside, he is mostly Barry, an insecure fashion designer who visits his psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). The doctor is an expert in these types of disorders who believes those suffering from it behold powers that are beyond human. And when Kevin warns of a 24th person in that head called The Beast, Dr. Fletcher’s theories may get a chance to be proven right or wrong.

McAvoy is given the chance to play in a universe that any actor would cherish and he’s impressive. There are scenes when he transitions from person to person that are quite enjoyable to watch. It really is his show, though Casey’s character is given a backstory via flashback that helps flesh out her perspective on everything.

There are times in Split that feel like vintage Shyamalan, but they come in infrequent spurts. My criticism here is simple, other than the dodgy dialogue we’ve come to anticipate even in his finest pictures. Split just really isn’t that scary or suspenseful while you’re watching it. Some of the best parts are when the director wants you to laugh… intentionally I think.

I certainly won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it culminated this otherwise so-so experience with an unexpected surprise. In truth, I’ve thought more about what happened in the last 30 seconds than in the two previous hours and what it could mean in the future. That doesn’t excuse its faults, but at least Night wraps it up on that George Costanza high note.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Space Between Us Box Office Prediction

Next weekend, the genres of science fiction and teen romance are intertwined when The Space Between Us lifts off in theaters. The film stars Asa Butterfield (who played the title role in 2013’s Ender’s Game) alongside the busy Britt Robertson (currently costarring in A Dog’s Purpose), Gary Oldman, and Carla Gugino.

Just like Rings (the only pic opening wide on the same day), Space has been delayed more than once by its studio. It was originally scheduled to open last July, then August, then December, and finally now. I don’t really see a scenario where this breaks out with its intended audience of genre buffs and females looking for some YA type material.

The film is based on an original idea, so there’s no known source material for moviegoers to base their anticipation on. Marketing for Space has been rather ho-hum as well. I’ll predict it only manages a mid to higher single digits gross and fades quickly.

The Space Between Us opening weekend prediction: $6.7 million

For my Rings prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/25/rings-box-office-prediction/

Rings Box Office Prediction

After nearly 12 years, that creepy contortionist Samara and that deadly videotape returns to the silver screen when Rings debuts next weekend. The horror flick reboots a franchise that began in 2002 with the American version of a 1998 Japanese pic. It was a huge success, followed up by a somewhat lackluster 2005 sequel. The question is whether young audiences who flock to the genre and now older moviegoers who were transfixed by the original turn out.

F. Javier Gutierrez takes over directorial reigns in this follow-up set 13 years after part two. The cast includes Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Curiously, Rings has been pushed back on multiple occasions. First scheduled for fall of 2015, then spring 2016, and then October – Paramount finally settled for February 2017. The stateside version of The Ring in 2002 started off with a decent $15 million opening before its solid word-of-mouth carried it to a $129 million overall domestic gross. The sequel debuted much bigger with $35 million, but petered out quickly with a $76 million eventual tally.

I don’t expect Rings to come anywhere near the franchise high of Ring Two. There’s also a football game that Sunday that could deter some viewers away. That said, we’ve seen the horror genre outperform expectations twice already in the new year – when The Bye Bye Man took in nearly $16 million out of the gate and Split made $40 million for its start. This could also mean genre enthusiasts may have had their fill in recent weeks. I believe Rings manages to just top $20 million.

Rings opening weekend prediction: $20.3 million

For my The Space Between Us prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/26/the-space-between-us-box-office-prediction/