Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Now that Harry Potter’s wand has been cinematically retired (at least until Warner Bros figures out how to eventually resuscitate him), it’s J.K. Rowling to the rescue with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is the first entry in the wizardry world with a screenplay directly from the famed author who created it. This expands greatly on her 2001 novel (which is when Harry debuted onscreen) to create another franchise meant to draw youngsters into its spell, as well as Potter fans of all ages.

In order to achieve that goal, David Yates is back directing. He’s responsible for the last four features in the Potterverse. Our central character this time around is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist from London who comes to New York City circa 1926 with a briefcase full of creatures. It’s not clear immediately why he’s in the Big Apple, but his back story tells us of his time at a little school called Hogwarts where he was expelled and was tutored by a much younger Dumbledore.

Wizards need to be registered stateside and Newt finds himself generating the skepticism of Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (obviously). She’s frustrated with her job, which is headed by its President (Carmen Ejogo) and enforced by Colin Farrell’s head of security. Newt and Tina team up to protect his various beasts and those who wish to destroy them. It’s not a two-person team as Newt befriends aspiring baker and World War I vet Jacob (Dan Fogler). Tina’s mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is also involved and is the apple of Jacob’s eye. Before we continue with the rest of the review, let me declare that the subplot of Jacob and Queenie’s flirtation and budding romance was my favorite thing about the movie. Fogler serves as the general comic relief here anyway and does so quite wonderfully. Sudol shines in her first role. Their chemistry has genuine magic and if there was ever a case for a rom com spin-off of a hoped for multi-billion dollar franchise, this is it.

Moving on, that’s a small but very winning part of the two-hour plus running time. I wish I could say the chemistry between Newt and Tina was as impressive, but it’s not. Tina is a bit of a blank slate in this first installment and it certainly remains to be seen whether Redmayne’s Newt will come anywhere close to being as beloved as you know who. He’s got a long way to go. Not even Harry Potter could have sold doing a “mating dance” with a titillated CG rhino and neither can Newt. On the other hand, Beasts has its own version of a Star Wars-like cantina scene with Ron Perlman’s cool voicing of a nefarious creation and it’s a highlight.

There are other performances worthy of note, including Ezra Miller as an abused teen with mysterious powers and Samantha Morton as his wizard hating adopted mom doing the abuse. Our main villain Grindelwald is mostly just spoken of but not seen (kind of like Voldemort was for a bit), but we know he’ll play a bigger role as the series moves along.

Fantastic Beasts is heavy on effects (most of them eye-catching) and creating the visually arresting template for sequels. I didn’t think it reached a Sorcerer’s Stone level of quality as far as part 1’s, but Rowling is generally successful in making us curious about what comes next with this real and generated crop of characters.

*** (out of four)


2017: The Year of Tiffany Haddish

Like yesterday’s Year of 2017 honoree Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish started 2017 as a stand-up comic not known to a large swath of the American public. Yet as the year draws to its close, Haddish is now quite well-known due to her scene stealing performance in the summer’s comedic sleeper hit.

Alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith, it was Haddish who garnered the most buzz in Girls Trip, which surprised all prognosticators when it grossed $115 million. It was 2016’s Keanu that gave Haddish her first notable role, but that picture was largely ignored. Yet her raw, profane and outlandish Dina character gave the actress a showcase filled with standout moments.

Critics groups and Hollywood have certainly taken notice. Haddish became the first African American comic to host “Saturday Night Live” this fall. In 2018, she will reunite with Trip director Malcolm D. Lee for Night School with Kevin Hart.

Expect to see lots of Haddish in the coming years and 2017 was unquestionably her breakout.

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A glossy and often relevant retelling of one of the most famous matches ever, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Battle of the Sexes is centered on both the tennis court and the court of public opinion. Both matters are firmly on the focused mind of Billie Jean King (Emma Stone), the famed pro who was demanding equal pay for women in 1973 when the picture is set.

King and her fellow female players aren’t getting near that, so they start a league of their own, under the sponsorship of Virginia Slim cigarettes (it was a different time). Another player sees an opportunity to cash in on the publicity and that’s Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), a former champion now in his mid 50s who spends most of his time as a compulsive gambler (though he doesn’t see it that way). His challenge to King to meet on the court generated a divide among the sexes and many eyeballs on the eventual event – apparently about 90 million.

The court of public opinion doesn’t extend to gender issues. King is married to Larry (Austin Stowell) who helps run her fledgling empire. Yet when she meets free spirit hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), a romance quickly develops. King is smitten, but she knows it must stay in the closet to protect her career.

Battle of the Sexes tells this tale entertainingly and somewhat superficially. The themes of gender equality are ones that render four decades later. Stone has the most material to work with in her nuanced and strong portrayal of King. There’s not much nuance to Carell’s Riggs, though he’s certainly fun to watch.

The screenplay doesn’t delve too deep into his story, but Carell plays it well enough to avoid him becoming a total caricature. King seems to know Bobby isn’t quite the chauvinist louse he purports to be. The same cannot be said for Bill Pullman’s Jack Kramer, a prominent former pro turned announcer who doesn’t understand anything about women’s liberation. The pic is peppered with familiar faces in smaller parts, including Elisabeth Shue as Bobby’s wealthy and frustrated wife and Alan Cumming as the team’s outfit designer who quickly figures out Billie’s affair.

King would eventually earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom due to her advocacy for gay rights and equal pay. Sexes sees her at the advent of that life’s work. We see her drive as she tirelessly practices to beat a man at his game when so few think it’s possible. In fact, hearing Howard Cosell’s actual play-by-play during the game is both a treat and a stark reminder that it was a different era. We know eventually that King’s relentless work ethic will be applied elsewhere and for an even greater cause. Battle doesn’t delve overly deep into how she got there, but it serves up its replay of history admirably enough.

*** (out of four)

Insidious: The Last Key Box Office Prediction

The first new wide release of 2018 is out next Friday when Insidious: The Last Key enters theaters. This is the fourth chapter in the franchise that began in 2011. Like Chapter 3, it’s a prequel to the events of the first two. In other words, no Patrick Wilson or Rose Byrne (the stars of the originals). James Wan, director and 1 and 2, produces with Adam Robitel behind the camera. Leigh Whannell, who’s served as writer for all of them, costars along with Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, and Bruce Davison.

One factor that could assist The Last Key is the absence of horror flicks in the marketplace at the moment. That said, this franchise has been losing its luster. The 2011 original debuted to $13 million but legged out very nicely for its genre with an eventual $54 million gross. The 2013 sequel was the pinnacle with a terrific $40 million opening weekend and $83 million total tally. Chapter 3 in 2015 premiered to $22 million, but ended up as the lowest earner of the series with $52 million. 

I don’t see a compelling reason why part 4 will rebound. For comparison sake, I could see this performing similarly to 2014’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which opened in the first weekend of January to just over $18 million. Like this, that was an entry in a franchise whose steam had dissipated. That number seems to be where Key fits best.

Insidious: The Last Key opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million


2017: The Year of Kumail Nanjiani

It was early in 2017 when The Big Sick started garnering buzz from its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Nearly one year later, the unique rom com was a smashing box office success and established its star/co-writer as a fresh and exciting new voice on the big screen.

Kumail Nanjiani was best known for his role on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and stand-up. He had appeared in numerous supporting roles in comedies such as Central Intelligence and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but The Big Sick was something else entirely.

The Pakistani born performer penned the screenplay with wife Emily V. Gordon. Loosely based on their relationship and their dealings with her illness and cultural issues, the pic resonated with critics and audiences. The reported $5 million production took in $43 million stateside with a sizzling 98% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sick could soon attract Oscar attention, especially for Best Original Screenplay and Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress.

For Nanjiani, the year began with a festival screening that turned his movie into an audience favorite throughout the year. 2017 ends with his many new fans eager to see his next move.

2017: The Year of Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins

At the beginning of summer 2017, if you’d told most box office prognosticators like me that Wonder Woman would outdo the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man that season, they would have thought your Lasso of Truth was defective.

That’s exactly what happened this year as the highest profile female comic book adaptation yet turned into the summer’s biggest hit. It will end up as the 3rd highest earner of the calendar year after Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast. 

Much of the credit goes to Gal Gadot, who was first seen as the character in last year’s not so well received Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the inclusion of Gadot’s Wonder Woman and her take on the iconic character was seen as one of the film’s bright spots.

Her solo pic was not expected to gross $412 million domestically, but that it did. That’s more than the aforementioned Marvel heroes and also Thor. And, yes, it’s bigger than November’s Justice League, which also included her character.

Much credit is also due to Patty Jenkins, who crafted one of the most critically acclaimed comic adaptations. It’s even generating some Oscar buzz. Her directorial effort marks (by far) the most box office bucks a female director has ever achieved.

While Justice League was a slight damper on Wonder Woman’s cinematic portfolio thus far, it certainly should not tamper excitement for the sequel coming in November 2019. And you can credit the director and lead actress for making that happen in 2017.

Box Office Predictions: December 29-January 1

Well folks – here we are as 2017 closes out with another four-day holiday weekend and it’s enough to make a great mathematician’s head spin.

Blogger’s note: I am not a great mathematician. Nevertheless, I will plow forward with estimates as there’s no new releases. Yet there are a multitude of holiday holdovers looking to match or even surpass what they accomplished this past Christmas weekend.

You have to travel all the way to 2006 for the last time Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on a Monday. When that occurred 11 years ago, the bulk of pictures significantly exceeded the three-day grosses from the December 22-24 frame. Most even experienced an uptick from the Yuletide four-day frame. We should see that happen again as moviegoers have lots of free time during this end of year period, they’re using those gift certificates, and the kiddos are off school.

Here’s how I have the top 10 looking to close out another year on the box office charts:

**Please note that the increases noted would be from the three-day Christmas grosses (22-24) to the four-day New Year’s weekend predictions…

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Predicted Gross: $77.8 million (representing an increase of 9%)

2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Predicted Gross: $58 million (representing an increase of 59%)

3. Pitch Perfect 3

Predicted Gross: $25.1 million (representing an increase of 26%)

4. The Greatest Showman

Predicted Gross: $14.9 million (representing an increase of 69%)

5. Ferdinand

Predicted Gross: $12.5 million (representing an increase of 71%)

6. Coco

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million (representing an increase of 82%)

7. Darkest Hour

Predicted Gross: $7.3 million (representing an increase of 88%)

8. Downsizing

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million (representing an increase of 23%)

9. The Shape of Water

Predicted Gross: $5.7 million (representing an increase of 90%)

10. All the Money in the World

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

Box Office Results (December 22-25)

It was indeed a bustling Christmas weekend as some newbies rose above expectations while others fell considerably short. There were also impressive expansions of awards contenders.

Yet as anticipated, Star Wars: The Last Jedi easily took the top spot in weekend #2. However, it did so with numbers far short of my estimate. The eighth episode of the beloved franchise took in $99 million (well short of my $129 million estimate) for an overall tally of $395 million.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gave Sony reason to celebrate with an estimated (final number still not in on Wednesday at noon for some reason) $55.4 million over the four-day. This tops my $40.5 million prediction. Since its Wednesday debut, Jungle has amassed $72 million (above my $55.1 million take). It would appear this franchise will continue on.

Pitch Perfect 3 opened in third to a decent $26.4 million. Still, that’s under my $33.6 million forecast and well under what its predecessor achieved two years ago.

Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman posted fourth with $14.4 million for the four-day and $19 million since its Wednesday start. These are a touch under my respective estimates of $16.1 million and $22.4 million. That’s a tad underwhelming, but I see it holding up well this weekend.

Ferdinand rounded out the top five with $10.1 million (I said $11.2 million) for a $29 million overall tally.

Coco was sixth with $8.1 million (I said $8.8 million) as the Pixar flick has grossed $164 million total.

Debuting in seventh and quite disappointingly was Matt Damon’s Downsizing at just $7.6 million compared to my $11.7 million prediction. With mixed critical reaction and poor word-of-mouth, look for this to diminish fast.

Darkest Hour, which boasts Best Actor Oscar front-runner Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, was 8th as it expanded its theater count. It grossed $5.5 million and I incorrectly had it outside the top 10.

Besides Downsizing, the other new flop of the weekend was Owen Wilson/Ed Helms comedy Father Figures. The poorly reviewed pic opened ninth at just $5.4 million (under my $8.6 million estimate).

The Shape of Water (another Oscar contender) took 10th as it opened wider with $4.4 million. Again, I missed the mark and had this outside the top 10.

And that does it for now, ladies and gents! It’s been quite a treat bringing you my box office predictions for 2017 and it will continue into 2018! Until then…

2017: The Year of Blumhouse

As 2018 is nearly upon us, today begins an exploration on what and who made a lasting impression on film in 2017. And it does start with a what – in this case, a studio.

Blumhouse Productions, founded by Jason Blum, kicked off in 2009 with found footage hit Paranormal Activity. It was a massive money maker that spawned numerous sequels. From then on, Blumhouse became known for their low-budget horror flicks. This includes the Insidious, Ouija, Purge, and Sinister franchises.

Yet 2017 has marked their banner year. This started immediately in January with M. Night Shyamalan’s comeback pic Split, which debuted to $40 million and earned $138 million overall domestically. Shyamalan will be working with the studio once again with its spin-off/sequel Glass, due in 2019.

The success kept going in February with the release of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Earning $33 million out of the gate, the acclaimed horror comedy went on to make $175 million. It’s even garnering Oscar buzz, something rare for Blumhouse (a notable exception was 2014’s Whiplash).

In the fall, Happy Death Day premiered to $26 million and $55 million total. Not all of the studio’s offerings landed with audiences this year, including The Belko Experiment, Birth of the Dragon, and Sleight.

Still, there’s little doubt 2017 has offered Blumhouse its most high-profile successes. 2018 will look to replicate the wins with new Purge and Insidious editions and a reboot of the Halloween franchise.

My look back on the winners in 2017 onscreen will continue…

Todd’s 2017 Weekly Oscar Predictions: Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas loyal blog readers! It may be Christmas, but it’s still Monday and that means my weekly Oscar predictions are in…

Let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. The Post (PR: 5)

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 4)

4. Lady Bird (PR: 2)

5. The Shape of Water (PR: 5)

6. Get Out (PR: 7)

7. Call Me by Your Name (PR: 6)

8. The Florida Project (PR: 8)

9. Phantom Thread (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

10. Darkest Hour (PR: 11)

11. Mudbound (PR: 10)

12. I, Tonya (PR: 12)

13. The Big Sick (PR: 15)

14. All the Money in the World (PR: 13)

15. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 14)

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water (PR: 2)

3. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird (PR: 3)

4. Steven Spielberg, The Post (PR: 4)

5. Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jordan Peele, Get Out (PR: 7)

7. Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name (PR: 6)

8. Sean Baker, The Florida Project (PR: 9)

9. Dee Rees, Mudbound (PR: 10)

10. Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread (PR: 8)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (PR: 1)

2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread (PR: 2)

3. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name (PR: 3)

4. James Franco, The Disaster Artist (PR: 4)

5. Tom Hanks, The Post (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (PR: 7)

7. Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out (PR: 6)

8. Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger (PR: 8)

9. Christian Bale, Hostiles (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Robert Pattinson, Good Time (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird (PR: 1)

2. Meryl Streep, The Post (PR: 4)

3. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 2)

4. Margot Robbie, I, Tonya (PR: 3)

5. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game (PR: 6)

7. Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul (PR: 7)

8. Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes (PR: 8)

9. Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World (PR: 10)

10. Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel

Best Supporting Actor

1. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project (PR: 1)

2. Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 2)

3. Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water (PR: 4)

4. Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 5)

5. Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World (PR: 9)

7. Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes (PR: 7)

8. Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name (PR: 6)

9. Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water (PR: 10)

10. Mark Rylance, Dunkirk (PR: 8)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird (PR: 1)

2. Allison Janney, I, Tonya (PR: 2)

3. Mary J. Blige, Mudbound (PR: 3)

4. Hong Chau, Downsizing (PR: 4)

5. Holly Hunter, The Big Sick (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread (PR: 7)

7. Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water (PR: 5)

8. Melissa Leo, Novitiate (PR: 8)

9. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip (PR: 9)

10. Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime (PR: 10)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Call Me by Your Name (PR: 1)

2. Molly’s Game (PR: 2)

3. Mudbound (PR: 3)

4. The Disaster Artist (PR: 4)

5. Wonder (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Wonderstruck (PR: 7)

7. Victoria and Abdul (PR: 8)

8. All the Money in the World (PR: 5)

9. The Beguiled (PR: 9)

10. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Last Flag Flying

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lady Bird (PR: 1)

2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 2)

3. Get Out (PR: 3)

4. The Post (PR: 4)

5. The Shape of Water (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Big Sick (PR: 7)

7. Phantom Thread (PR: 6)

8. The Florida Project (PR: 8)

9. I, Tonya (PR: 9)

10. Darkest Hour (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:


Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Coco (PR: 1)

2. The Breadwinner (PR: 2)

3. Loving Vincent (PR: 3)

4. The Girl Without Hands (PR: 4)

5. Cars 3 (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. The LEGO Batman Movie (PR: 6)

7. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (PR: 8)

8. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (PR: 7)

9. Ferdinand (PR: 9)

10. Despicable Me 3 (PR: 10)

Best Foreign Language Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. Foxtrot (PR: 1)

2. The Square (PR: 2)

3. A Fantastic Woman (PR: 4)

4. Loveless (PR: 3)

5. In the Fade (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Insult (PR: 6)

7. The Wound (PR: 7)

8. Felicite (PR: 8)

9. On Body and Soul (PR: 9)

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane (PR: 1)

2. Faces Places (PR: 2)

3. Icarus (PR: 3)

4. LA 92 (PR: 8)

5. City of Ghosts (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Long Strange Trip (PR: 5)

7. Strong Island (PR: 6)

8. Human Flow (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Chasing Coral (PR: 10)

10. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

One of Us

Best Film Editing

1. Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. The Post (PR: 3)

3. The Shape of Water (PR: 2)

4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 4)

5. I, Tonya (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Baby Driver (PR: Not Ranked)

7. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 5)

8. Get Out (PR: 10)

9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PR: 8)

10. Darkest Hour (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Lady Bird

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 2)

3. The Post (PR: 4)

4. The Shape of Water (PR: 3)

5. Darkest Hour (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Mudbound (PR: 7)

7. Wonderstruck (PR: 6)

8. Call Me by Your Name (PR: 9)

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 8)

10. Lady Bird (PR: 10)

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Shape of Water (PR: 1)

2. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 2)

3. Dunkirk (PR: 3)

4. Beauty and the Beast (PR: 4)

5. Murder on the Orient Express (PR: 10)

Other Possibilities:

6. Darkest Hour (PR: 8)

7. The Post (PR: 5)

8. Downsizing (PR: Not Ranked)

9. The Greatest Showman (PR: 9)

10. Phantom Thread (PR: 7)

Dropped Out:


Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Phantom Thread (PR: 1)

2. Beauty and the Beast (PR: 2)

3. The Greatest Showman (PR: 5)

4. The Shape of Water (PR: 3)

5. The Beguiled (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Darkest Hour (PR: 7)

7. The Post (PR: 4)

8. Victoria and Abdul (PR: 8)

9. Murder on the Orient Express (PR: 10)

10. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 9)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. Darkest Hour (PR: 1)

2. Wonder (PR: 3)

3. I, Tonya (PR: 2)

Other Possibilities:

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PR: 4)

5. Victoria and Abdul (PR: 7)

6. Bright (PR: 5)

7. Ghost in the Shell (PR: 6)

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 1)

2. War for the Planet of the Apes (PR: 3)

3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PR: 4)

4. The Shape of Water (PR: 2)

5. Dunkirk (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PR: 6)

7. Okja (PR: 9)

8. Kong: Skull Island (PR: 7)

9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (PR: 9)

10. Alien: Covenant (PR: 10)

Best Sound Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 2)

3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PR: 4)

4. Baby Driver (PR: 6)

5. War for the Planet of the Apes (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Wonder Woman (PR: 5)

7. The Shape of Water (PR: 7)

8. Darkest Hour (PR: 10)

9. SpiderMan: Homecoming (PR: 9)

10. Coco (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Post

Best Sound Mixing

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dunkirk (PR: 1)

2. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 2)

3. Baby Driver (PR: 3)

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PR: 4)

5. The Greatest Showman (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. War for the Planet of the Apes (PR: 6)

7. Beauty and the Beast (PR: 7)

8. The Shape of Water (PR: 5)

9. Darkest Hour (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Coco (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Wonder Woman

Transformers: The Last Knight

Best Original Score

1. Dunkirk (PR: 2)

2. The Shape of Water (PR: 1)

3. Phantom Thread (PR: 3)

4. The Post (PR: 4)

5. Darkest Hour (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PR: 6)

7. Wonderstruck (PR: 5)

8. Victoria and Abdul (PR: 10)

9. Blade Runner 2049 (PR: 9)

10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (PR: 8)

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall (PR: 2)

2. “Remember Me” from Coco (PR: 1)

3. “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast (PR: 3)

4. “It Ain’t Fair” from Detroit (PR: 4)

5. “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” from Fifty Shades Darker (PR: 8)

7. “Prayers for this World” from Cries from Syria (PR: 9)

8. “Mighty River” from Mudbound (PR: 5)

9. “The Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name (PR: 7)

10. “The Star” from The Star (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

“Truth to Power” from An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

That leaves me with the following Yuletide nomination count –

11 Nominations

The Shape of Water

9 Nominations


8 Nominations

The Post

7 Nominations

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

5 Nominations

Lady Bird, Blade Runner 2049

4 Nominations

Call Me by Your Name, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, I, Tonya

3 Nominations

Beauty and the Beast, The Greatest Showman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2 Nominations

Get Out, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, Mudbound, Wonder, Coco, War for the Planet of the Apes, Baby Driver

1 Nomination

Downsizing, The Big Sick, Molly’s Game, Murder on the Orient Express, The Beguiled, Marshall, Detroit, The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent, The Girl Without Hands, Cars 3, Foxtrot, The Square, A Fantastic Woman, Loveless, In the Fade, Jane, Faces Places, Icarus, LA 92, City of Ghosts

I shall return with New Years Day predictions! Stay tuned…

Logan Movie Review

A recurring theme in the X-Men universe has been to celebrate being different. This normally applies to the mutants being discriminated against. That’s certainly present in James Mangold’s Logan. However, unlike previous franchise entries, this one strives to be celebrated for its own efforts to be different. It’s a hard R rated venture where Hugh Jackman’s title character has developed a drinking problem and considerably more F bombs in his vocabulary (it’s the first word he utters). His claws shed the kind of blood you won’t witness in a typical PG-13 comic book adaptation.

This is a somber affair with a tone that is legitimately jarring at first. Deadpool may have been the first hugely mainstream R flick of the genre, but that’s all they have in common. Logan is different for sure, but I found that to be cause for celebration only some of the time.

There is little for Logan to be happy about as we open. It’s 2029 and the world’s mutant population is aging. No mutant has been born in a quarter century. The former Wolverine spends his days driving a limo in Texas for fat cats and bachelor parties. He drinks a lot and does his best to hide those infamous claws.

He also serves as caretaker for a frail Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose brainiac abilities have been threatened by brain disease. Logan is assisted by albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant in a fine performance). Our title hero’s past glories are sought again when he comes into contact with a mutant who isn’t supposed to be exist.

Laura (Dafne Keen) is a young girl with mutations similar to Logan’s. It turns out the military is raising youthful mutants for their own destructive purposes in Mexico. She escapes and Logan is asked to take her to a North Dakota location where others of her kind have set up a safe haven coined Eden. Logan isn’t eager to do so, but soon enough he, the girl, and Professor X are on a savage road trip. Standing in their way is Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), head of a military organization termed the Reavers and Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the scientist who’s experimented on the new mutants. In a series that has seen villains both memorable and not, this pair resides more in the latter category.

Logan isn’t really about its bad guys though. It’s more focused on the demons that Logan is battling himself. Oh… and he’s actually literally battling himself too in the form of a nifty genetically engineered version of himself created by those villains. The toned down story (albeit with plenty of hardcore violence) allows Jackman to go places he’s never entered into before with his signature character. Same goes for Stewart’s Professor X. The movie’s points on being a caretaker may resonate with many viewers not accustomed to seeing it in a comic book adaptation. Both actors give impressive performances, as does young Keen in her often silent work.

Ironically, it’s when we realize that the new mutants have been so inspired by the X-Men tales that came before it that Logan generates its greatest power. In other words, that would be the kind of stories we saw in the previous movies that this strives to be so dissimilar from. The final act is most potent and I felt at times it takes a little longer than it should to get there. When it finally does, Logan provides a fulfilling conclusion to Jackman’s work as Logan/Wolverine as the claws draw to a close.

*** (out of four)