Monthly Archives: October 2018

Oscar Watch: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Disney’s expensive rendering of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms dances into theaters on Friday and it does so with mostly negative reviews. It stands at just 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and the studio may have a rare commercial disappointment on their hands (the budget is a reported $130 million).

So why in the world am I doing an Oscar Watch post on it? Well, the one positive aspect most critics point out is its set design and outfits adorning the actors. That could put Nutcracker in a similar situation with the Mouse Factory’s live-action version of Alice in Wonderland in 2010.

That also received middling reviews (though it did very well financially). It was rewarded with nominations in Art Direction (now called Production Design) and Costume Design. Realms could certainly play in both of those categories and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling. Wonderland also won Best Visual Effects, but that race could be a reach with this.

Bottom line: even though word-of-mouth is not strong, Nutcracker has a shot at some down-the-line categories.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Actress: A Look Back

Back at it again with my look back at major Oscar races from 1990 to the present! We’ve arrived at Best Actress. If you missed my previous posts covering the Supporting performers, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with those posts, I’m selecting my top 3 least surprising winners and top 3 upsets. I’m also giving you my personal pick for strongest and weakest fields from the past 28 years.

For starters, here’s the list of winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Kathy Bates, Misery

1991 – Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Emma Thompson, Howards End

1993 – Holly Hunter, The Piano

1994 – Jessica Lange, Blue Sky

1995 – Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking

1996 – Frances McDormand, Fargo

1997 – Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love

1999 – Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry

2000 – Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

2001 – Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

2002 – Nicole Kidman, The Hours

2003 – Charlize Theron, Monster

2004 – Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

2006 – Helen Mirren, The Queen

2007 – Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

2008 – Kate Winslet, The Reader

2009 – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

2010 – Natalie Portman, Black Swan

2011 – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

2012 – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

2013 – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

2014 – Julianne Moore, Still Alice

2015 – Brie Larson, Room

2016 – Emma Stone, La La Land

2017 – Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

When it comes to Best Actress, I must say it’s probably the race with the least amount of genuine upsets. Nearly every year, there’s a pretty strong front-runner and they win – even more so than in Actor and the Supporting players. Of many non-surprises, here’s my top ones:

3. Holly Hunter, The Piano

Hunter’s work as a mute piano player in Jane Campion’s period piece was the clear favorite over significant competition that included Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do With It? and the previous year’s winner Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day. 

2. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars had already received nods for Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman and there was little question that Brockovich would earn Roberts her first and only (so far) trip to the Oscar stage.

1. Charlize Theron, Monster

Theron’s metamorphosis into serial killer Aileen Wuornos swept all precursors. The rest of the field was also fairly weak that year, making her the obvious victor.

And now the “upsets”…

3. Kate Winslet, The Reader

While not a surprise when she won Oscar night, the multi-nominated Winslet was expected for much of the year to get a nod for Revolutionary Road instead. Yet it was this Stephen Daldry drama that was selected instead.

2. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

This was a two-way contest between Cotillard and veteran Julie Christie for Away from Her, with many believing the latter had the edge. It didn’t turn out that way.

1. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry and Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

This #1 comes with a caveat. It wasn’t much of an upset by the time Swank won her double Oscars. What’s interesting here is that she single-handedly denied two prime opportunities for the winless Annette Bening to get a statue for American Beauty and Being Julia. 

We move to the fields. For weakest field, I’m selecting 1994 when Jessica Lange won for the little-seen Blue Sky. Other nominees were Jodie Foster in Nell, Miranda Richardson in Tom&Viv, Winona Ryder for Little Women, and Susan Sarandon in The Client. 

Strongest group in my opinion goes to 2010 with Natalie Portman’s victorious role in Black Swan. The rest of that impressive field is Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence’s first nomination in Winter’s Bone, and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

Best Actor is next, folks! Stay tuned…

Overlord Box Office Prediction

Horror audiences have been treated to lots of zombies over the past few years on the big and small screen. Yet in Overlord, we get to witness the undead in World War II! That’s the basic premise of the J.J. Abrams produced genre pic out next weekend from director Julius Ray. The cast includes Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbaek, Jacob Anderson, and Bokeem Woodine.

Reviews for this exercise have been strong since it premiered at Fantastic Fest last month and it currently holds an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The opportunity for this to be a cult hit is very real, but its initial box office earnings might be just fair. The Girl in the Spider’s Web presents some direct competition while casual horror enthusiasts may have had their fill with Halloween. A decent comp could be both 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, which respectively made $10 million and $9.8 million for their starts. I’ll put this a bit under those.

Overlord opening weekend prediction: $8.2 million

For my The Grinch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-grinch-box-office-prediction/

For my The Girl in the Spider’s Web prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-girl-in-the-spiders-web-box-office-prediction/

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/08/18): And another revision down to $9.4 million

Blogger’s Note (11/05/18): I am revising my estimate down to $11.7 million from original estimate of $13.7 million

The Girl in the Spider’s Web makes its way to stateside multiplexes next weekend nearly seven years after David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mr. Fincher is nowhere to be found nor is Rooney Mara as computer hacking heroine Lisbeth. Claire Foy takes over the title role with Don’t Breathe maker Fede Alvarez directing. Costars include Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, and Vicky Krieps.

It’s based on the wildly popular series of novels began by the late Stieg Larsson. This one in particular is adapted from the 2015 book by David Lagercrantz. The long layoff and different personnel involved could present some box office challenges. Reviews are mixed thus far as it stands at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s also direct competition in the form of Overlord, which will be vying for much of the same audience.

Comparing numbers with Tattoo is a tricky proposition. That eagerly awaited pic’s traditional opening weekend number was $12.7 million, but that’s with a huge asterisk. It opened Christmas weekend of 2011 when the holiday fell on a Sunday. Tattoo rolled out on Wednesday and Monday was counted as part of a long weekend. So its six-day earnings totaled out to $27.8 million. At the end of its run, it made $102 million.

Web is highly unlikely to approach those earnings. While it certainly could technically match Tattoo‘s traditional Friday to Sunday debut, there will be none of that extra holiday dough. I actually think a fair comp is September’s Peppermint with Jennifer Garner at $13.4 million and that’s right in the range of where I have Spider landing.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web opening weekend prediction: $9.4 million

For my The Grinch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-grinch-box-office-prediction/

For my Overlord prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/overlord-box-office-prediction/

The Grinch Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note: on the eve of its premiere, I’m giving this a bump from $56.4 million to $63.4 million

Illumination Entertainment’s The Grinch looks to be a profitable one when it hits theaters next weekend. The animated take on the Dr. Seuss classic features the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch as the grumpy Christmas hating character. Other voice over work is provided by Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury, and Pharrell Williams. Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney (who co-directed Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets) are the filmmakers.

In 2000, the live-action version of this tale with Jim Carrey was a massive smash for Universal (Illumination’s parent company). There has been plenty of family pics over the last couple of months and The Grinch will get plenty more competition in following weekends. Both Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Ralph Breaks the Internet are on deck.

That said, Illumination has had an impressive track record during this decade with the Despicable Me/Minions franchise and Pets. This is their first foray into the month of November, but plenty of other studios have planted their animated flag into the same time frame. In 2012, Wreck-It Ralph took in $49 million for its start. Two years later, Big Hero 6 made $56 million. In 2015, The Peanuts Movie started with $44 million and Trolls premiered to $46 million a year later. Yet the best comp could end up being 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which bowed to $55 million. I’ll put it just over that as this Grinch looks to leg out well throughout the holiday season.

The Grinch opening weekend prediction: $63.4 million

For my The Girl in the Spider’s Web prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-girl-in-the-spiders-web-box-office-prediction/

For my Overlord prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/overlord-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: November 2-4

Blogger’s Note (10/30/18): My estimate for Bohemian Rhapsody has increased from $31.8M to $41.8M

A flurry of box office activity greets November as three new releases are unveiled. We have the Queen musical extravaganza Bohemian Rhapsody, Disney’s fantasy adventure The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and Tyler Perry directed Tiffany Haddish comedy Nobody’s Fool. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/23/bohemian-rhapsody-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/24/the-nutcracker-and-the-four-realms-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/24/nobodys-fool-box-office-prediction/

Rhapsody appears poised to, ahem, be the champion. How much it earns is very much in question. Forecasts have it anywhere between $25-$35 million. Reviews have been mixed, but the band’s fan base and rocking trailers have the potential to make the point moot. The film has the potential to over perform ($40 million is in the cards), but I’m estimating it ends up falling in the middle of current projections. **Note updated above.

As for The Nutcracker, it’s risky to underestimate the marketing power of the Mouse Factory. That said, buzz for this seems curiously muted. While it should have no problem nabbing the runner-up spot, I believe it will do so with less than $20 million.

Tiffany Haddish has had a pair of hits with Girls Trip last summer and Night School just a month ago. The latter had the benefit of featuring Kevin Hart. My prediction for Fool gives it about half of what School made out of the gate. That could put it in a battle for third place with the third weekend of current champ Halloween, with A Star Is Born rounding out the top five.

And with that, my top 5 take on as November comes in:

1. Bohemian Rhapsody

Predicted Gross: $41.8 million

2. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Predicted Gross: $19.4 million

3. Nobody’s Fool

Predicted Gross: $14.5 million

4. Halloween

Predicted Gross: $14.1 million

5. A Star Is Born

Predicted Gross: $9.7 million

Box Office Results (October 26-28)

As expected, Halloween easily topped the charts for the second weekend in a row with $31.4 million, a bit below my $35.4 million estimate. The latest pairing of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode has taken in $126 million. That already gives it the all-time franchise earner by far (the previous record was 2007’s remake at $58 million).

For the fourth weekend in a row, A Star Is Born held the #2 spot with $14 million, a tad higher than my take of $13.3 million. It’s up to $148 million with $200 million in its sights.

Venom was third with $10.6 million (I was right there at $10.5 million) for an overall tally of $187 million.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween was fourth with $7.2 million (I said $6.9 million) for $38 million thus far.

None of the newcomers performed well. Hunter Killer managed just a fifth place showing with $6.6 million, not matching my $8.2 million prediction.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s expanded nationally with middling results in 10th with $2.9 million (I said $3.6 million).

In 12th place was Johnny English Strikes Back with $1.6 million compared to my $1.3 million projection. Faith-based drama Indivisible was 13th with $1.5 million (I said $1 million).

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

You Were Never Really Here Movie Review

When You Were Never Really Here ends, you may think you just witnessed a lot more gory violence than you actually did. That’s because the character of Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a universe drenched in depravity. Lynne Ramsay’s latest feature wallows in that world in the same way some of Paul Schrader’s directorial and written works do. Like Taxi Driver, we witness a Big Apple underground that is rotten to the core. Joe even has a nagging dental issue like Nick Nolte did in Affliction. This is not to suggest Ramsay is a knock off artist. Far from it. She’s a talent that saturates this with sadistic style, even if it ultimately lacks in substance. I couldn’t quite escape a feeling that this is Taken for the art house crowd, but it’s well done.

Joe is a former solider who served in Iraq and in the FBI. Quick flashbacks reveal the horrors he’s seen not only there, but in a troubled childhood. He now works in the shadows as a blunt force for hire who rescues trafficked girls. When not on assignment, he cares for his sickly mother (Judith Richards). A state senator (Alex Manette) utilizes his services to track down his young teen daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov).

This latest job leads to some revelations about the individuals behind the abduction. However, the film’s plot is less of a focus than Joe’s mental state while keeping up with it. The traumas of what’s to come have to compete with his stress disorders of prior ones. In a career filled with fine performances, Phoenix impresses again. With his unkept beard and near Terminator like concentration on inflicting pain on some real bad guys, he’s hard to turn away from. That’s even when the cruelty (both seen and implied) is occurring.

The picture is lean (clocking in at an hour and a half) and filled with mean spirits. It’s a credit to the lead actor, Ramsey’s filmmaking abilities, and an ace score by Jonny Greenwood that we stay with it.

*** (out of four)