In January, the Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Lulu Wang’s TheFarewell. The drama casts comedian Awkwafina as a Chinese American who travels across the ocean to care for her ailing grandmother. Drawing praise upon its screening, the film currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
TheFarewell sparked a bidding war won by A24. They purchased it for $7 million and it’s scheduled for domestic release on July 12. There’s already a feeling that it could be a significant summer sleeper. Last summer, Awkwafina broke out on the silver screen in a major way with supporting roles in Ocean’s8 and CrazyRichAsians. Her work here has garnered raves and she could find herself in the mix for a Best Actress nod a little less than a year from now.
Furthermore, Ms. Wang could be considered for her direction and especially for her Original Screenplay. The pic has a large ensemble cast and Tzi Ma is a name to keep an eye on for Supporting Actor.
Bottom line: TheFarewell, if it lands with audiences, could be greeted with affection from awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
CaptainMarvel pilots into theaters next weekend with the highest opening of the year thus far easily in its sights. The latest entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes after a banner 2017 from the studio that saw BlackPanther and Avengers: InfinityWar both earn over $675 million domestically. Brie Larson stars as the title character alongside Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury as the tale takes place in the mid 90s. Other costars include Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lace, Gemma Chan, and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, known for making small pics like HalfNelson and MississippiGrind, up their budget game here behind the camera.
The newest MCU saga serves as a bridge between InfinityWar and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, as was hinted at during the end credits of the former. That alone should provide it a substantial opening. As mentioned, it should have zero trouble posting the year’s largest debut and should hold that designation until the Endgame arrival in late April. How much that specific number is lies within a wide range. On the low-end of projections, we could see a debut in the vicinity of the $117 million made by 2017’s Spider–Man: Homecoming. The high-end could approach the friendly neighborhood of $180 million.
If CaptainMarvel makes it to that level, we could be looking at an all-time record for the month of March. That mark is currently held by BeautyandtheBeast at $174 million. I’m not sure it manages to get there, but it’s dangerous to underestimate the MCU. I think a more likely scenario is the #3 biggest March debut – currently held by TheHungerGames, which made $152 million out of the gate. I’ll put it just over that.
CaptainMarvel opening weekend prediction: $154.4 million
In 2011, TheGirlwiththeDragonTattoo billed itself as the “feel bad” movie of the Christmas season. It was an apt description due to its bleak subject matter stemming from the series of Stieg Larsson bestsellers. However, the film itself left a very positive impression with its stylish direction from David Fincher and fine lead performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.
It’s taken some time for Hollywood to come up with their second iteration of the franchise (there were three Swedish entries a decade ago). This time around, the players from Tattoo are MIA and they wisely removed themselves. Fincher only executive produces. Mara’s Oscar nominated turn as Lisbeth Salander is now portrayed by Claire Foy. Craig’s journalist Mikael Blomkvist is now represented by Sverrir Gudnason. The harsh material and winter that accompanies it are still present.
Unlike the 2011 adaptation, TheGirlintheSpider’s Web (based on David Lagercrantz’s book following Larsson’s death) is not an example of bad meaning good. Sadly it’s just plain bad most of the time. In ways that were only hinted at in Tattoo, Lisbeth’s backstory is explored in detail here. She’s a child of a nasty abusive father that she managed to escape from. Her mission of avenging women from lousy men is provided more context. Lisbeth has a sister that didn’t get to loosen herself from her father’s grip. And she grows up to be Sylvia Hoeks’s character, who inherits many of the sadistic patriarchal traits.
Web has a tangled plot involving a McGuffin that reveals the global nuclear codes (how familiar). Lisbeth is hired by a conflicted programmer (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve it. The programmer, in a lame plot twist, has a young son who is the only one capable of unlocking the device’s codes. The American government, led by a sullen NSA agent (LaKeith Stanfield), want it back. So does Lisbeth’s sibling and her bevy of thugs who go by “The Spiders”.
I haven’t mentioned Blomkvist yet. He’s in the picture for plenty of minutes. As played by Gudnason, he’s also totally forgettable. The romantic dynamic between that character and Lisbeth was the bloody heart of Tattoo. Here it’s basically ignored and inconsequential. Mara and Craig clicked in the predecessor. Blomkvist is a dull blank slate in this.
Fede Alvarez is behind the camera and he’s a talented filmmaker as proven by his EvilDead remake and Don’tBreathe. He does his best to bring some visual flair and succeeds a few times. He’s no Fincher though. Many of the action sequences are routine. I don’t look for plausibility in stuff like this. Yet the sight of Lisbeth getting herself out of impossible scenarios over and over again based on her being a walking super computer grows tiresome.
Foy is a fine actress who tries her best to provide some emotional heft to the lead role. This pseudo-sequel doesn’t deserve her. Tattoo made its feel bad mark in highly satisfying fashion. Spider’sWeb feels like a fake.
As the Oscars aired last night, it seems appropriate as 2019’s Best Picture front-runner TylerPerry’sAMadeaFamilyFuneral opens this weekend and tries to dislodge HowtoTrainYourDragon: TheHiddenWorld from the top spot after its franchise best opening. We also have the horror drama Greta with Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz out. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:
Mr. Perry may have to settle for second place as I have the alleged Madea finale getting a low 20s start (the possibility of mid to high 20s is certainly feasible). Dragon exceeded expectations and may see a low 30s sophomore frame.
As for Greta, it’s being released on a surprisingly hefty 2000 screens. I still think it will struggle and settle for fourth after Alita: BattleAngel, with TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart rounding out the top five.
And here’s my projections for the weekend ahead:
1. HowtoTrainYourDragon: TheHiddenWorld
Predicted Gross: $32.2 million
Predicted Gross: $22.8 million
3. Alita: BattleAngel
Predicted Gross: $6.3 million
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million
5. TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart
Predicted Gross: $5.3 million
As mentioned, the Dreamworks Animation franchise finale Howto Train YourDragon: TheHiddenWorld rode out on a high note with $55 million, easily surpassing my $44.7 million prediction. In this young year, that’s the largest opening thus far (CaptainMarvel will change that in short order).
Alita: BattleAngel dropped to second with $12.3 million, in line with my $12.9 million forecast for a two-week tally of $61 million.
TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart was third with $9.6 million compared to my $11.2 million take. Overall earnings are $83 million.
The wrestling biopic FightingwithMyFamily expanded nationwide and was fourth with $7.8 million, not matching my $10.8 million projection.
Isn’tItRomantic rounded out the top five with $7.1 million (I said $6.1 million). It’s made out with $33 million.
Opening on a surprisingly large 2000 screens this weekend is Greta, a horror thriller from veteran Irish director Neil Jordan. The film is headlined by Elle star Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz with a supporting cast including Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, and Stephen Rea (who starred in Jordan’s 1992 Oscar contender TheCryingGame).
The pic screened last fall at the Toronto Film Festival to mostly positive notices. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 67% currently. I will admit that I was a bit shocked when I saw its large theater count. This is normally the type of feature that opens in limited fashion and hopes to gain steam.
I’ll say that Greta has trouble landing the adult audience it’s catering to and struggles to reach mid single digits.
Greta opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million
For my TylerPerry’sAMadeaFamilyFuneral prediction, click here:
It was an evening in which the Academy was generous with their selections – so much so that all eight Best Picture nominees took at least one gold statue. It was also a night where many of the viewers (including me) may have pondered, “Maybe we don’t need a host after all…”
As far as the Oscars go, the ceremony moved rather briskly with a focus on the categories and minimal filler. The telecast saved the surprises for the end portion and they were fairly significant.
I went 14 for 21 in my picks. The big winner would have to be GreenBook, which took Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Original Screenplay. Its win in the top race was a bit unexpected as Roma had front-runner status. Alfonso Cuaron did win for his direction and the Mexican drama emerged victorious as Foreign Language Film and for its Cinematography.
The acting races went as planned until the last one. Rami Malek (BohemianRhapsody), Regina King (IfBealeStreetCouldTalk), and Ali won. Actress was another story as Glenn Close (TheWife), after taking multiple precursors, lost to Olivia Colman’s work in TheFavourite. Her speech was probably the funniest and most genuine of the evening.
It was a good night all around for Rhapsody, which also took Editing and both Sound races. Same for BlackPanther, which was honored for Production Design, Costume Design, and Score.
Adapted Screenplay – BlacKkKlansman, marking Spike Lee’s first competitive Oscar victory
There’s an air of authenticity to InstantFamily as its director Sean Anders and his wife are foster parents in the real world. Is it also a big Hollywood comedy with famous movie stars that works overtime to tug those heartstrings? It is, but the mission is mostly accomplished by credits roll.
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) spend their days flipping houses and enjoying their child free upper middle class existence. A trip down the Internet wormhole gets Ellie intrigued in adopting a toddler. Pete gets on board in short order and we witness the steps needed to do so. This include a weeks long course led by two social workers played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro. Both are rock solid casting choices. An interesting picture could certainly be made about the saints of that profession.
Pete and Ellie get more than they bargained for when teenage girl Lizzy (Isabela Moner) catches their attention. She has two younger siblings in tow and soon it’s a quintet filling a freshly refurbished abode. And there’s plenty of drama (with much humor mixed in) that cause the Wagners to question their new life direction. This isn’t simply a new project.
This is far from a hard-hitting expose on the foster care system. Yet the screenplay from Anders and John Morris doesn’t shy away from the issues that fill it, including addiction, abandonment, and self-worth. It walks a fine line between being effective or risking becoming too mushy for its own good. By the third act, the sentimentality is still strong with this one. However, I’d be deceptive if I said it hadn’t won me over. Much of that has to do with Moner’s touching performance as the untrusting youth and fierce protector of her siblings.
Anders knows this subject and even while there’s a polished Tinseltown shine covering it, his heart comes through. I left Family appreciative of the time spent with them.
The makers of CanYouEverForgiveMe? have more affection for its central character than she has for anyone other than her beloved cat. Director Marielle Heller and screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty succeed in not making that decision seem like a forgery as they delve into what made Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) behave that way. Based on a true story, Lee is a New York loner in the early 1990s. She’s a writer of biographies whose best work is in the rear view. Her exasperated agent (Jane Curtin) advises her to explore other career paths.
That’s not in the cards for Lee. When she sells a handwritten note from her former subject Katherine Hepburn to go on the collectibles circuit, it dawns on her that it’s easy money. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t have other pricey artifacts from celebrities lying around. So she forges them. The letters come from Noël Coward and Dorothy Parker, among others. This allows her to pay the rent. It also allows her a creative writing exercise that scratches her itch.
Lee’s partner in crime is Jack (Richard E. Grant), an aging and flamboyant drug dealer who gets through life due to his bright blue eyes. They share a love of alcohol and a lack of empathy for others. They never fully trust one another. Yet Jack comes closer to actually being liked occasionally by Lee over anything other than the feline persuasion.
We’ve seen how strong of an actress McCarthy can be, especially with her Oscar nominated turn in Bridesmaids. Her slew of headlining comedies that followed have sometimes wasted her talents. This is a different story. While there’s plenty of sardonic humor sprinkled throughout, this is her most dramatic turn. Lee is an unpleasant person to be around. Because of McCarthy’s considerable talents, she’s definitely not unpleasant to watch. She’s matched in quality by Grant, who’s terrific.
CanYouEverForgiveMe? is unique in that it doesn’t paint a criminal that’s particularly regretful of her actions. After all, it gives her a way to knock out any pesky writer’s block. The screenplay is clever in not over explaining Lee. We eventually see that much of her behavior comes from a deep place of loneliness. It’s telling that she only seems capable of focusing on subjects she never knew who came from a different era that she considers better. She can’t connect with potential women who could be partners or really anyone else. Lee does find a connection with Coward and Parker and makes their missives more entertaining. If only that kind of thing wasn’t illegal. However, it gives Lee Israel one final fascinating tale. And it’s at last about her.
Just so there’s zero confusion, it’s not MartinScorsese’sAMadeaFamilyFuneral debuting next weekend. No, this would be the latest Tyler Perry effort from the writer/director/star and it’s said to be the final pic with the Madea moniker.
Originally slated to open last fall, Funeral looks to bring in Perry’s consistent crowd one more time. It’s likely to succeed. Let’s take a trip down Madea memory lane with the premiere weekends of each one featuring that name:
Madea’sFamilyReunion (2006) – $30 million
MadeaGoestoJail (2009) – $41 million
Madea’sBigHappyFamily (2011) – $25 million
Madea’sWitnessProtection (2012) – $25 million
AMadeaChristmas (2013) – $16 million
Boo! AMadeaHalloween (2016) – $28 million
Boo2! AMadeaHalloween (2017) – $21 million
Christmas is a bit of an outlier since it came out in the bustling holiday frame when titles often open somewhat low and leg out. A common theme with this franchise is front loaded first weekends that frequently represent nearly half the overall domestic gross.
I see no reason why Funeral wouldn’t top $20 million out of the gate and I’ll put it in range with what Boo2! achieved, going a tad higher.
Todd Thatcher’s A TylerPerry’sAMadeaFamilyFuneral opening weekend prediction: $22.8 million
Dreamworks Animation hopes to jolt the box office from a poor President’s Day weekend with the release of franchise finale HowtoTrainYourDragon: TheHiddenWorld. We also have the nationwide expansion of the wrestling biopic FightingwithMyFamily entering the ring. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:
Dragon should have zero trouble opening atop the charts with my mid 40s projection. That puts it in range with its two predecessors.
The fight for the #2 spot could get interesting. This post holiday frame often sees large drops for holdovers. I expect that will apply to current champ Alita: BattleAngel and Isn’tItRomantic in particular. Family has sleeper potential, but I have it falling below Angel and TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart, with Romantic rounding out the top five.
And here are those estimates for a weekend ending with crowning Oscar winners:
1. HowtoTrainYourDragon: TheHiddenWorld
Predicted Gross: $44.7 million
2. Alita: BattleAngel
Predicted Gross: $12.9 million
3. TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart
Predicted Gross: $11.2 million
Predicted Gross: $10.8 million
Predicted Gross: $6.1 million
As mentioned, this holiday weekend marked the poorest one for President’s Day (with Valentine’s Day falling on Thursday) in a decade and a half. And it was especially weak considering this frame last year marked the massive debut of BlackPanther. That said, some features managed to exceed my expectations while one in particular definitely didn’t.
Alita: BattleAngel took in $33.5 million from Friday to Monday and $42.2 million counting its Thursday earnings. This is well above my respective predictions of $19.7 million and $24.8 million. So while I certainly failed to give the science fiction action tale its due, this is still underwhelming considering its reported gigantic budget.
TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart dropped to second with $27.7 million, on target with my $27.8 million take. It’s made $62 million in two weeks.
Rom com satire Isn’tItRomantic premiered in third with $16.6 million and $22.8 million since its midweek rollout. That topped my expectations of $14.3 million and $20.7 million.
In its sophomore outing, WhatMenWant was fourth at $12.2 million (I said $13 million). The total is $37 million.
Finally, Blumhouse horror sequel HappyDeathDay2U opened in fifth and that was surprising. I thought it even had at a shot at first, but it earned a measly $11 million over the long weekend and $14.7 million counting Wednesday and Thursday numbers. My forecasts of $22 million and $28.6 million were a little off… However, the silver lining for its studio is that it only cost about $9 million.