Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction

After premiering to solid reviews at the London Film Festival last week, the sci-fi animated comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong hits multiplexes on October 22. From directors Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith, the voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, and Rob Delaney.

Wrong is the first effort from Locksmith Animation, a British outlet. Distributed by 20th Century Studios (a subsidiary of Disney), future Locksmith titles will be handled by Warner Bros. This is a rare wide release animated work not based on existing IP that isn’t coming specifically from the Mouse Factory or Illumination or DreamWorks.

Reviews are decent with an 84% Rotten Tomatoes score. Yet I really question whether family audiences are even aware of its existence. There’s not much competition for kiddos (The Addams Family 2 will be in its fourth weekend). I still am skeptical that this reaches double digits for the start.

Ron’s Gone Wrong opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million

For my Dune prediction, click here:

Dune Box Office Prediction

F9 Review

Make no mistake. We don’t watch the Fast and Furious movies because they have any resemblance to the real world. For a franchise that I cannot imagine was envisioned to reach nine entries deep, we can park our logic immediately and settle in for a thrill ride. Surprisingly it’s a formula that’s usually worked (certainly at the box office and often with the quality of the product). In F9, the luster has gathered rust. This is the first Fast feature since part 4 that I wouldn’t recommend as a guilty pleasure. We’ve reached the long-lost brother stage of the storyline. We also have characters blasting into outer space. So it’s time to stop being polite about what’s going on in this fading fantasy world.

Returning director Justin Lin (who made parts III-VI) and his cowriter Daniel Casey have swapped out ex-wrestlers turned thespians. Gone is Dwayne Johnson (a result of a feud with Vin Diesel), who brought a jolt starting in Fast Five. Tagging in is John Cena as the aforementioned and previously never mentioned sibling Jakob Toretto. As we are told in overdramatic and overlong flashbacks, he played a role in the late 80s racing death of his father. This doesn’t sit well with brother Dom (Diesel) and the two haven’t been on speaking terms since. Jakob reacts as most would with the family estrangement by becoming an international mercenary and obtaining a deadly computer system that will wreak global havoc. His employer is the son of a dictator (Thue Erstad Rasmussen) who’s working with part 8’s hacker bad girl Cipher (Charlize Theron).

The return of the banished brother causes Dom to interrupt his farm life seclusion with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their 5-year-old son. The band, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) reassemble for the forthcoming sequences where automobiles do things they have no earthly business doing. Also back are the thought to be dead Han (Sung Kang) and a trio of street racers from Tokyo Drift who are now (somehow) rocket scientists. Jordana Brewster (as Dom and Jakob’s sister Mia) hops a flight home. This is where I’ll address a sensitive issue. When Paul Walker died in 2013, the filmmakers were faced with the unenviable task of dealing with his character Brian who served as co-lead for the previous entries. They handled it deftly in Furious 7. However, in a saga that constantly beats the drum of helping your teammates, the explanation of Brian simply being retired and not taking part in the action strains credibility. We’re told he’s babysitting while wife Mia is away. I know it might seem silly to discuss credibility in a Fast flick, but it is an unfortunate minor distraction.

F9 takes too long to get its motor running. The 143 minute runtime (bogged down by those flashbacks of young Dom and Jakob) is a momentum stopper. Part of the intrigue involves a super powerful magnate (think more than fridge quality grade) that whips anything in its path towards it. It’s cool the first time we see the hurling. And then we witness it again and again. Cena has shown considerable comedic chops elsewhere. That magnetism is nowhere to be found here. Dwayne Johnson is missed as is Jason Statham as sparring partner Shaw. Theron, Kurt Russell as government agent Mr. Nobody, and Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mum are barely seen (though the latter’s brief appearance is kind of a hoot).

What we’re left with is a mopey family dynamic that the franchise didn’t need. Roman’s character brings self-reference to the screenplay, often commenting on the ridiculousness of everything – how come no one ever gets a scratch on them? As I said, that doesn’t matter much when we can mindlessly settle in and enjoy it. F9 doesn’t achieve that like the bulk of its predecessors. Put another way, my tank was half full for parts V-VIII and now it’s half empty. By the time Roman and Tej enter moonwalking territory, it should feel ludicrous in a positive way. Instead we’ve had to slog through over two hours of make it up as you go along nonsense to get there.

** (out of four)

Dune Box Office Prediction

Coming nearly a year after its anticipated arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is out in theaters and HBO Max on October 22. The sci-fi epic, with a budget of at least $165 million, comes with high hopes from Warner Bros (so much so that Part One follows its title). Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel (beloved by genre fans), this is its second adaptation behind the 1984 version helmed by David Lynch. Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 maker Villeneuve employs a sprawling cast including Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Critical reaction is mostly strong as it stands at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dune is expected to contend for numerous Oscars including Picture and Director and multiple tech races. It could easily lead next year’s ceremony in terms of nominations. Reviews all seem to agree on one item: that it’s meant to be watched on the big screen. The studio has still stuck to its 2021 strategy of simultaneously premiering their product in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service.

Sci-fi fans have been breathlessly awaiting Dune for years. This is nothing new to Villeneuve as the same could be said for 2017’s Blade Runner follow-up. However, it debuted to a disappointing $32.7 million and failed to reach $100 million domestically (despite similarly solid reviews).

Could the same fate await Dune? That’s definitely a possibility. Beyond its core audience (which is fairly sizable), this could struggle to find a younger crowd. We have seen this year that they are the driving force for pleasing returns in the COVID era market.

If No Time to Die could manage just $55 million and with the inevitability that some fans will opt for home viewing, I have a tough time envisioning Dune surpassing expectations. That’s about $40 million and I do believe the decent buzz and event picture status should put it right in that range of low 30s for the floor and high 40s for the ceiling.

Dune opening weekend prediction: $42.7 million

For my Ron’s Gone Wrong prediction, click here:

Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction

October 15-17 Box Office Predictions

Jamie Lee Curtis is back battling Michael Myers in Halloween Kills while Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver also debuts. These are the new offerings in the mid October frame as No Time to Die enters its sophomore frame following a less than expected start. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the fresh offerings here:

Halloween Kills Box Office Prediction

The Last Duel Box Office Prediction

It has been two straight weeks of me either grossly underestimating (Venom) or significantly overestimating (Die) the newbies. So let’s see what happens with Halloween, shall we? I’m going with a low to mid 40s take and that would be well under the $70M+ that its 2018 predecessor made (Kills is curiously available for streaming on Peacock). Of course, given my October track record, watch it make $60 million or more. I gotta get something on the money in October though… right??

As for The Last Duel, the less than anticipated haul for 007 was further evidence that pictures geared toward older viewers continue to struggle. With scant awards buzz, I’m projecting Duel barely gets to double digits and that should mean a fourth place showing.

Back to Bond. 2015’s Spectre dropped 52% in its second frame and I see no reason why Craig’s finale wouldn’t dip about the same. Venom may fall in the mid 50s in weekend 3 with The Addams Family 2 rounding out the top five with the smallest decline (mid to high 30s) of the bunch.

Here’s how I see the top 5 looking:

1. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $41.2 million

2. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $25.8 million

3. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $14.1 million

4. The Last Duel

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

5. The Addams Family 2

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

Box Office Results (October 8-10)

Well, we all get carried away sometimes. The fantastic premiere for Venom and the hoopla surrounding Craig’s swan song got me thinking No Time to Die was capable of achieving a COVID era best start of $94.1 million. I was dead wrong. Die managed just the fourth best output of its star’s five features. The $55.2 million debut didn’t approach the vicinity of Skyfall ($88 million), Spectre ($70 million), or Quantum of Solace ($67 million). Only Casino Royale‘s $40 million fell under it. Theories will abound. Was six years (COVID delays were abundant) too long a break? Perhaps. As mentioned, it likely didn’t help that older moviegoers are still seemingly reluctant for a multiplex engagement. Die‘s saving grace is overseas grosses in line with expectations. Yet it’s hard to spin the fact that the 25th 007 adventure came in at the absolute lowest range numbers that prognosticators foresaw.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was second with $31.7 million, not quite hitting my $33.7 million estimate. The $141 million ten-day tally is very impressive as it looks to reach $200 million by the end of its domestic run.

The Addams Family 2 took in $10.1 million in its second weekend, ahead of my $9.2 million projection for $31 million overall.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was fourth with $4.3 million (I said $3.4 million) and it’s up to $212 million.

Finally, The Many Saints of Newark crumbled after its weak beginning. The $1.4 million gross (I went with $1.8 million) brought its puny earnings to $7 million.

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

Oscar Predictions: The Tender Bar

George Clooney’s The Tender Bar opens in limited release this December before its premiere on Amazon Prime in early January. The coming-of-age drama set in the 1970s and 80s screened at the London Film Festival over the weekend. Early reviews indicate a warm hearted tale that is unlikely to play in the highest profile races like Picture and Director.

Its famous director wooed Oscar voters 16 years ago with his second effort Good Night, and Good Luck. Scoring six nods (including Picture and Director) and winning none, it’s been slim pickings for Clooney’s behind the camera efforts ever since. 2011’s The Ides of March nabbed a sole Adapted Screenplay mention while last year’s The Midnight Sky made the cut in Visual Effects.

As I see it, The Tender Bar could play in two categories. The first is the screenplay adapted by William Monahan. He’s no stranger to Academy attention as he won in 2006 for his penmanship of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Inclusion there is less likely than for one of its performers.

That would be Ben Affleck. Another leading man turned writer/director, Affleck has a deep history with Oscar voters that has nothing to do with his acting. In 1997, his Good Will Hunting script with Matt Damon won. Fifteen years later, he directed and produced (hence a second trophy) Best Picture winner Argo. Surprisingly, he didn’t get a spot for his direction.

With a cast featuring Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, and Christopher Lloyd, the initial critical praise is being heaped upon Affleck. That’s in addition to some kudos for his supporting work in The Last Duel (out this weekend). Mr. Affleck has been on the radar screen before for his performances – think Hollywoodland, Argo, and last year’s The Way Back. Yet he’s never made the dance. As of now, the Supporting Actor derby for 2021 looks wide open. I’d go as far to say there’s no guaranteed nominees (though Jamie Dornan in Belfast and Richard Jenkins in The Humans look probable). I’ve had Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza) listed at #1 for two months, but we still don’t know if his role is meaty enough to truly contend.

This could all contribute to Affleck finally getting some Academy TLC. That said, he’s been in the mix before and come up shy. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Card Counter Review

For a filmmaker who always focuses on loners, it stands to reason that Paul Schrader’s newest picture is about playing cards. That’s not really what The Card Counter is ultimately about as the emotional damage inflicted upon the man at the poker and blackjack table is the real story.

William Tell (Oscar Isaac) follows the archetype of many a Schrader creation. Emotionally distant and more comfortable on his own, he spends considerable time in casinos across the nation. Tell, as the title suggests, knows how to count them. He also knows when to fold them. Tell could cash in big, but prefers modest winnings and even more modest motels (where he covers all the room’s decor in plain white sheets that he provides). His existence seems to suggest not wanting to be noticed at all.

William’s orbit expands when he happens on a global security convention during a gambling spree and meets Cirk (Tye Sheridan). They share a connection. Cirk’s father is deceased ex-military who was present at Abu Ghraib. So was Tell. The speaker at the conference is Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe), who’s now a private contractor. He escaped any blame for the horrific actions overseas. Tell did not and flashbacks show us the subhuman conditions he witnessed, participated in, and was incarcerated for. In Cirk, our card counter attempts to help a troubled soul by winning him some some cash and paying off debts. Tell enlists La Linda (Tiffany Haddish, going for no laughs), a players manager on the mission.

From Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to Ethan Hawke’s pastor in First Reformed, Isaac’s Tell fits the mold of the auteur’s central figures. These are damaged figures tired of what the world have to offer while making last ditch attempts to help another troubled soul. The problem with The Card Counter is that there’s not much in this example that we haven’t witnessed before from the same author. Most distressing is that the players around Tell simply aren’t compelling. In Schrader’s Light Sleeper (see that one), Susan Sarandon provided a captivating counterpart to Willem Dafoe’s lonesome drug dealer. Haddish’s character is barely written and her late inclusion as a love interest seems forced. So too is the case with Sheridan’s mopey apprentice. Dafoe’s character here hints at a fascinating backstory that’s unexplored.

Isaac’s performance, as we’ve come to anticipate, is quite good. Yet his tale isn’t nearly as gripping as others in the director’s previous works. We catch a glimpse of Tell’s training as a torturer and it is riveting and brief. With First Reformed, Schrader is righteously angry at political events. In that predecessor, it involved the Earth’s destruction via environmental means. In The Card Counter, it’s the hell on Earth that Tell witnessed in an Iraqi prison.

The screenplay offers not enough exploration of its universe. Had Schrader delved into the redundant and seedy world of casino dwellers more deeply, perhaps it could have paid off. After all, few writers have succeeded better in their other scripts penning depraved figures. The plot just never seems to properly call its ideas to fruition and the result feels unfinished. That’s rare when Schrader is at the table and it makes The Card Counter all the more disappointing.

** (out of four)

2021 Oscar Predictions: October 10th Edition

It is a week of fairly minor movement in the major categories for my Oscar predictions. Even the five spot in Best Actor (which seems to change each week) remained intact.

There is a switch in Actress with Jennifer Hudson (Respect) back in over Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth).

The biggest happenings occurred in International Feature Film as nations are continuing to announce their submissions or shortlists in that race. We learned that Spain has gone with The Good Boss instead of Parallel Mothers (a surprise) and that France did not shortlist Petite Maman (which I had in the 5 slot). It’s out in favor of Happening. 

You can read all the activity below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Licorice Pizza (PR: 4) (E)

5. Dune (PR: 5) (E)

6. King Richard (PR: 6) (E)

7. West Side Story (PR: 8) (+1)

8. House of Gucci (PR: 7) (-1)

9. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 9) (E)

10. Spencer (PR: 10) (E)

Other Possibilities:

11. Don’t Look Up (PR: 11) (E)

12. Mass (PR: 14) (+2)

13. Flee (PR: 12) (-1)

14. CODA (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

A Hero

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 4) (E)

5. Paul Thoms Anderson, Licorice Pizza (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities: 

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 9) (+3)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 6) (-4)

Dropped Out:

Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 1) (E)

2. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 2) (E)

3. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 3) (E)

4. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 4) (E)

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 7) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8) (E)

9. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9) (E)

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 1) (E)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2) (E)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3) (E)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4) (E)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 9) (+3)

7. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 10) (E)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (PR: 1) (E)

2. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 2) (E)

3. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3) (E)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 4) (E)

5. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 9) (+3)

7. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 7) (E)

8. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 6) (-2)

9. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Kathryn Hunter, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza (PR: 1) (E)

2. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2) (E)

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kodi Smith-McPhee, The Power of the Dog (PR: 6) (E)

7. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: Not Ranked)

8. Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Troy Kotsur, CODA (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 7) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Jon Bernthal, King Richard

Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth 

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (PR: 1) (E)

2. Licorice Pizza (PR: 2) (E)

3. King Richard (PR: 3) (E)

4. Mass (PR: 4) (E)

5. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Spencer (PR: 6) (E)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 7) (E)

8. A Hero (PR: 8) (E)

9. Parallel Mothers (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 10) (E)

Dropped Out:

The Hand of God

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (E)

4. The Humans (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Dune (PR: 8) (+1)

8. West Side Story (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Passing (PR: 10) (+1)

10. The Tender Bar (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

CODA

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Flee (PR: 1) (E)

2. Encanto (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Luca (PR: 2) (-1)

4. The Mitchells vs. the Machines (PR: 4 (E)

5. Belle (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Raya and the Last Dragon (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Vivo (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Where Is Anne Frank (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Ron’s Gone Wrong (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Charlotte

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. A Hero (PR: 1) (E)

2. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Flee (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Happening (PR: 7) (+3)

5. The Hand of God (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Drive My Car (PR: 8) (+2)

7. Compartment No. 6 (PR: 9) (+2)

8. 7 Prisoners (PR: 10) (+2)

9. I’m Your Man (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The Good Boss (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Petite Maman

Parallel Mothers

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Rescue (PR: 1) (E)

2. Flee (PR: 2) (E)

3. Summer of Soul (PR: 3) (E)

4. Attica (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Lost Leonardo (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. President (PR: 6) (E)

7. Becoming Cousteau (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Julia (PR: 9) (+1)

9. The Velvet Underground (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The First Wave (PR: 7) (-3)

Dropped Out:

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 2) (+1)

2. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 3) (E)

4. Belfast (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Power of the Dog (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. West Side Story (PR: 6) (E)

7. Spencer (PR: 7) (E)

8. Licorice Pizza (PR: 8) (E)

9. Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

10. The French Dispatch (PR: 10) (E)

Dropped Out:

No Time to Die

Best Costume Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Cruella (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Spencer (PR: 1) (-1)

3. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (E)

4. Dune (PR: 4) (E)

5. West Side Story (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (E)

7. The French Dispatch (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Cyrano (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Licorice Pizza (PR: 7) (-2)

10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 8) (-2)

Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. Belfast (PR: 3) (+1)

3. West Side Story (PR: 5) (+2)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (-2)

5. King Richard (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Power of the Dog (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Licorice Pizza (PR: 4) (-3)

8. Don’t Look Up (PR: 8) (E)

9. House of Gucci (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Spencer (PR: 9) (-1)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci (PR: 1) (E)

2. Spencer (PR: 4) (+2)

3. Dune (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Cruella (PR: 5) (+1)

5. The Suicide Squad (PR: 7) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 3) (-3)

7. Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (-1)

8. The Green Knight (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

10. West Side Story (PR: 8) (-2)

Dropped Out:

Licorice Pizza

Best Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. Spencer (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Power of the Dog (PR: 3) (E)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities: 

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7) (+1)

7. Belfast (PR: 9) (+2)

8. King Richard (PR: 8) (E)

9. Licorice Pizza (PR: 6) (-3)

10. Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Luca

Best Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

1. “Be Alive” from King Richard (PR: 1) (E)

2. “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die (PR: 2) (E)

3. “Colombia, Mi Encanto” from Encanto (PR: 3) (E)

4. “Down to Joy” from Belfast (PR: 4) (E)

5. “Here I Am” from Respect (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. “So May We Start” from Annette (PR: 5) (-1)

7. “Believe” from The Rescue (PR: 8) (+1)

8. “Don’t Look Up” from Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

9. “Every Letter” from Cyrano (PR: 7) (-2)

10. “Anonymous Ones” from Dear Evan Hansen (PR: 9) (-1)

Dropped Out:

“At the Automat” from The Automat

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 2) (+1)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 1) (-1)

3. West Side Story (PR: 4) (+1)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Cyrano (PR: 9) (+4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Spencer (PR: 6) (E)

7. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 10) (+3)

8. Belfast (PR: 5) (-3)

9. The Power of the Dog (PR: 7) (-2)

10. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Licorice Pizza

Best Sound

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. West Side Story (PR: 2) (E)

3. No Time to Die (PR: 5) (+2)

4. Belfast (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3) (-2)

Other Possibilities:

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (E)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

8. A Quiet Place Part II (PR: 8) (E)

9. King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Cyrano (PR: 10) (E)

Dropped Out:

The Matrix Resurrections

Eternals

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. The Matrix Resurrections (PR: 2) (E)

3. Eternals (PR: 3) (E)

4. Godzilla vs. Kong (PR: 4) (E)

5. Don’t Look Up (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Free Guy (PR: 9) (+2)

8. The Suicide Squad (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Spider-Man: No Way Home (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Jungle Cruise (PR: 10) (E)

And that equates to the following breakdown in terms of nominations for the pictures:

10 Nominations

Dune

9 Nominations

Belfast

7 Nominations

Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog

6 Nominations

House of Gucci, King Richard, West Side Story

5 Nominations

Spencer

4 Nominations

Licorice Pizza, The Tragedy of Macbeth

3 Nominations

Flee, Mass

2 Nominations

C’Mon C’Mon, Cruella, Cyrano, Encanto, The French Dispatch, The Humans, The Lost Daughter, No Time to Die, Respect

1 Nomination

Attica, Belle, Eternals, Don’t Look Up, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Hand of God, Happening, A Hero, The Lost Leonardo, Luca, The Matrix Resurrections, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, The Rescue, The Suicide Squad, Summer of Soul, The Worst Person in the World 

Oscar Predictions – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The attendees of New York Comic Con were treated to a surprise this weekend with a screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The fourth film in the franchise that famously began in 1984 serves as a direct continuation to the original and its 1989 follow-up. It’s all about family with Jason Reitman as director (his father Ivan made those first two). Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, and Paul Rudd join the bustin’ action with series stalwarts Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver making appearances. Afterlife is finally coming to life after numerous COVID delays with a November 19th stateside release.

Early reviews indicate a long gestating sequel has extreme reverence for its past. Some critics claim it might be a bit too nostalgic, but reaction is overwhelmingly pleasing with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% (based on 11 reviews).

The original classic 37 years ago managed 2 Oscar nominations. They’re what you would expect: Best Original Song for that addictive title track by Ray Parker Jr. and Visual Effects (it lost to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Also as you might expect, Ghostbusters II and the ballyhooed 2016 Paul Feig reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig achieved zero awards attention. I would anticipate the same for this despite the kudos. Visual Effects is a remote possibility, but there’s a slew of contenders more likely (Dune, The Matrix Resurrections, Eternals to name just some).

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Ron’s Gone Wrong

The computer animated sci-fi comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong has debuted at the London Film Festival prior to its UK bow next weekend and US premiere on October 22nd. The film marks the first effort from Locksmith Studios which is owned by 20th Century Studios. Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith co-direct and the voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Justice Smith, and Rob Delaney.

Buzz coming from London is mostly solid though measured in its praise. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 80%. I’m not confident this will serve as a major contender in Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. It has no chance of winning. In my estimation, there are arguably three slots filled (Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines). Disney’s forthcoming Encanto certainly has the resume to contend. Assuming it makes the cut, that leaves one spot that could be filled by Belle, Vivo, or something else. I don’t foresee Ron’s having quite the right ingredients to fill it.

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

No Time to Die Review

The five film run of Daniel Craig as perhaps the world’s most famous cinematic character comes to a close in No Time to Die, the 25th feature in the nearly 60-year-old 007 franchise. It began 15 years ago with Casino Royale, which I list at #2 in the canon behind only From Russia with Love (Sean Connery’s second entry).

For those who think the dedicated team behind the series have no time for surprises, be prepared. Like the midsection poker sequence in Royale that stands as one of the finest in Bond history, there’s times where they go all in. There’s also moments that harken back to the Roger Moore days and, in this case, I mean it as a compliment. By the time we reached Craig’s third and deservedly praised Skyfall in 2012, the pics had achieved a level of seriousness that risked becoming too dour.

Despite its considerable flaws, 2015’s follow-up Spectre thankfully remembered that the action and plots in this cinematic universe can be silly. 007’s 25th adventure isn’t afraid to display that. The threat to the world here involves passing a weaponized virus only through that individual’s DNA and those related to them. It’s a little ridiculous and I once again mean that in a good way.

This is not quite the triumph that Casino Royale was. In fact, I’d also rank this a smidge behind Skyfall. The villain is not particularly memorable. Like all Craig films that followed the first, no romantic entanglement will rival the one he had with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yet Die achieves the unlikely feat of bringing those fun Moore elements dashed with Timothy Dalton’s more weighty tone. The result is that Craig’s time as the super spy (the longest in terms of actual time but not volume of titles) is easily the most satisfying since Sean Connery’s.

From the jump, we realize Die is going to be a little different. The pre-title sequence begins with a franchise first: an eerie and gorgeously rendered flashback that sheds light on the childhood of Madeleine Swann. As you may recall, she’s Bond’s love interest from Spectre played by Lea Seydoux. Her connections to that criminal enterprise led by Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is expanded upon. In the present day, James and Madeleine are making a romantic go of it. A visit to Vesper’s tomb disrupts both their safety and Bond’s trust in his current relationship.

This all occurs in the lengthy prologue before we hear Billie Eilish’s title cut. Let’s dispense with that. Ms. Eilish has some quality tunes, but her contribution is forgettable and not the kind of Bond tune you’ll be humming leaving the theater or rushing to download for the ride back.

In the serialized fashion we’ve come to expect from Craig’s tenure (something unique only to his), we jump five years to Bond in retirement. And (gasp) he’s no longer 007. MI6 is still going strong but relations with their U.S. counterparts are strained. It’s not the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) or M (Ralph Fiennes) or even his beloved Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) or Q (Ben Whishaw) that convince Bond to emerge from his Jamaican R&R. Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), along with a new eager associate (Billy Magnussen), recruit him for a mission that involves dismantling SPECTRE. Bond hooks up (not literally as Bond’s libido seems to be catching up with his age) with another agent (Ana de Armas) to do so. This culminates in a wonderfully fabulous and bizarre action set piece in Cuba.

All this activity soon puts James in the same space with Madeline again and with Blofeld. And we soon meet Safin (Rami Malek), the head baddie with his own troubled history with the criminal organization. I won’t wax rhapsodic about Safin as I mentioned he’s a pretty weak villain. On the other hand, No Time to Die is not really focused on his story. This Bond story, more than any other besides Skyfall, is really about Bond. That gives us one more opportunity to soak in Craig’s terrific performance that’s spanned this quintet. One could argue the series goes too far in making it all about him. With Craig in control, you’ll hear few complaints from me (heck even Quantum of Solace had some cool stuff in it).

No Time to Die has Cary Fukunaga taking over directorial duties from Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous two. He presides over some amazing looking chases and battles that rank right at the top of what we’ve seen previously. On a slightly contradictory note, there’s one during the climax that was a little too video game oriented for my taste. The screenwriters (with an assist from Phoebe Waller-Bridge) also remember to bring the humor. As much as Safin isn’t much of a memorable character, he does get a moment with a toddler that left me chuckling for a good minute or two after their interaction. The makers also don’t forget that these pictures can be quite weird in their production design. Safin’s Poison Garden is a glorious example.

Additionally, the team isn’t afraid to bring a rare level of emotion to the proceedings. However, it’s not that out of place for Craig’s service. We witnessed a love story in Casino Royale that went beyond his typical dalliances. His connection to Judi Dench’s M (particularly in Skyfall) went far deeper than the same character giving James his orders in the past. In No Time to Die, Mr. Craig’s mission involves the striking visuals that we’re used to. What’s different is that over the five adventures connected to each other, I felt like these missions developed a familial bond that shook the foundation of a franchise in a stirring fashion.

***1/2 (out of four)