Jumanji: The Next Level Box Office Prediction

One of the biggest box office successes of 2017 was that of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams family adventure. Considered to be a bit of a gamble at the time, Jungle ended up developing amazing legs at multiplexes and grossing just over $400 million domestically. In doing so, it edged out Spider-Man as Sony’s highest grossing stateside effort.

The inevitable sequel finds Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Se’Darious Blain, and Madison Iseman reprising their roles. Newcomers to the game include Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina. Jake Kasdan returns to the director’s chair.

Before Jungle went on its moneymaking run, it opened at #2 to the sophomore frame of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It opened over the long Christmas frame two years ago on a Wednesday, earning $36 million over the traditional Friday to Sunday portion with a six-day holiday haul of nearly $72 million.

In 2019, The Next Level gets the jump on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by a week. And while this hopes to develop minor week to week drops like its predecessor, the sequel looks to make more than mid to high 30s out of the gate for the regular weekend.

Some estimates put this at around $40 million while others have it inching towards $50 million or possibly a bit more. I’ll say a gross in the high 40s is my range as this hopes for positive word-of-mouth and smooth sailing ahead like Jungle before it.

Jumanji: The Next Level opening weekend prediction: $48.7 million

AFI Sharpens The Oscar Focus

The AFI Film Awards came out with their 2019 honors today and they do things a little differently. This particular group names their favorite 10 pictures of the year without naming a winner. And their top films are the only category they bother with.

Today those ten movies were as follows: 1917, The Farewell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Knives Out, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. 

So what’s to learn when it comes to Oscar pontificating? Let’s start with comparing this list to yesterday’s announcement of the National Board of Review’s 10 honored titles… eleven actually because their winner was The Irishman. The NBR’s different titles were Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Uncut Gems, and Waves. Not on NBR’s list from AFI:  The Farewell and Little Women. 

Shared AFI/NBR pics: The Irishman, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Richard Jewell. If you think getting Picture mentions in both guarantees Oscar love, 2018 proved otherwise. Five films did just that last year and didn’t land Best Pictures nods: Eighth Grade, First Reformed, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, and A Quiet Place.

Confused? Welcome to the world of awards speculation. As I see it currently, there are only two shared 2019 AFI/NBR features that could miss out on the big race: Knives Out and Richard Jewell. I’ll also take this opportunity to note that Parasite (which is looking decent for Best Pic attention) is ineligible for AFI since it’s a foreign film.

As for Best Pic hopefuls that landed no love from these groups, we have A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (I believe its chances are fading quickly) and Bombshell (not as convinced that it cannot rebound). It could get the 2018 Vice slot, which was ignored by AFI/NBR. There’s also Rocketman, which can hang on to the thought that it could be this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

When you look at the AFI list’s history over the past half decade, it is a fairly reliable barometer on certain directions the Academy will take. Last year, five out of the eventual eight nominees were on their list and that’s the lowest percentage. In 2016 and 2017, it was 7 for 9. In 2014 and 2015, it was 6 for 8. So you can pretty much bank on at least half of AFI’s list and probably a bit more landing Oscar nominations.

I’ll leave you with this: while Knives Out is certainly one of the most obvious candidates for something that could miss a Picture nod, I like its chances better than I ever have before. This could be a case of perfect timing as it just opened, had a much bigger debut than expected, and audiences and critics are singing its praises. I wouldn’t count it out. In fact, I suspect when I update my estimates on Monday – it will rank higher than ever before and enter my top 15 possibilities. That will knock a candidate out and Mister Rogers could be the unfortunate victim.

The Irishman Takes New York

The awards precursors keep coming as the New York Film Critics Circle named their best of 2019 today. Yesterday’s discussion focused on the National Board of Review winners. I explained how a victory with them often doesn’t equate to Oscar glory. And the same holds true for the film reviewers in the Big Apple.

That said, it’s the second day in a row where The Irishman has been named Best Film. Yet the last NYFCC recipient to take Best Picture was back in 2011 with The Artist. It’s the only one of this decade and in the 2000s, there were only three matches: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker. 

One might think that these critics in particular might name Martin Scorsese as Best Director. You would be wrong. It is Ben and Josh Safdie for Uncut Gems. This Adam Sandler crime pic is picking up steam at the right moment, but it could be a reach for them to be included in Director with the Academy.

While Mr. Sandler picked up Best Actor with the NBR trophy yesterday, the New York bunch went with Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory. He’s an on the bubble candidate in an ultra crowded Oscar derby. If Banderas continues to rack up critical kudos, it could certainly help him make the final five.

For the second year in a row, the NYFCC had a surprise victor in Actress. Last year, they went quite outside the box with Regina Hall in Support the Girls. Today it’s Lupita Nyong’o in Us. While this isn’t as much of a shocker, she’s generally been seen as an unlikely candidate for Oscar attention. However, this category isn’t as packed as Actor and she could factor into the mix.

More Irishman love came in Supporting Actor and not for Al Pacino. No, it was Joe Pesci taking the prize and I’m becoming more and more convinced he gets the Academy nod along with his co-star Pacino. Interestingly, this leads me to think voice splitting could occur and that may help Brad Pitt’s chances even more for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Supporting Actress is perhaps the only category where New York seems to match the Oscar front-runner with Laura Dern. NYFCC threw in a caveat, though, by naming her for both Marriage Story and Little Women. Oscar voters are nearly certain to only notice her in the former.

This critics do not divide original and adapted written works and it was Quentin Tarantino taking Screenplay for Hollywood. When it comes to the big show in Original Screenplay, he appears to have an edge over competitors like Marriage Story and Parasite. 

Bottom line: New York spread the love around with their news today, but it’s another solid showing for The Irishman. 

The Irishman Movie Review

There are the types of characters we have met before in Martin Scorsese’s gangster genre works, but never quite like this. There are characters we never really meet here, but we’re introduced to the way they die. There are characters that never speak, but we’re aware of their thought process. And it’s that time consuming process that the filmmaker goes through here that makes The Irishman feel both invigorating and melancholy.

The thought of reuniting this director, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and anything involving the Mob is enough to get many running to the theater or, in this case for most, Netflix. Add Al Pacino to the mix (working with Scorsese somehow for the first time) and there’s more incentive. Yet this is far from a rehash of previous material. It’s an often stunning work that stands on its own merits. There is no coasting happening with De Niro or Pacino and that’s something they can rightfully be accused of in the past quarter century or so. The pair (who shared just a couple of scenes in Michael Mann’s masterful Heat and greater screen time in the unfortunate Righteous Kill) contribute some of their finest work in years. For Pesci, he hasn’t worked in years and his return finds him playing a Mafia boss but in a way you won’t expect.

The unexpected is key here and welcome. Just as GoodFellas gave audiences a final act kinetically viewed from Ray Liotta’s coked out perspective, the last segment of The Irishman is made from a considerably lower dosage. As De Niro’s character enters his final act, we witness him finally pause to consider his existence. And it’s not of a glorified nature.

In this tale based on certain truths and possible myths, De Niro is Frank Sheeran. He’s a World War II vet and truck driver residing in Philadelphia. Frank saw plenty of combat overseas and he’s willing to have a career of killing back stateside. His employer becomes Russell Bufalino (Pesci), the area crime boss and confidante of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Frank soon becomes Hoffa’s body man, enforcer, and trusted friend. Whether on assignment from Bufalino or Jimmy, Frank’s speciality is to “paint houses” (code for taking out whomever he’s ordered to). He’s skilled at it and the screenplay from Steven Zaillian gets into the occasional minutia and necessary strategy of carrying out such tasks.

Hoffa’s bigger than life personality (something Pacino is perfect to portray) often conflicts with the more buttoned down approach of Bufalino (something Pesci is more surprisingly adept at). This frequently leaves Frank in the position of mediator of murder or no murder. There’s plenty of it here, but The Irishman is noticeably less bloody than GoodFellas or Casino. 

De Niro has by far the most screen time and his work is perhaps the most impressive in a picture loaded with two other heavyweights in excellent form. It’s ultimately his film to carry and he does so with an ability he hasn’t shown in a long while. There’s plenty of other familiar faces from Harvey Keitel as another boss to Ray Romano as the group’s very busy attorney. Frank’s family is given the short shrift, but that’s no accident as he doesn’t have much time for them. His relationship with one daughter played by Anna Paquin is a constant thread and it’s a quiet and powerful one.

The Irishman transpires over several decades and Scorsese made the choice not to use younger actors to play the main roles in their 30s and beyond. This is done through de-aging visual effects that, while certainly not perfect, are the best I’ve seen yet. Most importantly, I didn’t find it as a distraction after a couple of minutes.

Just as Hoffa is obsessed with punctuality, The Irishman is about time. In this world of criminals and betrayal and violence, time moves fast. The film itself doesn’t at three and a half hours. That didn’t feel overly padded to me. This is good company. However, as this draws to a close, time slows down for some characters as well. And as Scorsese and three legendary actors expertly show for 209 minutes, some doors for reflection are slammed shut with a bang. Others are left slightly open for it.

**** (out of four)

The Irishman Takes The NBR

The National Board of Review announced its victors this afternoon for their best of 2019. For the pictures and performers who were named as winners, you could say that it’s a double edged sword.

Allow me to explain. In this 2010’s, only one of their Best Film recipients took home Best Picture at the Oscars. That was last year with Green Book. This year, the award goes to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. So from an odds perspective, that could mean it faces an uphill battle for the big gold statue. On the other hand, all of the NBR Film winners from this decade, with the exception of 2014’s A Most Violent Year, have scored an Academy nod. This isn’t really in doubt for The Irishman so expect that trend to continue.

The Board always goes on to name their additional favorite 10 motion pictures and this year they are: 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. In 2018, only three of the ten additional NBR selections got Picture noms: Black Panther, Roma and A Star Is Born. Some notable titles that didn’t make the NBR cut for 2019: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, The Farewell, Joker, Little Women, Parasite, and The Two Popes. 

When it comes to Best Director, the news is even worse for the NBR recipient. No movie this decade has seen that winner match with Oscar. In fact, the last direct match was in 2006 for… Irishman maker Scorsese for The Departed. The NBR named Quentin Tarantino today for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He’s got history against his side for a walk up the Academy steps.

In Best Actor, it’s the same story as only Casey Affleck for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea won NBR and Oscar in the 2010s. Adam Sandler is the winner for Uncut Gems. He’s part of a packed Best Actor race where there’s about a dozen viable candidates looking for five spots. This victory could at least help him get in as only Oscar Isaac (Violent Year in 2014) and Tom Hanks (2017’s The Post) didn’t land nods.

The numbers improve only slightly for Best Actress with two matches: Julianne Moore for 2014’s Still Alice and Brie Larson for 2015’s Room. The NBR bestowed the award this year to Renee Zellweger for Judy, who could be considered a soft front-runner for Oscar.

This brings us to Brad Pitt, winner today for Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He also holds the status of apparent favorite to win the Academy’s love. Yet there’s just two matches this decade between them and NBR: Christian Bale in 2010’s The Fighter and Christopher Plummer from 2011’s Beginners. 

Last year was the only match of the decade for Supporting Actress: Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Kathy Bates took the NBR for Richard Jewell. I don’t see her winning the Oscar, but it could help her nomination odds.

In Original Screenplay, it’s interesting to note that 7 of the past nine NBR winners didn’t even get an Oscar nomination. Could that be a sign of trouble for honoree Uncut Gems? Time will tell…

And for Adapted Screenplay, the NBR went with The Irishman. Par for the course, just two matches here: 2010’s The Social Network and 2011’s The Descendants. 

Bottom line: the NBR announcements might help with fleshing out who certain nominees will be. As far as winners, that’s a whole different story…

Marriage Is The Gotham Story

The first significant awards show of 2019 happened this evening with the Gotham Independent Film Awards. And while it’s not as much of a reliable precursor as SAG or the Globes, there’s always something to extrapolate… eh?

I say unreliable because last year’s Best Feature Winner – The Rider – didn’t measure a blip on the radar screen of Oscar voters. On the other hand, the category’s winners from 2014-2016 (Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight) won the big prize with the Academy.

Tonight was a very good night for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, which premieres on Netflix this Friday. The divorce drama took the top prize in addition to Baumbach’s screenplay, the audience award, and Driver’s work for Best Actor. He appears to be a near lock for a nomination in an extremely competitive and crowded Best Actor race.

Curiously, Driver’s costar Scarlett Johansson did not get an Actress nod here for her work. And it was Awkwafina who took that award for The Farewell. This could assist in getting her Oscar attention. I’ve got her as an on the bubble contender. Her victory here over Alfre Woodard in Clemency and Elisabeth Moss for Her Smell could be a sign that she has an edge.

Unlike The Rider last year, no one will be surprised if Marriage Story gets a Best Picture nomination and it could even contend to win along with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, Parasite, 1917, and Jojo Rabbit. One thing is for sure – this first ceremony in early December is a solid notch in its belt.

December 6-8 Box Office Predictions

Hollywood had reason to be thankful over the holiday weekend as the box office saw a much needed rebound. More importantly, two original films (that’s right – not based on comics or bestsellers) aimed at adults exceeded expectations.

For this first full weekend of December, the studios are holding back as they wait closer to Christmas to unleash their blockbusters like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Jumanji: The Next Level. The only new wide release is the animated Playmobil: The Movie and you can peruse my prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/27/playmobil-the-movie-box-office-prediction/

I don’t expect much from Playmobil, which has generated scant buzz and has Frozen II in its third frame as direct competition. My $2.8 million estimate leaves it outside of the top five.

There is also the expansion of the Mark Ruffalo drama Dark Waters, which had a so-so limited release this past weekend. My $3.7 million projection also leaves it beyond the high five.

That top five should remain the same pictures with perhaps some movement in the numbers placement. Frozen II may lose a bit more than half its Thanksgiving audience and it should have zero trouble getting a three-peat.

I expect all other titles to drop in the high 30s to mid 40s with the smallest drops going to Knives Out after its terrific debut and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Here’s how I have it all playing out:

1. Frozen II

Predicted Gross: $41.3 million

2. Knives Out

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

3. Ford v Ferrari

Predicted Gross: $7.5 million

4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Predicted Gross: $7.2 million

5. Queen & Slim

Predicted Gross: $6.7 million

Box Office Results (November 29-December 1)

As mentioned, it was a bountiful Turkey Day weekend for Tinsel Town as Frozen II dominated the charts in its sophomore frame with $85.9 million, just over my $84.4 million take. The Disney sequel has amassed a cool $288 million thus far.

Rian Johnson’s acclaimed murder mystery Knives Out got off to a sharp start with $26.7 million from Friday to Sunday and $41.4 million since its Wednesday beginning. Those figures easily eclipse my respective predictions of $18.5 million and $27.7 million.

Ford v Ferrari was third with $13.1 million, in line with my $12.8 million estimate for $81 million total.

Queen & Slim was the other impressive debut as the romantic crime drama grossed $11.8 million for the traditional weekend and $16 million since Wednesday. That’s well over my projections of $6.9 million and $10.1 million.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood rounded out the top five with $11.7 million (I said $11 million) for a two-week tally of $34 million.

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