Last Night in Soho Box Office Prediction

Edgar Wright’s latest vehicle Last Night in Soho zooms into theaters October 29th, four years after his massive success Baby Driver. The psychological horror thriller, set in mid 60s London, features Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final role.

Soho premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early September and garnered  mixed buzz. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is parked at 70%. The overseas reaction took the pic out of awards contention but Focus Features is hoping horror fans turn out on Halloween weekend.

That could be a challenge. This doesn’t look like your average genre fare and that could keep younger viewers away. It also has Antlers debuting against it and, perhaps most notably, Halloween Kills will be in its third frame. We have seen time and again that original material hoping for an adult crowd has struggled at multiplexes in recent times.

I assume that struggle will apply here. The studio is probably hoping for a $10 million start. Soho may be lucky to reach half of that figure.

Last Night in Soho opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million

October 22-24 Box Office Predictions

Arriving a year after its COVID delay is Denis Villeneuve’s version of the sci-fi epic Dune along with the animated Ron’s Gone Wrong. The latter will try to keep the October box office hot streak rolling along with the latter attempting to bring in family audiences. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Dune Box Office Prediction

Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction

We have had three weekends in a row with newcomers premiering at over $50 million or darn close. Dune could fall right in that range. A potential drawback could be its simultaneous availability on HBO Max. However, I do believe enough viewers are aware that it should be seen on the biggest screen possible. I have it in the mid 40s, but as Venom and Halloween Kills have shown us, the chance of over performing is certainly there for the taking.

As for Ron’s Gone Wrong, it has the disadvantage of not being based on known IP. Reviews are decent yet I have it placing fifth and under $10 million.

Halloween Kills exceeded most estimates (more on that below). Its 2018 predecessor fell 59% in its sophomore frame with a B+ Cinemascore average. The sequel has a B- and I envision it dropping a touch over 60%. No Time to Die could see a 50% range decline in its third outing while Venom: Let There Be Carnage may see only a dip in the low 40s.

And with that, my top 5 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Dune

Predicted Gross: $45.8 million

2. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $18.2 million

3. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $12.4 million

4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $9.7 million

5. Ron’s Gone Wrong

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

Box Office Results (October 15-17)

Haddonfield wasn’t the only place where Michael Myers made a killing over the weekend as Halloween Kills premiered at the highest end of projections. The $49.4 million start slashed my $41.2 million prediction. Its simultaneous release on Peacock didn’t appear to make much of a difference. That’s no huge surprise considering the streamer’s membership is minuscule compared to Netflix, HBO Max, and others. While the Kills gross is far under the $76 million achieved by Halloween in 2018, this is still a big win for Universal.

No Time to Die slipped to second with $23.7 million, a bit below my $25.8 million take. The 25th Bond adventure stands at $99 million. While its overseas earnings are pleasing, Daniel Craig’s swan song isn’t quite hitting the anticipated target stateside.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was third with $16.5 million (I said $14.1 million) and it’s up to $168 million.

The Addams Family 2 had the best hold of all in fourth with $7 million, in range with my $6.6 million projection for $42 million total.

Finally, despite mostly solid reviews, Ridley Scott’s medieval tale The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver received little good will from moviegoers. It bombed hard with only $4.7 million in fifth. That’s a far cry from my estimate of $10.4 million. Duel is further proof that adult themed product is having a difficult time getting the intended demographic to the multiplex.

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

2021 Oscar Predictions: October 17th Edition

We actually had two weeks in a row of my Best Actor predictions staying the same after the five spot seemed to be constantly shifting. Not anymore as Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) makes his first appearance in the predicted hopefuls at the expense of Joaquin Phoenix in C’Mon C’Mon. That films also drops out of Original Screenplay in favor of Spencer.

The biggest change is in International Feature Film as France somewhat surprisingly picked Julia Ducournau’s Titane as their selection. That drops Happening from the race and vaults Titane to the five. I’m also putting in Drive My Car over The Hand of God. 

A note – the 10 Best Picture nominees has stayed steady as of late. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that a Sundance selection from early this year (Mass, Flee, or CODA) will end up making the cut. I just can’t decide what to take out yet. We will know soon whether Nightmare Alley, West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, or House of Gucci (the unscreened titles) are vulnerable.

You can read all the movement below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2) (E)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 3) (E)

4. King Richard (PR: 6) (+2)

5. Dune (PR: 5) (E)

6. Licorice Pizza (PR: 4) (-2)

7. West Side Story (PR: 7) (E)

8. House of Gucci (PR: 8) (E)

9. Spencer (PR: 10) (+1)

10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 9) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

11. Mass (PR: 12) (+1)

12. Don’t Look Up (PR: 11) (-1)

13. Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 15) (+2)

14. Flee (PR: 13) (-1)

15. CODA (PR: 14) (-1)

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 2) (E)

3. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 3) (E)

4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 4) (E)

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

Other Possibilities:

6. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 6) (E)

7. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 7) (E)

8. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 10) (+2)

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

10. Julia Ducournau, Titane (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 2) (-1)

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

5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 8) (+1)

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

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

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 10) (E)

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. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 7) (E)

8. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (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. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 6) (E)

7. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 10) (E)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Jamie Dornan, Belfast (PR: 2) (E)

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

4. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 3) (-1)

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

Other Possibilities:

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

7. Ciaran Hinds, Belfast (PR: 7) (E)

8. Jon Bernthal, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 10) (E)

Dropped Out:

Troy Kotsur, CODA

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. Spencer (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 7) (E)

8. A Hero (PR: 8) (E)

9. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Parallel Mothers (PR: 9) (-1)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 1) (E)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Humans (PR: 4) (+1)

4. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (-1)

5. The Lost Daughter (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6) (E)

7. West Side Story (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Dune (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Passing (PR: 9) (E)

10. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Tender Bar

Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. Flee (PR: 1) (E)

2. Encanto (PR: 2) (E)

3. The Mitchells vs. the Machines (PR: 4) (+1)

4. Luca (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Belle (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Raya and the Last Dragon (PR: 6) (E)

7. Where Is Anne Frank (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Vivo (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (PR: 10) (+1)

10. Ron’s Gone Wrong (PR: 9) (-1)

Best International Feature Film

Predicted Nominees:

1. A Hero (PR: 1) (E)

2. The Worst Person in the World (PR: 2) (E)

3. Flee (PR: 3) (E)

4. Titane (PR: Not Ranked)

5. Drive My Car (PR: 5) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Hand of God (PR: 5) (-1)

7. I’m Your Man (PR: 9) (+2)

8. 7 Prisoners (PR: 8) (E)

9. Compartment No. 6 (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Memoria (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Happening

The Good Boss

Best Documentary Feature

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Rescue (PR: 1) (E)

2. Flee (PR: 2) (E)

3. Attica (PR: 4) (+1)

4. President (PR: 6) (+2)

5. Summer of Soul (PR: 3) (-2)

Other Possibilities:

6. The First Wave (PR: 10) (+4)

7. The Lost Leonardo (PR: 5) (-2)

8. Becoming Cousteau (PR: 7) (-1)

9. The Velvet Underground (PR: 9) (E)

10. Ailey (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Julia

Best Cinematography

Predicted Nominees:

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

2. Dune (PR: 1) (-1)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 3) (E)

4. The Power of the Dog (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Belfast (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. West Side Story (PR: 6) (E)

7. Spencer (PR: 7) (E)

8. Cyrano (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Licorice Pizza (PR: 8) (-1)

10. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The French Dispatch

Best Costume Design 

Predicted Nominees:

1. Spencer (PR: 2) (+1)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Cruella (PR: 1) (-2)

4. West Side Story (PR: 5) (+1)

5. The French Dispatch (PR: 7) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. Dune (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (-1)

8. Licorice Pizza (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Cyrano (PR: 8) (-1)

10. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Tragedy of Macbeth 

Best Film Editing

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. Belfast (PR: 2) (E)

3. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4) (+1)

4. West Side Story (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Licorice Pizza (PR: 7) (+2)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Power of the Dog (PR: 6) (E)

7. King Richard (PR: 5) (-2)

8. Don’t Look Up (PR: 8) (E)

9. House of Gucci (PR: 9) (E)

10. Spencer (PR: 10) (E)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci (PR: 1) (E)

2. Dune (PR: 3) (+1)

3. Spencer (PR: 2) (-1)

4. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 6) (+2)

5. Cruella (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Nightmare Alley (PR: 7) (+1)

7. The Suicide Squad (PR: 5) (-2)

8. The Green Knight (PR: 8) (E)

9. Cyrano (PR: 9) (E)

10. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

West Side Story 

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. Nightmare Alley (PR: 5) (+1)

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

Other Possibilities:

6. The French Dispatch (PR: 4) (-2)

7. Belfast (PR: 7) (E)

8. Don’t Look Up (PR: 10) (+2)

9. Licorice Pizza (PR: 9) (E)

10. King Richard (PR: 8) (-2)

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. “Every Letter” from Cyrano (PR: 9) (+4)

Other Possibilities:

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

7. “Believe” from The Rescue (PR: 7) (E)

8. “So May We Start” from Annette (PR: 6) (-2)

9. “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days (PR: Not Ranked)

10. “Beyond the Shore” from CODA (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

“Don’t Look Up” from Don’t Look Up

“Anonymous Ones” from Dear Evan Hansen

Best Production Design

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. Nightmare Alley (PR: 2) (E)

3. West Side Story (PR: 3) (E)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 4) (E)

5. Spencer (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Cyrano (PR: 5) (-1)

7. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 7) (E)

8. The Power of the Dog (PR: 9) (+1)

9. Belfast (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Licorice Pizza (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

The Last Duel

Best Sound

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. West Side Story (PR: 2) (E)

3. No Time to Die (PR: 3) (E)

4. Belfast (PR: 4) (E)

5. Nightmare Alley (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

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

7. The Matrix Resurrections (PR: Not Ranked)

8. A Quiet Place Part II (PR: 8) (E)

9. The Last Duel (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Don’t Look Up (PR: 7) (-3)

Dropped Out:

King Richard

Cyrano

Best Visual Effects

Predicted Nominees:

1. Dune (PR: 1) (E)

2. Eternals (PR: 3) (+1)

3. The Matrix Resurrections (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Godzilla vs. Kong (PR: 4) (E)

5. Don’t Look Up (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

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

7. Free Guy (PR: 7) (E)

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

9. The Suicide Squad (PR: 8) (-1)

10. Finch (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jungle Cruise

And that equates to the following number of nominations for these films:

9 Nominations

Belfast, Dune

8 Nominations

Nightmare Alley

7 Nominations

The Power of the Dog, Spencer

6 Nominations

House of Gucci, West Side Story

5 Nominations

King Richard, Licorice Pizza

4 Nominations

The Tragedy of Macbeth

3 Nominations

Flee, Mass

2 Nominations

Cruella, Cyrano, Encanto, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, The French Dispatch, The Humans, The Lost Daughter, No Time to Die

1 Nomination

Attica, Belle, Don’t Look Up, Driver My Car, Eternals, Godzilla vs. Kong, A Hero, Luca, The Matrix Resurrections, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, President, The Rescue, Respect, Summer of Soul, Tick, Tick… Boom!, Titane, The Worst Person in the World

Halloween Kills Review

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends the 12th Halloween experience laid up in a hospital bed after her near mortal injuries incurred from the 11th one. In that sense, Halloween Kills is quite similar to the first official sequel from 1981. The samesies comparisons don’t stop there as this is an inferior follow-up to what came before it. The difference is that the 1978 original was a slasher classic to which all followers have been judged. 2018’s Halloween was not and therefore the letdown isn’t as steep.

Kills takes place (like Halloween II) during the immediate events after its predecessor. Laurie, daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) had left Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) to burn at her tricked out house. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be mission unaccomplished as the masked one escapes that space and leaves plenty of dead firefighters in his wake.

While Laurie is recovering from her own stabbing, Michael has his knives out for plenty of other townsfolk in Haddonfield. As you may recall, we are on our third iteration of the killer’s most famous prey reuniting with her predator. The 1981 sequel continued John Carpenter’s storyline and revealed that Laurie is Michael’s little sister. 1998’s Halloween: H20 set their sibling rivalry 20 years later.

By the time David Gordon Green and company came around and another two decades passed, 2018’s Halloween ignored all of that. The familial connection was slashed in favor of Laurie becoming a survivalist and waiting for escaped booby hatch patient Myers to find her. Kills allow for other figures in the ’78 pic to return – Tommy Doyle (who Laurie babysat) is now Anthony Michael Hall. Kyle Richards reprises her role as Lindsey, one of the other kids tormented that night. And we catch up with Sheriff Bracket (Charles Cyphers) and Nurse Chambers (Nancy Stephens). We also spend some unnecessary time with flashbacks to 40 years before that don’t add much (though if you want CG Donald Pleasance, you’re in luck).

The phrase “Evil Dies Tonight” is repeated ad nauseam as the denizens of our Illinois murder spot (led by Tommy) seek to end Michael’s return engagement. Of course, we know that ain’t happening. Halloween Kills is the second of a trilogy that will end (?) with next year’s ambitiously titled Halloween Ends. This has the feel of stopgap viewing with no real payoffs and our star player relegated to the sideline. There are a few garish highlights. I was entertained by the couple Big John (Scott MacArthur) and Little John (Michael McDonald… not that one) who live in Michael’s childhood house of horrors and probably should’ve upped their homeowners insurance. A hospital set scene where the residents chase down another of the escaped mental patients is shot effectively.

Ultimately Halloween Kills, for most of its running time, feels painfully average. It’s more violent than part one… which was actually part II if you ignore that other part II. So I suppose this is part III when ignoring nine other movies. The gimmick of Laurie coming back (again) had its pleasures in 2018. Tommy and Lindsey coming back in the mix doesn’t really cut the mustard. Michael cuts the tracheas and tendons with dutiful impassioned restraint. It seldom rises above the mediocrity where most of this series has dwelled since part one (the real one).

** (out of four)

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 majorly 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 mid 30s for the floor and high 40s (maybe even $50 million) for the ceiling.

Dune opening weekend prediction: $45.8 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)