Unhinged Box Office Prediction

And now on this little blog of mine… a return to something that could be normalcy. OK, not really but it’s the closest we’ve come in a long time, my loyal readers!

For the first time in nearly half a year, I have something called a “box office prediction” to write. I’ll fully admit that (just like 2020 itself), I’m entering uncharted territory. It begins with an Oscar winner in a road rage B movie and its release will be studied more closely than its makers ever could have imagined.

Unhinged is the first project from upstart Solstice Studios and it stars Russell Crowe as an unstable motorist who terrorizes a family. Derrick Borte directs with a supporting cast including Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, and Jimmi Simpson. In what has become a common occurrence since the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered every sector of the U.S. economy, its August 21st release date is its fourth after various delays.

The thriller will be out this Friday (08/14) in on our neighbor to the north on approximately 300 screens before a planned expansion to the States. The strategy (as of today) is for Crowe and company to be on approximately 2000 screens on the 21st between this nation and Canada.

There are obviously numerous questions that abound when it comes to the first major theatrical release since the middle of March. The state of New York still hasn’t given a green light for openings and it goes without saying that the NYC market is significant. There’s the issue of capacity limitations in any cinema. There’s, of course, the overarching multi-million dollar question as to whether moviegoers are ready to return to the multiplex at all.

The Canadian numbers this weekend for Unhinged could provide some clues. However, even that is not an apples to apples comparison as that country’s cases are not as pronounced as they are here.

Reviews for a movie like this probably don’t matter much. I will note that its received mixed critical reaction to the tune of a 53% Rotten Tomatoes score. The pic already saw a July release in various European and Asian countries and Australia. Its current total stands just over $5 million in those territories.

Let me state the obvious: this is mostly pure guesswork as to the opening weekend for Unhinged. We’ve simply never seen a movie open under these circumstances. Ever. And Solstice Studios seems to be moving forward with their plan to be first out of the wide release gate. It is certainly possible that I will make updates to my estimate as the 21st draws closer.

If the 2000 count holds, Unhinged making close to $5 million appears feasible. I’ll put it just under that for now and let’s see if my projection for this historic opening fluctuates in the coming days.

Unhinged opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

My first round of Oscar predictions in this topsy turvy time known as 2020 arrives at Best Director. If you missed my initial take on the four acting races, you can find them all here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/11/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

I’ve already discussed the challenges of making these August projections and many of them are the same as any other year. Yet it’s even trickier now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever shifting release dates that accompany it. This is why I’ve left off Wes Anderson and The French Dispatch as its premiere is especially in flux. If word comes out in the near future to its unveiling, he would almost certainly be in the top 15.

Some of the pictures and their makers listed here will (at least right now) be seen in the next few weeks at festivals. As for Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan is expected to be out in limited fashion stateside by month’s end.

2019 was a bit more stable and I correctly identified 4 of the eventual 5 nominees in my first late summer predictions. That includes winner Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese, (The Irishman), and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). My only miss was Todd Phillips for Joker and I didn’t even have him in the 10 other possibilities.

Let’s get to it with my introductory look at the players vying for behind the camera accolades!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST DIRECTOR

David Fincher, Mank

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks

Paul Greengrass, News of the World

Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy

Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah

Francis Lee, Ammonite

Tom McCarthy, Stillwater

Mike Mills, C’Mon C’Mon

Christopher Nolan, Tenet

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

I’ll have the big daddy of them all – Best Picture – up in short order! Stay tuned…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

My big announcement today is the selection of my first candidates for Best Actress in the 2020 Oscar field! If you happened to miss my predictions for the supporting categories and Best Actor, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/10/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Unlike Best Actor, none of my initial top 5 picks here have seen their pictures screened. As discussed in previous posts, 2020 is a mighty speculative year for these early August estimates. The potential contenders are certainly some heavy hitters and it was, frankly, hard to whittle the list to this quintet. 4 of my 5 choices here are past winners. Both Viola Davis and Jennifer Hudson are Supporting Actress victors for 2016’s Fences and 2006’s Dreamgirls respectively. Frances McDormand is a two-time lead Actress winner for 1996’s Fargo and 2017’s Three Billboards Outside, Missouri. Kate Winslet took this prize in 2008 for The Reader. The only non-winner is Michelle Pfeiffer and she’s been nominated three times. If she makes it here, it would mark her first nod in 28 years since 1992’s Love Field. 

This is in addition to acclaimed actresses such as Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, and Julianne Moore as possibilities and up and comers like Jessie Buckley, Liu Yifei, and Rachel Zegler. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the silver screen return of cinematic legend Sophia Loren. She last won an Oscar for Two Women some 60 years ago. Elisabeth Moss has two already released pics for which she’s received solid reviews. Of the two, Shirley seems more viable than the horror hit The Invisible Man.

In 2019, my original late summer projections yielded a whopping 4 of the 5 eventual nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell). In my ten other possibilities, I also identified eventual trophy recipient Renee Zellweger as Judy. 

Lots of intrigue in this race and here’s the first take:

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTRESS

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

Kate Winslet, Ammonite 

Other Possibilities: 

Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy

Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Rashida Jones, On the Rocks 

Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead

Julianne Moore, The Glorias

Elisabeth Moss, Shirley

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Liu Yifei, Mulan 

Rachel Zegler, West Side Story

That completes the acting portions of the early predictions and Best Director is up next! Until then…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

My impossibly early first looks at the major Oscar races for 2020 arrives at Best Actor. If you happened to miss my posts concerning the supporting performers, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

Unlike nearly all of the potential contenders in Supporting Actor and Actress, there are already two viable possibilities from pictures that have already screened or seen release. The Sundance Film Festival shed light on Anthony Hopkins in the forthcoming The Father while Netflix’s Spike Lee joint Da 5 Bloods showcased career best work from Delroy Lindo. If it not yet known whether Lindo will compete in lead or supporting, but I’m guessing he lands here.

As for other hopefuls, there are many intriguing storylines. On the Rocks finds comedic legend Bill Murray reuniting with director Sofia Coppola. Their 2003 collaboration Lost in Translation marked Mr. Murray’s only nomination thus far. Three years after his win for Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman will headline Netflix’s Mank from David Fincher, which on paper seems like a very awards friendly venture. And the trailer out last week for Judas and the Black Messiah appears to be a bait worthy role for Daniel Kaluuya (though its release date is still up in the air).

There’s plenty more recognizable faces to consider. I nearly put Ben Affleck among the top 15. His spring sports drama The Way Back gave him some of the best critical reaction of his career. Yet he’s likely a long shot.

In 2019, my inaugural August estimates yielded an impressive three of the five eventual nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). In my 10 other possibilities, the other two contenders were also named: Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes and the winner, Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. 

Here’s my first take!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST ACTOR

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Gary Oldman, Mank

Other Possibilities:

Timothee Chalamet, Dune

George Clooney, The Midnight Sky

Matt Damon, Stillwater

Ansel Elgort, West Side Story

Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins

Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Tom Hanks, News of the World

Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon

John David Washington, Tenet

Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress is up next! Stay tuned…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Today brings us my second post in my very early and quite speculative predictions on Oscar contenders for this thing we call 2020. I have already generated my initial picks for Supporting Actor and you can peruse it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/08/09/early-2020-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

So we arrive at Supporting Actress. In my previous writeup for the gentlemen vying for recognition this year, I went into great detail regarding the challenges of Academy forecasting in 2020. I will not rehash them in detail here, but they obviously involve the COVID-19 pandemic that has created tremendous uncertainty when it comes to release dates. There’s the typical every year questions as well such as whether certain performers will end up in lead or supporting (Olivia Colman in The Father is just one example). Netflix’s The Prom, with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, is another one to watch as far as campaigns (I’ve got them both here for the moment). And I’m currently guessing that Saoirse Ronan will be in this race for Ammonite with her costar Kate Winslet going for Best Actress.

We already have some storylines that could prove fascinating if they pan out. In 2018, Olivia Colman scored a surprise win for The Favourite in lead actress over the more favored Glenn Close in The Wife. In 2020, we could certainly see them go head to head once again in supporting.

When I made my inaugural predictions post in this race in 2019, I correctly identified two of the eventual nominees in my top 5. This included winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh for Little Women. In my 10 other possibilities, I named Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit. I did not, however, list the other two contenders: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) and Margot Robbie (Bombshell).

Let’s get at it!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Olivia Colman, The Father

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite

Other Possibilities:

Mary J. Blige, Respect

Abigail Breslin, Stillwater

Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon

Felicity Jones, The Midnight Sky

Nicole Kidman, The Prom

Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Meryl Streep, The Prom 

Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca 

Debra Winger, Kajillionaire 

Helena Zengel, News of the World 

Best Actor is next! Stay tuned…

Early 2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

And a new day has dawned on this blog of mine as the 2020 Oscar Predictions begin!

To put it mildly, this is a challenge in 2020. The obvious hindrance is the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut theaters down for the past nearly five months and prevented scores of titles from their release.

It doesn’t stop there. I always do my early prediction posts in the later part of August when significant film festivals are about to get underway. The coronavirus has altered that dynamic as well. The Toronto and Venice festivals will operate in a much different fashion with some releases getting remote screenings and you should expect quite a few Oscar Watch posts in the coming weeks. However, it’s not nearly the volume of previous years. I have chosen to push up these early prediction posts because… well, I don’t have much else to write about!

To add to the mayhem – we have understandably seen a year in which release dates are constantly changing. Some of the pictures mentioned here may not see the light of day by February 2021. That, by the way, is the month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have extended eligibility to for the upcoming ceremony. A good example: Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (which has seen its date pushed back more than once) is now a TBD release. We’ve grown accustomed to that lately. For this reason, I am not including it in my inaugural round of predictions.

One potential beneficiary to all of this is Netflix. The streaming giant has loaded up on awards contenders for the season. Three of them in particular – David Fincher’s Mank, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 – boasts multiple performers who could see their work recognized in this particular category. In fact, four of the five early predicted nominees here are for Netflix properties.

As with any other year, these first projections are done with another degree of uncertainty and that’s category placement. It is inevitable that some performances in the supporting field could move to lead and vice versa. These decisions will become clearer as time goes along and will certainly shift my predictions in the future. For instance, Delroy Lindo seems bound for a nod in Da 5 Bloods. The smart money is that he’ll be campaigned for in Best Actor, but it’s in the realm of possibility that he could be a Supporting Actor contender.

Looking back at my early 2019 predictions in this category nearly a year ago, only one of my five projected nominees got through the process. It was, however, the winner with Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For context, I predict my top 5 and then list ten other possibilities. All four other eventual nominees (Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for The Irishman), were all listed as possibilities.

So… let’s get to it with my very speculative first look at which gentlemen could contend in the supporting field!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Tom Burke, Mank

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

David Strathairn, Nomadland

Other Possibilities:

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Charles Dance, Mank

Lucas Hedges, French Exit

Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods

Jesse Plemons, I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Forest Whitaker, Respect 

I’ll have Supporting Actress up next! Until then…

Oscar Watch: An American Pickle

In another case of a comedic release going the streaming route due to the COVID-19 pandemic, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen hits HBO Max tomorrow. The pic finds its lead as immigrant Herschel Greenbaum in 1920, who falls into a vat of pickle juice that perfectly preserves him until he snaps out of his slumber in 2020. Rogen also plays the dual role of Greenbaum’s great grandson in the fish out of water flick.

Some of these Oscar Watch posts over the summer could better be termed as Golden Globe Watch. Pickle currently sports a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s not bad, but a number of the reviews are lukewarm with others downright non-complimentary. In other words, any Oscar consideration for this is wishful thinking. Yet the 2020 experience could open up the door for unexpected comedies to contend at the Globes in their separate Musical/Comedy categorization.

The odds are long for that as well. Based on the critical reaction, I would list the film and Rogen’s performance as behind that of two other streaming comedies released this year: The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson and Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg.

Bottom line: it would be quite a jarring development to see An American Pickle in any sort of awards contention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Mulan Gets a Plus

Disney surprised a lot of box office commentators like myself to begin the week with major news about Mulan. The live-action adaptation of their 1998 animated feature, directed by Niki Caro, was intended to hit theaters on a worldwide scale on March 27th. This was, of course, just a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures of chains across the country.

Since delayed three more times, the Mouse Factory announced this afternoon that the tentpole feature will instead debut on the Disney+ streaming service on September 4. This allows lots of kids and their parents to view it over Labor Day weekend… at a cost of $30. While we have seen numerous pictures go the route of streaming as opposed to theatrical release in the past few months, Mulan is by far the most high profile.

The top brass at Disney made it clear that this is a one-off pattern. There was certainly no further announcement that their Black Widow (delayed from May) would follow suit. The news makes for a fascinating holiday weekend to monitor as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is currently scheduled for select cities in cinemas at the same time.

Depending on how well Mulan performs on the small screen (and it certainly could), one must wonder what that means for other big pics that were supposed to be released by now. To name a few – there’s No Time to Die, A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick, and Wonder Woman 1984.

It may not change anything, but Disney’s Monday bombshell feels like a potential sign of more unexpected pattens to follow. After all, the idea that Mulan would be a streaming debut would have sounded unfathomable pre-COVID. Time will tell, but those anticipating Mulan won’t have to wait long if they’re willing to fork over a premium price.

Summer 2010: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today on the blog, we come to the third and final replay of the cinematic summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts covering 1990 and 2000, you may find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/18/summer-1990-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/25/summer-2000-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.

As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!

10. The Other Guys

Domestic Gross: $119 million

The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.

9. The Last Airbender

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.

8. Grown Ups

Domestic Gross: $162 million

Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.

7. The Karate Kid

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.

6. Shrek Forever After

Domestic Gross: $238 million

Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.

5. Despicable Me

Domestic Gross: $251 million

At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.

4. Inception

Domestic Gross: $292 million

Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.

3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Domestic Gross: $300 million

2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.

2. Iron Man 2

Domestic Gross: $312 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.

1. Toy Story 3

Domestic Gross: $415 million

Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.

And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:

Salt

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.

The Expendables

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.

Eat Pray Love

Domestic Gross: $80 million

This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.

Dinner for Schmucks

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Domestic Gross: $31 million

There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.

The Kids Are All Right

Domestic Gross: $20 million

This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.

MacGruber

Domestic Gross: $8 million

Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.

Winter’s Bone

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook. 

And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:

Robin Hood

Domestic Gross: $105 million

With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.

Sex and the City 2

Domestic Gross: $95 million

The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Domestic Gross: $90 million

A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.

The A-Team

Domestic Gross: $77 million

A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.

Knight and Day

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.

Jonah Hex

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…

The Rental Movie Review

Well-known actors crafting nifty little suspense thrillers tinged with horror has become a thing lately (think John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place and Joel Edgerton’s The Gift). Dave Franco gets in on it with The Rental, which is swift in its running time and plentiful with twists that you see coming and some that are nicely rewarding. It also features a quartet of solid performers whose weekend getaway gives them far more than they bargained for.

Charlie (Dan Stevens) finds a swanky vacation house to nab for the weekend with help from his trusted assistant Mina (Sheila Vand). They’re celebrating something going right with their business and it’s good reason to let their hair down with Charlie’s wife Michelle (Alison Brie, the director’s real life spouse). Mina happens to be dating Charlie’s brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) so he tags along with his puppy. Pets aren’t allowed at the establishment, but that turns out to be the least of their issues. For instance, there might be a psycho around and it’s not safe to be in the shower.

Upon arrival, the foursome confront the property’s caretaker Taylor (Toby Huss). The first problem is a racially tinged one. Mina, who’s of Middle Eastern descent, tried to rent the place and was promptly denied. Charlie had no such trouble. They decide to overlook that and the first night becomes an alcohol and designer drug filled party. This is where the aforementioned “twists” that follow are somewhat predictable in nature. However, the actors have a real chemistry with one another and you’ll want to see where it all leads.

Without venturing into spoiler territory, The Rental isn’t its eventual genre for about two thirds of its brisk 88 minutes. Credit is due to Franco and Joe Swanberg’s script for keeping the audience engaged in the dynamics of the four principals. Of them, it’s Vand who has the best role and she’s quite impressive.

When we arrive at the final third, the build up has been sturdy enough that we care about the fates of the characters as they navigate their way through dense fog and deeply personal conflicts. Franco has crafted a lean and effective directorial debut and its title is worth the price of one.

*** (out of four)