The Blog Turns 5!

Five years ago tomorrow night, I decided on a whim to start this here movie blog. Truth be told, I had no clue what it would turn into or if I would even keep up with it.

This now marks the 1,897th blog post. And five years later – I know what it’s turned into for now. Primarily, the blog is focused on box office predictions, Oscar predictions and movie reviews.

There are deviations on occasion. I’ll even dip into my love of music. Sadly some of that has been due to the immeasurable loss of icons lately like Prince and David Bowie and Tom Petty (I’m still considering a top 25 songs for that genius).

Five years from now – who knows? That’s the joy of looking at a blank page nearly 2000  times and just starting. I love movies. I love writing. It’s that simple.

The blog has forged a great relationship with Fantasy Movie League, a remarkable website in which I’m fortunate to write a weekly box office predictions column for. It’s a terrific community with dedicated participants.

Time is a funny thing. 20 years ago today – Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant Boogie Nights opened. There is a solid argument to be made that no more impressive movie has been made since. There’s a scene involving a drug deal gone bad, a gloriously unhinged Alfred Molina, and Chinese firecrackers that ranks among the most memorable film scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

The joy of movies. They never stop. There’s always more to discover. More to study. More to speculate about. It’s a beautiful reel on continuous play for over 100 years. That’s a lot of time for the most timeless form of entertainment; the real American and worldwide pastime.

I’ve passed a lot of time writing this blog over the last half decade and loved every minute of it. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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Who Should Play Donald Trump?

This news should come as no surprise as HBO has announced they will be producing a miniseries in the near future focusing on the 2016 Presidential Election. The effort will come from the team behind Game Change, which told the tale of Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) in her quest to become John McCain’s (Ed Harris) VP in 2008. Game director Jay Roach will be behind the camera.

There is little doubt the project will heavily focus on the man who became the 45th President of the United States. So that begs the question: who will play Donald Trump? I imagine this will be the focus on much speculation until an announcement is made, so I’ll get in on it too. I’ve come up with a dozen interesting choices outlined in this here post. However, before we move to that, let’s discuss some choices that are sure to bandied about.

Name one: Alec Baldwin. Of course, he may be the first actor people think of due to his portrayal of the President on SNL. Yet I find it extremely unlikely that Baldwin would be interested (he’s already announced his impression of POTUS on SNL is soon coming to an end). The filmmakers themselves also might not be wild about casting the performer only known for an exaggerated comedic take on Trump.

Then there’s some big names that might be given the role if they’re interested. Two that spring to mind immediately: Kevin Spacey and Bryan Cranston. Here’s another – Matthew McConaughey. After all, he’s worked with HBO before on “True Detective”.

Yet I wish to delve a bit deeper into Hollywood’s rolodex for some other names. Here’s a dozen of them for your consideration:

Tom Berenger

This choice seems unlikely as he’s probably not a big enough name anymore, but he’s the right age (67) and he does kind of bear a resemblance to POTUS. It’s been over three decades since Berenger was Oscar nominated for Platoon, but he’s popped up occasionally in recent years in pics like Training Day and Inception. 

Kenneth Branagh

The Irish actor has been known more lately for his work behind the camera, including 2015’s Cinderella. Later this year, he directs and stars in the remake of Murder on the Orient Express. That should be a high-profile project and could dovetail well into this very high-profile experience.

Kevin Costner

Coming off a supporting role in the blockbuster Hidden Figures, I question whether Costner could get the look down. Yet he’s a big star who HBO would probably consider.

Russell Crowe

This is a possible example of HBO going with the Oscar winner if he wants to do it. Crowe would be a huge actor to cast in the part and he could potentially add Emmy winner to his award shelf.

Thomas Haden Church

The Oscar nominee for 2004’s Sideways is currently on HBO right now alongside Sarah Jessica Parker in “Divorce”. I could see him pulling off the look for Trump and see him as an intriguing prospect. Possible issue: big enough name?

Greg Kinnear

Another Academy Award nominee for 1997’s As Good As It Gets, it’s been awhile since Kinnear has had a major showcase role. I could see him totally pulling this off and he’s near the top of my choices.

Viggo Mortensen

Mr. Mortensen could be a fascinating pick and he’s coming fresh off an Oscar nod for Captain Fantastic. Like Kinnear, this pick would fascinate me.

Edward Norton

Like Crowe, this would be an example of a major movie star taking on the part. Norton can be a chameleon and I like this idea.

Bob Odenkirk

The Emmy winner for “Better Call Saul” could nail this part, I suspect. He’s shown both dramatic and comedic chops in his body of work.

Kurt Russell

Russell is simply one of my favorite actors period. He’s more versatile than he gets credit for and I totally buy him making this work.

James Spader

Another high-profile choice due to his exposure on “The Blacklist”, he’s toward the top of my personal choices.

Owen Wilson

Of all the choices here, I could really see him getting the look down. The big question: could his very distinctive voice pull off the tones of The Donald?

So there you have it! What actors not mentioned do you feel could step into the President’s shoes? And how about this question: how will Donald Trump react to his casting on Twitter??

 

RIP Bill Paxton

Sadly, this morning I write a post I didn’t expect to with the news that Bill Paxton has passed away at age 61. For even casual movie fans, Paxton was a very familiar face that starred and co-starred in blockbusters such as Aliens, True Lies, Twister, and Titanic.

Upon hearing the news of his death, I began to realize just how present he’s been in my movie watching existence over the last three decades plus. I first knew of him as Chet, the bullying older brother in Weird Science. If that is a guilty pleasure pic, his performance is one of the best pleasures in it. It’s a terrific comedic performance.

Just one year later, his role in Aliens stuck out in that fantastic sequel with one-liners like “Game Over, Man!” That same year, he starred in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire cult classic Near Dark.

All told, Mr. Paxton has about a dozen DVDs and Blu-Rays sitting on my shelf. Like I said, he was truly a part of many of our collective filmgoing experiences from the 1980s on. He was alongside Tom Cruise just three years ago in the solid Edge of Tomorrow and was a rival tabloid cameraman to Jake Gyllenhaal in my favorite picture of 2014, Nightcrawler.

His TV credits include headlining HBO’s “Big Love” and just a few weeks ago, his CBS crime drama “Training Day” (based on the 2001 Denzel Washington film) premiered. His final movie will be The Circle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It opens in April.

Other notable onscreen efforts range from Predator 2 to Tombstone to A Simple Plan and U571. Today I wish to highlight a trio of lesser known titles worth seeking out:

Two are from 1992. Trespass finds him and William Sadler as firefighters who find a treasure map that pits them against drug dealers Ice Cube and Ice-T. It’s great gritty fun. One False Move is an intense crime thriller from director Carl Franklin and written by Billy Bob Thornton. Gene Siskel named it as his favorite movie of that year and it is impressive.

Paxton turned to directing himself in 2001 with Frailty, an underrated and effective thriller where the actor plays a religiously fanatical father. I just watched it again recently and it made me wish Paxton had directed more.

What Bill Paxton did leave us with is his own treasure trove of performances to enjoy. He will be missed.

Box Office Predictions: January 27-29

Three new titles debut this weekend, but none in the trio may dislodge Split from a second weekend atop the charts. The newbies are: sixth and presumably last franchise pic Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, family friendly pet tale A Dog’s Purpose, and Matthew McConaughey vehicle Gold. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/resident-evil-the-final-chapter-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/a-dogs-purpose-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/gold-box-office-prediction/

We’ll begin with Resident Evil. While all other entries in the series have managed over $20 million (except for the first in 2002), the near five-year gap between sequels should hurt this, similar to how it just hurt Underworld: Blood Wars. Still, a second place showing looks probable.

That brings us to A Dog’s Purpose. Based on a hugely successful bestseller, I had this pegged at nearly $18 million until last week when a TMZ story alleged very questionable animal handling practices on set. My feeling is that the story has gotten big enough to hurt this significantly and I now have it barely topping double digits.

As for Gold, middling reviews could hinder this one and I’ve got it outside the top five with mid single digits.

Returning champ Split had a much larger than expected debut (more on that below). Even if it dips more than 50% (typical for horror titles), I still see it remaining #1.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage had an unimpressive opening and I expect it to fall from #2 to #6. That’s because both Hidden Figures and La La Land should reap the benefits of Oscar nominations. La La, in particular, looks poised to receive the most Academy nods of any picture in history tomorrow morning and that could contribute to a bump.

And with that, my top 8 predictions for this weekend:

1. Split 

Predicted Gross: $18.5 million (representing a drop of 53%)

2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Predicted Gross: $14.6 million

3. Hidden Figures

Predicted Gross: $12.8 million (representing a drop of 19%)

4. A Dog’s Purpose

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

5. La La Land

Predicted Gross: $9.9 million (representing an increase of 18&)

6. xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 55%)

7. Sing

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million (representing a drop of 38%)

8. Gold

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million

Box Office Results (January 20-22)

On the weekend that we just had, maybe it’s somewhat appropriate and ironic that the #1 movie in America is titled Split. And the M. Night Shymalan pic rocketed out of the gate with a fantastic and unforeseen $40.1 million, more than doubling my teeny $19.6M estimate. This is the director’s fourth highest domestic debut, trailing Signs, The Village, and The Last Airbender. It puts the director, who’d been on a downturn until 2015’s low-budget The Visit performed well, on even more of an upswing.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage managed a middling $20.1 million in second, under my $25.4M prediction. The Diesel power is clearly stronger with his Fast and Furious franchise.

Two-week champ Hidden Figures was third with $15.7 million (a bit above my $13.7M forecast) for $83M thus far.

Sing was fourth with $9 million (I said $8.4M) to bring its tally to $249M.

Fifth place belonged to La La Land with $8.4 million (not matching my $11.4M estimate) for an $89M total. Still, as mentioned, its Oscar bump could be forthcoming.

Rogue One was sixth with $7.2 million (I said $7.8M) for a $512M haul.

#7 – Monster Trucks in weekend #2 with $7 million (I said $6.2M). Total gross: $22M.

#8 – Patriots Day, also in weekend #2 of wide release with $5.7 million (I said $7.2M). Total gross: $23M.

#9 – Sleepless in its sophomore frame with $3.4M and #10 was The Bye Bye Man, also with $3.4M in weekend 2. My respective guesstimates were $4.3M and $5.9M.

The Founder with Michael Keaton opened to stale results with $3.4 million in 11th, a bit shy of my $4.1M estimate.

Finally, two other newcomers posted low numbers as 20th Century Women expanded wide and made $1.4 million (I was higher with $2.8M) and faith-based dramedy The Resurrection of Gavin Stone earned $1.3 million (I said $1.6M).

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

2016: The Year of Casey Affleck

Nearly a decade ago, Casey Affleck received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It was that same year in 2007 that he starred in his brother Ben’s well-received directorial debut Gone Baby Gone and appeared for the third time in Oceans Thirteen as part of that blockbuster trilogy.

Since then, Affleck’s career has been a mix of smaller flicks like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Out of the Furnace with supporting roles in studio fare like Tower Heist and Interstellar. He also made a strange excursion into directing with the Joaquin Phoenix “documentary” I’m Still Here.

His 2016 started rather unremarkably with two pics that came and went – The Finest Hours and Triple 9. Yet it was that same time early in the year that word came out from Sundance about Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s drama about grief and family. And the word was quite impressive.

At the close of 2016, Manchester stands as a serious awards contender with its star assured a nomination for Best Actor. It is likely it will come down to Affleck and Denzel Washington (Fences) for the win. The former has already picked up a number of critics prizes for his most acclaimed role thus far. He closed out the year by hosting the “Saturday Night Live” Christmas show, including a very amusing bit involving Dunkin Donuts.

The Sundance Film Festival next month will showcase Affleck’s next project – A Ghost Story alongside Rooney Mara. Who knows what that will bring, but it certainly kickstarted a supremely lauded year for Affleck this year.

2016: The Year of Viola Davis

After a number of smaller film roles in some notable pictures ranging from Out of Sight to Far From Heaven to Syriana, it was another smaller role that catapulted Viola Davis to the attention of moviegoers in 2008. Her one scene in Doubt alongside Meryl Streep and Amy Adams earned the actress a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She didn’t win, yet it furthered some more substantive roles including 2011’s The Help for which she received a Lead Actress Academy nod (losing to Streep in The Iron Lady).

Yet in 2016, the third time could well be the charm for Davis for her supporting work in Fences, in which she reprises her Broadway role with director/star Denzel Washington. It’s all part of a remarkable couple of years for Davis in which she deservedly gets a mention in my Year Of posts. Her work in Fences and expected Oscar win would come just a year after becoming the first African-American actress to win Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmys for ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”. Davis also had a prominent role in this summer’s blockbuster Suicide Squad, portraying the government agent responsible for getting all those bad guys together.

Film and TV lovers have been noticing Viola Davis for some time now and 2016 may well prove to be the year where Oscar voters finally do.

My Year Of posts will continue…

2016: The Year of Margot Robbie

Before this year, Margot Robbie was primarily known as Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunning wife in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street and, to a lesser degree, costar to Will Smith in 2015’s Focus.

Yet it was in 2016 that she blew up big time, as the Aussie actress was perhaps the best thing in two summer flicks – The Legend of Tarzan and especially Suicide Squad, in which she teamed up with the Fresh Prince once again. Her Harley Quinn character in Squad was a bright spot in a mixed bag of an experience.

Robbie’s considerably larger star power has led to her being attached to a slew of upcoming roles. She will eventually reprise her Harley role in Gotham City Sirens, which will pair her with other notable female DC super villains such as Poison Ivy and Catwoman. She’s also signed to portray notorious figure skater Tonya Harding in biopic I, Tonya.

No doubt about it – this screen bad girl had a very good 2016.

My Year Of 2016 posts will continue…

 

2016: The Year of Ryan Reynolds

Over the years, Ryan Reynolds has seen his share of hits in multiples genres from rom coms (The Proposal) to action flicks (Safe House). He’s also earned the kudos of critics for appearing in acclaimed indie product such as Woman in Gold, Buried, and Definitely, Maybe.

Reynolds has also had his share of flops, from R.I.P.D. to Self/less to name some recent ones. And while they weren’t necessarily big financial disappointments, he also had the distinction of appearing in two comic book adaptations that aren’t well-regarded: 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern. It was in Wolverine where he costarred with Hugh Jackman as Wade Wilson, better known as raunchy superhero Deadpool. Again, this wasn’t met with much approval from comic book lovers.

For years, Reynolds fought hard to make a version of Deadpool the way he wanted to and finally got his wish in 2016. The result? Well, the aftermath easily earns him a place among performers who had a sterling year. Deadpool opened in February to an astonishing $132 million and an eventual $363 million domestic haul. The pic is easily the actor’s largest grosser ever. It had the largest opening ever for an R rated feature and is second all-time for pictures with that rating (just behind The Passion of the Christ). Additionally, it is 2016’s current #5 earner. And he earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work.

So… yeah, the gamble paid off for Reynolds in a way that was unimaginable just a year ago. Naturally, we will see a sequel in 2018 yet Mr. Reynolds will have a busy 2017 as well. In March, he costars with Jake Gyllenhaal in the outer space thriller Life and in August he headlines action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman.

For 2016, the massive Deadpool juggernaut gave Reynolds his likely signature role and a different kind of superhero tale that was tremendous fun.

My 2016 “Year Of” posts continue tomorrow…

2016: The Year of Disney

Towards the end of each calendar year, I’ve put up posts honoring the people who have captured our movie going attention during that time period. 2015 was the first year that I honored a feeling in one post as opposed to an individual. Last year, it was Nostalgia and it fit due to the box office potency of titles like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, among others.

In 2016, the initial posting is again not a human, but a studio. And it’s Disney. The Mouse Factory has set the all-time record for studio grosses in a calendar year and its list of blockbusters is something to behold.

Currently, Disney is responsible for half of the top ten grossing pictures of the year and that list will grow to six very shortly with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Let’s break it down: Finding Dory ($486 million) is #1 with Captain America: Civil War ($408M) at second. Rogue is likely to join the top three for a Disney trifecta atop the year.

#4 is The Jungle Book ($364M). #6 is Zootopia ($341M) and #9 is Doctor Strange ($226M). Moana is sitting at #11 right now with $162M.

In short, the studio is making a killing on their three most valued properties: animation and the live-action adaptations of them, Marvel Studios, and the Star Wars franchise. That is bound to continue in 2017 with animated features like Cars 3 and Coco. As for the live-action remakes, expect March’s Beauty and the Beast to do boffo business. On the Marvel side, we have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnorak. And of the Star Wars juggernaut, we have Episode VIII (still untitled) invading theaters in December.

Of course, not everything Disney released this year was a smash. There were high-profile flops like Alice Through the Looking Glass and The BFG. Also, Pete’s Dragon did decent business, but nothing compared to its other renderings of the animated classics. In 2017, a big question mark is whether or not they can successfully reinvigorate another once popular series with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Those few disappointments aside, it was a watershed year for Disney and they deservedly get the first mention in my year end honors.

My 2016 posts will continue tomorrow…

 

Blond Ambition: Who Should Play Madonna?

There’s a well known thing in Hollywood referred to as The Black List, a compilation of screenplays that have yet to be produced. Executives in the film industry vote on which ones that they think are the best. Since the inception of the list in 2005, some that have made it on there eventually became awards worthy material. This includes eventual Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, and Spotlight. There’s Best Picture nominees like Babel, Juno, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, American Sniper and The Revenant. We have hit movies of all genres including Superbad, The Fighter, The Hangover, Arrival, and John Wick.

The 2016 Black List was released today and the pic that received the most votes caught my eye. It’s Blond Ambition, a biopic about Madonna that’s set in the 1980s as she was a struggling artist in NYC before becoming the world’s most famous Material Girl. Elyse Hollander is the screenwriter and it’s probably safe to assume this will be on the silver screen in relatively short order.

A well made Madonna biopic (paging Damien Chazelle to direct) could be quite a sight to behold. And, of course, it got me thinking. Who should play her? There’s always the option of casting an unknown. After all, taking on the role of music’s most successful female artist might work better with a performer unfamiliar to our eyes.

Yet one name in particular entered my mind when I read the news today: Chloe Grace Moretz. I think she could pull it off. Even if the film took a couple of years to get off the ground, she’s only 19 right now and would certainly fit the age appropriate timing of that are in its subject’s life. I also thought of Greta Gerwig and she could be interesting, but she’s in her early 30s and Madonna would be in her early to mid 20s here. It could still work though.

What say you? What other actresses could potentially do justice to Madge?