Like yesterday’s Year of 2017 honoree Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish started 2017 as a stand-up comic not known to a large swath of the American public. Yet as the year draws to its close, Haddish is now quite well-known due to her scene stealing performance in the summer’s comedic sleeper hit.
Alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith, it was Haddish who garnered the most buzz in GirlsTrip, which surprised all prognosticators when it grossed $115 million. It was 2016’s Keanu that gave Haddish her first notable role, but that picture was largely ignored. Yet her raw, profane and outlandish Dina character gave the actress a showcase filled with standout moments.
Critics groups and Hollywood have certainly taken notice. Haddish became the first African American comic to host “Saturday Night Live” this fall. In 2018, she will reunite with Trip director Malcolm D. Lee for NightSchool with Kevin Hart.
Expect to see lots of Haddish in the coming years and 2017 was unquestionably her breakout.
It was early in 2017 when The Big Sick started garnering buzz from its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Nearly one year later, the unique rom com was a smashing box office success and established its star/co-writer as a fresh and exciting new voice on the big screen.
Kumail Nanjiani was best known for his role on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and stand-up. He had appeared in numerous supporting roles in comedies such as Central Intelligence and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but The Big Sick was something else entirely.
The Pakistani born performer penned the screenplay with wife Emily V. Gordon. Loosely based on their relationship and their dealings with her illness and cultural issues, the pic resonated with critics and audiences. The reported $5 million production took in $43 million stateside with a sizzling 98% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sick could soon attract Oscar attention, especially for Best Original Screenplay and Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress.
For Nanjiani, the year began with a festival screening that turned his movie into an audience favorite throughout the year. 2017 ends with his many new fans eager to see his next move.
At the beginning of summer 2017, if you’d told most box office prognosticators like me that Wonder Woman would outdo the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man that season, they would have thought your Lasso of Truth was defective.
That’s exactly what happened this year as the highest profile female comic book adaptation yet turned into the summer’s biggest hit. It will end up as the 3rd highest earner of the calendar year after Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast.
Much of the credit goes to Gal Gadot, who was first seen as the character in last year’s not so well received Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the inclusion of Gadot’s Wonder Woman and her take on the iconic character was seen as one of the film’s bright spots.
Her solo pic was not expected to gross $412 million domestically, but that it did. That’s more than the aforementioned Marvel heroes and also Thor. And, yes, it’s bigger than November’s Justice League, which also included her character.
Much credit is also due to Patty Jenkins, who crafted one of the most critically acclaimed comic adaptations. It’s even generating some Oscar buzz. Her directorial effort marks (by far) the most box office bucks a female director has ever achieved.
While Justice League was a slight damper on Wonder Woman’s cinematic portfolio thus far, it certainly should not tamper excitement for the sequel coming in November 2019. And you can credit the director and lead actress for making that happen in 2017.
As 2018 is nearly upon us, today begins an exploration on what and who made a lasting impression on film in 2017. And it does start with a what – in this case, a studio.
Blumhouse Productions, founded by Jason Blum, kicked off in 2009 with found footage hit ParanormalActivity. It was a massive money maker that spawned numerous sequels. From then on, Blumhouse became known for their low-budget horror flicks. This includes the Insidious, Ouija, Purge, and Sinister franchises.
Yet 2017 has marked their banner year. This started immediately in January with M. Night Shyamalan’s comeback pic Split, which debuted to $40 million and earned $138 million overall domestically. Shyamalan will be working with the studio once again with its spin-off/sequel Glass, due in 2019.
The success kept going in February with the release of Jordan Peele’s GetOut. Earning $33 million out of the gate, the acclaimed horror comedy went on to make $175 million. It’s even garnering Oscar buzz, something rare for Blumhouse (a notable exception was 2014’s Whiplash).
In the fall, HappyDeathDay premiered to $26 million and $55 million total. Not all of the studio’s offerings landed with audiences this year, including TheBelkoExperiment, BirthoftheDragon, and Sleight.
Still, there’s little doubt 2017 has offered Blumhouse its most high-profile successes. 2018 will look to replicate the wins with new Purge and Insidious editions and a reboot of the Halloween franchise.
My look back on the winners in 2017 onscreen will continue…
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 BoogieNights 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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another high-profile choice due to his exposure on “The Blacklist”, he’s toward the top of my personal choices.
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??
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, TrueLies, 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 WeirdScience. 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 NearDark.
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 EdgeofTomorrow 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 TheCircle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It opens in April.
Other notable onscreen efforts range from Predator2 to Tombstone to ASimplePlan and U–571. 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. OneFalseMove 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.
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:
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:
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%)
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million (representing a drop of 38%)
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).
Nearly a decade ago, Casey Affleck received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for TheAssassinationofJesseJamesbytheCowardRobertFord. It was that same year in 2007 that he starred in his brother Ben’s well-received directorial debut GoneBabyGone and appeared for the third time in OceansThirteen as part of that blockbuster trilogy.
Since then, Affleck’s career has been a mix of smaller flicks like Ain’tThemBodiesSaints and OutoftheFurnace with supporting roles in studio fare like TowerHeist and Interstellar. He also made a strange excursion into directing with the Joaquin Phoenix “documentary” I’mStillHere.
His 2016 started rather unremarkably with two pics that came and went – TheFinestHours and Triple9. Yet it was that same time early in the year that word came out from Sundance about ManchesterbytheSea, 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 – AGhostStory alongside Rooney Mara. Who knows what that will bring, but it certainly kickstarted a supremely lauded year for Affleck this year.
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.