Oscar Watch: Luce

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, racial drama Luce has been doing decent limited release business over the past couple weeks. The film centers around a high school athletic prodigy (Kelvin Harrison Jr., in a performance drawing raves) and his adoptive parents played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Octavia Spencer costars.

Luce drew its share of admirers on the festival circuit and it currently holds a 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nigerian filmmaker Julius Onah directs with a screenplay he co-wrote along with JC Lee. It’s probably Original Screenplay where this holds a slight chance at being recognized. The likely scenario is this gets lost in the shuffle behind higher profile releases. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Peanut Butter Falcon

After premiering last weekend in limited release to pleasing box office results, The Peanut Butter Falcon is generating buzz among audiences. The dramedy centers on a boy with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) who dreams of becoming a pro wrestler and his unique journey to get there. The impressive supporting cast includes Shia LaBeouf (experiencing an indie career resurgence with this and Honey Boy), Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, and Thomas Haden Church. It marks the directorial debut of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, who also penned the screenplay inspired by the tale of Huckleberry Finn.

When Falcon debuted earlier this year at the South by Southwest Festival, it picked up an Audience Favorite prize. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 96%. Could Academy voters take notice?

In order for that to occur, the pic will really need to take off with crowds in coming weeks and the jury is still out. I would say it stands an outside shot at an Original Screenplay nod, but competition could be brutal. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Angel Has Fallen Box Office Prediction

In 2913, Olympus Has Fallen surprised box office prognosticators with a gross of $98 million stateside, eclipsing the earnings of the similarly themed and higher profile White House Down from that same year. The Gerard Butler action thriller has now spawned two sequels with Angel Has Fallen rising in cinemas next weekend.

Butler’s Secret Service agent now finds himself framed for the attempted assassination of Morgan Freeman’s character. Ric Roman Waugh, best known for directing Dwayne Johnson in Snitch, is behind the camera. Costars include Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Danny Huston, and Nick Nolte.

As mentioned, Olympus was a sleeper hit that soared out of the gate with $30 million. 2016 follow-up London Has Fallen couldn’t match those numbers with a $21 million start and $62 million eventual tally.

My expectation is that the third edition will continue the downward trend. Mid to possibly high teens is likely. In the dog days of August, that might be enough for an unremarkable #1 debut.

Angel Has Fallen opening weekend prediction: $15.2 million

For my Overcomer prediction, click here:


For my Ready or Not prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

After premiering in its home country in May at the Cannes Film Festival, the historical love story Portrait of a Lady on Fire will make its North American debut at the Toronto Film Festival shortly. It marks the fourth directorial feature for Céline Sciamma and it made a splash with its European rollout. Set in 1770, Portrait centers on a forbidden romance between a would be bride and the woman commissioned to paint her portrait.

It won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes and currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was acquired by Neon and Hulu for stateside distribution later this year. It stands an excellent chance at being France’s official selection for the Best International Feature category at the Academy Awards. Based on its sizzling buzz, its inclusion in that race is a strong possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

August 16-18 Box Office Predictions

For the second weekend in a row, we have a quintet of new titles populating the marketplace. And like those previous five pictures, all could struggle to break the $20 million mark with some failing to reach double digits. We have the animated sequel The Angry Birds Movie 2, raunchy preteen comedy Good Boys, shark sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, British musical dramedy Blinded by the Light, and Richard Linklater directed mystery comedy Where’d You Go, Bernadette with Cate Blanchett all out. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:






The Birds follow-up debuts tomorrow in theaters. Even with that early start, I believe the Friday to Sunday traditional gross should be enough for it to fly into the top spot. That said, I have it well under the $33 million debut of its 2016 predecessor.

The earnings of Boys and Meters might be similar, but my projection puts the former ahead. There could be a legit battle between these two newcomers with the third frame of Hobbs & Shaw, the sophomore frame of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the fifth weekend of The Lion King. In other words, the placing of the top five could be extremely fluid.

I’m anticipating mid single digits for both Blinded and Bernadette, leaving them well outside the top five and behind Dora and the Lost City of Gold and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

So while this column is normally estimating the top half of the top 10, I’m doubling it given all the new product:

1. The Angry Birds Movie 2

Predicted Gross: $17.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $25.4 million (Tuesday to Sunday)

2. Good Boys

Predicted Gross: $14.3 million

3. Hobbs & Shaw

Predicted Gross: $12.8 million

4. The Lion King

Predicted Gross: $11.1 million

5. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

Predicted Gross: $10.2 million

6. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Predicted Gross: $10 million

7. Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Predicted Gross: $9.3 million

8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Predicted Gross: $7.1 million

9. Blinded by the Light

Predicted Gross: $5.8 million

10. Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

Box Office Results (August 911)

Hobbs & Shaw parked in first for the second weekend with $25.2 million, a smidge below my $27.5 million forecast. The two week tally stands at $108 million.

In a weekend where I assumed Dora and the Lost City of Gold would fare best among the five newcomers, it was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark achieving that status. It exceeded most expectations at $20.9 million, well beyond my $14.3 million take.

The Lion King was third with $20.2 million. My prediction? $20.2 million! It now is Disney’s largest earning live action title at $473 million.

Aforementioned Dora was fourth with a middling $17.4 million, falling below my projection of $19.7 million.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hit the century mark and rounded out the top five. Earning $11.6 million (I said $11.3 million), the total is a cool $100 million.

The Art of Racing in the Rain premiered in sixth with a meh $8.1 million. Good news for me for the second time as I said $8.1 million.

Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish learned audiences wouldn’t turn out for them in a crime thriller. The poorly reviewed The Kitchen was seventh with just $5.5 million compared to my more generous $8.3 million prediction.

Finally, Brian Banks opened in 11th with $2.1 million. I was close at $2.3 million.

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


Rocketman Movie Review

Rocketman, the biopic of legendary piano man Elton John, exists in familiar territory. Yet it manages to do so in an often inventive fashion with a commanding performance by its lead. The pic is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who filled in on Bohemian Rhapsody when Bryan Singer was dumped. They share similar themes of a shy boy coming into his own as an eventual iconic music figure. Unlike Rhapsody, Taron Egerton quite capably and bravely provides the vocal work of the man he’s playing.

The opening finds Elton in a high place both literally and figuratively as he’s about to once again play to a sold out crowd. He’s also at a low in terms of multiple kinds of addiction. Finally asking for help via Alcoholics Anonymous, Lee Hall’s screenplay then provides the framework for flashbacks of his life. It begins with him as the pint sized Reginald Dwight in 1950s England. He’s ignored by his father (Steven Mackintosh) and treated with ambivalence by his mum (Bryce Dallas Howard). His discovery of the piano is a watershed moment. Reginald has natural talent but a laser focus on perfecting the craft.

His most significant encounter comes through Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). He writes the songs and Elton provides the melodies. Bernie is often the only figure in his life who genuinely cares about the newly christened Elton. Fighting through timidity, the newly named vocalist gets loud on the mic and with his outfits. Fame, fortune, and drug addiction follow as they so frequently do.

Those plot points are as known as the lyrics to many Elton tunes. Lucky for us, this isn’t just about a musician. It’s a genuine musical with tightly choreographed numbers set to high energy bangers like “Saturday Night’s Alright” and “The Bitch is Back” and contemplative pieces like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” and the title track. It has the second best movie scene set to “Tiny Dancer”. It’s a tall order to top Almost Famous.

Elton’s love life and homosexuality are explored from an ill-conceived marriage to a woman to his turbulent romance with manager John Reid (Richard Madden). By the time “I’m Still Standing” rises over the speakers, I felt pretty satisfied with this journey through his career and road to sobriety. There’s certainly a theme of Elton forging through his issues and creating his own reality with his outlandish persona. He may not have written all of the words that skyrocketed him to superstardom, but he provided the unforgettable notes. Rocketman often succeeds at capturing them.

*** (out of four)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette Box Office Prediction

Acclaimed director Richard Linklater brings his adaptation of a 2012 bestseller to the big screen with Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Based on Maria Semple’s comedic mystery, the pic casts two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in the title role of an agoraphobic wife and mother who disappears. The story finds her daughter (Emma Nelson) tracking her whereabouts. Costars include Billy Crudup, Kristin Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Zahn, and Megan Mullaly.

It’s been five years since Linklater’s Boyhood bowed to critical praise and multiple Academy nominations. Since then, his efforts Everybody Wants Some!! and Last Flag Flying have underwhelmed at the box office. The late summer release date here is curious as Bernadette is foregoing the festival circuit that often builds buzz for titles such as this.

Without that kind of chatter, the film will rely on fans of its source material. That could be a challenge for it to break out of mid single digits territory.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my The Angry Birds Movie 2 prediction, click here:


For my Good Boys prediction, click here:


For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:


For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here: