Box Office Predictions: July 21-23

Blogger’s Note (07/19/17): I’ve revised my Girls Trip number to $27.3 million, up from $20.3 million in original post below.

A trio of newcomers hit multiplexes this weekend: Christopher Nolan’s WWII action drama Dunkirk, Luc Besson’s sci-fi spectacle Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and raunchy and critically lauded comedy Girls Trip with Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/dunkirk-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-box-office-predictions/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/girls-trip-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, Dunkirk should appeal to adult moviegoers ready for something other than sequels and reboots. I have it slated to debut at #1 with a mid 40s haul and it will likely play well in subsequent weekends through the month of August.

War for the Planet of the Apes should lose over half its audience and drop to second. More on its opening below.

The real battle could be for the three-five spots. Spider-Man: Homecoming may lose a bit over 50% in weekend #3 after a larger than expected dip in its sophomore frame. I believe Girls Trip has breakout success potential. While it’s been a weak summer for comedies, Girls is garnering solid reviews and I think it opens to just over $20 million.

In my estimation, that puts the massively budgeted Valerian in fifth. It could certainly top $20 million, but my gut has it under that figure. The pic should perform better overseas.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the weekend:

1. Dunkirk

Predicted Gross: $44.7 million

2. Girls Trip

Predicted Gross: $27.3 million

3. War for the Planet of the Apes

Predicted Gross: $23.5 million (representing a drop of 57%)

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Predicted Gross: $20.6 million (representing a drop of 53%)

5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Predicted Gross: $17.8 million

Box Office Results (July 14-16)

Critically heralded three-quel War for the Planet of the Apes dethroned Spider-Man for the top spot, earning $56.2 million. This falls under my $63.4M prediction. War played less like its predecessor Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which made $72 million for its start and more like 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which debuted with $54 million. While a decent showing, this is on the lower end of expectations for what War would accomplish.

Spider-Man: Homecoming fell a steep 61% for second with $44.2 million (I was higher at $55.2M). Spidey’s full inclusion into the MCU has amassed $207 million in its first ten days.

Despicable Me 3 held up a bit better than my projection in third with $19.3 million (I said $17M). The Dreamworks animated three-quel stands at $188 million in three weeks.

Baby Driver was fourth with $8.7 million (I said $7.8M) and its total is at $73 million. Surpassing the century mark looks within its grasp.

Kumail Nanjiani’s well reviewed romantic comedy The Big Sick expanded nationwide for a fifth place showing of $7.5 million. My prediction? $7.5 million! I would expect solid word-of-mouth will have this experiencing fairly small drops in upcoming weekends.

Wonder Woman was sixth with $6.8 million (I went with $6.1M) to bring its startling gross to $380 million. Barring some sort of totally unforeseen late summer surprise, it now appears as if Gal Gadot’s spin-off pic will be this season’s highest earner (something that was practically unthinkable just a couple of months ago).

Debuting in seventh was horror entry Wish Upon, which failed to scare up much business with just $5.4 million (I said $5.9M).

And that will do it for now folks! Until next time…

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of Point Break, or Point Brake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.

The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious 7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).

As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.

The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick Die Another Day? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.

Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.

*** (out of four)

Ranking the Superhero Summers

We’re past the midway point of the 2017 summer box office and one thing is clear: it’s been a rather terrific season for the superhero flick genre. In fact, there’s a very good chance the summer’s top 3 earners will belong in that classification. That’s not the first time this has happened (more on that later), but it’s still pretty remarkable.

This got me thinking – what have been the greatest and worst superhero summers of this 21st century? After all, it was the summer of 2000 that got the superhero genre alive and kicking again and it’s never let up. 17 summers ago, it was the release of X-Men that helped revive a genre that had hit a low point three summers earlier with Batman & Robin. In 2002, it would be Spider-Man that would set the opening weekend record and ensure that no summer following would be missing some comic book character headlining. **2001 is the only summer of this century in which there’s no superhero pic.

This leads to my newest list: ranking the superhero summers with explanations provided below. We’re talking 17 summers, so I’m counting down from the worst to the best in my humble opinion.

17. 2009

The Movie: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Just one flick in this particular summer. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had just kicked off the year before, so there was no follow-up ready. Instead, we got Wolverine’s first spin-off and it’s the worst of the whole bunch by a significant margin.

16. 2007

The Movies: Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The third Spidey entry closed the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire on a very weak note and the Four sequel was none too impressive either (to be expected after a middling at best predecessor).

15. 2010

The Movie: Iron Man 2

Tony Stark’s return to the screen after 2008’s juggernaut suffered from being overstuffed with two many villains, etc… One of the lesser MCU entries.

14. 2006

The Movies: X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns

Two pics that failed to meet expectations – The Last Stand suffered a big quality drop-off after the second X and Superman Returns (the first Supes flick in nearly 20 years) couldn’t live up to the hype.

13. 2015

The Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four

Disappointing as it featured two of the weaker MCU entries and a seriously misguided Fantastic Four reboot.

12. 2013

The Movies: Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine

IM3 was an improvement over part 2, The Wolverine was an improvement over Origins. Man of Steel? A letdown in many respects, just like Superman Returns.

11. 2004

The Movies: Spider-Man 2, Catwoman

Would probably rank higher because Spidey 2 is arguably the best of the bunch, but loses points due to the catastrophe that is Halle Berry as Catwoman.

10. 2016

The Movies: Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse 

A mixed bag. Civil War is one of the finer MCU pics, Squad is that mixed bag, and Apocalypse was a major disappointment.

9. 2003

The Movies: X2: X-Men United, Hulk

X2 is perhaps the strongest X entry, but Ang Lee’s Hulk (while having its moments) was often a pretentious bore.

8. 2000

The Movie: X-Men

Only X-Men in this summer, but it deserves props for kicking off the genre in a major way once again.

7. 2002

The Movie: Spider-Man

Even more than X-Men, Sam Raimi’s first Spidey ensured a heaping of genre entries for years to come.

6. 2014

The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Guardians was pure joy, Past was a solid X pic. Loses points for the mess of a Spidey sequel.

5. 2005

The Movies: Batman Begins, Fantastic Four

OK, so Fantastic Four was not so good. Yet this is in my top 5 because Batman Begins not only kicked off the heralded Nolan trilogy, but it’s my personal fave superhero pic of the century.

4. 2011

The Movies: Thor, Captain America: First Avenger, X-Men: First Class

Though not of these flicks are great, they’re all solid in my view. Thor and Captain helped usher in the MCU era as we know it and First Class rebooted its franchise in a pleasing way.

3. 2012

The Movies: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man

Avengers is the granddaddy of MCU, Rises ended up the trilogy in a mostly satisfactory manner while Spidey was a slight letdown (though miles better than its sequel). As referenced earlier, these 3 pictures would mark the highest 3 earners of that season.

2. 2017

The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Three highly entertaining and well-done entries that marked the first super-heroine success.

1. 2008

The Movies: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the genre’s artistic peak and Iron Man was a fine start to a franchise that just keeps charging along. Incredible was a more satisfying (though still flawed) Hulk pic than five years earlier and Guillermo del Toro brought his visual splendor and humor once again to the Hellboy series. A rather easy pick for #1.

Or is it? What are your thoughts on the superhero summers?

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the third reiteration of the web slinger franchise that began a decade and a half ago. It arrives three years after the first reboot with Andrew Garfield sputtered in its second entry. That franchise faded away being plagued by the same issues that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s trilogy suffered at its end – too many villains and generally trying to cram too much superfluous material. It’s a pleasure to report that Homecoming doesn’t suffer the same problems.

In fact, our third Spidey helping soars the most when Peter Parker stays grounded. Tom Holland is the title character, getting his stand-alone pic after a brief appearance in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. Yes, Spidey/Peter is now part of the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe and he’s a pupil of none other than Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Well, sort of. After assisting in one epic battle in Civil War, Peter wrongly assumes he’s part of The Avengers. Yet Stark isn’t exactly quick to enlist him, tasking his trusty bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to keep tabs on him but not involve him in their day-to-day world saving activities.

That leaves Peter doing his Spidey thing on a much smaller scale, busting carjackers and ATM thieves in New York City while hiding his identity from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his high school buddies. That consists mostly of just one classmate Ned (Jacob Batalon), a fellow nerd. Peter also has a serious crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), the lovely captain of the academic decathlon team. There’s another female student, played by Zendaya, that you suspect will become more important as the franchise continues. Homecoming does something that other Spidey flicks never really bothered to do. It makes Peter Parker a credible high school student. Part of the problem in the first two series was that you never bought Maguire or Garfield as underclassmen. With Holland, his youthful exuberance and awkwardness sell it. Of the trio we’ve seen thus far, he is probably the best Spider-Man. He’s definitely the best Peter Parker.

One of Spidey’s busts while waiting for Tony Stark to call with bigger projects leads him to Toomes (Michael Keaton), whose backstory is explained in the opening sequence. He’s a former small business owner gone disgruntled after more powerful interests (Mr. Stark and his empire) took his livelihood away. Toomes retaliates by using some stolen materials to develop weapons. Just as Peter is an everyday guy who becomes a superhero, Toomes is a once normal Joe who becomes a super villain. With Keaton playing him, it’s a pleasure to watch. One often deserved knock on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that a solid villain is about as common as a Marvel Cinematic Unicorn. As with Loki, this offers an exception and Keaton is the reason why.

The scenes in the high school are handled with a often light, humorous and believable touch. Our grand action set pieces are expertly handled, but not much different than anything else we see multiple times a year (one at the Washington Monument is pretty nifty though). Homecoming does a commendable job at remembering that our hero is a neighborhood Spider-Man. Even though we know a much larger universe awaits him, it’s a treat to watch him working in relatively more grounded reality.

*** (out of four)

Girls Trip Box Office Prediction

Bloggers Note (07/19/17): I have revised my number from original post below to $27.3 million as the film’s breakout potential continues to grow.

It’s been a rather rough go for comedies in the summer of 2017 as Snatched, Baywatch, Rough Night, and The House have all performed under expectations. That could change next weekend as Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip may have some breakout potential.

The raunchy comedy, shot for a rather meager $28 million, stars Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith (reuniting after appearing over 20 years ago together in Set It Off) as well as Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish. The quarter play a group of friends on vacation together in New Orleans. Larenz Tate, Kate Walsh, and Mike Colter are among the supporting cast.

Early reviews have been quite positive with critics noting it could be a sleeper. They’re probably right. Estimates for Girls Trip have put it around $15-$17 million for the opening weekend, but I expect word-of-mouth will push it around $20 million. That would actually put it above my estimate for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which premieres the same day.

Girls Trip opening weekend prediction: $27.3 million

For my Dunkirk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/dunkirk-box-office-prediction/

For my Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-box-office-predictions/

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Box Office Prediction

Director Luc Besson has cultivated a following over the past quarter century and the devotion of his admirers will be put to the test when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets debuts next weekend. The big-budget sci-fi pic is based on a popular French comic book series and it’s been a passion project for Besson for many years.

Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and Rutger Hauer are among the cast in this production which reportedly cost at least $180 million to produce. Some of Besson’s works have turned into ones with devoted cult status, including 1994’s The Professional and 1997’s The Fifth Element. His last pic, 2014’s Lucy, was a box office success. However, that may have had more to do with Scarlett Johansson’s involvement fresh off The Avengers.

Critical reaction thus far has been a treat to follow. It stands at a decent 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many writers praising its visuals and sheer audacity. Yet it’s not often a picture with that high a Tomatoes score is also deemed by The Hollywood Reporter as the worst movie watching experience of the year.

Valerian is expected to and will likely do considerably better overseas than stateside. Competition on this side of the pond is significant – Dunkirk opens the same weekend, War for the Planet of the Apes will be in its sophomore weekend, and Spider-Man: Homecoming in its third.

My suspicion is that Besson’s latest could rank third among the newbies next weekend. That would be behind Dunkirk (which is a given) and Girls Trip (which is starting to look like a sleeper hit). Bottom line: the studio better bank on a pleasing European haul.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opening weekend prediction: $17.8 million

For my Dunkirk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/dunkirk-box-office-prediction/

For my Girls Trip prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/girls-trip-box-office-prediction/

Dunkirk Box Office Prediction

Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors whose name can bring in audiences and his box office power will be tested next weekend when Dunkirk lands in theaters. The World War II pic looks to appeal to action fans, as well as adult moviegoers looking for something beyond sequels and reboots. Reviews are embargoed until Monday, but early word of mouth is quite solid. There could be even be Oscar buzz for categories outside of the expected technical nominations it should nab.

The cast is a mix of relative unknowns (Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden) and more familiar faces (Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance). Early forecasts for its opening weekend potential have ranged everywhere from $30 million to possibly $60 million.

My feeling is that it will basically fall between that. Five of Nolan’s last six pictures have made over $45 million out of the gate (the outlier is 2006’s The Prestige). Of course, there’s the Dark Knight trilogy, which doesn’t serve as any sort of fair comparison. The better comps in the director’s filmography are 2010’s Inception and his last effort, 2014’s Interstellar. The former made $62 million and had the benefit of being Nolan’s follow-up to the phenomenon that was 2008’s The Dark Knight. The latter earned $47 million for its start.

I believe Dunkirk will experience a very similar opening to Interstellar with a great chance that it will experience smallish drop-offs in subsequent weekends and play well throughout the month of August.

Dunkirk opening weekend prediction: $44.7 million

For my Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/valerian-and-the-city-of-a-thousand-planets-box-office-predictions/

For my Girls Trip prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/girls-trip-box-office-prediction/

 

 

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1997: A Look Back

Today, we continue on with the summer songs were filling our ears two decades ago. Last week, I brought you the top 10 seasonal ditties of 1987. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/07/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1987-a-look-back/

As I’ve done with these posts previously, I’m personally rating each of them on a scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (summer fire). I’m also answering the important question as to whether each track is located in my Apple Music catalog.

Before we delve into the top 10, I must say that when I looked up Billboard’s chart I expected to see Will Smith’s “Men in Black”, the theme song to 1997’s highest grossing picture. Surprisingly, it was nowhere to be found but in case you wanted to put on your nostalgia goggles and watch the Fresh Prince groovin’ with an alien, here you are:

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the songs that were constantly playing on our radios and CD players 20 years ago:

10. “Look Into My Eyes” by Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony

While I expected Mr. Smith’s movie hit to be in this list, I had plain forgotten about Cleveland rap group Bone’s track that appeared on the Batman and Robin soundtrack. I guess the movie itself isn’t the only forgettable thing about the fourth Caped Crusader flick. While Bone has had some classics (“Tha Crossroads”, “1st of tha Month”), this isn’t one of them.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

9. “Do You Know (What It Takes)” by Robyn

Swedish pop star Robyn scored her first of two top 10 singles stateside with this uptempo dance hit (her second was “Show Me Love”). The fact that I had to look it up to remind myself of it means it’s a bit of a throwaway, but my head was nodding along to it and it’s got a little Britney Spears vibe pre-Britney. This makes sense because it was co-produced by Max Martin, who went on to make massive hits for Britney, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and many many others.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy and Mase

The second single from Biggie’s Life After Death album (released just weeks after his murder), “Mo Money” is a Puff Daddy confection that samples the Diana Ross classic “I’m Coming Out”. It would have sounded perfectly at home on Puff’s hit album from that summer, but it hits a high note when Christopher Wallace’s fierce rap closes it out.

My Rating: 8 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

7. “Say You’ll Be There” by Spice Girls

For those who didn’t live through the Spice revolution, the British girl group were a massive sensation and this is on the higher end of their pop hits. They even went the movie route six months after this topped the charts with Spice World, which performed well worldwide despite mostly scathing reviews.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

6. “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind

This cut from San Francisco rockers Third Eye Blind was inescapable two decades ago. It may be a perfectly sounding pop concoction, but it’s actually about crystal meth addiction. Woo hoo! Truthfully, I found this song rather grating back then and still do. It was featured prominently in American Pie two summers later.

My Rating: 5

It Is On My Apple Music? No

5. “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison

British hip hop artist Morrison had his one hit wonder with this anthem and it’s a darn catchy one that still resonates today. It was even recently featured in a Burger King commercial!

My Rating: 9

It Is On My Apple Music?: Yes

4. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by Backstreet Boys

Also produced by the aforementioned Max Martin, this is Backstreet’s first chart topper in the United States. Is it their best? No, that easily belongs to “I Want It That Way”, but it’s a good pop tune.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

3. “MMMBop” by Hanson

The Oklahoma brothers had an absolute smash with the ubiquitous “MMMBop”. It received critical raves as well. I’ll fully admit this a song I would turn off today, but I liked it too back in the day.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

2. “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks

This female empowerment track by Oregon songstress Brooks was inescapable as well. It doesn’t touch top tier Alanis as far as I’m concerned, but it’s easy to belt out the chorus. It would be prominently featured three years later in the Mel Gibson rom com What Women Want.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

1. “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112

Puff Daddy’s tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. with an assist from his widow and Bad Boy label mates 112 was an absolute juggernaut that spent 11 weeks at #1. Sampling The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, it was a powerful track coming so soon after Biggie’s demise. Truth be told, it’s also rather mawkish and doesn’t hold up nearly as well today but I sure dug it then.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

And there you have it, folks! I’ll be bringing you the 2007 list very soon…

Box Office Predictions: July 14-16

War for the Planet of the Apes attempts to knock Spider-Man off his perch from the #1 spot at the box office this weekend as the horror pic Wish Upon also debuts. You can find my detailed prediction posts on both here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/05/war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/06/wish-upon-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, Spider-Man: Homecoming (coming off a fine debut and more on that below) should lose a bit over 50% of its opening crowd. That means my mid 60s forecast for Planet should put it fairly comfortably at #1.

Despicable Me 3 should drop to third. The wild card this weekend could be critically acclaimed rom com The Big Sick, which has been performing extremely well in limited release. It’s set to expand nationwide on Friday and could easily contend with Baby Driver for the four spot. I’ll put it just below Baby for now, but could revise my estimate depending on the official theater count arriving later this week.

As far as Wish Upon, horror flicks are always capable of over performing, yet I’m not expecting much for it. It could find itself in a battle for sixth with Wonder Woman. 

And with that, I’ll do a top 7 projections for this particular weekend:

1. War for the Planet of the Apes

Predicted Gross: $63.4 million

2. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Predicted Gross: $55.2 million (representing a drop of 52%)

3. Despicable Me 3

Predicted Gross: $17 million (representing a drop of 49%)

4. Baby Driver

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million (representing a drop of 40%)

5. The Big Sick

Predicted Gross: $7.5 million

6. Wonder Woman 

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million (representing a drop of 38%)

7. Wish Upon

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

Box Office Results (July 7-9)

Marvel and Sony had much to celebrate this weekend as Spider-Man: Homecoming swung into theaters with a solid $117 million, right on pace with my $117.8M projection. Stellar reviews and Spidey’s entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly helped.

Despicable Me 3 dropped to second in its sophomore frame to $33.5 million, a bit shy of my $36.3M estimate for a ten-day total of $148M.

At third, Baby Driver help up well in weekend #2 with $13 million, in line with my $13.6M estimate. It’s made $57M thus far.

Wonder Woman was fourth with $9.8 million (I said $9.9M) for a haul of $368M.

Transformers: The Last Knight rounded out the top five at $6.3 million (I said $7M) for a $118M total. It will easily stand as the lowest domestic earner of the franchise, which currently belongs to predecessor Age of Extinction at $245M.

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

Life Movie Review

Calvin Coolidge was our 30th President of the United States and he isn’t talked about too often in the general grand scheme of Presidential history. There will probably never be a biopic about President Coolidge, but he does receive the honor of having an alien named after him in Daniel Espinosa’s Life. The term mild-mannered comes up frequently in relation to the President. His extra-terrestrial namesake is nothing of the kind.

Life takes place entirely on the International Space Station (ISS) where a six-member crew is returning from a Mars mission. They’ve made quite the discovery: Matt Damon and they’re bringing him home with his disco music! Actually it’s a soil sample that turns out to be the first evidence of life outside Earth. School children are given the ability to name this historic being and the lucky winners hail from Calvin Coolidge Elementary – hence Calvin.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Dr. Jordan, who’s been stationed the longest and seems to have a slight case of space institutionalization. Ryan Reynolds is engineer Rory, who keeps the Reynolds patented wisecracks to a minimum. Dr. Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) is the chief quarantine officer. Biologist Hugh (Ariyon Barake) is tasked with bringing Calvin out of his dormant status to life.

That turns out to be a bad idea because Calvin has only survival instincts in mind. The organism shows a mean streak when he wakes up and Life becomes all about the passengers on board clinging to their own.

Audiences have been treated (or in some cases subject to) a host of outer space themed pictures in recent years, from Gravity to Interstellar to The Martian to Passengers to name a few. Some of those titles had a hopeful tone about what lies beyond our planet. Life? Not so much.

The production design and technical elements are top-notch and the acting is just fine, even though no one really has a character to work with. Espinosa’s exercise is mainly an excuse to pay both loving homage and rip-off Alien, the granddaddy of this genre. In that sense, it does provide some genuinely scary moments and plenty of others that are just familiar territory. Life is competent if not memorable, which is also what some historians say about President Coolidge. 

**1/2 (out of four)