Ranking the Saw Movies

As of this week, I have now completed my rewatch of the Saw franchise from the 2004 original through this year’s Spiral. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen more grisly traps, body parts flying, endless flashbacks, and more tape recorders than a Radio Shack in the 1980s than I care to remember.

Of course, my reviews of this ennead was brought on by the release of Spiral, Chris Rock’s foray into a reboot. I was hopeful that it would stand as one of the bright spots in this dark group of bloody tales. It wasn’t to be. With each placement on this list, you will find my longer post.

Opinions are varied on the overall placement of the Saw pictures in terms of quality. There’s not much debate that the first is the best and it’s a sentiment I certainly share.

After that we see plenty of debate. I still maintain that the first three (in which Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is alive though not well in health or mind) stand above anything that followed. There are ardent admirers of part 6, but I feel IV-VII represented a considerable dip in quality and the sixth is not immune to that criticism. 2017’s Jigsaw was more successful in rebooting the films than the recent Spiral, though it has plenty of flaws.

And with that, here are my rankings in the Saw cinematic universe:

9. Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

8. Spiral (2021)

The Jigsaw Files: Spiral (2021)

7. Saw IV (2007)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

6. Saw VI (2009)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw VI (2009)

5. Saw V (2008)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw V (2008)

4. Jigsaw (2017)

The Jigsaw Files: Jigsaw (2017)

3. Saw III (2006)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

2. Saw II (2005)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

1. Saw (2004)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Box Office Prediction

After hopping around the release calendar at least half a dozen times due to COVID-19 delays, the hybrid live-action/animated comedic adventure Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway hits theaters June 11. Will Gluck returns to direct with James Corden again voicing the title character and Margot Robbie reprising her behind the mic work as Flopsy. Live-action participants include Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, and David Oyelowo. Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne, Sia, and Sam Neill are among the voice cast.

In 2018, the first Rabbit premiered on the high end of expectations with $25 million and legged out nicely to a $115 overall domestic haul. Part 2 shouldn’t fall too far off that mark, but I do believe it’ll have trouble reaching that number. This won’t have anything to do with reviews. The 2018 pic had a mixed critical reaction with 63% on Rotten Tomatoes while the sequel is currently perched at 71%.

The Runaway has already opened in Australia and the United Kingdom to decent results. More than three years after the original, there could be a falloff of some youngsters not clamoring to see the followup. That said, a gross of $20 million is feasible. I’ll put it a few million below that figure though.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opening weekend prediction: $15.9 million

For my In the Heights prediction, click here:

In the Heights Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Spirit Untamed

In 2002, the horse drawn animated adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron managed a Best Animated Feature nomination (ultimately losing to Spirited Away). Nearly two decades ago, the pic received mostly positive reviews with a 70% Rotten Tomatoes rating and decent box office. Since then, a Netflix series focused on the main character led to Spirit Untamed, which opens in theaters today. It features the voices of some familiar faces like Jake Gyllenhaal and Julianne Moore

So how are its odds to race to awards voters ballots? Not good. Untamed has mostly stalled with critics and its Tomato meter is a mere 44%. We already have solid contenders to make the final cut (Raya and the Last Dragon and The Mitchells vs. The Machines) and there’s plenty more on deck for the second half of the year including the soon to be released Luca from Pixar.

Bottom line: I can’t imagine Dreamworks Animation will mount a spirited campaign for this one. Gyllenhaal’s only equestrian related Oscar contender should remain Brokeback Mountain. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Jigsaw Files: Spiral (2021)

The choice that Lionsgate and Chris Rock (of all people) made to let the Saw franchise live and not die turns out to be a poor one with Spiral. Four years after Jigsaw managed to improve a bit on episodes IV-VII (which mostly felt like one long grim tale), the idea behind ninth installment Spiral (subtitled From the Book of Saw) at least turned some heads. In fact, the story behind its green lighting is far more unexpected and interesting than anything during its 93 minutes. Rock, one of the all-time great comedians, apparently had a chance meeting with a studio exec at a Brazilian wedding and pitched his take on a way to revive the series. The rest is history that will be mostly forgotten based on the weaker than expected box office returns. I bet camera footage of Rock’s pitch would be more satisfying and there would be a wedding reception and Brazil.

While this is the first Saw flick without Tobin Bell, we do have some regulars back. Darren Lynn Bousman (who made II-IV) returns to direct while Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger (Jigsaw writers) penned it. Rock is Detective Zeke Banks and he’s mostly hated by his fellow officers since he turned in a dirty cop years ago. His father (Samuel L. Jackson, who’s slowly but surely appearing in every franchise known to man) is a former Captain who’s revered by his peers. Max Minghella plays the eager rookie gumshoe tasked to work with the hesitant Zeke.

And there are, of course, Jigsaw type killings. Except this time Jigsaw is not mostly dead, but actually dead. There’s no Tobin Bell flashbacks. There are, however, still lots of flashbacks and some of them remind us of plot points that we literally saw about 15-20 minutes prior. A copycat killer is offing coworkers from Zeke’s precinct while reminding them of their workplace sins just before their brutal demises. This naturally involves the kind of traps we’ve grown accustomed to that slice skin and sever spinal cords. The first game begins with a tongue lashing to the nearly departed victim and ends with a tongue slashing.

If the whole idea of a brilliant comedian planting himself in a Saw like universe sounds like it might be weird… well, it is. Rock struggles with being believable in the role. His punch-ups to the screenplay aren’t hard to pick out as there’s mostly unfunny riffs on Forrest Gump and the time of day cheating habits of men vs. women. The bulk of the script veers back and forth between trying (I suppose) to make some statement on police corruption and just being a regular old Saw pic. It surprisingly fails on both fronts. And like every entry preceding it, there’s a twist ending. Some of them (especially in the original) packed a wallop. In Spiral, it’s a shrug inducing one that you can easily see coming.

Jigsaw was the first attempt to revitalize these twisted pictures. It was certainly no horror classic, but I admired moments of it. Spiral, despite the sharp talent involved, is a massive misfire.

My previous posts on the Saw pics can be accessed here:

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw V (2008)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw VI (2009)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files: Jigsaw (2017)

In the Heights Box Office Prediction

With a rousing 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the musical In the Heights reaches theaters and HBO Max on June 11 and expectations have risen. After being pushed back nearly a full year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jon M. Chu directs a large cast including Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smith. It is based on the stage production created by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also appears).

Critics have taken to the adaptation with many claiming it is the feel good picture of the season. Miranda’s name associated with anything is a bonus. A female and Latino audience could turn out in large numbers. Heights is also 2021’s first release that could be a major Oscar contender in multiple categories, including Best Picture. The fact that HBO Max subscribers may opt for home viewing is always a factor, but the streaming arrangement with Warner Bros has already produced satisfying theatrical starts for other titles.

Three years ago, Chu had an unexpected summer smash with Crazy Rich Asians. It opened to $26.5 million and legged out tremendously to a $174 million domestic haul. I could easily see his follow-up earning about the same for its premiere weekend, but I’ll put it just a tad under.

In the Heights opening weekend prediction: $26.8 million

For my Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway prediction, click here:

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Box Office Prediction

June 4-6 Box Office Predictions

The first box office frame of June brings a battle of horror sequels as Hollywood basks in the glow of a profitable holiday weekend. With A Quiet Place Part II surpassing expectations, it should be poised for a loud sophomore frame. The competition comes from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the eighth picture in the billion dollar franchise’s cinematic universe. We also have DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed, a spinoff of the Netflix series and kinda sorta sequel to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newcomers here:

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

Spirit Untamed Box Office Prediction

It feels a bit strange to predict Devil will experience the lowest overall opening of the entire series, but that’s where I’ve landed. I can’t help but wonder if Warner Bros would want a little more daylight between its debut and the sophomore frame of Quiet if they had a do-over. My forecast of just under $20 million should put it in second place unless Cruella has a remarkable hold.

As for Emily Blunt and company, it’s worth noting that the original Quiet Place fell only 34% in its follow-up outing. The sequel may dip a tad further, but a gross in the mid 20s to even low 30s is on the table. Cruella should be #3 in the lower teens range. I don’t have much faith in Spirit and my meager estimate has it in fourth. Raya and the Last Dragon should round out the top five.

So it’s horror sequels and family entertainment and different kinds of spirits in the top five this weekend and here’s how I see it all transpiring:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

3. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $13 million

4. Spirt Untamed

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 28-31)

Originally slated for March 2020, moviegoers proved they were willing to wait for A Quiet Place Part II. John Krasinski’s critically heralded sequel posted a COVID era best Memorial Day weekend debut of $57 million. That easily outshines my $43.6 million projection. Studios must be rejoicing in this encouraging sign for the summer season ahead.

Disney’s Cruella with Emma Stone also opened to pleasing numbers with $26.5 million (ahead of my $22.7 million estimate). Despite being on Disney Plus as well for a premium price, parents and kids turned out for the Mouse Factory’s latest live-action update of an animated classic.

Holdovers populated the 3-5 slots and it was close. Raya and the Last Dragon was third at $2.8 million (I went lower at $1.6 million). Its total is $51 million. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man took fourth with $2.7 million (I said $2.4 million) for $22 million overall. Spiral was fifth after two weeks at #1 with $2.6 million (under my $3.2 million prediction) for a $20 million tally.

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

The Friends Zone: A Movie History

Friends: The Reunion premieres today on HBO Max and millions of the show’s fans can rejoice in seeing the six main characters from the NBC sitcom together on the couch once again. Running from 1994 to 2004, the show was an instant smash that continues to gain new followers through streaming services.

I was a viewer going back to the mid 90s. Due to Friends becoming so gigantic at the outset, Hollywood studios quickly tried make the main cast immediate movie stars. This resulted in varying degrees of success.

So in honor of the reunion, let’s take a look back in movie history at this iconic sextet and I’ll rank each actor from 1-6 on their cinematic output!

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 1

Before her casting as Rachel, Aniston’s only significant big screen credit was as a lead in the cult slasher Leprechaun. Yet her filmography during and after Friends easily puts her atop these rankings. She garnered critical raves in the indie dramas The Good Girl and Cake, was the love interest in the now beloved Office Space, and has plenty of comedic hits like Bruce Almighty, Horrible Bosses, We’re the Millers, and Murder Mystery. 

Courteney Cox (Monica Geller)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 3

Cox is really the only Friendster with notable movie appearances before the show. Just a few months before the Friends premiere, she starred alongside Jim Carrey in the surprise hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Years before that, she acted alongside He-Man and Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. During Friends, she appeared in the horror blockbuster Scream and she’s about to turn up early next year in its fourth sequel. The rest of her filmography is pretty scant, but she’s the only one with a well established franchise.

Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 2

Many might call 1997’s cult favorite Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion her finest contribution to the silver screen. Kudrow has also appeared in several supporting roles over the years from The Opposite of Sex to Analyze This and its sequel to Easy A to Booksmart. There’s certainly been some clunkers (Hanging Up and Lucky Numbers), but the voluminous output is enough to rank Kudrow in second.

 

Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 6

He found further TV success post Friends (though it took some time after the ill-fated spin-off Joey). LeBlanc’s big screen career never really launched. The 1996 starring vehicle Ed paired him with a primate and was a critical and commercial disaster. To put it another way, the monkey business with Marcel on the TV show was far more profitable. Two years later, his participation in the Lost in Space pic was met with shrugs.

Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 4

Perry ranks first among the boys as he had solid performers alongside Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards and Zac Efron in 17 Again. There were, on the other hand, some duds like his pairing with Chris Farley in Almost Heroes and in the Yards sequel. He’s about to appear in his most high profile entry in years with Don’t Look Up from Adam McKay which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.

David Schwimmer (Ross Geller)

The Friends Zone Cinematic Ranking: 5

The Pallbearer found Schwimmer in a rom com with Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996. It wasn’t quite the loud flop that Ed was, but it certainly came and went with little fanfare. His filmography is rather low-key with supporting appearances in Six Days, Seven Nights and Apt Pupil. His greatest successes can be found in voiceover work as Melman in the Madagascar franchise and on the small screen in the heralded limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

And there’s your trip down Friends memory lane, folks! For the real thing, watch the team reunion on HBO Max.

Spirit Untamed Box Office Prediction

All the way back in 2002, the animated horse adventure Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron debuted over Memorial Day weekend and performed fairly well. With Matt Damon voicing the title character, the pic galloped to a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod and a $73 million domestic gross. A Netflix spin-off series has aired since 2017 and Spirit Untamed is a joint venture between Universal and DreamWorks to bring the character back to the big screen. Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr. co-direct with a voice cast that includes Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Julianne Moore, Walton Goggins, and Eiza Gonzalez.

I will confess to not knowing how popular the streaming series is, but it seems to me that 19 years is a long break between theatrical releases. That could certainly be a nagging problem as to Spirit‘s potential. Additionally, some family audiences might still be checking out Cruella in its sophomore frame.

Untamed stands no shot at reaching what its predecessor accomplished. I’m even skeptical that it reaches $5 million out of the gate and will go a bit under that.

Spirit Untamed opening weekend prediction: $4.4 million

For my The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It prediction, click here:

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

America’s favorite paranormal investigating peeps The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are back in theaters and on HBO Max next week in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the second sequel to the 2013 horror hit and the eighth overall entry in the Conjuring Universe. Michael Chaves (who made the previous series effort The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directorial duties from James Wan, who produces and shares a story credit. Costars include Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard.

Originally scheduled for a September 2020 premiere before its COVID delay, Devil will attempt to reach an opening weekend gross commensurate with its predecessors. That could be a helluva task. Both pics with Conjuring in the title made just over $40 million for their starts. The first two Annabelle spin-offs took in over $30 million out of the gate. Another spin-off, The Nun, actually holds the series record with $53 million. Yet the past two flicks couldn’t match up. The third Annabelle made just over $20 million while the aforementioned la Llorona hit $26 million.

Those dwindling earnings could continue here. I’m a bit surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this just one week after A Quiet Place Part II, which should still be making loud noises at multiplexes. Furthermore, some fans with Max subscriptions will opt to view it in the comfort of their home. This franchise, on the other hand, has often shown an ability to over perform (The Nun hitting $50 million plus was not anticipated). Yet for the reasons described, I believe Devil could end up having the lowest domestic debut of the whole bunch.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million

For my Spirit Untamed prediction, click here:

Spirit Untamed Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Cruella

More often than not, the Disney live-action remakes related to their animated classics have managed to score Oscar nominations in various technical races. Two days ahead of its Memorial Day weekend domestic bow, the studio’s Cruella (a reboot of their 1961 animated tale and the Glenn Close live-action features) has seen its review embargo lifted. It is widely expected that the Academy will reward it in some of the races that their previous features have been mentioned in.

The Rotten Tomatoes meter currently stands at a decent 72% with many critics praising Emma Stone (Best Actress winner in 2016 for La La Land) in the title role of the dog despising villainess. She’s unlikely to get much attention in the lead race, but should certainly find herself in the mix in the Musical/Comedy competition at next year’s Golden Globes… if there is a Golden Globes next year.

As mentioned, the Academy has been kind to the remakes over the last decade plus. Alice in Wonderland won Art Direction (now Production Design) and Costume Design and was nominated for Visual Effects. Nods for the costumes were also received by Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015). In 2017, Beauty and the Beast made the shortlist for Production and Costume Design. The Jungle Book (2016) was victorious in Visual Effects with Christopher Robin (2018) and The Lion King (2019) as nominees. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) nabbed a mention for its Makeup and Hairstyling. Last year’s Mulan got in for Costume Design and Visual Effects, winning neither.

All four categories mentioned are on the table for Cruella to varying degrees. Based on the buzz, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling are highly probable and could even be wins. Production Design is also feasible while Visual Effects could be more of a stretch due to expected competition.

Additionally, Florence and the Machine have contributed the original song “Call Me Cruella”. I wouldn’t bank on it making the final five in that race, but you never know (sometimes there’s surprises in that category).

Bottom line: Cruella is looking good for at least two Academy mentions and possibly more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…