Top Gun: Maverick – Lightyears Ahead of Expectations

I’ve been at this box office predicting game for quite some time. If it gets stale for even a moment, something will come along to shock you. That happened this weekend. Twice.

First there’s the massive underperformance of Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear, which is barely topping $50 million for second place behind Jurassic World: Dominion. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow,  but it’s not often a tentpole release comes in over $30 million behind your (and many other prognosticators) estimates. It made less than half of the fourth Toy Story tale three years ago.

Today, however, it’s all about Top Gun: Maverick. If you’d told me a month ago that the long gestating Tom Cruise sequel would score the second (you read that correctly) best fourth weekend of all time, I wouldn’t have believed it. That’s second only to the fourth frame of Avatar. Better than any Star Wars episode. Better than any MCU adventure. Better than Titanic. 

Maverick, with its soaring reviews and word-of-mouth, has undeniably become a phenomenon. Its $44 million estimated haul this weekend brings its domestic tally to an astonishing $466 million. That’s already $200 million over Cruise’s previous largest stateside hit – 2005’s War of the Worlds. A gross of over $600 million in the US and Canada seems assured in addition to a worldwide total topping $1 billion.

To say this is lightyears ahead of expectations is one heckuva understatement. This is the rare breed of picture that is appealing to all ages and genders and is clearly warranting repeat viewings. I suspect Oscar voters will take notice. Categories like Editing, Sound, and Visual Effects are obviously on the table. So too is Lady Gaga’s theme song “Hold My Hand” which might be an early frontrunner to win. And with these mind boggling earnings – Oscar voters could vault this into Best Picture contention and Tom Cruise could be in the mix for Best Actor. That’s far from guaranteed… yet it was unthinkable before its release.

The word phenomenon doesn’t come around much with box office forecasting. When 2002’s Spider-Man made $114 in its first weekend, that word applied because no pic had done so before. The domination of Titanic when many thought it would be a flop definitely fits the bill. So does James Cameron’s follow-up Avatar (ironically its sequel seems destined to compete with Maverick for some tech Oscars). The MCU juggernaut has a handful of examples.

Top Gun: Maverick is a phenomenon and in its fourth outing, the buzz is towering over everything else in 2022.

Oscar Predictions: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Over a decade ago, comedian Jenny Slate and director Dean Fleischer-Camp teamed up for the acclaimed animated short films Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. They were centered on a character that fits the description of that title. At Telluride over Labor Day weekend last year, the feature length version of their creation was screened to winning reviews.

Slated for release on June 24th via A24, Shell‘s vocal contributions (besides Slate and Fleischer-Camp) include Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, and Isabella Rossellini. The mockumentary also includes Conan O’Brien, Lesley Stahl, and Brian Williams playing themselves.

With a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Marcel could certainly turn the heads of Academy voters. It might come down to how serious a campaign its studio wages for it and how various Disney and Netflix animated works are received in the months ahead. Bottom line – Shell should be in the mix for the five Animated Feature slots and my Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

After ringing up lots of positive reception last fall at Fantastic Fest, the supernatural horror pic The Black Phone arrives in theaters June 24th. Based on a short story by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Scott Derrickson directs. His biggest blockbuster is 2016’s Doctor Strange, but he’s a veteran of the genre including helming The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. His lead from the latter – Ethan Hawke – stars as a serial killer. Costars include Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone.

In September 2021, Phone garnered serious buzz at the Austin fest. While some reviewers nitpicked pacing issues, the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% with particular praise for its young performers Thames and McGraw. With a reported budget of under $20 million, this should be another profitable venture for Blumhouse. That production company is used to turning a tidy profit for many of their titles.

During the COVID era, frightening tales were generally immune from negative box office effects. I would look for Phone to earn its price tag back during the first weekend.

The Black Phone opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million

For my Elvis prediction, click here:

Elvis Box Office Prediction

Elvis Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.

Warner Bros is betting that Elvis will get moviegoers all shook up when it hits theaters on June 24th. The extravagant musical comes from Baz Luhrmann, maker of Moulin Rouge! and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Austin Butler, in a performance garnering some awards chatter, plays The King with Tom Hanks as The Colonel. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge, Luke Bracey, Natasha Bassett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

While Butler’s work has been lauded across the board, reviews for the film are a bit more mixed. It received a warm welcome at the Cannes Film Festival and it could certainly be an audience pleaser. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 77%.

The studio would love for Elvis to approach the earnings of Bohemian Rhapsody from 2018 (and maybe win some of the same Oscars). The Freddie Mercury biopic took in $51 million for its start with an overall domestic haul of $216 million. Coincidentally that’s the same figure that Gatsby made for Luhrmann’s personal best. WB is  hoping for a better beginning than 2019’s Rocketman, the Elton John tale which debuted with $25 million (with a $96 million eventual tally).

Obviously Elvis Presley is one of music’s biggest sensations ever and that could propel this to a premiere on pace with Rhapsody. Older moviegoers have recently proven they’re willing to venture out thanks to Top Gun: Maverick. 

I’m tempted to project this hits $45-50 million, but I’ll hedge a bit and say it fall a little shy of that.

Elvis opening weekend prediction: $35.6 million

For my The Black Phone prediction, click here:

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Lightyear

The buzz for Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear is just fine, but it’s not in the stratosphere of some of the studio’s other efforts. The origin story for the co-lead of the Toy Story franchise (voiced by Tim Allen for those four pics and by Chris Evans here) is at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

If Onward at 88% or Brave at 78% nabbed nominations in the Best Animated Feature Oscar derby, this should manage to do so as well pretty easily. However, let’s see how the competition plays out in the second half of the season. Pixar’s spring title Turning Red has probably reserved a spot and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio looms. Other hopefuls include Apollo 10 1/2 and Wendell & Wild. 

In the 22 years of its existence, Pixar has taken home exactly half of the Academy’s animation trophies (with Disney traditional picking up four more). Two of them were the third and fourth Toy Story sagas. The category wasn’t around for parts one and two and I bet both would’ve won. That bodes well for Lightyear though the somewhat mixed chatter could complicate matters. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

June 17-19 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (06/16): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my Lightyear estimate down again – from $95.5M to $85.5M

Blogger’s Note (06/15): Revising my Lightyear estimate down from $101.8M to $95.5M

Disney/Pixar looks to take its usual spot atop the charts with their first theatrical only release since Onward when Lightyear opens this weekend. It’s the only new product debuting as the Toy Story origin tale hopes to be the latest summer offering to top $100 million out of the gate. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

Lightyear Box Office Prediction

I’m projecting it will gross just under nine figures and that’s slightly less than the third and fourth editions of the franchise it’s spawned from.

That should easily put it in first position with Jurassic World: Dominion falling to second. After a pretty solid start, I imagine it should suffer an approximate 60% decline like its 2018 predecessor Fallen Kingdom. 

Top Gun: Maverick should cruise to another meager decline for a third place showing in the $30 million range with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Bad Guys filling the rest of the top five.

Here’s how I see it:

1. Lightyear

Predicted Gross: $85.5 million

2. Jurassic World: Dominion

Predicted Gross: $54.8 million

3. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $36 million

4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Predicted Gross: $3.4 million

5. The Bad Guys

Predicted Gross: $1.5 million

Box Office Results (June 10-12)

Jurassic World: Dominion couldn’t quite match what Fallen Kingdom accomplished four summers ago. The sixth entry in the nearly three decade old franchise earned $145 million, falling short of my $155.3 million expectation. Middling reviews (it has the worst Tomatoes score of the flock) probably pushed it a little lower than initially forecasted, but it’s still a respectable start.

Top Gun: Maverick dropped to second after two soaring frames at #1 with $51.8 million. I went a touch higher at $58.8 million and the three week take is an amazing $395 million. The total is good for the 10th largest third weekend in domestic history.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was third with $5.2 million. My projection? $5.2 million! The MCU juggernaut has amassed $398 million.

The Bad Guys was fourth with $2.5 million (I said $2.4 million) to bring its earnings close to nine figures with $91 million.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie rounded out the top five at $2.4 million compared to my $2.2 million prediction. It’s made $27 million.

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

2022 Oscar Predictions: June 13th Edition

My updated weekly Oscar predictions goes from 6 categories to 8 with the inclusion of both screenplay derbies! It’s the first time we’ve seen some titles in my possibilities such as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Nope, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, and Bones & All. 

As for changes in the other races, I’m putting Rustin back in BP and that means Empire of Light drops from the top ten. Danielle Deadwyler (Till) returns to my top five in Actress over Cate Blanchett in Tar. 

You can peruse all the movement below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. Babylon (Previous Ranking: 1) (E)

2. The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (E)

4. Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 4) (E)

5. The Son (PR: 6) (+1)

6. Women Talking (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Bardo (PR: 7) (E)

8. She Said (PR: 8) (E)

9. The Whale (PR: 9) (E)

10. Rustin (PR: 11) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

11. Empire of Light (PR: 10) (-1)

12. White Noise (PR: 20) (+8)

13. Broker (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Amsterdam (PR: 14) (E)

15. Poor Things (PR: 13) (-2)

16. Decision to Leave (PR: 15) (-1)

17. Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 18) (+1)

18. Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 17) (-1)

19. Tar (PR: 16) (-3)

20. Elvis (PR: 21) (+1)

21. Next Goal Wins (PR: 22) (+1)

22. Thirteen Lives (PR: 19) (-3)

23. Armageddon Time (PR: Not Ranked)

24. The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 25) (+1)

25. Till (PR: 24) (-1)

Dropped Out:

Aftersun 

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Damien Chazelle, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans (PR: 2) (E)

3. Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (E)

4. The Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 5) (+1)

5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bardo (PR: 4) (-1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sarah Polley, Women Talking (PR: 6) (E)

7. Florian Zeller, The Son (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Darren Aronofsky, The Whale (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave (PR: 9) (E)

10. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Broker (PR: 11) (+1)

11. Sam Mendes, Empire of Light (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Noah Baumbach, White Noise (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (PR: 13) (E)

14. James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water (PR: 14) (E)

15. Maria Schrader, She Said (PR: 12) (-3)

Dropped Out:

George C. Wolfe, Rustin 

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Margot Robbie, Babylon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 2) (E)

3. Regina King, Shirley (PR: 3) (E)

4. Olivia Colman, Empire of Light (PR: 4) (E)

5. Danielle Deadwyler, Till (PR: 6) (+1)

Other Possibilities:

6. Cate Blanchett, Tar (PR: 5) (-1)

7. Emma Stone, Poor Things (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (PR: 8) (E)

9. Carey Mulligan, She Said (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Laura Dern, The Son (PR: 10) (E)

11. Helen Mirren, Golda (PR: 11) (E)

12. Ana de Armas, Blonde (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Viola Davis, The Woman King (PR: 12) (-1)

14. Michelle Williams, Showing Up (PR: 14) (E)

15. Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run (PR: 15) (E)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Brendan Fraser, The Whale (PR: 1) (E)

2. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 2) (E)

3. Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 3) (E)

4. Colman Domingo, Rustin (PR: 4) (E)

5. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 10) (+4)

7. Christian Bale, Amsterdam (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Song Kang-Ho, Broker (PR: 6) (-2)

9. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 7) (-2)

10. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo (PR: 9) (-1)

11. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins (PR: 11) (E)

12. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans (PR: 12) (E)

13. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 15) (+2)

14. Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 13) (-1)

15. Viggo Mortensen, Thirteen Lives (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Michael Ward, Empire of Light

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans (PR: 1) (E)

2. Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 2) (E)

3. Jessie Buckley, Women Talking (PR: 3) (E)

4. Zoe Kazan, She Said (PR: 4) (E)

5. Hong Chau, The Whale (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Vanessa Kirby, The Son (PR: 6) (E)

7. Jean Smart, Babylon (PR: 8) (+1)

8. Audra McDonald, Rustin (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Patricia Clarkson, She Said (PR: 9) (E)

10. Dakota Johnson, Cha Cha Real Smooth (PR: 12) (+2)

11. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 10) (-1)

12. Anne Hathaway, Armageddon Time (PR: Not Ranked)

13. Sadie Sink, The Whale (PR: 13) (E)

14. Margot Robbie, Amsterdam (PR: 15) (+1)

15. Nina Hoss, Tar (PR: 11) (-4)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once 

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 1) (E)

2. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (PR: 4) (+2)

3. Brad Pitt, Babylon (PR: 2) (-1)

4. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once (PR: 3) (-1)

5. Jesse Plemons, Killers of the Flower Moon (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Willem Dafoe, Poor Things (PR: 6) (E)

7. Glynn Turman, Rustin (PR: 9) (+2)

8. Colin Firth, Empire of Light (PR: 7) (-1)

9. Anthony Hopkins, Armageddon Time (PR: 11) (+2)

10. Ben Whishaw, Women Talking (PR: 8) (-2)

11. Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans (PR: 10) (-1)

12. John David Washington, Amsterdam (PR: 13) (+1)

13. Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 15) (+2)

14. Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things (PR: 14) (E)

15. Tom Hanks, Elvis (PR: 12) (-3)

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

2. Babylon

3. The Fabelmans

4. Bardo

5. Broker

Other Possibilities:

6. Rustin

7. Amsterdam

8. Decision to Leave

9. Empire of Light

10. Tar

11. Triangle of Sadness

12. Aftersun

13. Armageddon Time

14. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery 

15. Nope 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Killers of the Flower Moon

2. The Son

3. The Whale

4. Women Talking

5. White Noise

Other Possibilities:

6. She Said

7. Poor Things

8. The Banshees of Inisherin

9. Next Goal Wins

10. Till

11. Thirteen Lives

12. Bones and All

13. Top Gun: Maverick

14. Avatar: The Way of Water

15. The Greatest Beer Run Ever 

Hustle Review

There are so many cameos in the Adam Sandler hoops drama Hustle that it would’ve seemed appropriate for the funksters of the group Cameo to appear and belt out “Word Up!” during a scrimmage. That would’ve been kind of awesome. Not much activity of the awesome variety occurs in this Netflix offering beyond some sweet athletic moves, but it’s hard to dislike this love and basketball tale.

Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman spends much of his life overseas as an international scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s a grind of an existence constantly searching for that diamond in the rough that could put the team into championship contention. He’d like to see his wife (Queen Latifah) and about to depart for college daughter (Jordan Hull) more often. That opportunity presents itself when Robert Duvall’s team owner offers him an assistant coaching position. The promotion is short-lived when a bald capped Ben Foster (as Duvall’s son) interferes with it.

Back across the pond, Stanley stumbles upon Spanish prospect Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez) at a neighborhood pickup game. He clearly has incredible skills though his family circumstances (including having a young daughter) prevented his shot at professional glory.

In Philly, Stanley preps Bo for a potential draft selection through running up hills early in the morning and various other montages involving athletic drills. Considering the town this takes place in, you’d figure there needs to be a Rocky reference and there is.

Whether Bo’s viability in the big league is gonna fly now is complicated by a checkered past and how he responds to intense pressure. Anthony Edwards (star guard in real life for the Minnesota Timberwolves) plays the consensus #2 pick whose trash talk gets under Bo’s thin skin.

Naming all the actual NBA figures cycling in and out of Hustle would be quite an undertaking. Sandler is a die-hard fan and he had no trouble enlisting authentic figures to this fictional teacher-student story. I’ll point out an amusing one as Kenny Smith portrays a super agent who owes Stanley a favor due to their playing time together in college. His performance is perfectly adequate though any fan of the game might chuckle when we see the rest of the Inside the NBA crew (Ernie Johnson, Shaq, Sir Charles Barkley) minus their fourth member.

We have seen that Sandler can nail dramatic roles especially when high quality material accompanies it (Punch-Drunk Love and Uncut Gems for example). Hustle is nowhere in the league of those pictures. I must admit seeing Adam Sandler as a coach on the sidelines never seems like anything other than Adam Sandler as a coach on the sidelines. Hernangomez (currently playing for the Utah Jazz) has a breezy rapport with his costar who clearly loves this source material. It’s so earnestly presented that it’s easy to admire even if it’s never a slam dunk.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions – Jennifer Lopez: Halftime

The title Halftime refers to Jennifer Lopez’s joint Super Bowl extravaganza with Shakira in 2020 (at a time when we were just beginning to hear the term coronavirus). The documentary from filmmaker Amanda Micheli has opened this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. While some of its focus lies with that performance, it also takes us through Lopez’s Oscar campaign for Supporting Actress in Hustlers. As you may recall, she was a frontrunner for a nod that never came to fruition.

Perhaps the Academy will reward this after the general feeling that she was snubbed three years ago. Halftime may stand at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a handful of reviews, but they’re not raves. Premiering on Netflix on June 14th, I doubt this will be a threat to make the final five in Documentary Feature. And, this time around, Lopez’s exclusion will not be a surprise. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions – Jurassic World: Dominion

When it comes to the nearly three decades old Jurassic franchise, only the first two (the ones directed by Steven Spielberg) have attracted Oscar attention. The 1993 classic received three nods for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing (those races have since combined), and Visual Effects. It won all three. The 1997 follow-up The Lost World: Jurassic Park managed a Visual Effects mention but lost to Titanic. 

The dinosaurs have failed to make Academy ballots for 2001’s Jurassic Park III and the initial entries in the current trilogy – 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

Dominion is the closing chapter that reunites prominent cast members from both trilogies. It’s out Friday and the review embargo is extinct. The result? Only a 40% Rotten Tomatoes which serves as a series worst (predecessor Kingdom previously had the low point at 47%).

So while those creatures might still look cool, I don’t see any chance of a Visual Effects nomination or any others. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…