Oscar Watch: Crazy Rich Asians

Opening next week, Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to be a late summer sleeper hit. Based on a bestseller by Kevin Kwan, the romantic comedy is said to be a crowd pleaser. Critics have taken notice. The film stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a far cry from previous directorial efforts from Jon M. Chu, who made G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jem and the Holograms.

If this picture manages to be a success, could Oscar voters take notice of the first Asian-American led studio effort in a quarter century (since The Joy Luck Club)? That will depend on competition. The only race I see where this could possibly be included is Best Adapted Screenplay.

Last year, the competition in that particular race was lighter than usual. That may not be the case this year with potential contenders like BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, First Man, A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, and Boy, Erased. However, if some of those titles don’t match expectations (which is often the case), Crazy Rich Asians could make a play.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…


The Oscars Go “Popular”: An Analysis

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dropped a rather big bombshell today with some announced changes to their Oscar telecast. First off, they’re claiming the show will now be just three hours (I’ll believe it when I see it). Additionally, some categories (I imagine numerous tech ones) will be announced live during commercial breaks and then edited into the show later. This probably won’t make the individuals in those races happy, but it should speed up the program.

However, the most noticeable and interesting change is the addition of a new category (something the Academy rarely does). The addition is described as “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film”. No other details have been provided, but this would appear to be an attempt by the Academy to include blockbusters that haven’t made the cut in Best Picture.

So what does that mean? What is the criteria? That was not announced today and it will be fascinating to see what such criteria is. Could it be a particular gross… say over $100 million domestically? Could it be the number of the theaters a movie is released in? Time will tell and hopefully these details will be revealed shortly. It isn’t even immediately clear that these changes will all be in effect for the 2019 telecast, but I imagine they will be.

Even though nothing is totally clear at press time, that won’t stop me from speculating and asking, “What if this category had been in effect in previous years?”

Before that, let’s start with this year. If there is a Best Popular Film category in 2018, that greatly increases the chances of Marvel’s Black Panther and horror smash A Quiet Place getting nods. There’s also Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the most acclaimed entry in the franchise) or perhaps Avengers: Infinity War. Pixar will certainly see Incredibles 2 nominated in Best Animated Feature, but it could make a play here as well. And we still have fall releases like Mary Poppins Returns and A Star Is Born out there.

There will be plenty of speculation as to whether Black Panther will be the first superhero pic to nab a Best Picture nomination. There is little doubt it would be recognized in this new category.

It’s been discussed on this blog previously about the 2008 Oscars which omitted The Dark Knight in the Best Picture derby. That development was likely responsible for the Academy changing its rule of five nominated films to anywhere between five and ten. Yet it would appear the Academy still isn’t satisfied with major hits being included.

Let’s consider last year. Of the nine Best Picture nominees, only two grossed over $100 million – Get Out and Dunkirk. If the Popular Film category had existed a year ago, I imagine both features would have achieved double nominations. Assuming this new category contains five nominees (something not revealed yet), what would the other three have been? There’s plenty of blockbusters to choose from: Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, It, Logan, Coco, The Greatest Showman, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder, and Baby Driver. 

Here’s my best guess of what a Best Popular Film slate would have looked like in 2017:

Dunkirk, Get Out, Logan, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

And I’m thinking Get Out would have won.

In 2016, you might have seen Deadpool and The Jungle Book as Popular picks.

In 2015, there could have been room for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Straight Outta Compton.

2014? Perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy and Gone Girl. 

Heck, let’s go way back. Would Jurassic Park have won Best Popular Film in 1993? I don’t think so. I bet it would have gone to The Fugitive, which nabbed an actual Best Picture nomination.

Of course, there would have been years where Best Picture and Best Popular Film match. 1994 with Forrest Gump. 1997’s Titanic. 2000’s Gladiator. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.

Back to today. I would say this new category seems tailor-made for Black Panther. Does that mean its chances for a Best Picture nod are now diminished because voters figure it runs away with this? Perhaps. And that’s why I’m not too wild about this change at the moment. This has the potential to look like a desperate play by the Academy. At the least, it’s an acknowledgment that audience favorites and Academy favorites don’t often match.

That said, let’s see what the criteria is and I’ll judge from there. It’s a new era at the Oscars… one where Bumblebee stands a shot (however remote) at Oscar glory!

Alpha Box Office Prediction

The historical adventure Alpha debuts in theaters next weekend and it could face an uphill battle for eyeballs. The Ice Age set pic doesn’t have the benefit of animated creatures or much buzz at all. Albert Hughes directs and he’s most known for collaborations with his brother Allen including Menace II Society, From Hell, and The Book of Eli. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leonor Varela, Jens Hulten, and a wolf headline the cast.

Alpha has experienced a shifting release date and Columbia Pictures finally settled on the mid August slot. It was originally scheduled for last September, back to March of this year, then September 2018, and lastly the August push-up. That doesn’t inspire much confidence.

I’ll predict this opens well behind its competition Mile 22 and Crazy Rich Asians and doesn’t manage double digits. In short, Alpha is looking like a dog.

Alpha opening weekend prediction: $5.2 million

For my Mile 22 prediction, click here:


For my Crazy Rich Asians prediction, click here:


Crazy Rich Asians Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note II (08/14/18): My estimate is rising once again and I’m going with $22.5 million for the three-day and $33.4 million for the five-day.

Blogger’s Note (08/10/18): I am ramping up my estimate for this based on buzz from $14.2M to $19.4M for the traditional weekend and high 20s for the five-day.

In what could turn out to be some smart counter programming, romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians opens next Wednesday. The Warner Bros release is, rather shockingly, the first stateside studio effort in a quarter century (1993’s The Joy Luck Club) to feature a predominately Asian-American cast. It’s based on a 2013 bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The cast includes Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh. Jon M. Chu, who made Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, directs.

The film seems to be garnering some positive buzz and it could bring out a female audience, as well as a community clearly underrepresented at multiplexes. Even with that breakout potential, the Wednesday opening probably means it’ll debut behind Mile 22 with Mark Wahlberg.

I will estimate a traditional weekend opening in the low teens and that could mean a gross close to $20 million for the five-day total.

Crazy Rich Asians opening weekend prediction: $22.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $33.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Mile 22 prediction, click here:


For my Alpha prediction, click here:


Mile 22 Box Office Prediction

Mark Wahlberg is back in action mode and reuniting with director Peter Berg next weekend in Mile 22. The action thriller finds the star as the head of an elite CIA unit and the supporting cast includes John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey, and Lee Chae Rin.

This is the fourth Wahlberg/Berg collaboration and it’s the first not based on real life events after Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day. Distributor STXfilms is hoping this will be the start of a new franchise with a TV series and sequel reportedly in development.

That, of course, could all depend on how this performs. The budget is only $35 million, which is quite low for a summer action release. Looking at other similar material from Wahlberg, Mile 22 would love to achieve the $24 million earned by something like 2012’s Contraband. Yet it could debut with something closer to the $14 million made by 2007’s Shooter. The $27 million made out of the gate five summers ago by 2 Guns is a reach in my opinion… that had the Denzel factor.

I’ll say a mid to high teens gross is the most likely scenario, meaning Mile won’t achieve the marker contained in its title.

Mile 22 opening weekend prediction: $16.7 million

For my Crazy Rich Asians prediction, click here:


For my Alpha prediction, click here:


Box Office Predictions: August 10-12

***Blogger’s Note II (08/09/18): A big change has happened. I am revising my estimate for The Meg up to $22.7 million, therefore giving it the #1 spot. I am also increasing my BlacKkKlansman estimate once again from $7.6M to $9.6M

**Blogger’s Note (08/08/18): I have revised my BlacKkKlansman estimate from $5.6M to $7.6M, which gives it the #5 spot and drops The Spy Who Dumped Me outside the top five.

A quartet of newbies attempt to dethrone Tom Cruise this weekend as shark tale The Meg, Internet meme based horror pic Slender Man, canine tale Dog Days, and Spike Lee’s awards hopeful BlacKkKlansman all open. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:





Of the four newcomers, The Meg appears poised to earn the most. Audiences have proven they dig their shark flicks and the upside here is real. However, my high teens projection leaves it behind Mission: ImpossibleFallout and that would give Cruise and company a third weekend atop the charts.

Slender Man is a real question mark. Its studio doesn’t seem to have much faith in it, but horror titles can often surprise. I’m definitely at the lower end of expectations currently with a forecast in the high single digits. That would leave it lurking in fourth place behind Christopher Robin. 

The five-spot depends on how the other two newcomers perform. Dog Days is opening on Wednesday and my $5.1 million estimate for its Friday to Sunday performance leaves it behind the $5.6 million I’m predicting for BlacKkKlansman (which certainly could go higher). That leaves both of them behind the second frame of The Spy Who Dumped Me, which should drop in the mid 40s range.

It’s an unpredictable weekend we have before us, but here’s how I have the top 5 looking:

1. The Meg

Predicted Gross: $22.7 million

2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Predicted Gross: $21.3 million

3. Christopher Robin

Predicted Gross:$13.8 million

4. BlacKkKlansman

Predicted Gross: $9.6 million

5. Slender Man

Predicted Gross: $9.1 million

***If these numbers change throughout the week, I’ll post updates!

Box Office Results (August 3-5) 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout had a terrific hold in weekend #2, dropping just 42% to gross $35.3 million (above my $32 million projection) and remain #1. The sixth installment of Tom Cruise’s franchise has amassed $124 million so far.

Disney’s Christopher Robin came in on the bottom end of expectations in the runner-up position with $24.5 million compared to my more generous $29.6 million estimate. Winnie the Pooh and company will hope for small declines in coming weekends.

The Mila Kunis/Kate McKinnon comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me also debuted on the low-end of the expected scale in third with just $12.1 million, under my $15.3 million forecast.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was fourth with $9 million (I said $8.3 million) for $91 million in three weeks.

I mistakenly left The Equalizer 2 out of the top five, but it was fifth with $8.7 million. The Denzel Washington sequel has made $79 million and looks to potentially top the $101 million earned by its predecessor.

Hotel Transylvania 3 was sixth with $8 million (I was lower at $6.9 million) and it’s earned $136 million overall. The franchise has shown remarkable consistency and I’d look for a fourth installment in about three years.

Finally, YA adaptation The Darkest Minds suffered a bad opening in 8th place with $5.8 million, in line with my $6.3 million prediction.

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

Home Again Movie Review

Essentially Three Men and a Divorcée, Reese Witherspoon’s latest rom com Home Again is a bland genre exercise that struggles mightily to be relatable. The star plays Alice, the daughter of a famous deceased director and his starlet muse (Candice Bergen). The maker of this film, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, is the child of divorced writers/filmmakers Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers. Together and apart, her folks are responsible for such rom com titles as Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, What Women Want, and Something’s Gotta Give. One wonders if Ms. Meyers-Shyer could channel that insight of growing up with her famous parents into a perceptive screenplay. I wonder because it’s not found anywhere here.

Reese’s Alice has recently separated from her music exec hubby (Michael Sheen) and lives at a gorgeous L.A. home with her two daughters. She’s just turned the big 4-0 and genre contrivances soon brings three twenty something lads into her guesthouse. They’re all aspiring filmmakers. Harry (Pico Alexander) is the handsome director. George (Jon Rudnitsky) is the teddy bear screenwriter who forms a bond with Alice’s eldest kid. Teddy (Nat Wolff) is the actor who really has no notable character traits.

Harry and Alice start a May-December romance while her ex is weighing his return home. The boys also must deal with the drama of getting their movie made and keeping their integrity intact. A lazy script would signify that integrity by making them insist on it being black and white. That’s exactly the situation here.

Home Again simply doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It is a little more frustrating considering the talent involved could have dug deeper. Witherspoon is adequate in the lead, but we’ve seen her elevate similar material and she can’t here. The story doesn’t even allow for any real chemistry to develop between Alice and Harry. The director’s parents are responsible for some of the more memorable rom coms of the last three decades. At the least, many of them qualify as genuine guilty pleasures. Here’s hoping Hallie finds a similar voice, but this is a dull beginning.

*1/2 (out of four)