Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 16-18

First things first: this is going be an enormous weekend at the box office. 

Reason #1: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. The final installment of the franchise based on the bestselling novels had high expectations, to say the least. How high? If it doesn’t have one of the Top Ten biggest debuts of all time, that would be considered a disappointment. 

For some context, two of the last three Twilight installments currently sit at #7 and #8 of all-time opening weekends. Seventh is 2009’s New Moon, which made $142.8 million and eighth is Breaking Dawn Part I, which took in $138.1 million in the same weekend last year. 2010’s Eclipse, which came in between those two, opened on a Wednesday over the July 4th weekend and took in $176 million over that time frame.

Recent history tells us that the last opening has a great chance of being the biggest yet. In 2010, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I made $125 million in 2010. Its follow-up (which was the final Potter) made $169 million and currently sits at #2 of all-time openings.

With this being the last time audiences get to watch Edward, Bella, and Jacob – fans are bound to rush out right away and see it. However, I have a hard time seeing it grossing the amount of money that the last Potter made over its predecessor. I suspect Breaking Dawn, Part 2 will take in only slightly more than New Moon did three years ago, but still have the designation of biggest Twilight opening. 

This weekend’s two slot will undoubtedly be Skyfall, which broke the all-time Bond opening last weekend by a lot, earning $88.3 million. As I mentioned in a previous post, Skyfall is already considered one of the greatest 007 films ever and its second weekend drop-off will probably not be as steep as 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which dropped 60% in its 2nd weekend. A 50% drop seems more likely.

Then we get to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, whose box office prospects I wrote about extensively earlier this week. In that blog post, I wrote that I expected the film to gross anywhere between $18-$38 million. I also mentioned that it was opening on only 1500 screens, which is a low number for an opening weekend. After writing my blog, I researched that screen number a little more closely and I am now very confident in stating that $38 million is out of the questions. For that matter, $28 million seems highly unlikely too. With the massive competition it’s facing, I expect Lincoln to debut on the lower spectrum of what I said earlier… and maybe less. It could open at #3, but it’s more likely to be number four, behind the third weekend of Wreck-It-Ralph.

With all that context, here are my official predictions for the box office this weekend. I’ll report back Sunday and tell you how smart or dumb I am:

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Predicted Gross: $153.8 million

2. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $43.4 million (representing a drop of 51%)

3. Wreck-It-Ralph

Predicted Gross: $21.2 million (representing a drop of 36%)

4. Lincoln

Predicted Gross: $18.1 million

Yes, that’s about as low as you can get on the scale I gave you earlier this week about Lincoln, but that will still be considered a rock solid opening on 1500 screens and I suspect it will continue to play well week to week, just like Argo is currently doing.

How Will Lincoln Do At The Box Office?

Along with Argo, it seems to be the frontrunner for winning Best Picture this year. It sits at 93% right now on Rotten Tomatoes. The performances are also being talked about as Award-worthy, with lead Daniel Day-Lewis possibly becoming the first performer in Oscar history to win three Best Actor awards. Its directed by the most-famous director in the world, Steven Spielberg. 

But how will Lincoln, opening wide this Friday, do at the box office? I’ll make a formal prediction on Thursday, but I’m writing this post today because the honest answer is… it’s kinda hard to tell. 

For starters, there’s competition out there. Serious competition. Skyfall had an enormous opening over the weekend. It already has the reputation (took only a week) of being one of the greatest Bond movies ever. Its second weekend drop-off will likely not be as steep as the last 007 adventure Quantum of Solace, which tumbled over 60% in its sophomore frame. Even if it drops fifty percent, it’ll still gross nearly $45 million next weekend.

And then there’s the only major release this weekend… The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. The final installment of this hugely successful franchise is certainly going to be #1 this weekend. Part I opened last year in the same weekend to a $138 million opening weekend, representing the fifth biggest movie opening ever at the time. It now sits at #8, after The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games opened bigger this year. There’s no reason to believe Part 2 won’t have a similar opening or maybe even a bigger opening. The final Harry Potter film in 2011 had the biggest opening weekend of the franchise and sits at #2 of all time openings (it was #1 until Avengers). So, its certainly possible audiences will rush out to see the last Twilight right away.

This all certainly leaves Lincoln looking at the #3 spot in its inaugural weekend. The main question I have is this: will Lincoln be a movie people want to rush out and see the first weekend? Will older audiences simply wait until the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend when they have time off from work? 

It is possible that Lincoln will follow the box office performance of Argo, having a solid first weekend and then experiencing small drop-offs from weekend to weekend. Or maybe its gross on turkey weekend may actually surpass the opening weekend, which is very rare for any picture to do. 

When making box office predictions, there’s usually about a $5 million dollar window either way in which I think a film will open. This is not the case with Lincoln. I could see it grossing anywhere from $18-$38 million. That’s rare having such a wide discrepancy. One major factor: Lincoln is only opening on approximately 1500 screens. For some context, the new Twilight will open on over 4000 screens. A gross of $38 million on that few screens would be astonishing.

What also makes predicting Lincoln tough for me? In the environment I work in, nearly everyone I know is dying to see it. This probably isn’t a fair representation of the general public (certainly not teenage to 20 something girls who will spend their weekend watching vampires hunters who are NOT Abe Lincoln). Certainly not the many moviegoers who will catch James Bond due to its hugely positive word-of-mouth. 

I’ll make my prediction Thursday, but I might be way off. We shall see.

The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Four

Eddie Murphy had experienced three box office bombs in a row in a two and a half year period from 1992 to 1995, with The Distinguished Gentleman, Beverly Hills Cop III, and Vampire in Brooklyn. By the summer of 1996, it had been eight years (Coming to America)since he’d had a critical and commercial hit.

This would change when Murphy decided to remake a 1963 Jerry Lewis hit, The Nutty Professor. The film would reunite Eddie with makeup artist extraordinaire Rick Baker, who did brilliant work on him in Coming to America. Eddie would play multiple roles, including Sherman Klump, Buddy Love, and the rest of the Klump family. His performance in Professor is nothing short of astonishing. By the end of 1996, a number of critics were pleading for the Academy to honor Murphy with a (deserved) Best Actor nomination. It didn’t happen, but The Nutty Professor earned $128 million in the United States and was a crowd pleaser and critical hit. It reinvigorated Murphy’s career. 

Professor is also important in another way: it was Eddie’s first “family film”, rated PG-13. The enormous success of the movie would greatly alter his career choices over the next few years. It would also alienate many of Murphy’s biggest admirers, but that didn’t start with Nutty Professor, which was a major success on all levels. 

Eddie wouldn’t exactly capitalize immediately on its success. Just six months later, he headlined Metro, an action comedy where Murphy plays a hostage negotiator. Clearly meant as a 48 HRS/Beverly Hills Cop type flick, it’s not bad at all. However, it’s not memorable in any way. On the bright side, Eddie doesn’t look bored like he did in Beverly Hills Cop III, but Metro was a not a hit, taking in only $32 million.

The summer of 1998 would bring much better news. Metro was filmed before the massive success of Professor, so his two choices in ’98 would reflect Murphy’s decided upon trajectory with his career. First, he would make his debut in animated films with Disney’s Mulan, which grossed a respectable $120 million (solid number, but nothing incredible for Disney animation).

More importantly, Eddie would remake another 60s-era film, Doctor Dolittle. Here, Murphy plays a doc who can talk to animals. Family audiences were more than ready to watch him in this type of film again and Dolittle outgrossed Professor, making $144 million. It did not, however, receive the very positive reviews that Professor did, something that would begin a trend for awhile. 

The fall of 1998 would bring Murphy one of his biggest box office flops: Holy Man. In the film, Eddie plays “G”, a mysterious faith healer who’s given his own TV show. Simply put, it’s a bad movie and audiences and critics noticed. It earned a pathetic $12 million (its budget was $60 million). Murphy would later admit Holy Man was a dud. Even worse, he said in later interviews that he turned down the massively successful Rush Hour with Jackie Chan to do Holy Man. Ouch.

1999 would bring another two movies for Murphygeared more towards adult audiences. First, there’s Life, co-starring Martin Lawrence, in which the pair play 1930s era New Yorkers who are wrongly framed for a murder in the South and sentenced to life in prison. Yes, it’s a comedy. Life would perform decently, earning $64 million. It was not really a critical hit, but it’s a pretty decent comedy and the two leads do a nice job.

Murphy’s second feature that year would be his most critically acclaimed movie in a while, Frank Oz’s Bowfinger, written by and co-starring another brilliant comedic star, Steve Martin. In the film, Eddie plays two roles and is equally brilliant in both as the huge movie star that desperate producer Martin tries to get in his movie… and the nerdy guy that kinda looks like him. Bowfinger earned a solid $66 million and if you haven’t seen it, it’s one of Murphy’s best roles and greatest movies.

So the 1990s would end on a pretty positive note. Murphy had reestablished himself as a family comedy star with massive hits Professor and Dolittle. Bowfinger showed he could still give a great performance in an adult-themed comedy, too. Yes, there were flops like Metro and especially Holy Man. 

Murphy would enter the 2000s decade with sequels to make and an animated donkey to come that would serve as Murphy’s ATM machine for a decade. And Oscar attention would come too. That’ll all be covered in part five of the series.

 

Box Office Results: November 9-11

On Thursday, I made my maiden attempt to attempt box office results and I must say, coulda been worse!

I purposely avoided reading the top box office prognosticators before making my picks, so I wouldn’t be influenced by them, which I’ll do every week now.

Everyone knew Skyfall would have a massive opening, but how big was the question. I predicted $82.3 million for the weekend and most other guesses were in the high 70s up to 80 million. It appears that Skyfall actually earned $87.8 million ($90M when factoring in Thursday night grosses), making it by far the biggest Bond opening of all time. With its already huge grosses overseas, the film is certain to become the highest grossing 007 feature ever. As if there was any doubt, audiences can be assured they’ll be seeing Mr. Craig as Mr. Bond for quite a while.

I also predicted the grosses for the weekend #2 and #3 films, which were both in their second weekends. Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph grossed $33.1 million, slightly less than my $34.5M prediction. Ditto for Robert Zemeckis’s Flight, which earned $15.1M, a little smaller than my $16.2M prediction.

Next Thursday, my predictions will be made that will include the 2nd weekend for 007 and the first wide release weekend for Steven Spielberg’s eagerly-awaited Lincoln.

 

The “Wait for HBO” Movie and Other Classifications

Nowadays, video stores are obsolete. This is kind of a sad fact for me. My high school job was working at Blockbuster Video. I grew up in video stores, too and used to thoroughly enjoy browsing through the aisles and finding a couple movies I’d forgotten about and picking it up.

Those days are gone. Netflix has essentially replaced the browsing through the aisles and now you can do it from the comfort of your couch. I basically classify movies in the following ways now:

1) Must-See in the theater. Examples – Skyfall, Lincoln, Django Unchained.


2) Wait for DVD/Blu-Ray Release. If I happen to miss a certain film in the theater, there are some that I know I’ll probably purchase for the DVD collection. I missed the Sherlock Holmes sequel at the multiplex, but knew I’d purchase it when it came out, which I did. Still haven’t watched it yet but will soon. If I hadn’t seen Argo in the theater, I probably would’ve gotten it for the collection immediately based on reviews alone.

3) The “Wait for HBO or Showtime Movie”. Then, there’s a number of features that I’m not interested enough in to buy or see in the theater. Essentially, a movie I don’t want to pay for. Fairly often, I’ll see a trailer for something and remark to a friend, “That’s a wait for HBO.” 

Here’s a perfect example of a “Wait for HBO” movie from this week: Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon. Here’s my well-thought out plot description: it’s about a family that buys a zoo. When it was released last December, it received mixed reviews and performed just OK at the box office. Frankly, there was nothing about it that would’ve caused me to rush out to AMC Lennox or Arena Grand (my theaters of choice) or drop 18 bucks for the DVD. That said, I’ve loved some Crowe movies (particularly Almost Famous). And I was happy to see that it had made its cable debut. I watched it Wednesday night. Result? Well, it’s a “Wait for HBO movie”. It had its moments and was a pleasant enough diversion. If I’m giving out rating, it’s probably a **1/2 flick. Worth seeing, but nothing special. It won’t be joining the Crowe-directed Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky on the DVD collection shelf. 

J. Edgar is another recent example. That movie went from “must-see in the theater” to “wait for HBO” based on mixed reviews. A side note: dramas are more likely to have that happen. Big spectacle action or sci-fi movies are usually ones I want to see on a big screen. J. Edgar actually exceeded my middling expectations. DiCaprio was fantastic and I really liked it. 

I have Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, sitting in the DVR list. It also got mixed reviews and there was absolutely nothing about it that shouted “theater movie”. I’ll watch it some night when nothing else is on and I suspect it’ll be a pleasant enough diversion too.

Skyfall on the other hand shouts “theater movie” on every level and I’m off to see that this weekend! Stay tuned.

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 9-11

And now, a new feature on the blog in which I will predict the box office results for the weekend every Thursday. 

This weekend, we have one new opening and it’s a massive one at that: the new 007 flick Skyfall. The film has received some of the best reviews of any Bond film ever and the anticipation for it has been growing. Overseas, where it opened a couple of weeks ago, it has drawn in massive box office figures. It’s been four years since 007 has graced the screen, double the time of waiting between the first two Daniel Craig features, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. 

The last, Solace, opened to $67 million four years ago, but I expect more from this outing.

We also have the second weekends of last week’s #1 and #2 movies, Wreck-It Ralph and Flight. Both were critically acclaimed hits and grossed $49 million and $24.9 million, respectively. Additionally, both seemed to be audience pleasers and figure to have relatively small drop-offs, even with the huge debut of Bond this weekend. So here goes and I’ll report back Sunday to see how well or horribly I did with my prognostication. 

Weekend of November 9-11

1. Skyfall

Predicted Gross: $82.3 million

2. Wreck-It Ralph

Predicted Gross: $34.5 million (representing a drop of 32%)

3. Flight

Predicted Gross: $16.2 million (representing a drop of 35%)

The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Three

When we last left The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy series, it was the end of the 80s and Murphy had experienced the box office and critical disappointment of his directorial debut Harlem Night and starred in the lackluster Another 48 HRS., where he seemed to just be going through the motions.

The nineties would bring the question of whether Murphy could stay relevant and remain a top box office attraction. After the 48 HRS sequel, he would take two years off between film projects, but he did manage to appear with Magic Johnson and model Iman in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video.

He would return to the box office in the summer of 1992 with Boomerang, a romantic comedy that received middling reviews, but a decent if not spectacular box office performance ($70 million). The film itself is certainly watchable and has some very funny moments, but is overall just OK. There was certainly high hopes that Boomerang would be a return to form for Eddie, who came up with the story and was written by team behind Coming to America. Nowadays, Boomerang is more interesting because we get to see very early performances from Martin Lawrence, Halle Berry, and Chris Rock.

Murphy’s next three films would represent a tremendous slide in Murphy’s career and box office power. In December 1992 came his first undeniable flop: The Distinguished Gentleman. A mostly lame comedy about a con artist who gets elected to Congress, Gentleman is kind of a mess that switches between broad comedy and attempts at serious political commentary. It fails badly and audiences took note. Gentleman only made around $40 million box office, a severely low number for a Murphy comedy and received bad reviews.

Before we get to Murphy’s next box office failure, Michael Jackson did return the music video favor in 1993 for Murphy’s track “What’s Up With You”, a video that’s truly awful in a rather hilarious way.

This brings us to 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III. Again, there was hope to be had. The third installment re-teamed Eddie with director John Landis, who helmed both Trading Places and Coming to America. No other way to really this: Beverly Hills Cop III sucked. So much so that Murphy would denounce it in interviews years later. It’s basic premise was Die Hard at an amusement park. It was low on jokes and the action scenes were majorly inferior to other films being released at the time. More than ever, Murphy seems to be sleepwalking through it. Ten years after the original (which made $234 million), the third would gross only $40 million and was a true box office disaster. 

Murphy’s fall at the box office would get even worse the following year. However, in this blogger’s opinion, what followed was fun more interesting than either Distinguished Gentleman or Beverly III. 1995’s Vampire in Brooklyn at least had Murphy trying something different. A horror comedy directed by the great Wes Craven, Vampire comes from a story by Murphy and his brother Charlie (who we all remember from “Chappelle’s Show” and his classic stories about Rick James and Prince). It doesn’t really work, but at least it’s a chance to see Murphy try something new. Audiences, however, did not agree. At all. Vampire would be Murphy’s lowest grossing movie ever with a pathetic gross of around $14 million.

With the three box office bombs in a row, it reached the point where David Spade on “Saturday Night Live”, in his Hollywood Minute segment, showed a picture of Murphy and simply stated “Oh look, a falling star.” Rumor has it that Murphy did not take well to the joke, especially considering he was being mocked on a show he made brilliant contributions to.

Vampire in Brooklyn would mark the end of an exclusive contract Murphy signed only to do movies with Paramount. He was eager to move on to other projects at other companies and that is where one of the biggest film comebacks in recent history was made. This happened where Murphy decided to remake a Jerry Lewis comedy and that is where The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Four will begin.

 

We May Already Know Who Is Directing Star Wars

From Aint it Cool news comes a breaking story via Collider, another reputable film site reporting that Matthew Vaughn may be in negotiations to direct Star Wars: Episode VII.

If you read my last blog post – https://toddmthatcher.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/who-will-direct-star-wars-episode-vii/ – Vaughn ranked seventh in my Top 20 Predictions on who would direct the first of the next Star Wars trilogy.

No way to know yet if there’s any truth to this rumor – but it certainly seems feasible. Just recently, Vaughn dropped out of directing the sequel to X-Men: First Class. Could it be that he was already negotiating with Disney and LucasFilm? Seems within the realm of possibility.

I believe Vaughn would be a welcome and exciting choice for fans of the franchise. From England, Vaughn got his start as a producer on director Guy Ritchie’s films Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Swept Away. 

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen his first two directing gigs. In 2004, he made his debut with Layer Cake, starring a fairly unknown actor at the time by the name of Daniel Craig. It sounds like it’s more in the vein of Ritchie’s films and it did receive critical acclaim.

He followed with Stardust, a fantasy starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Claire Danes. It didn’t perform too well at the U.S. box office, but it also received generally positive reviews. I need to see this one immediately.

In 2010, Vaughn released his third feature, Kick Ass, which I watched for the first time last week. I have no clue what took me so long to see it. It’s a damn good movie and a very clever take on the superhero origin story, filled with hilarious dialogue, over-the-top violence, and some of Nicolas Cage’s best work in a loooong time. It made enough money that a sequel is on its way, though Vaughn will not direct.

This all led to Vaughn directing his first HUGE Hollywood picture, 2011’s X-Men: First Class. After two disappointing entries in the X-Men franchise, 2006’s X-Men: Last Stand and 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, First Class was a hit with audiences and critics alike. And deservedly so. It’s a hell of a fun movie, with first-rate performances from Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. And Kevin Bacon is the frickin bad guy! And much of the movie has an ultra-cool, Sean Connery-era Bond feel to it since its set in the 1960s.

Vaughn was an obvious enough choice to reach #7 on my predictions list and it would not surprise me if this rumor turns out true. I still believe my #1 and #2 choices (Brad Bird and Guillermo Del Toro) are very likely too, but the cat may already be out of the bag.

And one final note about Matthew Vaughn: he’s married to super model Claudia Schiffer! So if he doesn’t get the biggest franchise in film history, his home life is still pretty admirable.

Who Will Direct Star Wars – Episode VII?

With the shocking announcement yesterday that Disney had purchased LucasFilm and that Star Wars – Episode VII will be released in 2015 (presumably in May), attention today has focused on who Disney will tap to take over the most famous film franchise in history. Today’s post will focus on the 20 Directors who I believe stand the best chance of being offered to direct one of the most anticipated films of all time.

First, let’s do away with some names being mentioned who I don’t believe it will be. I think the likely scenario is Disney not picking a super famous director who’s been around for a long time. Don’t count on Steven Spielberg or Robert Zemeckis. JJ Abrams’ name has been mentioned and would be a great choice, but he’s got a lot of projects lined up (he’s finishing up the Star Trek sequel right now). Peter Jackson is busy with The Hobbit series. M. Night Shyamalan may have been considered during his peak (The Sixth Sense through Signs), but I don’t see it now. Sam Raimi (director of the Spiderman trilogy) is unlikely. Kathryn Bigelow is an Oscar-winner for The Hurt Locker, but don’t see it happening. No way on James Cameron – he’s a control freak who’s busy anyway on the Avatar sequels. Joss Whedon would be a natural choice, but he’ll be shooting his sequel to another Disney property, The Avengers, which also comes out summer 2015. Ben Affleck is the flavor of the year director right now, but he was rumored to have turned down Justice League (Warner Bros. huge Avengers type blockbuster coming in a couple of years) and I don’t see him taking on Star Wars. Bryan Singer directed the first two X-Men features, Superman Returns, and just signed yesterday to helm the X-Men: First Class sequel, so he’ll likely be tied up. Zack Snyder, director of 300, Watchmen, and the upcoming new Superman film Man of Steel, would be a polarizing choice and I’m doubtful. I just don’t see Ridley Scott being interested either. Christopher Nolan created perhaps the best trilogy in recent times with The Dark Knight series, but I don’t see him anxious to jump into another film franchise right away.

There are a number of other directors I could talk about, but let’s get into who I think may actually direct it. Here are 20 directors who I believe are strong possibilities. I will count down from 20th to 1st. The higher they’re ranked, the more real I believe their chances are. Provided are brief explanations as to why. (Note that under each director’s credits, I have not listed every single movie they directed in many cases)

20. Alex Proyas

Credits: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), I, Robot (2004), Knowing (2009)

Proyas is a director who specializes in sci-fi films. His Dark City is considered to be one of the most original films of its genre in recent years and he’s directed a major tent pole feature pretty successfully with I, Robot. It seems more likely that Disney will go with a younger director with a recent major critical and/or commercial hit, however, and Proyas has neither.

19. David Fincher

Credits: Alien 3 (1992), Seven (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), Panic Room (2002), Zodiac (2007), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Fincher is one of the most acclaimed directors of the past 20 years and the announcement of him as director would be both surprising and tremendously exciting. I’m not sure if Disney would offer it to him and likely go with a newer director. And I’m not sure if Fincher would take it even if offered.

18. Gore Verbinski

Credits: Mouse Hunt (1997), The Ring (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), The Lone Ranger (2013).

Verbinski has already proven he can handle a big Disney franchise with Pirates. I’m not too sure this would be a popular choice with the fans and would be generally be considered a very safe choice. Still – a possibility.

17. Edgar Wright

Credits: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Ant-Man (2015)

Wright would be considered quite a bold choice. Known mostly for his comedies, he has been tapped to helm the Disney/Marvel comic book adaptation Ant-Man, which is scheduled to premiere in 2015. Disney seemed confident enough to hire him for that, which could mean they’d offer him Star Wars and Ant-Man could go to someone else or wait a while. A dark horse choice that would make a lot of fans happy, I suspect.

16. Rian Johnson

Credits: Brick (2005), The Brothers Bloom (2009), Looper (2012)

Also would be considered a bold choice. This fall’s Looper got some of the best reviews for a sci-fi film in recent years and the guy is a heck of a director. Fans would likely respond favorably to this pick as well.

15. Jon Favreau

Credits: Elf (2003), Zathura (2005), Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Favreau certainly did well with the Iron Man franchise and he already has an established relationship with Disney. He’d be a rock solid choice, though many would see it as a pretty safe and slightly boring choice.

14. Joe Johnston

Credits: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), The Rocketeer (1991), Jumanji (1995), Jurassic Park III (2001), The Wolfman (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The oldest director on the list at age 62, Johnston actually did visual effects on the original Star Wars trilogy. He has a relationship with Disney, having directed Captain America last year. Like with Favreau, I think this would generally be seen as a safe and unexciting selection.

13. Matt Reeves

Credits: Cloverfield (2008), Let Men In (2010), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

A JJ Abrams protege, Reeves would be considered quite a great choice. It could happen, but he just signed on to direct the Planet of the Apes sequel and there could be a genuine scheduling conflict.

12. David Yates

Credits: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts I and II (2010 and 2011)

Yates very successfully directed the final four installments of the Potter franchise and has proven beyond a doubt that he can handle an already well-established film franchise. One possible hiccup: Yates is rumored to be the possible director for Justice League and there could be scheduling conflicts.

11. Rupert Wyatt

Credits: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Wyatt received deserved critical acclaim for his very successful reboot of the Apes franchise last summer and he is certainly a possibility. Strangely, he was offered the chance to direct the Apes sequel but declined because he said he didn’t have proper time to prepare. But I would think Star Wars would be tough to resist.

10. Danny Boyle

Credits: Trainspotting (1996), The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002), Millions (2004), Sunshine (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), 127 Hours (2010)

Boyle is an Oscar-winning director who would be considered an incredibly bold choice. He’s certainly used to having creative control at this point in his career and he’s proved to be a master at several different genres. Disney could really make waves his fans with this announcement.

9. Sam Mendes

Credits: American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002), Jarhead (2005), Revolutionary Road (2008), Skyfall (2012)

Mendes is another Oscar-winning director who is not known for big-budget extravaganzas. That is, until a week from now, when the new Bond film Skyfall is released. It’s said to be one of the best 007 pictures ever and Mendes could get an offer for another beloved franchise.

8. Duncan Jones

Credits: Moon (2009), Source Code (2011)

Jones has directed two critically acclaimed sci-films and is considered a major up-and-comer in Hollywood. Plus, he’s David Bowie’s son! How cool is that??

7. Matthew Vaughn

Credits: Layer Cake (2004), Stardust (2007), Kick-Ass (2010), X-Men: First Class (2011)

Another hot director, he’s earned critical acclaim with his first features and got a chance to direct a tent pole franchise film with last year’s X-Men: First Class, to great acclaim and solid box office results.

6. Josh Trank

Credits: Chronicle (2012)

This year’s Chronicle was a surprise hit and a very original sci-fi feature. Upon that film’s release, he is now mentioned frequently as the next director to be offered a huge franchise. Doesn’t get any bigger than this one.

5. Guillermo Del Toro

Credits: Cronos (1993), Mimic (1997), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013)
 
Del Toro is widely considered one of the most visionary sci-fi directors in the last two decades. Blade II is considered the best of the trilogy, his Hellboy were commercial and critical hits, and Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the most visually impressive features in recent memory. Next year’s Pacific Rim is a huge budget robots vs. monsters movie. Easily one of the most sought after directors in Hollywood, Del Toro may just have too much on his plate, but he may not be able to turn Star Wars down and he may very well get the offer.
 
4. Drew Goddard
 
Credits: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
 
While Cabin was a critically acclaimed horror/comedy from earlier this year, you may be wondering why he’s this high on the list. The answer: he’s Joss Whedon’s right-hand man. Disney owns Marvel, who gave Whedon the chance to direct The Avengers. That turned out, uh, pretty well. Cabin showed Goddard has great directing chops and Whedon would likely jump on as executive producer with Goddard behind the camera.
 
3. Neil Blomkamp
 
Credits: District 9 (2009), Elysium (2013)
 
Blomkamp, a Peter Jackson protege, burst onto the sci-fi movie scene in a massive way with 2009’s District 9, a wildly original and impressive debut. His follow-up is next year’s Elysium, starring Matt Damon which is a big-budget sci-fi feature. If that is anywhere near the quality as his first feature, it is highly possible he gets the offer.
 
2. Alfonso Cuaron
 
Credits: A Little Princess (1995), Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006), Gravity (2013)
 
From his acclaimed childrens film Princess to the indie favorite Y Tu Mama Tambien to the absolutely incredibly directed futuristic thriller Children of Men, Cuaron is one of the most exciting directors in years. Even better, he directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is deservedly considered in many circles to be the greatest film in that franchise. Next year’s Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is science fiction, and set in space. Good primer. It’s almost hard to imagine Cuaron not being offered Star Wars, unless Disney goes with my prediction for #1…
 
1. Brad Bird
 
Credits: The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
 
He directed the acclaimed animated feature Iron Giant before moving on to Pixar to helm two of their most beloved films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Based on his animation background, as brilliant as it was, he was considered an odd choice to direct the fourth Mission: Impossible last year. He absolutely hit it out of the park, resulting in the highest grossing and critically praised film of the series. Based on his Pixar work, he already has a very well-established relationship with Disney. If I’m betting money today, Brad Bird will direct Star Wars – Episode VII.
 
Of course, we could see any of the other names I’ve mentioned. Or maybe even someone who comes out of nowhere. May 2015 is likely when we’ll see the famous scroll in theaters. Don’t be surprised, however, if the director is announced by the end of this year or very early next year, because shooting will likely begin next summer. 

The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Two

Alas, the long-awaited sequel to yesterday’s blog post chronicling the highs and lows of one of the greatest comedic actors in film history, Eddie Murphy.

The first post took us through 1984 and with the exception of an already forgotten dud called Best Defense, it was all highs for Murphy. He basically made “Saturday Night Live” The Eddie Murphy Show. A brilliant stand-up special Delirious. The amazing one-two-three punch of 48 HRS., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop, which became the highest grossing comedy in history at the time.

What to do next? Well before we get to the movies, he did have a #2 hit on the Billboard charts with “Party All The Time”, produced by Rick James (insert “Chappelle’s Show reference NOW). It’s no classic, but it’s got a catchy beat and you can dance to it.

Back to the movies. There would be a two-year break between Cop and Murphy’s follow-up. Was he being ultra picky about choosing his next project, not knowing how to follow-up on the biggest comedy ever? Doubtful, because when 1986’s The Golden Child came, it was considered a disappointment. Murphy’s star power was enough to carry it to a respectable $79 million dollar gross, but that’s about a third of his previous film’s take. The film itself was pretty bad. Lame script. Lame special effects. And Murphy seems bored during most of the movie. Golden Child represented a major example of what could be called a “paycheck movie” for Eddie. Unfortunately, several more would follow.

Perhaps Eddie just needed a project before the inevitable Beverly Hills Cop sequel because that’s what followed in 1987. It’s not near the equal of its predecessor, but it certainly has its moments and it was a huge hit. Directed by the late Tony Scott (fresh off Top Gun), it definitely is more action-oriented and doesn’t give Eddie the chances to shine that his earlier comedies did. But all in all, not bad.

By this point, Murphy was still the biggest movie star on the planet. He could do whatever he wanted. And in 1988, he reached what many consider a career peak. He re-teamed with director John Landis (from Trading Places) for Coming to America. In interviews, Landis has stated that the Eddie Murphy he worked with on America was much different than the one he worked with on Places. He’s hinted that while he was more difficult, he was also someone comfortable being in control. During Trading Places, Murphy was shooting his second film working for a well-known director. In Coming to America, Landis was a well-known director working for Murphy. The transformation to box office king was complete.

Coming to America is an important picture in Eddie’s career in so many ways. It was basically the first comedy to feature an almost entirely African-American cast. It’s the first movie to feature Eddie playing multiple roles. The barber shop scenes, in which Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall playing nearly every role, are the stuff of film legend today. It’s been said that when the movie came out, many in the audience didn’t realize it was Murphy and Hall until the credits rolled.

I stated in Part One of this series that Trading Places is often what I call my favorite Murphy film. Coming to America is the other one I mention. It’s one of those comedies that when it’s on, I’m watching it. And it showcases Murphy’s immense talents maybe better than anything else he’s ever done.

Coming to America would arguably mark Murphy’s artistic peak, but the following year would prove unsuccessful and Murphy’s first taste of true box office disappointment.

Before we get there, 1989 brought us another album from Eddie. This one was not too successful. For evidence, I submit to you the not-too-suggestively titled track “Put Your Mouth On Me”.

The real disappointment of 1989, however, would prove to be Murphy’s directorial debut Harlem Nights. Eddie would star along with comedy legends Richard Pryor (who Murphy idolized growing up) and Redd Foxx. A 1930s era gangster comedy, Nights was eagerly anticipated. It was Murphy’s first time behind the camera. It had a trio of comedy legends headlining it. But audiences didn’t respond to it. It was too misogynistic. It wasn’t very funny. Pryor was well past his prime at this point. It ended up grossing half of Eddie’s two previous films and was savaged by critics.

I’ve seen Harlem Nights a few times and I don’t think it’s as bad as its reputation. It’s got some hilarious moments. It’s pretty damn ambitious for a first-time director. But it’s also very uneven and ultimately not successful. Murphy seemed to take the reception to his directorial debut badly. He would never direct again.

Murphy would take the easy route for his next film, reprising his role as Reggie Hammond in Another 48 HRS. In 1982, Eddie would be billed second to Nick Nolte. Not this time. Unfortunately, the title is all too accurate. It’s pretty much a copy of the 1982 hit. And just like in Golden Child, Murphy seems aware that the movie is mediocre at best. He looks bored. And also slightly overweight (he’s joked in interviews that Another 48 HRS was his “fat period”).

Eddie Murphy pretty much owned the 1980s up until the very end. Harlem Nights and Another 48 HRS ended that era with two badly received pictures in a row. Worse still, Murphy seemed slighted by the former film’s reception and indifferent and sleepwalking through the latter.

With the 1990s beginning, how would Eddie respond and try to reinvigorate his career?

Stay tuned for The Curious Case of Eddie Murphy – Part Three