Last Christmas Movie Review

Last Christmas is an example of immense talent behind the scenes and blaring over the soundtrack resulting in a holiday concoction that just does not come together. It tries hard and it has attractive leads. Director Paul Feig has made rom coms successfully with Bridesmaids and shown range with 2018’s twisty humorous thriller A Simple Favor. Emma Thompson lends her writing skills and plays the over top mother to the lead character. And the film’s title is the eponymous 80s Wham! classic which plays frequently, in addition to numerous other tracks from the band and George Michael’s solo career.

This picture should work. My faith that it would did not last long. Emilia Clarke sheds her Game of Thrones image as Kate, an aimless Londoner who immigrated from Yugoslavia with her parents and sister. She spends her days working at a year round Christmas shop run by a quirky store owner who goes by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). In fact, nearly everyone is quirky in this screenplay. Even the homeless people at the shelter where Kate volunteers when she finally starts to have a heart. They’re homeless, but ya know… they’re fun homeless.

Speaking of having a heart, that’s a big plot point and I guess that’s all I can say without going into spoiler territory. Kate’s outlook on life begins to change when she meets the elusive Tom (Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians and the aforementioned A Simple Favor). Their potential courtship is interrupted by occasional forays into commentary on immigration, mental health, a bizarre romance between Santa and a customer, and whatever George Michael ballad or uptempo tune fits the moment.

The result is a tonal mess even with the singer’s beautifully toned voice playing. I’m not a Scrooge. Thompson appeared in Love Actually and I ate that extravagant Yuletide offering right up. Despite the heart being in the right place of the filmmakers, Last Christmas mostly left me praying for my time back.

*1/2 (out of four)

Daily Streaming Guide: March 15th Edition

Just as our collective world has changed around us in the past few days and will continue for the foreseeable future, so will this little movie blog of mine. Simply put – a lot of us (myself included) are going to be home for awhile. Therefore, the best use of this blog at the moment is shifting away from box office predictions and Oscar speculation.

Beginning right now, I’m going to post a Daily Streaming Guide recommending movies currently streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It’s likely that I’ll throw in Disney+ and HBO in from time to time. Hopefully this will assist my readers in identifying some worthy pictures to view at home. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Netflix

1984’s Purple Rain turned Prince into a global musical superstar. The soundtrack that accompanied it is a nine-track masterpiece in which every song demands repeat listens. Here’s a fair warning – the film itself is of its time. This is a kind way of saying that there’s some dialogue and attitudes that wouldn’t pass muster in 2020. That said, I would recommend it as a time capsule to witness a genius at a juncture of his creative peak. The performances alone with his band The Revolution that include the title tune, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Darling Nikki”, and more are worth the price of streaming.

Hulu

Keeping with the musical theme, Cameron Crowe’s 1989 teen romance Say Anything… is known mostly for a shot of John Cusack holding up a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. It’s an iconic scene, but the picture itself is among the most intelligent and insightful experiences dealing with young love. Just as 80s icon John Hughes wrote teens as human beings as opposed to walking hormones, Crowe’s screenplay accomplishes the same.

Amazon Prime

For something more recent, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor from 2018 belongs more in the guilty pleasure space. A charcoal black comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, this twisty thriller knows it’s ridiculous and is simply a whole lot of fun. This might be best enjoyed with a dry martini or two on standby.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow, folks! Until then – be well and stay safe!

Last Christmas Box Office Prediction

The Yuletide rom com Last Christmas presents itself in theaters next weekend from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. If you’re hoping it features the classic Wham! holiday track in its soundtrack, you’re in luck as it plays (as well as some unreleased songs by the late lead singer George Michael). Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame headline. Costars include Golding’s Rich mother Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson (who co-wrote the script).

While its two leads don’t really have a track record opening a film, this should succeed in bringing in a female audience (and perhaps some fans of Mr. Michael). Even though the genres are different, this could premiere with similar numbers to Feig’s previous effort A Simple Favor ($16.1 million).

I’ll say that range is likely as Christmas hopes to leg out solidly in the weeks ahead.

Last Christmas opening weekend prediction: $16.9 million

For my Doctor Sleep prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/29/doctor-sleep-box-office-prediction/

For my Midway prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/midway-box-office-prediction/

For my Playing with Fire prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/playing-with-fire-box-office-prediction/

A Simple Favor Movie Review

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is the type of character who would be in the book club that reads something like A Simple Favor. Yet the cyclone level of twists in the story might only be thought up by someone like Emily (Blake Lively) after drinking too many of her patented mid afternoon dry martinis. Paul Feig’s satiric thriller is, alas, based on a novel by Darcey Bell that probably has been read in those clubs.

This takes the issues of female empowerment found in Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train (also from literary works) and casts a black comedic cloud over it. It occasionally risks collapsing under its sheer volume of plot turns. And somehow it rarely ceases to be a hoot with two dynamic lead performances.

We meet Stephanie on her daily vlog filled with cooking tips and child rearing tips. She’s a single mom whose husband died in a car accident along with her brother. Her instinct is to do it all, including hoarding over school parenting projects. She doesn’t blink when Emily, whose kid attends school with Stephanie’s, starts asking her to be an unpaid nanny. Emily has a hectic job as PR manager for a fashion designer, the already mentioned drinking problem, and has-been writer turned professor husband Sean (Henry Golding from summer smash Crazy Rich Asians). The two end up bonding with Stephanie deeming Emily her “best friend” (there’s a bracelet involved).

Then one day Emily vanishes and Stephanie’s daily posts become a darker (though always humorous) search for a missing person. Her protective nature draws her close to Sean, so much so that the authorities begin to question their motives. What follows is a relentless stream of genre clichés: insurance claims, alternate identities, unknown twins, and love triangles, just to name some. This is kitchen sink level stuff. It’s borderline exhausting, but you get the feeling that Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer know it and are furiously winking. The director is known for his straight up comedies such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. While this does venture into paperback adapted material, it does it with tongue in cheek planted wit. This is more in tone with 1998’s under appreciated Wild Things than something like Gone Girl.

Kendrick and Lively are the show here and their chemistry makes it work. Stephanie’s desperation for companionship is sold by Kendrick, who thinks she’s found someone special beyond her unseen blog watchers. She’s done so with Emily, whose back story is filled with too many secrets to keep track of (you will lose count). Lively has a ball revealing them. So do we once we realize keeping up with it all is secondary to its ridiculous and fun nature.

*** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: October 5-7

The October box office gets underway this weekend with a strong likelihood that the month’s record will be broken as the comic book adaptation Venom and Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga Oscar hopeful and musical drama A Star Is Born open. You can peruse my individual detailed prediction posts on them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/venom-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/a-star-is-born-box-office-prediction/

Both are expected to post impressive debuts. The current October record holder is from five years ago when Gravity made $55.7 million out of the gate. Venom is tracking to open between $60-$70 million. I believe it will match expectations and premiere on the lower end of that range, taking the all-time monthly debut with it.

While Venom could always fail to meet projections, I believe the real wild card here is A Star Is Born. Ever since it screened on the film festival circuit, praise and awards buzz has been loud for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and third remake of a tale that began in the 1930s. My initial estimate last week was $37.6 million and it has now risen to $48.6 million. It’s not out of the question that the projection could continue to rise during the week.

The two newcomers will easily take the top spots. As for holdovers, Smallfoot seems destined to experience a smaller drop than current champ Night School. I expect them to place 3rd and 4th, respectively, with The House with a Clock in Its Walls rounding out the top five.

And with that, my top five take on the big record-breaking weekend ahead:

1. Venom

Predicted Gross: $62.5 million

2. A Star Is Born

Predicted Gross: $48.6 million

3. Smallfoot

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

4. Night School

Predicted Gross: $12.7 million

5. The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $7 million

Box Office Results (September 28-30)

As expected, the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School opened in first place with $27.2 million, a bit under my $31.6 million prediction. While not reaching the heights of some other Hart laughers, it’s still a solid start. I do expect a fairly large drop this weekend.

Warner Bros animated Smallfoot premiered in line with expectations at $23 million. My prediction? $23 million! I foresee a second weekend drop around 35-40 percent.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls dropped to third with $12.6 million, falling further than my second weekend estimate of $15.3 million. It’s made $44 million thus far.

A Simple Favor was fourth with $6.5 million (I said $7 million) for a three-week tally of $43 million.

The Nun rounded out the top five with $5.4 million (I said $5.5 million) for an overall gross of $109 million.

Halloween themed horror pic Hell Fest yielded unimpressive results in sixth place with $5.1 million, in line with my $5.6 million projection.

Finally, the Pure Flix version of Little Women was a total bust this weekend with just $705,000 for 16th place. I was more generous at $1.1 million.

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

Box Office Predictions: September 28-30

**Blogger’s Note (09/27/18): My estimates for Night School and Smallfoot has risen slightly to $31.6 million and $23 million respectively.

It could be a battle for the #1 spot at the box office as September closes with the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School and the animated Warner Bros family pic Smallfoot debuting. We also have the Halloween theme park set horror flick Hell Fest opening. You can peruse my detailed individual prediction posts on the trio here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/night-school-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/smallfoot-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/20/hell-fest-box-office-prediction/

Before we get to the heavy hitters, the Pure Flix version of Little Women is also out Friday on a low 600 or so screens. I didn’t do a separate post for it and I’m not expecting much out of it. I’ll put its premiere at just $1.1 million.

Kevin Hart has shown his potency at the box office repeatedly with several openings north of $30 million. I don’t have Night School reaching quite that high, but my mid to late 20s estimate is enough to project it will top the lower to mid 20s gross of Smallfoot. 

Competition for Smallfoot will include the second weekend of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which performed on the higher end of expectations out of the gate. It should drop to third place with A Simple Favor in fourth.

The five-spot is where I expect Hell Fest to compete. Horror movies always have the capacity to outdo expectations, but I’m not seeing much fanfare for this one. My mid single digits prediction could put it in range with the fourth weekend of The Nun.

And with that, a top 6 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Night School

Predicted Gross: $31.6 million

2. Smallfoot

Predicted Gross: $23 million

3. The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $15.3 million

4. A Simple Favor

Predicted Gross: $7 million

5. Hell Fest

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

6. The Nun

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

Box Office Results (September 21-23)

As anticipated, The House with a Clock in Its Walls topped the charts with a solid $26.6 million (ahead of my $23.2 million take). The Jack Black family pic, as mentioned, hit the better end of estimates. Considering its reported $40 million budget, this should be a nice hit for Universal.

A Simple Favor elevated from third place to second place in its sophomore weekend with $10.2 million, in line with my $10.6 million projection. Its total stands at $32 million.

The Nun crossed the $100 million mark placing third with $9.9 million (ahead of my $8.4 million estimate). Only Annabelle of the Conjuring Cinematic Universe didn’t manage to join the century club and The Nun appears poised to be the franchise’s second largest earner behind The Conjuring.

The Predator dipped mightily in weekend #2 to fourth place with a 63% fall and $9.1 million (I said $10 million) for $40 million overall.

Crazy Rich Asians was fifth with $6.3 million (I went with $5.9 million) for $159 million overall.

The newcomers besides Clock all failed to connect with moviegoers. Michael Moore’s doc (despite significant publicity) was a flop. While Fahrenheit 9/11 took in nearly $24 million in its first weekend in the summer of 2004, 11/9 managed a paltry $3 million for 8th place. I predicted $5 million.

Life Itself couldn’t overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews and the drama from “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman was 11th with a putrid $2.1 million. I was a bit higher at $3.8 million.

I didn’t make a prediction on the blog for Assassination Nation (though I said $1.2 million on Fantasy Movie League), but it was another bad opening in 15th place with $1 million.

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

Box Office Predictions: September 21-23

The family fantasy film The House with a Clock in Its Walls looks to get its hands on the #1 spot at the box office this weekend as it opens alongside the Michael Moore political doc Fahrenheit 11/9 and ensemble drama Life Itself. If you missed my detailed prediction posts on that trio, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/11/the-house-with-a-clock-in-its-walls-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/fahrenheit-11-9-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/15/life-itself-box-office-prediction/

My low to mid 20s forecast for Clock should be more than enough for it to top the charts. The rest of the top 5 could be a bit more interesting. The Predator had a so-so debut and I look for it to experience a pretty hefty drop. Same goes for The Nun in its third weekend. A Simple Favor, on the other hand, could experience a solid hold in its sophomore frame.

As for the newcomers, my measly $3.8 million projection for Life Itself leaves it outside the top 5 while Fahrenheit ($5 million estimate) could battle for Crazy Rich Asians for that five-spot. And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. The House with a Clock In Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $23.2 million

2. A Simple Favor 

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

3. The Predator

Predicted Gross: $10 million

4. The Nun

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

5. Crazy Rich Asians

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

Box Office Results (September 14-16)

The Predator opening in first place was never really in doubt, but its $24.6 million debut didn’t impress much. It came in a bit under my $27.4 million estimate. Mostly negative reviews didn’t help and I look for this to experience a decline of over 50% this coming weekend.

After posting a franchise best haul for the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, The Nun saw the largest second weekend drop (66%) to $18.2 million (I was a little higher at $19.8 million). The two-week tally stands at $85 million.

Returns were decent for A Simple Favor as it opened in third with $16 million (a bit under my $17.9 million prediction). I see it experiencing the best hold for next weekend and having a real chance at rising to second place (considering the potential dips for The Predator and The Nun).

White Boy Rick premiered in fourth place with an unremarkable $8.8 million, on pace with my $8.7 million estimate. The crime drama also suffered from mixed reviews and it couldn’t manage to get older moviegoers interested.

Crazy Rich Asians rounded out the top five with $8.6 million (I said $8.2 million) to bring its total to $149 million.

Finally, faith-based sequel Unbroken: Path to Redemption gained no traction with audiences earning just $2.2 million for 10th place (I said $2.5 million).

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

Box Office Predictions: September 14-16

A quartet of new titles make their way to multiplexes this weekend: franchise reboot The Predator, Anna Kendrick/Blake Lively thriller A Simple Favor, crime drama White Boy Rick with Matthew McConaughey, and “spiritual sequel” Unbroken: Path to Redemption. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/a-simple-favor-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/white-boy-rick-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

The Predator should have little trouble hitting the top spot, but I do have it on the lower end of the expectation range in the mid to high 20s.

The Nun got off a terrific start (more on that below) and I do expect a rather large decline due to both front loaded business and fairly poor word of mouth (a C Cinemascore grade). A drop in the low to mid 60s is feasible here and horror pics often have significant declines anyway.

A Simple Favor is intriguing. I believe it should place third and I have it managing to reach its intended female audience with a healthy showing at the top end of estimates.

White Boy Rick has generated zero awards buzz after its Telluride premiere and I’m having trouble seeing it hit double digits. That would put it in fourth.

Even though Peppermint just outdid Crazy Rich Asians for the #2 spot this past weekend, I expect the latter to have a smaller decline and get the five-spot.

As for Unbroken: Path to Redemption, my lowly $2.5 million forecast puts it well outside the top 5.

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

1. The Predator

Predicted Gross: $27.4 million

2. The Nun

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

3. A Simple Favor

Predicted Gross: $17.9 million

4. White Boy Rick

Predicted Gross: $8.7 million

5. Crazy Rich Asians

Predicted Gross: $8.2 million

Box Office Results (September 7-9)

Warner Bros was in full sister act level celebration mode this weekend as The Nun conquered the charts. The fifth entry in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe experienced the best debut of the franchise with $53.8 million compared to my $45.4 million projection. That’s good for the second highest September opening of all time behind last year’s It.

In a bit of a surprise, Jennifer Garner’s revenge tale Peppermint was second with a decent $13.4 million, topping my $11.8 million prediction. Overcoming poor reviews, the film reached the upper end of its projections. I see it dipping around 50% next weekend and falling out of the top five.

The three-week reign of Crazy Rich Asians came to an end as it placed third with $13.1 million (I said $14.2 million) for $135 million total.

The Meg was fourth with $6 million compared to my $5.4 million take and the shark tale has amassed $131 million.

Searching rounded out the top five with $4.5 million (in line with my $4.2 million prediction) for $14 million overall.

Finally, faith-based drama God Bless the Broken Road premiered in 11th place with a weak $1.3 million. I was a bit more generous at $2.1 million.

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

A Simple Favor Box Office Prediction

Director Paul Feig is best known for his comedies featuring Melissa McCarthy like Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. He changes things up next weekend with the release of thriller A Simple Favor. It’s based on the debut novel from Darcey Bell released last year. The cast is headlined by Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding (fresh off his breakthrough role in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians).

Favor could have the benefit of appealing to a female audience in the midst of more male-driven fare such as The Predator and White Boy Rick, which both open the same day. The current forecast is in the $12-$15 million area. I feel that Kendrick, Lively, and the intended demographic could cause this to debut on the high-end of that range and perhaps exceed it.

A Simple Favor opening weekend prediction: $17.9 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

For my White Boy Rick prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/white-boy-rick-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/