Ahead of its April 17th stateside debut, the revenge thriller Promising Young Woman has screened at Sundance. The pic marks the directorial debut of Emerald Fennell and casts Carey Mulligan in the title role alongside a supporting cast including Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam Brody, Alfred Molina, Connie Britton, and Laverne Cox.
Early reviews are encouraging with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%. Some critical reaction is effusive enough to make one wonder if Mulligan could nab her second Oscar nod after 2009’s An Education.
In order for that, Focus Features will need to launch an aggressive campaign to keep voters focused on her work in the months that follow. The Sundance buzz, at least, is somewhat promising. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A darkly comedic game of hide and seek is unveiled Wednesday in theaters next week in ReadyorNot. The pic stars Margot Robbie… actually it’s Samara Weaving (niece of Hugo). She’s a doppelgänger for Robbie and she plays a bride to be in a filthy rich family who subject her to the aforementioned game where they hunt her down. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett direct. Costars include Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell.
Not was readied for a premiere in July at the Fantasia International Film Festival and critical reaction was strong. It currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, I’m not at all confident this will manage to break out with a wide audience. A late August release date doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. This could struggle to reach double digits over its five-day rollout and that means mid single digits for the traditional Friday to Sunday frame is what I’m thinking.
ReadyorNot opening weekend prediction: $5.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $7.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Mixing the typical comic book movie issues with a little Big and even a touch of the recent InstantFamily, the DC Comics adaptation of Shazam! is able to produce crowd pleasing results. As the DCU must turn to their less iconic characters for feature attention, I would say the title hero here is somewhat equivalent to the MCU’s Ant-Man. He’s sarcastic. He’s not as serious. In fact, if the knock on this overall universe is that it’s too dark (think BatmanvSuperman: DawnofJustice or JusticeLeague), Shazam! is practically translucent.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid jumping between temporary dwellings after being separated from his mom as a toddler. The young teen seems to find a decent home with five other children and kindly caregivers. Yet he’s still searching from mom.
In a prologue circa 1974, we meet another youngster by way of Thaddeus Sivana. He experiences a mystical meetup with Shazam in the form of Djimon Hounsou in heavy old age makeup. Trying to find a human worthy of inheriting his considerable superpowers, he deems him not properly pure of heart. Sivana grows up to be Mark Strong with a myopic focus on battling the eventual Shazam.
That turns out to be Billy. When he is called for his own encounter with Hounsou, he gets the job. This means when he utters “Shazam!”, he turns into Zachary Levi (who could have been cast as Superman). He’s still a teen embodying a comic book strongman and that takes a lot of learning. One of his foster siblings (Jack Dylan Grazer) is in on the secret.
A lot of exposition must be established here and Shazam! probably doesn’t need to be over two hours long. The mommy and daddy issues explored are quite familiar to genre fans. The film does manage to find slightly different angles. Just as InstantFamily showed the true heroism of foster parents, so does this. Levi is a hoot as our crime fighting man child. Strong is fine, but he doesn’t exactly alter the general rule that the villains in many of these pics aren’t as interesting as they should be.
Shazam! works best when it’s focused on Billy/Shazam while he works with his new family and not while grappling with Savani and his monstrous CGI creatures that represent The Seven Deadly Sins. Director David F. Sandberg has crafted an origin story with a lot of heart among the usual action and it fosters enough appreciation to make this rewarding.
**Blogger’s Note (03/23): I am revising down my box office estimate to $8.4 million names on putrid reviews and lowered expectations.
A film that has challenged my ability to properly use capital and lower case letters in its title, CHiPs opens in theaters next weekend. The buddy cop comedy is a more humorous take on the 1970s-80s TV series that starred Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. Taking over their roles as California highway patrolmen are Dax Shepard (who also directs) and Michael Pena. Costars include Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, and Shepard’s real-life spouse Kristen Bell.
Warner Bros. originally had this pegged as a late summer release before bumping it to March. I don’t foresee this approaching, say, Starsky and Hutch numbers from 2004. That was also based on a buddy cop series from the same era, but its headliners Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson had considerably more drawing power at the time than Shepard and Pena.
The good news for the studio: CHiPs comes with a reported budget of just $25 million. I believe this vehicle could achieve over half of that in its opening weekend. That would put it behind other newbies Power Rangers and Life, but it’s not too shabby.
CHiPs opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million (prediction changed from $13.2M)