The Northman Box Office Prediction

Robert Eggers is an acclaimed director with two critical darlings (The Witch, The Lighthouse) to his credit. His third project is considerably bigger in scale with The Northman, out April 22nd. Budgeted at a rather shocking $90 million, the  Viking epic stars Alexander Skarsgard with a supporting cast including Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Bjork, and Willem Dafoe.

Just like with his first two efforts, reviews are on the side of Eggers with a current 88% Rotten Tomatoes score. Yet I’m not seeing a marketing effort from Focus Features that inspires confidence (especially considering that price tag). The Witch is the director’s largest earner with $25 million. The Lighthouse took in $10 million. This should top both of them domestically, but certainly not by as much as its studio is hoping for.

If something like Ambulance couldn’t manage a gross north of $10 million, I’m skeptical that The Northman will. I realize it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but they’re both action oriented pictures with no nexus to known IP.

Perhaps I’m feeling generous in that I’ll say The Northman manages to barely squeak into double digits (with low confidence).

The Northman opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million

For my The Bad Guys prediction, click here:

The Bad Guys Box Office Prediction

For my The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent prediction, click here:

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Northman

To call The Northman a box office gamble is an understatement. This is a fantasy bloodbath about Vikings (budgeted at a reported $90 million) from a filmmaker known for low-budget (though beautifully shot) horror tales. Robert Eggers directs with a cast led by Alexander Skarsgard and supporting players consisting of Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Bjork, and Willem Dafoe. Its Oscar prospects are iffy as well.

Ahead of its April 22nd stateside bow, the review embargo is lifted. Like 2016’s The Witch and 2019’s The Lighthouse (the director’s previous movies), this is garnering solid reviews at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether audiences take to it is yet to be determined.

Critics are particularly praising some of the tech aspects. Costume Design, Production Design, Sound, Visual Effects, and Cinematography could all be in play come awards time. Three years ago, The Lighthouse received a Cinematography nod for Jarin Blaschke and he returns behind the camera. For The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe likely came close to a Supporting Actor nod. I don’t envision any of the cast vying for acting prizes in the third Eggers effort.

Bottom line: don’t expect The Northman to be up for Best Picture or in other major categories. Down the line races could be another story… or it could just as easily end up like 2021’s The Green Knight and come up empty-handed. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Passing Review

Much of the drama in Rebecca Hall’s debut feature, based on a 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, is elevated by passing glances and comments overheard at gatherings. The term Passing refers to light skinned African-Americans who are deemed white to unsuspecting individuals. It’s a disguise that Clare Bellew (Ruth Negga) is living in and during the early moments of the picture, she has a chance encounter with Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson). They are childhood friends who’ve lost touch and their reconnection leaves Irene bewildered. She’s never left Harlem and has married successful but weary doctor Brian (Andre Holland). Irene fills her days with civic duties and some nights entertaining an author (Bill Camp) who’s endeared himself to the black community (though perhaps not for purely endearing reasons).

While Irene seems to have a nice upper class life going in a 1920s era filled with despair, a closer look is warranted. Her marriage is bordering on loveless. The couple struggle with proper child rearing to their two boys in a subplot that’s barely there (it should have been either explored in greater detail or dropped altogether).

Clare’s sudden presence reminds Irene of some chinks in the armor of her perceived blissful existence. That goes both ways. Clare is married to a vocal racist (Alexander Skarsgard) who has no clue what lies beneath. She’s a free spirit whose wings appear to grow when placed back in familiar territory. One of the strengths with this screenplay is that Clare’s reaction to her bonds rekindling is unexpected. Instead of substantiating her choice to pass as Caucasian, it fills her with a longing to return to her roots. In doing so, a strange and often unclear romantic dynamic emerges between Clare, Irene, and Brian. Jealousies and frailties come to the forefront. And those passing glances and comments take on deeper meaning as time goes by. Irene’s perception of Clare soon turns as cold as the wintry night air while Brian’s has blown in a warmer and cozier direction.

This is a picture that sneaks up on you with how powerful it ultimately becomes. Hall, a fine actress recently seen in The Night House, has her own complicated and for years unknown racial history that surely influenced her delicate handling of the subject matter. The performances are terrific across the board. This is not a story that over explains character motivation and it’s sometimes up to Thompson and Negga in particular to convey what’s really cooking in this tinderbox of a stew. They achieve that mission and Hall’s filmmaking prowess (shot in black and white with an aspect ratio of its era) accentuates that. By the climax, we are presented potential outcomes that occur in a flash and you may find yourself pondering them far longer. It all passes for a richly rewarding experience.

***1/2 (out of four)

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong is lighter than its MonsterVerse predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters from 2019. I don’t just mean lighter in tone (which it is), but actually lighter where it counts. When the two title character titans clash, we can actually see it. That’s an improvement over what transpired two years ago when Godzilla’s battles were too dimly lit or obscured by pounding rain. That’s a major plus, but not every aspect of this franchise has leveled up. The human characters are still an uninteresting and bland group. We have fine actors whose primary responsibility is to talk about the massive CGI combatants and react to what they’re doing. Their character development is a secondary consideration. That said – we’re not here for that, are we? This is the culmination of three pictures leading to a movie being named Godzilla vs. Kong and it frequently manages to deliver.

We last left King Kong in the 1970s during Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla in the aforementioned Monsters when he successfully warded off King Ghidorah and others. The fourth franchise entry picks up five years after Monsters as Kong is being monitored by Monarch on his native island. His human contact is mostly with linguist Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who’s a native of the island. A magazine cover identifies the doctor as the “Kong Whisperer”, but it’s clearly Jia who’s found the most sincere connection with the massive ape. Also on Kong patrol is geologist Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard).

While Kong is living a pretty chill existence on Skull Island, Godzilla’s fiery temper unexpectedly flares up. The not so jolly green giant has resurfaced to do lots of property destruction. His inexplicable attitude adjustment causes the CEO of APEX (Demian Bichir) to recruit Kong to solve this dilemma. APEX is a big shadowy corporation that sells itself as trying to solve the Titans problem. That doesn’t gel with conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and he’s got sympathizers with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, returning from Monsters) and her nerdy buddy Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison’s dad, played by Kyle Chandler, also reprises his Monsters role.

Enough with the plot which also involves specialized vehicles zooming through gravity fields. All of this is a prelude to watching Godzilla and Kong fight. It happens early (no shades of the slow buildup of 2014’s Godzilla) and round 1 transpires on water and is gloriously lighted for our entertainment.

The main event is in Hong Kong and that’s when we learn why Godzilla is being so irritable (hint: corporate greed is a factor). The climactic matchup is preceded by some fairly dull scenes with humans. No performance is bad. They’re just inconsequential with the exception of Hottle’s Jia in a winning performance. As long as we’re able to ignore the poor people in the buildings that are demolished with Kong and Godzilla’s every twitch and stumble, these skirmishes are expertly staged and enjoyable. I’d put it a notch below 2014’s Godzilla stand-alone from Gareth Edwards, but a hair above Kong: Skull Island and certainly ahead of Monsters. This delivers on its title well enough and is lit properly.

*** (out of four)

Godzilla vs. Kong Box Office Prediction

The fourth film in the MonsterVerse franchise stomps into theaters and HBO Max on Wednesday (March 31) with Godzilla vs. Kong. Adam Wingard takes the directorial reigns with a cast including Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, and Demian Bichir. Of course, the real stars are the giant green monster (from 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and massive gorilla (of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island) who will duke it out in the production with a budget reportedly in the $200 million range.

This awaited matchup was originally set for viewing last spring before going through the now familiar myriad of delays due to COVID-19. It’s the latest example of Warner Bros. unveiling their pics simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service. With theaters in New York and Los Angeles now operating (albeit in diminished capacity) and with vaccinations rising, Godzilla vs. Kong is being seen as a major test for the industry. The previous COVID era highest opening weekend belongs to Wonder Woman 1984 (another WB/HBO Max venture) at $16.7 million over this past Christmas. That number exceeded expectations and the thought is that Kong will outpace it.

I tend to agree. It is worth noting that the last MonsterVerse title, King of the Monsters, was a box office disappointment. Due partly to poor reviews, it premiered in late May 2019 to a subpar $47 million with an eventual domestic gross just north of $100 million. By comparison, 2014’s Godzilla took in $200 million while Kong: Skull Island made $168 million. A $47 million debut here would be beyond even the wildest expectations in these Coronavirus times.

Godzilla vs. Kong has the benefit of bringing these two iconic creatures together and that’s a significant selling point. It’s also the kind of epic production that many may wish to see on a giant screen as opposed to on their couch via HBO Max (though I’m sure plenty of moviegoers will go that route).

With a five-day rollout, I believe a Friday to Sunday haul in the $20 million range is possible with mid to high 20s overall for the entire frame.

Godzilla vs. Kong opening weekend prediction: $21.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $27.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my The Unholy prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Passing

Rebecca Hall is known for her many performances including Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town, Iron Man 3, and The Gift, among others. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, she’s made her directorial debut with Passing. Based on a 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, the drama pairs Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as mixed race friends navigating the tensions of the times. Costars include Andre Holland, Alexander Skarsgard, and Bill Camp.

Early critical reaction includes some raves with particular attention to the work of its leads. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 79%. Based on the buzz, there’s little question that Passing will score a streaming or studio pickup in short order. It’s also likely that whoever distributes this will mount an awards campaign.

What that will look like is in question. Some reviews have singled out Negga’s performance, who nabbed a Best Actress nomination in 2016 for Loving. It is feasible that both Thompson and Negga could both be campaigned for in the lead race, but a shift to Negga in Supporting Actress could increase the chance for exposure.

The current reviews indicate this could be a long shot for Best Picture or Director consideration. However, a well constructed push by its distributor may change that dynamic. Bottom line: Passing is worth keeping an eye on in 2021 and especially with Negga. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…


Long Shot Movie Review

Charlize Theron deserves better. In Long Shot, I couldn’t fully escape the feeling that her character would be far more interesting outside of this familiar beauty and the beast rom com plot. The screenplay (from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah) seems overly preoccupied with the idea that her U.S. Secretary of State Charlotte Field could fall in love with Seth Rogen’s schlubby journalist Fred Flarsky.

The Secretary of State is the one position in the federal government whose travel itinerary is similar to The Rolling Stones on a worldwide tour. Charlotte Field is an ambitious and bright politician with eyes on the Presidency and a focus on environmental issues. The current Commander in Chief (Bob Odenkirk) is in the Oval because he played the President on TV. He’s a dolt who sees his position as a springboard to breaking into movies (admittedly an amusing concept). She’s relying on his endorsement to bring her to highest office in the land.

At a swanky party, she comes into contact with Fred. He’s a recently fired journalist who is said to be a fine writer, but all we really see are his headlines filled with expletives. It turns out Charlotte was actually his babysitter in the early 90s where his early teenage hormones made an unfortunate impression. Charlotte’s staffers (June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel) believe her one weakness is lack of humor and Fred is brought on to punch up the funny in her speeches.

The two end up falling for each other in between country hopping, terrorist attacks, and a night dancing and tripping on Molly where she also must negotiate a hostage situation. Theron does a fine job here as she’s proven before that she’s adept at comedy. The idea that she must navigate the perception of basically dating Seth Rogen could have been mined for perceptive insights about how we look at our leaders. Long Shot really isn’t that movie. Instead we get Rogen doing his predictable man child thing. He’s just not very interesting and it’s tricky to root for him. O’Shea Jackson Jr. has a couple funny moments as Fred’s successful and conservative best bud. There’s bodily secretion humor and I’ll just say that stuff peaked over twenty years ago in There’s Something About Mary.

Director Jonathan Levine first teamed with Rogen in the decent dramedy 50/50. Lately he’s been doing material that’s barely passable or less so (The Night Before, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Snatched). This falls in that category too despite Theron’s sincere efforts to elevate it.

** (out of four)

Long Shot Box Office Prediction

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron headline the improbable rom com Long Shot, out in theaters next weekend. It marks the latest collaboration between Rogen and director Jonathan Levine after 50/50 and The Night Before (Levine’s latest was 2017’s Snatched). The film casts Theron as the U.S. Secretary of State who strikes up a romance with Rogen’s journalist. Costars include O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgard, and Lisa Kudrow.

Shot premiered in March at the South by Southwest Festival to favorable reviews and it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. A comparison to The Night Before is tricky. That pic opened in November 2015 on the weekend before Thanksgiving and against the finale of The Hunger Games franchise. The result was just a $9.8 million start (it legged out well the following holiday weekend).

I believe Long Shot will top that number, but perhaps with low teens as it hopes for minimal drops in subsequent frames. If so, this could fall behind the debut grosses of its competition – The Intruder and UglyDolls.

Long Shot opening weekend prediction: $13.1 million

For my The Intruder prediction, click here:

For my UglyDolls prediction, click here:

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review


Another “re-imagining” of the Tarzan tale? Could this work at all?


might be surprised by how some wise choices contribute to David Yates’s The Legend of Tarzan being a fairly satisfying experience.

The first solid choice is not to make this an origin story like we’ve seen repeatedly with franchises in recent years. When the proceedings begin, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) is settled in London as Lord Greystoke with wife Jane (Margot Robbie). His childhood of growing up in the wild and being able to communicate with the jungle creatures is told as backstory and it doesn’t take up much screen time.

Of course, we know a plot point must return Greystoke to his native grounds. It involves bad guy Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) collecting some precious diamonds from a tribe led by a Chief (Djimon Hounsou). In exchange for the stones, the Chief only wants Tarzan in return. You see – our title character had a run-in with the Chief’s only son years ago.

To the jungle we go with lots of CG animals that look fine, though maybe not quite as exquisite as in The Jungle Book or the revamped Apes franchise. Joining Big T on the adventure are his wife and American envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson).

The second welcome choice here is Robbie, who’s radiance has permiated everything she’s been in. Beyond her top-notch work, the screenwriters succeed in making her more than a Damsel in a White Dress. She’s tough, feisty, funny, and equal to her man.

Tarantino stalwarts Waltz and Jackson give you pretty much what you’d expect. Jackson gets a couple decent one-liners and Waltz could play the conniving villain role in his sleep (and has with superior writing). Skarsgard’s performance will be remembered more for his muscle tone and vine swinging than much else (he looks the part though).

Even though this legend has been around forever, you may find yourself recalling this year’s live-action version of Kipling’s Jungle Book from time to time and not just because of the CG. A scene where elephants are bowed to and treated as mystical creatures? Check. Overtones of colonialism that the filmmakers don’t really know how to deal with? Little bit. That said, we’ve got hungry hippos in Tarzan and they weren’t in Jon Favreau’s movie!

So while this may feel a bit familiar, the aforementioned pluses make this frequent return to this legend an entertaining enough time.

*** (out of four)

The Legend of Tarzan Box Office Prediction

Remember three summers ago when the mega-budgeted The Lone Ranger made just $29 million in its first weekend and was a huge disappointment? I give you what could be this year’s Ranger: Warner Bros The Legend of Tarzan, which swings into theaters over July 4th weekend with an estimated $180 million budget. I’m not convinced it’ll reach half its budget domestically when all is said and done.

Based on the iconic character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan is directed by David Yates – the man responsible for the last four Harry Potter pics and this fall’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Alexander Sarsgard is in the title role with Margot Robbie as Jane and Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, and Jim Broadbent among the supporting players.

The biggest hurdle here could be the considerable competition for a family audience. Finding Dory will still be earning a lot in weekend #3 and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG opens the same day. There just doesn’t seem to be much excitement for this and it could get a bit lost in the shuffle. Luckily for Yates, his Beasts project is likely to be a smash. Luckily for Robbie, she’s a just over a month away from Suicide Squad probably doing bang-up business.

I’ll predict a three-day debut in the high teens and a low 20s four-day for the holiday frame. Considering its price tag, that’s bad news at Warner.

The Legend of Tarzan opening weekend prediction: $17.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $22 million (Friday to Monday)

For my The BFG prediction, click here:

For my The Purge: Election Year prediction, click here: