Oscar Watch: Palm Springs

Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/10/palm-springs-movie-review/

The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.

So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.

I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Palm Springs Movie Review

Maybe it’s possible that the idea of living the same day over and over again is just something that resonates during these strange COVID-19 times. Or maybe Palm Springs really is a fresh and highly satisfying take on the Groundhog Day concept. I think it’s the latter and what a pleasant surprise.

You cannot have this plot without thinking of the incomparable Bill Murray comedy. The concept has repeated itself in the action and horror genres with Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day. Springs plays with the formula in unexpected ways. Another SNL alum headlines with Andy Samberg as Nyles. He’s the aimless boyfriend to younger Misty (Meredith Hagner) and he’s tagging along to her friend’s wedding in the title town. We realize quickly that something is really off with his behavior. It turns out that he’s already well along the way into his time loop and has been living this day repeatedly. This is the first realization that the screenplay from Andy Siara is playing by a different set of rules by dispensing with the origin story of Nyles’s Groundhog Day. This is a welcome change.

Sarah (Cristin Milioti, tough and sometimes vulnerable and terrific in this role) is the sister of the bride. She’s got character flaws equal to Nyles that aren’t because of the time loop. Yet that quickly changes when she joins him on the endless day. What follows is the duo attempting to figure out just what the heck is happening (the science fiction elements involve a mysterious cave and a goat).

They are occasionally joined in their adventure by another wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons, engaging as always) who got sucked into the vortex. It’s also possible that Nyles and Sarah are slowly – very slowly – falling in love. Or is it just that they only have each other in this untenable scenario?

The less said about how the plot rolls along the better. There are genuine revelations that I didn’t see coming, but it all fits into this clever version of a well-worn tale. This is the best Samberg has been on film and Milioti easily equals his work. We see this budding romance develop over many days, albeit the same one. As a credit to the whole team involved, it’s a lot of time well spent.

***1/2 (out of four)

2018 Golden Globe Winner Predictions

The highest profile Oscar precursor airs this Sunday with Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh sharing hosting duties. That means it’s time to roll out my predictions on who and what will win in the film categories. Truth be told, some of these races are fairly easy to pick. Others… not so much. Let’s break each category down with my final picks on the victors.

Best Drama

The Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

It was an interesting decision for Warner Bros. to place Star here instead of in Musical/Comedy. Even with that, I believe anything else winning would be an upset (BlacKkKlansman may have the best remote shot). Star is looked at as a soft front-runner at the big show down the line. I feel a win here will help solidify that.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Musical/Comedy

The Nominees: Crazy Rich Asians, The Favourite, Green Book, Mary Poppins Returns, Vice

Unlike Drama, this race is considerably tougher to project. Vice received the most nominations of any picture and that could mean something. However, critical reaction has been more mixed than originally anticipated. Mary Poppins Returns now seems to be a legitimate question mark as to Oscar inclusion for Picture and the competition is steep. The reward for Crazy Rich Asians is its nomination.

So, for me, this comes down to Green Book and The Favourite and it’s seriously a coin flip. I am giving a tiny edge to Green Book since it received a directing nomination, unlike The Favourite. 

Predicted Winner: Green Book

Best Director

The Nominees: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice)

A win for Cooper or Lee is not out of the question, but Cuaron is the odds on favorite (as he is for the Academy). Roma was not eligible for inclusion in Drama since it’s a foreign pic. It will (spoiler alert for below!) be honored there and here.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor (Drama)

The Nominees: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

The Best Actor drama race comes down to two performers who used their musical skills to dramatic effect: Cooper and Malek. I would not at all be surprised to see Malek’s Freddie Mercury pick up the trophy, but I’ll say the Star love extends here.

Predicted Winner: Cooper

Best Actress (Drama)

The Nominees: Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Rosamund Pike (A Private War)

Not long ago, the Globes bestowed Lady Gaga with an unexpected win for her TV work in “American Horror Story”. If they did that, I’ll say they honor her here for her breakthrough film role. Close is the only actress that provides potential competition.

Predicted Winner: Gaga

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)

The Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), Robert Redford (The Old Man & The Gun), John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie)

If the Hollywood Foreign Press goes crazy for Green Book, Mortensen could be a benefactor. Yet I suspect this is the most obvious category to give Vice a win for Bale’s acclaimed performance.

Predicted Winner: Bale

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Charlize Theron (Tully), Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians)

This is Blunt v. Colman. With Poppins not quite getting all the box office/critics love that was expected, I lean Colman.

Predicted Winner: Colman

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

The HFPA has had shockers in this race… Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals being a recent example. This is a tricky one. Other than Rockwell, I could see any name being called. I’m tempted to pick Grant, but I’ll go with Ali for a more safe choice (especially since it was Taylor-Johnson that unexpectedly beat him in 2016 for his Oscar-winning part in Moonlight).

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Claire Foy (First Man), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

These are the five women I currently have down for Oscar nods. I suspect The Favourite ladies will cancel themselves out. Foy would be an upset. Could the several Vice nods mean Adams is a factor? It certainly could, but I believe King’s performance in Beale (not withstanding her SAG snub) will emerge.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Screenplay

The Nominees: The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, Vice

Unlike the Oscar, the Globes do not divide this race between adapted and original screenplays. A Roma or Book win is feasible, but I’ll say The Favourite is the choice in this case.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: Capernaum, Girl, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

As already discussed, this is going to be Roma. Not much left to say.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

The Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

It’s generally not wise to bet against Pixar and Incredibles 2 stands an excellent shot. I’m thinking the Globes may go against the grain though as Spidey is peaking at the right time with its very recent raves.

Predicted Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Black Panther, First Man, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place

Once again, I’m tempted to go with Disney and their iconic nanny as this is the only musical on here. However, I’ll say Justin Hurwitz’s acclaimed score for First Man lands the win.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “Girl in the Movies” from Dumplin, “Requiem for a Private War” from A Private War, “Revelation” from Boy Erased, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

It was unexpected that Poppins made no showing here (part of the reason I’m picking against it in Score). Regardless, there is an extremely obvious front-runner here and it’s Cooper and Gaga’s duet.

Predicted Winner: “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

My projections give Star a bright evening with four victories, with The Favourite, Green Book, and Roma all picking up two. I’ll have analysis up shortly after the ceremony as to how I did. Stay tuned!

 

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation Box Office Prediction

Adam Sandler’s animated franchise is back in theaters next weekend when Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation debuts. The Sony Pictures series moves to the summer season after its first two entries managed to set records in the month of September. While its star’s live-action efforts have gone the Netflix route, part 3 looks to score with family audiences in a more crowded marketplace than the parts I and II went up against.

Genndy Tartakovsky is back in the director’s chair. Besides Sandler, returning voices include Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Mel Brooks and newcomers Kathryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan.

As mentioned, kids and their parents have been receptive to this 3D monster mash on two occasions. In September 2012, the original premiered to $42.5 million with eventual domestic earnings of $148 million. That set the all-time largest debut for that month. Three years later, Hotel Transylvania 2 opened in September 2015 and made $48.4 out of the gate to break the month’s record held by its predecessor. It ended up at $169 million. The series held the 1-2 September spot until last year when It obliterated the record.

When it comes to competition for eyeballs, Incredibles 2 should be winding down though still grossing in the mid to possibly high teens. Marvel’s AntMan and the Wasp will only be in its second weekend and likely going strong. That said, Transylvania has proven itself before and I imagine it too will manage a low to mid 40s start even with the change of seasons. By doing so, that should put it in line for the #1 spot over AntMan and the debut of Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation opening weekend prediction: $43.6 million

For my Skyscraper prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/03/skyscraper-box-office-prediction/

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

Storks Box Office Prediction

Warner Bros keeps the onslaught of animated titles being delivered to theaters going with Storks, opening next weekend. The comedic adventure comes from Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. Mr. Stroller is known for his live-action genre titles like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and the Neighbors franchise. The pic features the voices of Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammer, and Ty Burrell.

2016 has been a banner year for animated material with mega-hits like Zootopia, Finding Dory, and The Secret Life of Pets and critically acclaimed fare like Kubo and the Two Strings and Sausage Party. With all those titles mentioned, it’s a distinct possibility that an animated feature will really have to stand out now for family audiences to plunk down their dollars. Whether Storks fits that bill is a legit question.

September has been an occasionally fruitful month for the genre. Hotel Transylvania and its sequel are responsible for the month’s two largest openings at $42 and $48 million, respectively. The two Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs flicks both opened above $30 million. Warner Bros should be ecstatic if Storks manages those numbers.

I don’t believe this will quite reach that level and a debut in the mid to high 20s seems more probable.

Storks opening weekend prediction: $27.9 million

For my The Magnificent Seven prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/14/the-magnificent-seven-box-office-prediction/

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Box Office Prediction

It has, at least to me, a title that makes me laugh every time I think of it. Yet I’m not convinced that will lead to an impressive performance on the charts.

Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island partners Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone headline the music documentary spoof Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Costars include Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett (pulling double duty over the weekend with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), and Martin Sheen. There’s also a bunch of cameos from real pop stars such as Adam Levine, Mariah Carey, Usher, and Carrie Underwood.

Mr. Samberg’s digital shorts on “Saturday Night Live” were a solid staple of the show for many years with classics like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick in a Box”. His film career, on the other hand, has been pretty unimpressive box office wise. 2007’s Hot Rod and 2012’s That’s My Boy both were critical and commercial disappointments.

I’ll predict Popstar struggles to even reach high single digits.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/25/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-out-of-the-shadows-box-office-prediction/

For my Me Before You prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/25/me-before-you-box-office-prediction/

Hotel Transylvania 2 Box Office Prediction

Three years ago on the same late September weekend, the animated Hotel Transylvania marked Adam Sandler’s second biggest domestic debut ever after The Longest Yard. Making $42.5 million out of the gate, the original monstrous comedy would top out at $148 million stateside. Therefore it’s certainly no surprise that a sequel is coming to multiplexes next Friday.

Sandler is back in voice over mode along with returnees Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Molly Shannon and Fran Drescher along with newbies Mel Brooks, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly.

Hotel Transylvania 2 will have the advantage of really being the only game in town catering to youngsters. Opening #1 shouldn’t be a problem, but whether it outdoes its predecessor is another story. While the first was well received for sure, I don’t necessarily believe anticipation is rabid for a follow up. I believe a premiere in the mid 30s is more likely than topping $40 million.

Hotel Transylvania 2 opening weekend prediction: $34.1 million

For my prediction on The Intern, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/19/the-intern-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on The Green Inferno, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/19/the-green-inferno-box-office-prediction/