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:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/23/the-intruder-box-office-prediction/

For my UglyDolls prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/23/uglydolls-box-office-prediction/

The Kid Who Would Be King Box Office Prediction

A juvenile rendering of the King Arthur tale hits theaters next weekend with the family fantasy The Kid Who Would Be King. It comes from director Joe Cornish, whose 2011 debut Attack the Block (marking the debut of John Boyega) was a critical favorite. This marks his awaited sophomore effort. The title character is played by newcomer Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of motion capture king Andy. Costars include Tom Taylor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Patrick Stewart.

Early reviews are encouraging with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 85%. It could help that the family friendly holiday holdovers have started to wane. That said, the marketing campaign hasn’t been robust and followers of the filmmaker’s first feature belong in a niche market.

I think Kid could manage to hit double digits while teens could be a reach. That might get it to second place next weekend behind the sophomore frame of Glass.

The Kid Who Would Be King opening weekend prediction: $10.8 million

For my Serenity prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/17/serenity-box-office-prediction/

2018: The Year of Ryan Coogler

To kick off my series on the people that made significant contributions in cinema for 2018, the first post is the easiest to choose from. In a year filled with many successful tales, Black Panther is undoubtedly THE story. The Marvel Cinematic Universe saga took a superhero not nearly as known as others and the result was a surprising and smashing record breaker.

The man behind it is Ryan Coogler. A 32-year-old Oakland native, Coogler made his directorial debut with 2013’s acclaimed Fruitvale Station. Two years later, he invigorated another franchise with Creed. And in February of this year, Panther was unleashed worldwide. With Chadwick Boseman in the title role, Michael B. Jordan as one of the MCU’s most memorable villains, and Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright providing dynamic support, the film immediately struck a chord with moviegoers and critics. With a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, Panther took in $700 million domestically at the box office.

Let us count the records, shall we? That’s the top hit of the year. It’s the third biggest domestic grosser of all time behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar. Obviously, that designation means it’s Marvel’s #1 earner. One year ago, if anyone had told you this would make more than Avengers: Infinity War (which followed a few weeks later), you wouldn’t have believed it.

For Coogler, he’s made the biggest comic book adaptation ever in a century filled with them. The sky is the limit for him as he’s likely being offered every tent pole project in sight. He’s already struck a deal to direct the Panther sequel. Additionally, this stands an excellent chance to be the first pic of its genre to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.

In 2018, Coogler made history by making the #1 picture ever directed by an African-American and introduced a hero already beloved by all. He’s an unquestionable entry in the people that mattered onscreen this year.

Black Panther Movie Review

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is certainly part of the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe. It shares some common themes with its predecessors, most notably the Thor franchise with its gorgeous landscapes and dramatic family dynamics. The story of the title character is picked up after his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

In other ways, Panther does have the feel of a truly stand-alone experience. The other beings in the MCU are largely ignored. Some of the faults of the MCU features aren’t here. That includes the common and deserved quibbling of weak villains. Quite the opposite here and come to think of it – that’s another thing it shares with the Asgardian God and the baddies (especially Loki) he’s battled. Panther is, of course, also noteworthy for its nearly all African-American cast and setting on the fictional African country of Wakanda.

We’ve seen a whole bunch of superhero origin stories over the past few years. Black Panther is easily one of the most satisfying. It excites you about the character’s inclusion in his larger Avengers world while also priming you for further more self-contained adventures. We’re introduced to some memorable supporting players that often outshine the lead. And just as director Coogler reinvigorated the Rocky series with Creed, he puts a unique stamp on this franchise.

Chadwick Boseman is Black Panther/T’Challa. As you may recall, his father was assassinated in Civil War. That development causes T’Challa to become the king. His nation of Wakanda (besides being a triumph of production design) stands alone due to its abundance of vibranium, a precious alien metal. This substance allows Wakanda to have extremely advanced technology and much of it is overseen by T’Challa’s teenage sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). She is essentially the Q to Boseman’s 007 and Wright is an absolute scene stealer in the part.

The presence of vibranium offers T’Challa the powers to be Black Panther. It also offers a conundrum: keep the vibranium local to his land as his forefathers have or use it to do good worldwide. The flip side is it could do lots of bad everywhere. That’s what Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) would prefer. He lives over in the U.S. where he works alongside arms dealer Klaue (Andy Serkis, having a ball outside of his normal motion capture suit). They want the substance to wreak havoc and Killmonger travels overseas to do so. And the battle begins.

Black Panther is graced with a large cast of recognizable faces. Lupita Nyong’o is T’Challa’s ex who’s also an international spy for Wakanda. Martin Freeman is a CIA agent unexpectedly thrust into this exotic world. Angela Bassett is the Queen and Forest Whitaker plays one of T’Challa’s mentors. Daniel Kaluuya, who made a splash last year with Get Out, is Panther’s best friend who grows suspicious of his leadership abilities.

That’s a lot of cast to keep up with, but the film manages it rather effortlessly. Boseman is a sturdy anchor, but you may be chatting more about Wright and Jordan after the first credits and mid credits and final credits roll. Jordan’s Killmonger, when his full motivations are revealed, turns out to be one of the strongest comic book villains we’ve seen in some time. He’s not just a tyrant seeking earthly destruction (though he is). There’s a worthwhile back story he’s granted and it ratchets the action up a notch.

Coogler’s Panther is filled with impressive performances and most of the action sequences deliver. Most importantly, its storyline doesn’t feel cookie cutter at all. This is one of the most original MCU tales in many ways while still keeping to the age-old themes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decades ago. Fresh with familiarity mixed in proves to be an enticing recipe here.

***1/2 (out of four)

Black Panther Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note Part II (02/15): For the second time today, my Panther prediction is going up. Now at $193.8M

Blogger’s Note (02/15): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Panther estimate up by $10 million – from $168.8M to $178.8M

Marvel Studios is back in business next Friday and it’s likely to be a massive cause of celebration for the studio when Black Panther opens. Rolling out over the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend, Chadwick Boseman plays the title character who we first saw in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Ryan Coogler, who helmed the acclaimed Creed, directs. Costars include Creed himself, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, and Andy Serkis.

The reported $200 million has been garnering buzz for some time and it’s reaching a fever pitch. Reviews were released today and it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Earlier today, I wrote a post about its chances at Oscar attention, which I believe to be quite real (even considering the extremely early release date on the calendar):

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/06/oscar-watch-black-panther/

Two years ago on this same weekend, Deadpool rode a similar wave of sizzling word of mouth to a $152 million opening, which is the current record for February. Black Panther could be poised to top it with a more friendly PG-13 rating and the vaunted Disney marketing machine behind it.

I’ll project Panther sprints to a new record for the month and jump starts yet another franchise bonanza for the MCU.

Black Panther opening weekend prediction: $193.8 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Early Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/08/early-man-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Black Panther

The drumbeat began sounding loudly within recent weeks and today’s critical reaction to Marvel’s Black Panther is deafening. The Ryan Coogler directed superhero pic (out next Friday) with Chadwick Boseman in the title role sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews thus far.

As you may have noticed, it’s only February. Prognosticating the movies that may get honored for next year’s Oscars is a tricky proposition at best. Yet Black Panther is worth the speculation for a variety of reasons. When it comes to drumbeats, there’s been a ramp up that a comic book adaptation (which have dominated the box office charts all century) has to get Best Picture notice soon. Ten years ago, The Dark Knight came close. In 2016, Deadpool emerged as a late contender. Last year, the same applied for Wonder Woman. And 2017’s Logan is the first superhero flick to get a Screenplay nod. None were nominated for the big prize.

It’s unknown what will transpire over the next year before the next Oscar nominations come out, but I feel confident with this prediction: Panther will be in the mix and not on the back burner for discussion. Already it appears that it will be one of the most critically acclaimed titles in its genre and it will almost certainly become a box office juggernaut.

If Panther manages a Picture nod, the love could extend to director Coogler and its Adapted Screenplay. The film seems to be a decent bet for a variety of tech nods, including Visual Effects, the Sound categories, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: the acclaim for Panther is here and may not go away come Academy voting time.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…