With an eye popping budget of $200 million (a reported record for Netflix), spy thriller The Gray Man begins streaming tomorrow. Anthony and Joe Russo (no strangers to gargantuan price tags thanks to Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame) direct Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Costars include Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Rege-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton.
The high priced endeavor is garnering mixed reviews with the positive ones not exactly over the moon. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 49%. Unlike the Russo’s MCU extravaganzas, the visual effects here shouldn’t attract the attention of Academy voters. Same goes for Sound or anything else. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Cherry marks the fourth collaboration between directors Anthony and Joe Russo and actor Tom Holland and it’s the first time the lead star isn’t sporting a Spider-Man outfit in it. The crime drama casts him as a soldier who’s turned to a life of crime. Costars include Ciara Bravo and Jack Reynor.
The pic hits theaters in limited fashion on February 26th which grants it 2020 Oscar eligibility. It streams on Apple TV starting March 12th. The review embargo has yet to lift, but social media reaction from critics is out. Bottom line: Cherry is highly unlikely to be picked by awards voters in any races.
Much of the reaction indicates this is a misfire. As mentioned, the Russos have had tremendous success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and with Holland’s participation in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers pics. Before the recent buzz, Holland was looked at as an outside possibility for Best Actor. Yet that chatter should dissipate quickly if it hasn’t already. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
For a time, Chadwick Boseman was best known for inhabiting real life figures in pictures such as 42, Get On Up, and Marshall. That all changed last year when he became Black Panther in that phenomenon and has played the superhero twice since in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. His latest effort 21 Bridges (out next weekend) finds him in neither type of role. Boseman is a NYC cop chasing down two killers in this action thriller from director Brian Kirk. Joe and Anthony Russo, who made those last two massive Avengers flicks, are producers. Costars include Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, Keith David, snd J.K. Simmons.
Bridges should prove to be a legitimate test of its lead performer’s box office prowess. The trailers and TV spots have struggled to suggest it’s much more than a run of the mill genre piece (no reviews are out at press time). With little buzz, I believe this will have an unexceptional start. Unless I’m underestimating Boseman’s bankability, this may even have a tough time hitting double digits.
21 Bridges opening weekend prediction: $9.8 million
**There’s really no way to write a review of Avengers: Endgame without some minor spoilers. You may wish to read this post viewing…
The word “epic” can be overused by those who review movies like me, but it unquestionably applies to Avengers: Endgame. It’s epic in its running time (none of the other 21 MCU pics run three hours) and epic in the number of well-known thespians reprising their superhero and villain characters. It doesn’t seem feasible that so many characters could manage to coexist in this vast universe without seeming like a gimmick. If you happen to think predecessor InfinityWar was overcrowded, you’ll get whiplash here. Truth be told, there are moments when this borders on playing like a greatest hits reel based on what’s preceded it during the last eleven years.
Yet Endgame figures out a rewarding way to stick the landing and honor the dozens of faces that we’ve spent billions of dollars visiting since 2008. At the conclusion of InfinityWar, bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) had collected his precious Infinity Stones and decimated half the intergalactic population into dramatic looking dust particles. What’s left is mostly the core of the OG Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). There’s others as Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is the sole surviving Guardian of the Galaxy. And we have the two notable characters that were MIA last summer – Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
One might think this whole saga might be about the original band and some newer friends taking on Thanos. You would be wrong. Endgame has plenty of time bending tricks up its endless story arch sleeves. The first is an unexpected resolution that comes very early. However, that climax is just a set-up to further complications.
This is indeed a time travel movie in which the screenwriters almost sheepishly concede the contrived nature of such a device. The survivors set upon a course of multiple back in time ways to retrieve the Stones and bring back their loved ones. It doesn’t happen overnight and the lengthy nature of the plan coming together provides funny and poignant moments. Tony is off the grid with his beloved Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a new addition. Bruce is in full Hulk mode, but kindler and gentler. Thor is rounder and drunkenly grappling with his losses. Hawkeye is a full-blown vigilante. When the gang revs up their figurative DeLoreans, it gives us a chance to revisit lots of MCU personnel. And it’s a LOT of former players. Some are genuinely surprising. During this lengthy stretch, the film walks a fine line of not devolving into nostalgic sugar shock amidst the action sequences. By the final act, it rises above it.
We know the battle scenes will be well choreographed and well-directed (with the Russo Brothers handling duties once again). The final one is rather jaw dropping with the mixing of so many known quantities. Thanos is one of the stronger villains in MCU history and he remains so here, though there’s nothing fresh to add about his character. His daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), on the other hand, continues her evolution as a fine addition to the roster.
The comic relief comes more from Thor as opposed to Ant-Man or Rocket and Hemsworth is up to the task. Captain America and Black Widow are given their emotional moments that we’re invested in from their backstories. To this writer, it’s Tony who’s always been the damaged beating heart of this franchise. The Marvel Cinematic Universe simply wouldn’t exist as it is without Downey Jr.’s brilliant work. That’s never changed. The quality of the movies he’s appeared in has. His performance has always been fantastic. If we’re ranking, I would put Endgame as an overall experience just under the first Avengers in 2012 and InfinityWar. I can’t promise that thinking about all the shifting time plot points might raise as many questions as answers. I won’t deny that its emotional payoff is real and we have Downey and an amazing group of technicians bringing these comics to life to thank for it.
Last year, Marvel’s BlackPanther became the first comic book pic to score a Best Picture nomination. While it didn’t win, it took home three gold trophies from its seven nods. This weekend, box office records are highly likely to break with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The 22nd MCU title had its review embargo lift hours ago… try to your best to avoid spoilers.
The verdict? A 98% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some critics are going as far as saying it’s the best overall entry in the massive franchise. Others write ups, while positive, don’t go that far. One thing seems certain as Endgame is classified as an epic experience.
Could lightning strike two years in a row for Marvel with Academy voters? Here’s the advantage: this fourth Avengers saga is seen as the culmination of not just its three predecessors, but also the many other pictures MCU blockbusters over the past 11 years. That lifts its chances for recognition as Oscar could see this as an “atta boy” for the whole series.
That said, I’m doubtful. The first three Avengers flicks garnered a grand total of two nominations. The 2012 original and last year’s InfinityWar both received Visual Effects nods. Neither won. The middle child (2015’s AgeofUltron) got no love. Last year, Disney was undoubtedly more focused on getting BlackPanther recognition and they succeeded. In 2019, they could put together a more robust campaign for Endgame.
A third calling in Visual Effects is probably inevitable, but anything else from the Academy is questionable and maybe even doubtful. Yet I wouldn’t totally count out some Disney marketing campaign magic. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
This current massively successful phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe draws to a close next weekend with the release of Avengers: Endgame. There’s an excellent chance that it achieves the largest opening weekend gross of all time with the grand finale. Endgame follows up directly with last summer’s Avengers: Infinity War, which is the current record holder with $257 million.
Anthony and Joe Russo return in the directors chairs with a core group of familiar heroes battling Josh Brolin’s Thanos. They include Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. That’s just scratching the surface, by the way. The events (spoiler alert if you’ve been in a year-long coma) of InfinityWar dissolved numerous other beloved characters into dust including Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange and the majority of the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista) save for Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket. It’s quite likely you’ll see them again. And also in the roles we’ve seen them in before… there’s Gwyneth Paltrow, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Tessa Thompson, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Evangeline Lilly. Oh… and Letitia Wright and Sebastian Stan and Tom Hiddleston.
Whew. Back to the numbers crunching. When early tickets went on sale a couple of weeks ago, Endgame smashed every record in sight. Its YouTube trailer views are off the charts. Audiences know this is the culmination of what we’ve paid billions of dollars for over the past decade plus. Yes, there’s a three-hour runtime which is unprecedented for the MCU.
I have a feeling that won’t matter when it comes to reaching a premiere level we’ve yet to witness. No other movie is daring to compete against it and most holdovers will be earning $10 million and less. In other words, multiplexes will clear a ton of real estate for this.
Initial estimates put Endgame around $250 million, but the buzz has this inching upwards. I believe that’s a correct assumption. While I don’t believe this will hit $300 million (as the rosiest projections suggest), a gross just north of $285 million seems feasible. If it achieves that mark, the endgame here will indeed set records.
Avengers: Endgame opening weekend prediction: $289.6 million
A decade into its multi-billion dollar cinematic universe, Avengers: InfinityWar invites viewers to marvel at its gathering of superhero titans to fight another – a villain from planet Titan who reverses one frequent MCU debit (a weak villain). It’s an experience that yields many positive results packed with the action and humor we’ve come to anticipate from the best of this franchise. This movie is massive and it feels that way. The 19th entry in the MCU that started with 2008’s IronMan, here we have nearly all the significant characters from its catalog banding together. If you ever wondered how Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would get along with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the answer is humorously provided. How do the egos of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) meld? You’re about to find out. What happens when the original Avengers and others pick up their weapons alongside Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in Wakanda? Giddyup!
All of this runs the risk of InfinityWar coming off as gimmicky, but it mostly doesn’t. That’s because directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do a remarkable job sticking these giants into the blender and creating something that goes down smooth. This is not necessarily a sequel to 2015’s Avengers: AgeofUltron or 2016’s CaptainAmerica: CivilWar (essentially the third Avengers flick). Rather it’s a follow-up to almost every MCU title. It’s important to know what happened in the actual Avengers pics and CivilWar, but I’d suggest having knowledge of the Guardians, Panther, and so on. Lucky for Disney and Marvel Studios, you probably do. The gathering of these comic book and box office behemoths leads InfinityWar to often feel like the continuation of a long running TV serial – albeit one with huge stars and an unlimited budget.
What brings all the characters together is Thanos (Josh Brolin). He has the proportions of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a similar sized ambitions of world destruction. Thanos is hell-bent on collecting the Infinity Stones, six potent gems that would render him all-powerful and capable of wiping out populations of many galaxies. After the breakup of the Avengers in CivilWar two years ago, it’s Thanos that causes Mr. Stark and Captain America (Chris Evans) to put their differences aside. Thus begins the jigsaw puzzle of matching up Guardians and Asgardian gods with Wakanda kings and mystical doctors and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
As you may recall, Thanos has history with one particular character – Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She’s his adopted daughter after he decimated her home planet when she was a little girl. For those who might have assumed the Guardians of the Galaxy would have a glorified cameo in this universe, that is certainly not the case. It’s Gamora’s backstory with Thanos that puts meat on his character’s bones and assists in making him one of the franchise’s best villains. Brolin, for his part, gives the performance his menacing all in crafting him.
Delving too far into what happens in InfinityWar would feel like cheating in any review. Part of the fun here is discovering just how these dozens of heroes and villains coexist. Some general observations: Thor alongside Groot and Rocket is a joy, as is witnessing Groot as a bratty teen with its attention rooted to a video game device. The return to Wakanda and its whip smart inhabitants feels welcome just weeks after Panther’s stand-alone effort. And after 10 years of Tony Stark onscreen in numerous MCU titles, Downey Jr.’s portrayal of him is still as strong as ever. There’s never been a moment in the decade where it felt like Downey was slumming it. He’s the heart of this franchise.
The conclusion of InfinityWar leaves a lot open for the sequel that will arrive next year. When the credits roll before the inevitable post-credits sequence, we witness something both powerful and perhaps not as powerful as it seems after careful thought (saying more would be a spoiler). There’s no doubt, however, that this comic book all-star game is a winner.
This weekend is all about Avengers: Infinity War at the box office as it barrels toward a potentially record-setting debut. The film looks, at the least, poised to set the all-time opening weekend record for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the 19th picture in the MCU as the multi-billion dollar franchise is about to hit its ten-year anniversary.
Infinity will certainly make its mark financially, but could Academy voters take notice? In short – probably not. The pic stands at 85% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a bit below the original Avengers from 2012 (92%) and a bit above 2015 sequel Age of Ultron (75%). No MCU title or any comic book adaptation has managed a Best Picture nomination and I see no reason to think this will.
Having said that, the Marvel folks stand their best opportunity yet to score a nod in the biggest category of them all. And that would be Black Panther, which was released in February. It stands a real shot. Looking through the Oscar history with this franchise, The Avengers scored a Best Visual Effects nomination in 2012 and lost to Life of Pi. No nominations were given to Ultron.
Bottom line: Infinity War could find itself in the mix for Visual Effects and possibly even the Sound categories. Yet any real MCU love from voters will go to King T’Challa.
It may feel like winter in many parts of the country even though it’s spring, but next weekend is essentially the start of the summer box office in 2018 when Avengers: Infinity War invades theaters. This is the 19th picture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began a decade ago with 2008’s Iron Man and the third installment of the Avengers franchise that kicked off in 2012 (an untitled fourth installment is out next summer).
After 10 years of these superheroes populating our screens in one form or another, Infinity War is the picture that brings them all together. That means we have the Avengers we’re used to seeing together: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They’ve got a whole lot of company this time around, including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and the whole Guardians of the Galaxy gang (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the vocal work of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Josh Brolin is main villain Thanos. Other actors from the MCU returning include Gwyneth Paltrow, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Benicio del Toro, Cobie Smulders, Angela Bassett, Tessa Thompson, and Jon Favreau. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (who directed 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) are behind the camera. Whew…
The gathering of the entire MCU is one impressive selling point and there’s been developments that have even increased the anticipation for Infinity‘s release. Last summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was well-received, as were Guardians and Thor sequels. Yet perhaps more than anything else, this February’s Black Panther turned into a phenomenon – becoming the third highest grossing domestic earner of all time.
Projections have steadily increased in the past few weeks. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Infinity War could have the largest stateside opening of all time. In order to do so, it would need to surpass the $247 million achieved by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To accomplish the 2nd biggest debut, it would need to exceed the $220 million of last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It will almost certainly achieve the record for an MCU premiere, which is currently held by the original Avengers at $207 million.
I believe this will pass Jedi and rather easily. Getting to the Awakens number is doable, but I’ll project it falls a bit under that milestone.
Avengers: Infinity War opening weekend prediction: $240.2 million
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand in often thrilling and impressive ways in Captain America: Civil War, which is by all intents and purposes a third Avengers pic where Hulk and Thor are apparently on a well-deserved vacation. It walks the tightrope of introducing new characters and finding new dynamics for the old ones without seeming gimmicky or overloading the audience with all its activity. To that end, director Joel and Anthony Russo are to be commended for mostly succeeding in this latest effort where our heroes are often unmasked and sometimes emasculated.
Civil War presents a chasm in the MCU that centers on Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Solider from this trilogy’s slightly better second movie. His history with Captain America (Chris Evans) garners understandable sympathy from our title character. That isn’t the case with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) when it appears Bucky may be responsible for an attack on the United Nations.
There’s also the question of whether The Avengers actions across the globe are worth the collateral damage that sometimes comes with it. The U.S. government proposes to put some serious checks on their powers. Tony agrees. Cap does not. And the rest of the crew (minus Hulk/Thor sipping Mai tai’s somewhere) must choose which side to join. This include Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (who comes out retirement from his boring home life Age of Ultron subplot), Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. We also have Paul Rudd in the mix less than a year after his debut in Ant-Man, which was the other underwhelming MCU summer 2015 experience (along with Ultron). And then there’s the two newbies introduced who will soon have their own stand-alone features: Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Spidey is good for some solid one-liners and I enjoyed Holland’s take on Peter Parker. This budding franchise should hopefully eclipse what we saw the last time around with Andrew Garfield and company. That said, I actually found Black Panther’s plot line to be a bit more interesting here and I equally anticipate that solo pic.
Civil War also continues the tradition of rather forgettable central villains, with the exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Here it’s Daniel Bruhl as Zemo, whose motives are murky for most of the running time and who stands as just another baddie in a world where the heroes are the focal point. This entry isn’t really about a main villain, however. Rather it’s about deciding if you’re on Team Cap or Team Iron Man and the screenplay is smartly written enough that the answer isn’t automatic.
The MCU continues to build on itself and this one does so in the most entertaining way since Winter Soldier. By the time we get to the final Avengers pictures, Hulk and Thor will return. Guardians of Galaxies will be in the mix. And with the Mouse Factory behind this with their extensive array of characters, who knows who else we shall see? Will Rey and Finn cross star systems to appear? Which team will Mowgli align with? Will Kermit and Miss Piggy agree to follow Cap or Tony or split? As long as it’s satisfying like Civil War, I’m still curious to find out.