Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (12/20): I am revising my estimates down from $23.3 million to $18.3 million for the three-day and $37.4 million to $28.5 million for the five-day

Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t the only sequel that some critics say improves on the original during this holiday season. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish steps into theaters on December 21st eleven years after its predecessor. The DreamWorks Animation adventure finds Antonio Banderas reprising his voice work as the feline fugitive alongside Salma Hayek’s Kitty Softpaws. Other performers behind the mic include Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Joel Crawford, who last helmed The Croods: A New Age, directs.

You may recall the first Boots arrived in 2011 as a spin-off for the massive Shrek franchise. The title character was introduced in 2004 with Shrek 2. Opening in October, Puss grossed with $34 million during its opening weekend with a $149 million eventual domestic haul.

If a decade plus seems like a long time between sequels, you’d be correct. That could be a demerit for its earnings potential. There was a Netflix animated series from 2015-2018 starring the character (without Banderas purring the lines). What will help its case is the word-of-mouth. Boots currently sports a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score and that tops part 1’s 86%. It has already nabbed a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Golden Globes. This is also the only feature not named Avatar catering to a family audience. Obviously this should also bring in very young viewers not looking to wade into Mr. Cameron’s pool.

A second place start behind Water is a given. I believe this could manage a five-day premiere in the mid to possibly high 30s. While that’s not hitting what the original accomplished in 3 days, Wish appears poised to hold up well in future weekends.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish opening weekend prediction: $18.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $28.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Babylon prediction, click here:

For my Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

If you’d told me in the spring that Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was better suited for an Animated Feature Oscar nomination than Disney’s Lightyear or Strange World, I might’ve questioned your awards prognosticating abilities. With its embargo lifted prior to the December 21st theatrical bow, this appears to be the case.

The DreamWorks Animation sequel is being praised as equal to or better than the 2011 predecessor. You may remember that it’s originally a spin-off from the massive Shrek franchise. Joel Crawford (who last made The Croods: A New Age) directs as Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek return to voice the title kitty and his love interest. Other performers behind the mic include Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, John Mulaney, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

Early reviews have this at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s beyond the 86% that the first Boots earned (we are still at under 10 write-ups so it could come down). The aforementioned Shrek from 2001 is actually the first movie to win the Academy’s animated prize. In 2004, Shrek 2 was nominated but lost to Disney’s The Incredibles. The third and fourth tales of the jolly green monster didn’t make the cut. However, Puss in Boots was among 2011’s quintet. Rango took the gold.

This is a strange year in the Animated Feature race. Of Disney’s trio of hopefuls, only Turning Red appears safe for inclusion. The frontrunner is Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio from Netflix. The steamer’s Wendell and Wild and My Father’s Dragon could also get in. We have A24’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and The Bad Guys (also from DreamWorks). I haven’t had Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in the top 10 of possibilities. After seeing the initial reaction, it definitely will make that jump. When I update my projections on Thursday, it could even enter the high five. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

2022 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

My detailed look at six of the top Oscar categories – Picture, Director, and the four acting derbies – arrives at Best Actor. If you missed the posts covering the supporting races, you can find them here:

At this late October/early November stage of forecasting in the previous three years, my picks in the lead acting competitions have been more accurate than the supporting ones.

In 2019 at this juncture, I managed to correctly identify four of the five eventual nominees: winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). The fifth was Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory and he was listed in Other Possibilities.

Three of five was the story in 2020 and 2021. Two years ago, I had The Father‘s Anthony Hopkins (who won), Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Gary Oldman (Mank) pegged with Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Steven Yeun (Minari) as possibles.

You may remember that Will Smith took gold last year for King Richard. I had him correctly called with two months remaining on the calendar. Same with Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog and Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) had yet to enter my top ten.

Had a certain slap heard around the world not occurred, it’s totally possible that Will Smith (Emancipation) might be listed in my top 5. However, with his current ban from attending the ceremony, I question whether he could make a return to the ballot so quickly after the controversy. Therefore he’s not in my top 10. We’ll see if the reviews (coming soon) change the dynamic.

We do have a frontrunner and that’s Brendan Fraser in The Whale. Since its Venice and Toronto fest bows, he’s drawn raves. This is also a comeback narrative that the Academy should fall for. I’ve had Fraser listed in 1st for several weeks and I see no reason to change that.

There are two viable runners-up in Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Austin Butler (Elvis). I’ve been switching them in 2nd and 3rd place over the past few posts. Farrell is 2nd because I think Banshees stands a better shot at a BP nod. You have to go back to 2009 and Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) where the Best Actor recipient’s movie didn’t achieve BP inclusion. If Elvis makes the big dance – an argument could be made that Butler is Fraser’s most serious competition to shake the race up.

After those three names, it could be a free for all for the final two slots. The only other performer I had listed in 1st place other than Fraser was Hugh Jackman for The Son. This was before it premiered at the festivals and garnered middling reviews. Now the question is whether Jackman gets in at all.

Someone who has fared well on the fest circuit is Bill Nighy for Living. Sony Pictures will need to mount a spirited campaign, but they’re good at that kinda thing. I’m starting to feel better about Nighy than Jackman.

Diego Calva is the biggest remaining question mark for Babylon. Screenings coming up in two weeks should help answer his viability. There’s a pair of indie performances that could bubble up if critics groups assist – Paul Mescal for Aftersun and Jeremy Pope in The Inspection. One possible hindrance for both of them is their movies are both A24 and that studio could be distracted with crowning Fraser. We could see foreign film leads Song Kang-ho (Broker) and Park Hae-il (Decision to Leave) make a play.

Netflix is apparently going in on a spirited campaign for Adam Sandler in Hustle. I have a hard time seeing that pan out (especially since he couldn’t get in for Uncut Gems). The streamer could also focus on Christian Bale (The Pale Blue Eye) or Adam Driver (White Noise). Bale also has Amsterdam, but it failed with critics and audiences.

Finally… there’s Tom Cruise. A three-time nominee, it’s been 23 years since he was in the mix. And a little pic called Top Gun: Maverick was easily the largest blockbuster of his career and the runaway hit of 2022. I’m not ready to put him in my five. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up there.

Here’s my current state of this race:

1 . Brendan Fraser, The Whale (Previous Ranking: 1) (Even)

2. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin (PR: 2) (E)

3. Austin Butler, Elvis (PR: 3) (E)

4. Bill Nighy, Living (PR: 4) (E)

5. Hugh Jackman, The Son (PR: 5) (E)

Other Possibilities:

6. Diego Calva, Babylon (PR: 6) (E)

7. Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick (PR: 7) (E)

8. Jeremy Pope, The Inspection (PR: 8) (E)

9. Adam Driver, White Noise (PR: 9) (E)

10. Paul Mescal, Aftersun (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Song Kang-ho, Broker

Best Actress is up next!

Uncharted Review

One of the big fights in Uncharted takes place at a Papa John’s in Barcelona. We know this because Mark Wahlberg announces he’s in a Papa John’s with more emotion than 90% of his other line deliveries. I’m sorry to say that a bored looking Wahlberg, a Tom Holland without quality Spidey material, and a screenplay borrowing heavily from superior franchises are not the better ingredients to make this a better slice of entertainment.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Venom), Uncharted raids the Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and National Treasure pics as did the PlayStation games it is based on. I won’t pretend to be an expert on its source material as I’ve never played it. I read that Holland and Wahlberg wouldn’t be the casting choices of its fanbase majority. All I can say is that their chemistry is rather nonexistent. The film only bails itself out a little in the third act with some impressive set pieces.

Nathan Drake (Holland) works nights bartending in New York City while pickpocketing his unsuspecting imbibers. 15 years prior (as we witness in the prologue), he and his brother Sam attempted to steal a map purportedly leading to Magellan’s 16th century gold. Sam gets kicked out of the orphanage they inhabit with a vow to Nathan to return. A decade and a half later, that hasn’t occurred but little bro does get an occasional postcard. Enter Sully (Wahlberg), a treasure seeker who enlists Nathan’s assistance when he reveals Sam is missing. The two team up to find fortune and family and are soon globetrotting along with Chloe (Sophie Ali), Sully’s distrustful colleague and potential love interest to Nathan.

The trio aren’t the only ones looking for Magellan’s ships filled with shiny bars. There’s Moncada (Antonio Banderas), whose lineage stems from the famed explorer’s funders. He believes the gold is his birthright and he’s got ruthless henchwoman Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) helping.

The treasure seeking brings us to Barcelona where key clues are buried beneath that aforementioned pizza franchise and its mediocre at best pizza with decent enough breadsticks if you get a double order of cheese sauce (that’s my P.J. review). It’s not until we reach the Philippines towards the final act that Uncharted‘s pulse is detected. The action sequences in that region and on the plane getting there (a definite standout) are well choreographed and offer more excitement than anything in the first two-thirds.

There’s not really a performance that stands out, but I will reiterate that Wahlberg doesn’t seem much into the mission or movie. You have to wade through a lot of dusty material to find scenes worth keeping in Uncharted. In Papa John’s terms, there’s not enough cheese sauce to go around.

** (out of four)

Uncharted Box Office Prediction

A popular series of PlayStation games comes to life when Uncharted opens on February 18th. The adventures tale from Zombieland and Venom director Ruben Fleischer features Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg headlining. Costars include Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas.

Budgeted at a reported $120 million, this should pretty easily top the charts over the long President’s Day weekend. Per usual, it’s undergone a few release date changes in the pandemic era. This time around, the pushback may have helped.

Arriving just two months after Holland’s work as Spider-Man in No Way Home got the box office to unprecedented COVID time levels, audiences may wish to check out his latest potential blockbuster. It doesn’t hurt that gamers could show up too (thought it’s worth mentioning that video game adaptations have a troubled history at multiplexes).

The range for Uncharted is wide. A best case scenario for scenario could be in the $50 million range from Friday to Monday. The floor could be about half of that. I’ll say low to mid 30s is where this ends up.

Uncharted opening weekend prediction: $33.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Dog prediction, click here:

Dog Box Office Prediction

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Best Actor Race

We come to Best Actor in my deep dive of the major Oscar races covering the four acting showdowns in addition to Picture and Director. If you missed the first two covering Supporting Actor and Actress, they’re here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

Looking at the past two years in my early November estimates in this competition, there’s a better track record than with the supporting categories. In 2019, with two months to go, I rightly had four of the five nominees pegged: winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes). Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) was mentioned in Other Possibilities. For the 2020 experience, that number was three – winner Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Gary Oldman (Mank). The other two were named as possibilities – Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal and Minari‘s Steven Yeun.

In 2021, it appears that three hopefuls have probably punched their tickets. The conversation begins with Will Smith. He’s a two-time nominee – once 20 years ago as Ali and 15 years past in The Pursuit of Happyness. As King Richard, it may well be the Fresh Prince’s time to be crowned for the true life sports drama that is said to be a massive crowdpleaser.

When Smith lost for Ali, it was to Denzel Washington in Training Day. The two-time winner looks to be back in the mix with The Tragedy of Macbeth. While I’m feeling confident in his nomination, I don’t see Mr. Washington emerging victorious here.

The other probable player is Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, gunning for his second nod seven years after The Imitation Game. Several festival reviews are calling it career best work and I don’t see him sliding.

After that, there’s quite a few of performers vying for the remaining two spots. There’s a few in the “not yet seen” silo. That includes Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley. We are all waiting to see how big his supporting role is in Licorice Pizza. I’ve had Cooper listed #1 there for months. If he ends up falling shot in that one, he could rise with this.

Andrew Garfield’s performance in Tick, Tick… Boom! is a trendy selection. He’s also a possibility in supporting with The Eyes of Tammy Faye (though I’m skeptical he makes it through there).

We also have Leonardo DiCaprio for Don’t Look Up. I’m not as high on the film as some other prognosticators, but laudatory screenings could change that dynamic. There’s also Adam Driver for House of Gucci and Cooper Hoffman for the aforementioned Pizza. With all these gentlemen, time will tell and we won’t have to wait long.

Back to the performances we do know about. Nicolas Cage garnered some of the best notices of his career for Pig. He’ll have internet chatter on his side but I wouldn’t bet the farm on him making it. Speaking of web love, expect the same for Timothee Chalamet (Dune). I believe he’s less likely than Cage. Same goes for former MTV veejay Simon Rex in Red Rocket.

Belfast is the frontrunner for Best Picture and its quartet of supporting thespians (Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds) could all show up in their races. The film’s young lead Jude Hill is more of a long shot. Clifton Collins Jr. drew raves beginning at Sundance with Jockey. I would say Sony Pictures Classics needs to up their game with his campaign for him to enter this derby. There’s also a slight chance that Amir Jadidi could be a factor in A Hero (which could take International Feature Film).

For now, I’m sticking with two actors that I’ve had in my five for awhile. Peter Dinklage has gotten plenty of Emmy love for his Game of Thrones stretch and his musical and dramatic stylings in Cyrano could cause the Academy to take note.

Even though he won just two years back for Joker, Joaquin Phoenix could be up again for C’Mon C’Mon if none of the unseen candidates rise in the polls.

Bottom line: Smith (especially), Cumberbatch, and Washington are all relatively safe at press time. About a dozen others will vie for slots four and five. Here’s where I have it at this beginning of November time frame:

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Will Smith, King Richard (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 4)

5. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

7. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 8)

8. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 7)

9. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 9)

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

Best Actress is up next, folks!

Oscar Predictions: Official Competition

Starting its trek in Venice, the Spanish comedy Official Competition is playing the festival circuit as it awaits inevitable U.S. distribution. From directors Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn, Competition stars Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, and Oliver Martinez.

A satire set in the movie business, the pic is generating pretty solid reviews so far. The Rotten Tomatoes, based on a small number at press time, is 100%. Yet the notices aren’t strong enough for me to think this would contend in Picture or International Feature Film.

As for the two leads, Banderas is coming off his first nod two years ago in Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory. Don’t look for him to be a factor in Actor. I do expect Cruz to be a player in Best Actress, but not for this. Her other Venice premiere was Parallel Mothers (directed by Almodovar) and she stands a good shot for it.

Bottom line: Official Competition sounds fun. However, I wouldn’t anticipate it being part of the Academy’s official competition. My Oscar Watch posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Parallel Mothers

The Venice Film Festival is officially underway so you better get used to reading my Oscar Predictions posts for quite a few features. The Italian fest opened with a Spanish picture – Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers.

Early word-of-mouth is strong with critics saying this is one of the auteur’s most serious and satisfying offerings. The film stars Penelope Cruz in a tale of the trials and tribulations for two expectant women (the other being the teenaged Milena Smit).

Almodovar is no stranger to Oscar attention. Three of his efforts (1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1999’s All About My Mother, 2019’s Pain and Glory) all received nods in Best International Feature film. Mother won.

As for Cruz, three of her performances have been recognized by the Academy: her supporting turns in 2008’s Vicky Christina Barcelona (which she took gold for) and 2009’s Nine. Her sole lead nod was in 2006’s Volver, which was made by Almodovar.

The question is: will a fourth nomination come for the director and his star? I’m assuming Spain will make Mothers their selection and it stands an excellent chance at inclusion in the foreign field (I highly doubt Best Picture will happen). Original Screenplay is also a major possibility.

With Cruz, it’s murkier. Two years ago, the filmmaker’s lead Antonio Banderas picked up a Best Actor spot for Pain and Glory. My hunch is that Cruz’s opportunity for #4 will be dependent on what follows at Venice, other festivals, and forthcoming pictures in the next four months. Competition is expected to be steep. Jennifer Hudson in the already out Respect could make the cut. And there’s a bunch of hopefuls waiting in the wings, including but certainly not limited to Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Jodie Comer (The Last Duel), Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth), and Kristen Stewart (Spencer).

Bottom line: Parallel Mothers could be expecting some attention at Oscar time, but other competitors will determine its chances beyond the international race. My Oscar Prediction posts for 2021 titles will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Box Office Prediction

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (rolls right off the tongue… doesn’t it?) hits multiplexes on Wednesday, June 16th. The comedic action sequel brings back Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek with Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hopper, Antonio Banderas, and Morgan Freeman joining the party. Patrick Hughes return to direct.

Originally slated to debut in August 2020 before its COVID delay, this follows up on the 2017 original which was a solid late summer performer. It opened to $21 million nearly four years ago with an eventual $75 million domestic take. At that time, Mr. Reynolds was hot off 2016’s Deadpool and that may have contributed to Bodyguard‘s success.

I genuinely wonder if audiences are clamoring for this to be a franchise and lean toward meh. The original achieved a B+ Cinemascore (which is decent but not great) and Reynolds doesn’t have the benefit of coming off a smash. Even with the expanded five-day rollout, I’m not even sure it reaches $20M+.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard opening weekend prediction: $12.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $17.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)