Oscar Watch – Avengers: Endgame

Last year, Marvel’s Black Panther 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 Infinity War both received Visual Effects nods. Neither won. The middle child (2015’s Age of Ultron) got no love. Last year, Disney was undoubtedly more focused on getting Black Panther 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…

Avengers: Endgame Box Office Prediction

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 Infinity War 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

The Depths of Hellboy

Over the past year and change, the superhero genre has been flush with massive successes such as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and current box office champ Shazam!, which has dutifully met expectations. The upcoming Avengers: Endgame is looking to set the all time opening record in two weeks. Something was bound to eventually get lost in the shuffle and that turned out to be Hellboy this weekend.

The film rebooted the Dark Horse Comics franchise that debuted in 2004 with Guillermo del Toro behind the camera and Ron Perlman as the horn clad anti-hero. A 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, built on the grosses of its predecessor.

Neil Marshall took over directorial duties for the new Hellboy with David Harbour of “Stranger Things” cast as the title character. All along the way, the marketing campaign seemed curiously muted. It was as if Lionsgate might have known they had a dog on their hands. And they did. The review embargo didn’t lift until late this week. Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe with bad critical reaction with a 15% score. CinemaScore audiences haven’t been kind either with a lowly C rating.

On Sunday, the initial results have Hellboy in third place with just $12 million. Not only is that behind the second frame of Shazam!, it’s after the debut of the Regina Hall comedy Little. To put that in perspective, the 2004 Hellboy made $23 million out of the gate. The Golden Army took in $34 million. For both of those films, the opening weekends represented a hefty chunk of the overall earnings. In the case of the second installment, it fell hard in its sophomore frame due to another comic boom sequel premiering called The Dark Knight. With its toxic word of mouth, I expect this version to tumble at least 60% in weekend #2 and probably more.

If there’s any silver lining for the studio, it’s that the reboot cost a reported $50 million. That’s certainly low on the scale for this genre. Yet we can be sure this iteration of the character is a one-off. And we’ve found out what the depths of Hellboy are on a financial level and it’s not pretty.

Captain Marvel Movie Review

By the time the strains of “Just a Girl” blare over the speakers during a climactic fight scene, there is no doubt that Captain Marvel has adequately placed itself as a bridge between Avengers epics. That’s not an especially high bar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it answers the most important question needed before April’s Avengers: Endgame – who’s this new heroine that’s going to help the team we’re accustomed to seeing?

That would be Brie Larson as Vers. She’s part of the Kree alien race with persistent flashbacks to an old life on C53, a planet otherwise known as Earth. Her mentor is Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who helps her hone her mysterious superpowers. The flashback mentor is Mar-Vell (get it?) and she takes the form of Annette Bening as an all-knowing being who may have taught Vers in a previous life that’s fuzzy to her.

Since this is the MCU, we correctly suspect that purported good guys may become bad guys and vice versa. Vers and her team are battling another race called the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, always solid). They can take the form of any being they wish, so we see Mr. Mendelsohn in his bespectacled British form and in impeccable creature makeup.

Vers’s interactions with the Skrulls involves a crash landing in Los Angeles. Not today’s L.A., mind you, but 1995 L.A. where relics of the past like Blockbuster Video and two-way pagers exist. This time frame is mined for humor and its soundtrack that includes Nirvana and Salt n Pepa. We also meet Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in his pre eyepatch days and a rookie Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).

The Earth bound action gets us to a place where we can call Vers the Captain now. And clad in her Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, it get us one step closer to her joining Captain America, Tony Stark, and others decades later.

Captain Marvel is yet another origin story and it follows the tried and true MCU blueprint. Luckily for us, that familiar path includes picking directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) that are unconventional choices (they’re known for indie dramas like Half Nelson). It includes humorous touches that work and plenty of them come in the feline form of Goose, who steals some sequences.

Have there been stronger intros in this franchise before? Absolutely. As the first female MCU hero with a stand-alone tale, Larson is spirited. Is her back story as inspiring as what the DCU provided in Wonder Woman? I’d have to say no. And like many MCU pics before it, the villains here are standard – even with fine actors playing them. We will see if Larson’s character can become a fan favorite in this vast world. I’d say the jury is currently unsure. At the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, we learned she was needed. Captain Marvel provides some decently entertaining history as to why.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Captain Marvel

The MCU appears poised to have another blockbuster on their hands this weekend with the release of Captain Marvel. Reviews were embargoed for a little longer than usual for the multi billion dollar franchise, but they’re out and critical reaction has been fairly solid. The Brie Larson led pic stands at 84% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s just a percentage point behind last year’s Avengers: Infinity War – while nowhere near the 97% achieved by Black Panther.

It was, of course, Panther that became the first superhero flick to nab a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. That won’t happen here. The storyline as far as this MCU title’s awards chances is the same as most of them and that’s Visual Effects.

Nine MCU entries have nabbed nods in Visual Effects. Interestingly, none of them have won. Competition this year will be stiff. There’s another franchise effort (Avengers: Endgame) that likely has a better shot. That’s in addition to expected players such as the next Star Wars, The Lion King, and Alita: Battle Angel, to name just some.

Bottom line: Captain Marvel will bring audiences in. Awards chatter is more of a reach. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Captain Marvel Box Office Prediction

Captain Marvel pilots into theaters next weekend with the highest opening of the year thus far easily in its sights. The latest entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes after a banner 2017 from the studio that saw Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War both earn over $675 million domestically. Brie Larson stars as the title character alongside Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury as the tale takes place in the mid 90s. Other costars include Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lace, Gemma Chan, and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, known for making small pics like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, up their budget game here behind the camera.

The newest MCU saga serves as a bridge between Infinity War and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, as was hinted at during the end credits of the former. That alone should provide it a substantial opening. As mentioned, it should have zero trouble posting the year’s largest debut and should hold that designation until the Endgame arrival in late April. How much that specific number is lies within a wide range. On the low-end of projections, we could see a debut in the vicinity of the $117 million made by 2017’s SpiderMan: Homecoming. The high-end could approach the friendly neighborhood of $180 million.

If Captain Marvel makes it to that level, we could be looking at an all-time record for the month of March. That mark is currently held by Beauty and the Beast at $174 million. I’m not sure it manages to get there, but it’s dangerous to underestimate the MCU. I think a more likely scenario is the #3 biggest March debut – currently held by The Hunger Games, which made $152 million out of the gate. I’ll put it just over that.

Captain Marvel opening weekend prediction: $154.4 million

2018 FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions

We’ve had months of predictions and endless speculation on this blog about the 2018 Oscars and now it’s come to this. On Sunday, the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will air with your host…

As you’ve likely read, there actually is no emcee for this year’s ceremony. I’m not here to write about that. I’m here to make my final picks for the winners! Let’s break down each race one by one, shall we? And, of course, I’ll have a piece up Sunday night with my thoughts on how it all went down.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Analysis: First things first. It’s extremely rare that the winner here doesn’t have its director nominated. Therefore, two films that might have served as the biggest competition to Roma could now be seen as longer shots: A Star Is Born and Green Book. You could correctly point out that Argo achieved a victory just six years ago without Ben Affleck getting an individual nod. However, it had been 23 years prior to that (Driving Miss Daisy) when it had occurred previously. BlacKkKlansman and The Favourite are upset possibilities, but the smart money is on Alfonso Cuaron’s Netflix Mexican drama and it would mark the streaming service’s first win in the big race.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Director

Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Analysis: I feel even more confident that Cuaron will take the gold here, even if Roma somehow comes up short in Picture. He’s run the table on precursors, including the DGA prize. It would be his second win in five years, after winning for 2013’s Gravity.

Predicted Winner: Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Analysis: This is a tough one as Malek and Bale have split a number of precursors. With the SAG Awards, I deemed it a coin flip and picked Malek. I was right. At the Golden Globes, they both won due to category splits. I won’t be surprised to see either win, but my 50/50 feeling going with Malek worked before

Predicted Winner: Malek

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Analysis: Aparicio and McCarthy should be honored to be nominated. Colman and Gaga are threats, but Close has fared best in previous ceremonies and there’s the fact that she’s a highly respected performer who’s yet to win despite multiple nods.

Predicted Winner: Close

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Analysis: This category features the last two Oscar winners as Ali won in 2016 for Moonlight and Rockwell took it last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have far different chances to become two-time victors. Ali is the front-runner. Supporting Actor has seen upsets, but Ali looks strong.

Predicted Winner: Ali

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (Vice), Marina de Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Analysis: Even though King didn’t get a SAG nod, they bestowed their award to Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and she’s not even nominated. An Adams name call is feasible since she’s never won, but King will probably be crowned Sunday evening.

Predicted Winner: King

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Star could perhaps shine here, but this really feels like the race where voters will recognize BlacKkKlansman. 

Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Analysis: This one is legitimately difficult and I think you can make a case for all of them. Roma is a distinct possibility as the Picture favorite and Green Book could make a showing. Yet my slight favorite here is The Favourite.

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters

Analysis: This could be interesting. As revealed above, Roma is my Picture pick. So it’s automatic that it wins here right? Not so fast. Cold War could get the consolation prize and I feel that’s even more possible since it nabbed a surprise nod for director Pawel Pawlikowski. I’m tempted to pick it, but I’ll say Roma manages the double win. However, if you wish to get creative in your office pool, this could be the race to do it.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Analysis: Pixar has dominated this field for years. In most years, it would be risky to bet against them – therefore Incredibles 2. This might be the year to do it as SpiderMan arrived late in the year, swung the momentum, and swept the precursors.

Predicted Winner: SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, RBG

Analysis: One of the biggest shockers when nominations came out was the omission of Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. I likely would’ve picked it to win had it been nominated. Now I believe this is between Solo and RBG. Reverence for the latter could swing it that way, but I’ll give a small edge to Solo.

Predicted Winner: Free Solo

Best Film Editing

Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice

Analysis: Bohemian Rhapsody won the significant precursor for its branch and The Favourite or BlacKkKlansman could factor in as well. My gut says Vice may get this one, however.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Major love for the foreign pics here and Cold War has a shot. This is probably Roma’s race to lose though.

Predicted Winner: Roma

Best Production Design

Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma

Analysis: This one comes down to Panther and Favourite in my view and I’ll give the latter an ever so slight edge,

Predicted Winner: The Favourite

Best Costume Design

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots

Analysis: Like Production Design, Panther and Favourite are the favorites. The best bet could be The Favourite, but Panther has to win something right?

Predicted Winner: Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice

Analysis: A Border win isn’t out of the question, but Vice is the likely recipient here.

Predicted Winner: Vice

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma

Analysis: First Man and Panther could get this, but that Wembley Stadium sequence could cause Rhapsody to achieve gold status.

Predicted Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born

Analysis: Even though Star didn’t get in the other Sound race, Mixing seems like where it could be picked. I wouldn’t count out First Man, but I’ll guess Star wins here.

Predicted Winner: A Star Is Born

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Analysis: It was a bit surprising that Black Panther missed the cut here. Its MCU counterpart Infinity is possible, but I’ll say this is the sole victory for First Man.

Predicted Winner: First Man

Best Original Score

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns

Analysis: Another chance for Panther lies here, but I’m going with a coin flip between BlacKkKlansman and Beale Street.

Predicted Winner: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Nominees: “All the Stars” from Black Panther, “I’ll Fight” from RBG, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Analysis: My last race is the easiest. “Shallow” is the massive favorite here.

Predicted Winner: “Shallowfrom A Star Is Born

And there you have it. Enjoy the show Sunday night!