The Circle Box Office Prediction

Next weekend brings the techno thriller The Circle, based on a 2013 bestseller by Dave Eggers. The pic casts Emma Watson as an employee at a powerful Internet corporation where everything is not as it seems. There’s some other heavy hitters among the cast: Tom Hanks, John Boyega of the new Star Wars trilogy, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton in his final film appearance.

The source material in which it’s based has its fans. It also doesn’t hurt that Watson is fresh off the mega blockbuster Beauty and the Beast (and Hanks never hurts either). The Fate of the Furious should still manage a three-peat in this final April weekend, but I have a feeling The Circle has a better chance of over performing than underperforming.

I’ll predict a mid teens to high teens debut is likely.

The Circle opening weekend prediction: $16.3 million

For my How to Be a Latin Lover prediction, click here:

2016 Oscars Reaction

Well… then! Who expected that ending at the Oscars?? One that involved Bonnie and Clyde, Leonardo DiCaprio, wrong envelopes, and a mild Best Picture upset! Yes, the jokes about that already infamous finale to the 89th Annual Academy Awards deserves the endless tweets about M. Night Shyamalan coming up with it and Steve Harvey being off the hook for his Miss Universe gaffe.

All in all, it was a fairly unpredictable night even up until that wild conclusion. My predictions went 14 for 21. Expect for Picture, I did get all the high-profiles race right: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) for Director, Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) for Actor, Emma Stone (La La) for Actress, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) for Supporting Actor, Viola Davis (Fences) for Supporting Actress, Moonlight for Adapted Screenplay, and Manchester for Original Screenplay. Animated Feature Zootopia and Foreign Language Film The Salesman were also rightly called. Down the line categories that I got right: Original Score and Song (La La and “City of Stars” from that film), Production Design and Cinematography (La La), and Visual Effects (The Jungle Book).

I whiffed on Documentary – O.J.: Made in America was the front runner and won over my upset pick I Am Not Your Negro. Others: Sound Editing (Arrival instead of Hacksaw Ridge), Sound Mixing (Hacksaw instead of La La), Makeup and Hairstyling (Suicide Squad over Star Trek Beyond), Costume Design (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over Jackie), and Editing (Hacksaw over La La).

And, of course, Best Picture, where La La Land won for about two minutes before the Academy’s producers pointed out a mistake and that Moonlight actually won.

The evening started on a happy note with Justin Timberlake dancing his way into the auditorium to his hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job hosting for the most part. Some bits worked better than others. I enjoyed the group of tourists unknowingly being brought to the theater and his endless ribbing of Matt Damon. The candy and cookies falling down to the audience felt a little old hat. The In Memorium package was a little tough with the legends lost this year and props to Jennifer Aniston for mentioning the passing of Bill Paxton as news had just broke that morning.

Did the show feel long? Of course. It always does, but for those that stuck around… yowza! That was an Oscar ending that will not soon be forgotten.

RIP Bill Paxton

Sadly, this morning I write a post I didn’t expect to with the news that Bill Paxton has passed away at age 61. For even casual movie fans, Paxton was a very familiar face that starred and co-starred in blockbusters such as Aliens, True Lies, Twister, and Titanic.

Upon hearing the news of his death, I began to realize just how present he’s been in my movie watching existence over the last three decades plus. I first knew of him as Chet, the bullying older brother in Weird Science. If that is a guilty pleasure pic, his performance is one of the best pleasures in it. It’s a terrific comedic performance.

Just one year later, his role in Aliens stuck out in that fantastic sequel with one-liners like “Game Over, Man!” That same year, he starred in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire cult classic Near Dark.

All told, Mr. Paxton has about a dozen DVDs and Blu-Rays sitting on my shelf. Like I said, he was truly a part of many of our collective filmgoing experiences from the 1980s on. He was alongside Tom Cruise just three years ago in the solid Edge of Tomorrow and was a rival tabloid cameraman to Jake Gyllenhaal in my favorite picture of 2014, Nightcrawler.

His TV credits include headlining HBO’s “Big Love” and just a few weeks ago, his CBS crime drama “Training Day” (based on the 2001 Denzel Washington film) premiered. His final movie will be The Circle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It opens in April.

Other notable onscreen efforts range from Predator 2 to Tombstone to A Simple Plan and U571. Today I wish to highlight a trio of lesser known titles worth seeking out:

Two are from 1992. Trespass finds him and William Sadler as firefighters who find a treasure map that pits them against drug dealers Ice Cube and Ice-T. It’s great gritty fun. One False Move is an intense crime thriller from director Carl Franklin and written by Billy Bob Thornton. Gene Siskel named it as his favorite movie of that year and it is impressive.

Paxton turned to directing himself in 2001 with Frailty, an underrated and effective thriller where the actor plays a religiously fanatical father. I just watched it again recently and it made me wish Paxton had directed more.

What Bill Paxton did leave us with is his own treasure trove of performances to enjoy. He will be missed.

Nightcrawler Movie Review

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”

So says Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), our central character in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler who barely leaves the screen during the film’s running time and probably won’t escape your mind for some time either. When we first meet Lou, he’s a common thief stealing scrap metal who makes what he believes are captivating attempts at obtaining employment. We immediately notice that Lou has no social skills whatsoever. He doesn’t know how to relate to people. All he knows is how to negotiate but he hasn’t found a field in which his negotiations bear fruit.

This changes when Lou happens upon a crime scene and figures out that Los Angeles TV news stations will pay handsomely for gruesome footage. “If it bleeds, it leads” he’s told by another “nightcrawler” played by Bill Paxton . Lou believes he’s found his calling and soon his explicit videos of horrific offenses are airing at 6AM and 11PM by the lowest rated Southern California affiliate. Their news director Nina (Rene Russo) recognizes Lou’s value in increasing ratings. And Lou knows his worth and uses his leverage to bargain with her – not just for gainful employment but for everything he wants from her. This is done in a pitch black comedic restaurant “date” with Nina in which he makes his wishes explicitly clear.

Lou also hires assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and he suffers the endless banterings of a boss who is forever conducting a verbal performance review of his employee. Their interaction veers between hilarious (in a very dark way) and chilling (in a very real way). Our central character doesn’t like people in a manner that’s somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Everything is negotiable to Lou and as amazingly awkward as he is, his objectives are usually met. This extends to his filming work and if the photos of a slain family member aren’t close enough to the bullet holes lodged in the fridge, there’s a way to fix that.

For the better part of this decade, Gyllenhaal has made one solid choice after another from Source Code to End of Watch to Prisoners. This is the pinnacle so far. With director Gilroy’s screenplay giving him a truly unique and endlessly fascinating character to work with, Gyllenhaal nails his quirky and creepy role. Russo gets her juiciest part in years as the producer who will go to the same lengths as Lou to ensure success. Ahmed is the most sympathetic person here (it’s not saying much) and he sees his demented mentor much like the audience does.

Nightcrawler effortlessly manages charcoal colored comedy with a heightened sense of tension. A major accomplishment indeed. The screenplay has plenty to hint at regarding the public’s insatiable need for the most violent news stories while we are eating breakfast or ready to turn in for the night. Lou Bloom realizes it and knows how to profit from it. He figures a way to achieve his sick dreams. Our brilliantly realized title character with a career best performance from Gyllenhaal gets it right with that opening quote. He doesn’t really like people. And while the characters he speaks with in Nightcrawler thinks he doesn’t understand them, maybe he does all too well.

**** (out of four)

Nightcrawler Box Office Prediction

It may be destined to become a cult classic based on its early reviews as Jake Gyllenhall plays a journalist in the L.A. crime underground in Nightcrawler, out Friday.

Dan Gilroy directs the picture which costars Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton. Critical buzz is quite positive after it screened at film festivals and this continues Gyllenhall’s trend of picking less commercial and more artistically relevant material. However, that doesn’t mean you should expect much for its opening weekend. After all, “cult film” usually indicates it won’t make much in its initial run.

To me, the question is whether or not Nightcrawler manages double digits and I’ll predict it falls short of the mark.

Nightcrawler opening weekend prediction: $8.1 million

For my Before I Go to Sleep prediction, click here:

For my Saw 10th Anniversary prediction, click here:

Edge of Tomorrow Movie Review

Over the past decade, Tom Cruise has concentrated mostly on sci-fi and action B movies in between the occasional Mission: Impossible franchise pic. Edge of Tomorrow resides on the higher end of the spectrum as far as quality. It does so mostly by featuring an aspect of Cruise that many of his latest films have not – the guy’s got a sense of humor and can use it well.

Tomorrow‘s plot is explained mostly by CNN anchors as the movie opens. An alien race called Mimics have wreaked havoc all over the world and Cruise’s character Major William Cage has the cushy position of explaining how things are going to talking heads on TV. He’s never actually seen battle and that’s perfectly OK with him. That is until he’s summoned by a general (Brendan Gleeson) to cover a real battle up close and when Cage refuses, he’s stripped of his rank and forced to actually fight in it.

This leads to a situation where Cage’s character is killed (no spoiler here) and the aliens blood is splattered on him. And that creates the Groundhog Day situation where he wakes up everyday on that battle morning until he figures out a way to prevail and eliminate the alien race. Emily Blunt is cast as a super soldier who is the only one that understands Cage’s unique predicament. If this all sounds a bit silly – I suppose it is. However, screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth do a remarkable job at making this all make sense.

Most importantly, Cruise succeeds at bringing a sense of fun for most of Edge‘s running time. The script allows Cruise and Blunt to have some humorous interplay, particularly because its up to Blunt to “kill” him every time he screws up… which is often. Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t take itself too seriously for about two-thirds of its length. It’s only in the last act that it becomes humorless and therefore a more conventional and run-of-the-mill alien invasion flick.

Bill Paxton seems to be having a good time as a squadron leader and Noah Taylor turns up as a scientist who must explain important plot points to Cruise – just as he did over 12 years ago in Vanilla Sky. Blunt is certainly cast against type but she makes the most of her butt kicking role. Doug Liman’s direction is sturdy as you’d expect and The Bourne Identity director knows his well around an action sequence.

The so-so final act aside, Edge of Tomorrow stood out to me because Cruise seems to having more fun that he has in awhile. I would put it ahead of his latest lackluster fare such as Jack Reacher and Oblivion. If you’re looking for a decent summer popcorn watching experience, this fits the bill.

*** (out of four)

Edge of Tomorrow Box Office Prediction

Described as sort of a sci-fi Groundhog Day, Tom Cruise headlines Edge of Tomorrow opening Friday and its release is a big box office question mark for Warner Bros. Directed by Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith‘s Doug Liman and costarring Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton, Tomorrow comes with a reported price tag of nearly $180 million dollars.

My suspicion is that it will need to do very well overseas to recoup its considerable budget. In its favor, Tomorrow is garnering rock solid reviews with a current 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it has plenty going against it. Cruise is not the box office force he once was and only the fourth Mission: Impossible surpassed $100M in the last five years. While this would seem to be a picture that women may join their husbands for, they might be attending The Fault in Our Stars (or Maleficent) instead. Additionally, I feel the marketing campaign hasn’t done a great job of showing what Tomorrow is really about – other than being an expensive looking sci-fi flick.

In April of 2013, Cruise’s Oblivion got off to a promising $37 million start before its eventual $89 million domestic take. It’s certainly possible that Edge of Tomorrow could reach that number, but I’m skeptical. I feel it will likely open at around the quarter century mark and not reach $100M stateside when all is said and done.

Edge of Tomorrow opening weekend prediction: $23.7 million

For my The Fault in Our Stars prediction, click here: