Bumblebee Movie Review

Steven Spielberg has executive produced all five Transformers movies prior to Bumblebee and he holds that title here. Yet it’s in this prequel/spin-off that his influence feels the most pronounced. In the case of this franchise, that’s a welcome development. Michael Bay’s quintet of loud metal on metal action orgies that began in 2007 are generally nonsensical explosion excuses with occasional jaw dropping moments. Travis Knight, taking over directorial duties, gives Bumblebee a heart and the loudest audio belongs to the terrific 80s soundtrack.

This is a prequel and the happenings occur in 1987, which explains The Smiths, Duran Duran, and Tears for Fears providing the tunes. A prologue on the planet Cybertron shows our title character (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) being sent to Earth by Optimus Prime in order to escape death by The Decepticons. He crash lands, of all places, right in the middle of a military training exercise in California where no nonsense Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena) assumes him to be a hostile creature. Bumblebee manages to transform into that iconic 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, but not after being rendered mute when his voice box is disabled. By the way, this all happens in like ten minutes. Pacing is not an issue in this picture, unlike other bloated Transformers flicks.

That Beetle ends up in a junkyard frequented by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a gear head who’s just turned 18. It’s her storyline that brings the Spielberg vibes front and center. She’s experienced parental loss as her beloved father has passed. She’s an outcast in the suburbs. Charlie has an awkward pending romance with her neighbor (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). There’s also a resistance to diving (even though she’s a terrific diver) that we correctly assume will figure into the plot. She also works at a low rent amusement park that looks straight outta Adventureland. When she commandeers the Volkswagen, she discovers the giant yellow extraterrestrial and befriends him. Their relationship is quite E.T. like, if that alien had tires strapped to his back and communicated through radio waves playing Steve Winwood.

Knight, maker of the acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings, is making a Transformers experience that could have been made in the 80s. And it mostly works. There’s only so much he can do with the fight scenes after the Decepticons (voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux) track Bumblebee to this planet. The tech team here manages to make them easier to follow than Bay’s mashups. So when Colonel Burns and other dumber than they should be government types get involved in the plot, I found myself actually caring a bit. That’s due to screenwriter Christina Hodson’s establishment of Charlie as a full fledged character and Steinfeld’s work elevating her. Her charming interaction with Bee is enough to warrant something the Transformers epics don’t get and that’s a recommendation.

*** (out of four)

January 11-13 Box Office Predictions

Three newbies make their way to the screen this weekend as canine tale A Dog’s Way Home, Kevin Hart/Bryan Cranston comedic drama The Upside, and the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller Replicas debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/02/a-dogs-way-home-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/02/the-upside-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/03/replicas-box-office-prediction/

Even with the trio of openings, it appears Aquaman will glide into a fourth straight weekend atop the charts with a high teens take. The superhero saga’s reign will certainly end the following weekend with Glass being unveiled.

Other titles will likely struggle to reach the teens. I have Dog’s managing a #2 showing with The Upside not far behind.

Replicas appears to be getting dumped and my $3.4 million projection leaves it well outside the top five. We have an expansion with On the Basis of Sex, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic that’s performed well in limited release and is slated for approximately 2000 screens Friday. I’ll put its number at $7.9 million. I believe that gets it to a 7th place rollout.

Returnees Escape Room and Mary Poppins Returns are my picks for the rest of the high-five and here’s the estimates:

1. Aquaman

Predicted Gross: $17.7 million

2. A Dog’s Way Home

Predicted Gross: $12.8 million

3. The Upside

Predicted Gross: $11.6 million

4. Escape Room

Predicted Gross: $9.4 million

5. Mary Poppins Returns

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million

Box Office Results (January 46)

As anticipated, Aquaman logged another frame in first place with $31 million, topping my $27.9 million projection for an impressive $260 million three-week total.

New horror thriller Escape Room made off with a terrific $18.2 million start in second, more than doubling its meager $9 million budget.

Mary Poppins Returns fell to third in its third weekend with $15.8 million compared to my higher $18.7 million prediction. Total tally is $138 million.

Bumblebee was fourth with $13.2 million (I said $12.2 million) as it sniffs the century mark at $97 million.

SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse rounded out the top five with $13.1 million, slinging beyond my $10.9 million forecast. It’s made $133 million thus far.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

January 4-6 Box Office Predictions

Happy New Year and welcome to the first box office predictions for 2019. It should be a weekend led by holiday holdovers with the only newcomer being horror pic Escape Room. You can find my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/28/escape-room-box-office-prediction/

My low teens projection puts the newbie in the #3 slot, behind returning champions Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns, with Bumblebee and SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse filling out the rest of the top five.

Let’s see how I have the high-five playing out:

1. Aquaman

Predicted Gross: $27.9 million

2. Mary Poppins Returns

Predicted Gross: $18.7 million

3. Escape Room

Predicted Gross: $13.8 million

4. Bumblebee

Predicted Gross: $12.2 million

5. SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Predicted Gross: $10.9 million

Box Office Results (December 2830)

2018 was a record year at multiplexes and it closed out with Aquaman repeating in first place with $52.1 million, in range with my $53.8 million forecast. The DC superhero tale has amassed $189 million total.

Mary Poppins Returns was in the runner-up position yet again with $28.3 million compared to my $26.5 million estimate. The Disney sequel stands at $99 million.

Bumblebee was third with $20.9 million (I said $21.4 million) for $67 million overall.

SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse was fourth with $18.8 million, a touch higher than my $17.3 million take. The acclaimed animated feature crossed the century mark at $104 million.

The Mule rounded out the top five with $12.1 million, in line with my $11.5 million prediction. The Clint Eastwood thriller has made $61 million.

Vice was sixth and made the most of the two Christmas openers with $7.7 million over the traditional frame and $17.6 million since its Tuesday debut. The Dick Cheney biopic managed to top my respective estimates of $7.2 million and $14.8 million.

The critically lambasted Holmes & Watson had an underwhelming start in seventh with $7.4 million from Friday to Sunday and $19.8 million since Christmas Day. It came in under my projections of $11.3 million and $23 million.

Second Act was eighth in its sophomore frame at $7.3 million (I said $7.9 million) for a tally of $21 million.

Ralph Breaks the Internet was ninth at $6.7 million, ahead of my $5.2 million prediction. It’s up to $175 million.

The Grinch had a hefty drop-off in 10th at $4.1 million, well under my $7.3 million forecast. The total gross is $265 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: December 28-30

It’s Christmas Week at the box office as the merrily confusing week officially gets underway tomorrow! We have two newbies debuting on Christmas Day with the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly comedy Holmes & Watson and Adam McKay biopic Vice starring Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/18/holmes-watson-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/19/vice-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, both risk not making the top five as I deduce Watson will premiere with low double digits over the traditional three-day portion of the frame with Vice under that. Returning holiday offerings often see increases in their grosses from the previous weekend. I expect that to benefit titles such as Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee, SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse, and The Mule as well as Second Act and The Grinch further down the chart.

Poppins came in below expectations this past weekend. If you’d asked me a week ago, I would’ve strongly suspected the Disney sequel would rise to top spot this weekend and knock current champ Aquaman down to second. Now, even though I expect the waterlogged superhero to have a decline in its sophomore frame, I feel it should manage to maintain the #1 position pretty easily.

As I close the box office predicting year out, let’s expand the list to my top 10 projections as I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

1. Aquaman

Predicted Gross: $53.8 million

2. Mary Poppins Returns

Predicted Gross: $26.5 million

3. Bumblebee

Predicted Gross: $21.4 million

4. SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse

Predicted Gross: $17.3 million

5. The Mule

Predicted Gross: $11.5 million

6. Holmes & Watson

Predicted Gross: $11.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $23 million (Tuesday to Sunday)

7. Second Act

Predicted Gross: $7.9 million

8. The Grinch

Predicted Gross: $7.3 million

9. Vice

Predicted Gross: $7.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $14.8 million (Tuesday to Sunday)

10. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

Box Office Results (December 2123)

The pre-Christmas frame saw a slew of new debuts and they nearly all came in with less than I anticipated. It’s worth noting that most of these holidays numbers are not yet final and I’ll fill in those verified grosses once they occur.

As expected, Aquaman logged the #1 spot with $68 million, under my $77.3 million. I expect the DC effort to dip in the mid 20s this coming weekend. When factoring in early preview numbers, it’s made $72.7 million thus far.

Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns opened in second with less with anticipated returns grossing $23.5 million over the weekend and $32.3 million since its Wednesday beginning. That’s quite a bit under my respective projections of $34.8 million and $52.2 million. The well-reviewed sequel will hope for leggy earnings as the weeks roll along.

Bumblebee took third with $21.6 million, premiering under my $26.2 million prediction. The Transformers prequel actually had the best critical reaction of the newcomers and also has a shot of playing well in the coming weeks.

SpiderMan: Into the SpiderVerse fell to fourth in its sophomore outing with $16.6 million (I was higher at $20.1 million). The acclaimed animated hero tale is up to $64 million.

Clint Eastwood’s The Mule rounded out the top five at $9.5 million (I said $10.2 million) for $35 million at press time.

Jennifer Lopez’s romantic comedy Second Act debuted in seventh place with $6.4 million. I was right there at $6.5 million.

Finally, the poorly reviewed Steve Carell drama Welcome to Marwen was a massive flop in ninth place with $2.3 million, not even matching my $3.8 million take. This is quite the costly bomb for its studio.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: December 21-23

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): Some updates as Aquaman estimate have risen and Mary Poppins Returns has dwindled a bit.

Hollywood is hoping that Yuletide cheer is spread among a host of newcomers opening this weekend. We have superhero fish tale Aquaman, Disney sequel Mary Poppins Returns arriving over a half century following its classic predecessor, Transformers franchise prequel Bumblebee, Jennifer Lopez rom com Second Act, and the Robert Zemeckis drama Welcome to Marwen starring Steve Carell. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on all of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/

Expectations for Aquaman have floated upwards in recent days with decent reviews and terrific numbers overseas. It seems destined to rule the charts with a mid 70s performance and the possibility of rising even higher.

Mary Poppins Returns gets an early start on Wednesday and the runner-up spot appears to be a given. It’s also benefiting from mostly strong critical reaction and some Oscar chatter.

Speaking of critics, we were all taken aback when Bumblebee achieved its own positive buzz with a current 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s better than the last four movies in the series… combined). Having the best reviews of a Transformers pic should certainly help , but competition is seriously steep and the franchise has been on the downside. I’ve got it pegged for mid 20s, but don’t be surprised if it over performs.

With Second Act estimated at $6.5 million and Welcome to Marwen (which seems DOA) at $3.8 million, that would put both of them outside the top 5. Last weekend’s top two earners Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mule should fill out the rest of high-five.

And with that, here’s those merry projections:

1. Aquman

Predicted Gross: $77.3 million

2. Mary Poppins Returns

Predicted Gross: $34.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $52.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. Bumblebee

Predicted Gross: $26.2 million

4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Predicted Gross: $20.1 million

5. The Mule

Predicted Gross: $10.2 million

 

Box Office Results (December 14-16)

The Spider-Man character, through seven films this century, has never failed to open at #1. The streak held as the acclaimed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took in $35.3 million, not quite reaching my $43.4 million forecast. With an A+ Cinemascore grade, this should play well throughout the holiday season. I do expect a drop of just over 40% coming up considering the level of competition, but that should subside the following weekend.

Clint Eastwood’s The Mule got off to a solid start in second as a prime option for older moviegoers. The thriller took in $17.5 million and I was as close as can be with $17.6 million. Like Spidey, it may dip about 40% and then level off well in coming weekends.

The Grinch was third with $11.7 million (I said $10.8 million) to bring its total to a pleasing $239 million.

Ralph Breaks the Internet dropped to fourth after three weeks at #1 with $9.2 million, in line with my $9.7 million estimate. The Disney sequel has taken in $154 million.

Mortal Engines staked its claim for biggest flop of the year as the Peter Jackson penned sci-fi adventure stalled in fifth place with just $7.5 million. I was higher at $12.4 million. That doesn’t bode well when its reported budget was $100 million.

Finally, the PG-13 Once Upon a Deadpool failed to attract many eyeballs in 11th place with $2.6 million – under my $4.2 million prediction. The good news? The very R-rated sequel that preceded it this summer was already at about $315 million domestic.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Bumblebee Box Office Prediction

Times have changed in significant ways for the Transformers franchise that started eleven years ago. They manifest themselves with the release next weekend of Bumblebee, a prequel to the multi-billion series. For starters, Michael Bay is not in the director’s chair for the first time after making the first five. Travis Knight, most known for the acclaimed animated Kubo and the Two Strings, takes over those duties. Hailee Steinfeld headlines the 1980s set tale alongside John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, and the voice of Dylan O’Brien as the title Autobot.

A second major difference: Bumblebee is unexpectedly getting very good reviews with a current Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97%. Nearly every sequel since the 2007 original has been critically lambasted while still bringing in the bucks. Positive word-of-mouth should only help, but competition is fierce as the holidays approach. Two days before this debuts, Mary Poppins Returns is out and will take away family audiences. Opening directly against it is Aquaman, which will siphon away action fans.

Which brings us to point #3 – expectations have fallen for the franchise and Paramount hopes its best revenge is better than anticipated returns. This will almost surely have the smallest premiere of the series. That’s even with the caveat that four of the five Transformers pics got early jumps and opened during the middle of the week. The series showed rust in the summer of 2017 when The Last Knight had a $44 million traditional Friday to Sunday rollout and a $130 million domestic haul (by far the lowest of the quintet).

Add all that up and I’m not convinced the pleasing critical (ahem) buzz gets this beyond mid 20s considering its venerable competitors.

Bumblebee opening weekend prediction: $26.2 million

 

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/

Aquaman Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): Update here as I’m increasing my $74.3 million estimate up to $77.3 million.

We don’t have Vincent Chase from TV’s “Entourage” starring in it as portrayed on that show years ago with James Cameron directing. Yet DC Comics hero Aquaman finally gets his stand-alone experience next weekend. Instead it’s Jason Momoa reprising his role as the waterlogged warrior after first seeing him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. James Wan, who made the Conjuring entries and Furious 7, directs. The supporting cast includes Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicole Kidman. In a bit of irony, Julie Andrews has a voice-over while Mary Poppins Returns serves as competition over the pre-Christmas frame.

Aquaman marks the sixth DC Extended Universe feature that began in 2013 with Man of Steel. The lowest grossing opener of the series was Justice League in November of last year with $93 million. All others (Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman) took in over $100 million. Forecasts and expectations aren’t as high here, but Warner Bros is certainly hoping for a sizable hit. The film opened in China last weekend to robust results. Reviews are fairly solid with a current Tomato rating of 78%.

No previous DC Universe production has premiered in the crowded holiday month of December. Direct competition comes from both Poppins (family crowd) and Bumblebee (action crowd). With Disney’s famous nanny getting a two-day jump on Wednesday, Aquaman appears in good position to grab the #1 spot.

My feeling is that it will do so with a gross in the mid 70s.

Aquaman opening weekend prediction: $77.3 million

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/