Oscar Watch: Doctor Sleep

When it was released nearly 40 years ago in theaters, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not considered the landmark horror classic that it is today. In fact, the film received zero Oscar nominations. It did score two Razzie nods. That ceremony celebrates the worst in moviemaking each year. Both Kubrick and Shelley Duvall as the terrified wife of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance were singled out for their (apparently) subpar work.

That seems hard to fathom these days with its standing as one of the genre’s best. This weekend comes Doctor Sleep, the sequel to both Stephen King’s 1977 novel and Kubrick’s picture. Reviews are mostly solid, but not across the board and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.

Truth be told, Sleep was never expected to be an awards player and reaction so far hasn’t done anything to alter that. There is one potential, if unlikely, exception. Critical buzz has heaped praise on the supporting work of Rebecca Ferguson, who’s said to steal the show as a cult leader with psychic powers.

A performance being recognized in the horror space is quite rare. Just last year, there were numerous calls for Toni Collette to get Best Actress attention in Hereditary. It never happened. Ferguson absolutely needs critics groups to bestow her with wins in order to get anywhere on Academy voters radar. If that occurs, she may have a small shot. If so, she would be the sixth performer Oscar nominated from a King adaptation: Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in Carrie, Kathy Bates (who won for Misery), Morgan Freeman for The Shawshank Redemption, and Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile.

Bottom line: Ferguson needs a whole lot of outside help to be a factor in the Supporting Actress derby and I wouldn’t count on it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Carrie (2013) Movie Review

When Stephen King heard of a new remake for Carrie, his reaction was this: “The real question is why, when the original was so good?”

Right you are Mr. King and he’s pretty much written my movie review of Kimberly Peirce’s rehashing of the 1976 Brian De Palma classic with Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, based on King’s first published novel. It’s not that the 2013 version is terrible. It’s not that Chloe Grace Moretz doesn’t deliver a solid performance as the telekinetic teenager who has a very tragic prom. And Julianne Moore is incapable of giving a bad performance and manages respectably taking on the supremely creepy mother role that Piper Laurie perfected nearly three decades ago.

It’s just that this feels so unnecessary. Since De Palma’s work 27 years ago, an unwanted sequel came out in 1999 and an unwanted NBC TV remake was released in 2002. Now this. None of them performed too well and that’s easy to understand. 1976’s Carrie holds up remarkably well and any generation can simply revisit it.

There are tweaks here and there in the remake, but none of them add much of anything. The basic story is intact and the most famous lines from the original remain. The biggest difference is the ending which is a bit surprising because the ’76 version had a terrific one. For those unfamiliar with the plot, I’ll save you some trouble. Just go watch the De Palma flick. It’s worth your time and this version isn’t. I can’t put it any better than the source material’s author. So listen to Stephen King, kids!

** (out of four)

This Day in Movie History: January 22

32 years ago Today in Movie History – January 22 – On Golden Pond opened wide in theaters on its way to a number of Oscars. It had a limited opening in late 1981 to qualify for Oscar consideration. Pond would be the final film role for legendary actor Henry Fonda and he would win Best Actor for the part. Too sick to accept the award, his daughter and costar Jane spoke for him. Fonda would die just months later. His counterpart in the picture, Katherine Hepburn, would win her fourth Oscar as Best Actress – setting a record that’s yet to be surpassed. Pond would earn a fantastic $119 million domestically and ranked as the second top grosser of 1981 behind Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As for birthdays, two actresses known primarily for their roles in classic horror flicks celebrate today. Piper Laurie is 84. She received an Oscar nomination as the title character’s crazy mother in 1976’s Carrie. She had been nominated 15 years prior as Paul Newman’s girlfriend in the classic The Hustler. Laurie received a third nomination in 1986 for Children of a Lesser God.

And Linda Blair is 55 today. She received an Oscar nomination in 1973 as demonic child Regan in The Exorcist, perhaps the greatest horror title of all time. She would also appear in Airport 1975 and reprise her famous role in the 1977 Exorcist sequel. In more recent history, she had a cameo role in 1996’s Scream.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the scream queens:

Piper Laurie was in Carrie with John Travolta

John Travolta was in Face/Off with Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage was in The Wicker Man with Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn was in The Exorcist with Linda Blair

And that’s today – January 22 – in Movie History!

Box Office Results: October 25-27

The three-week domination of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is over and it is Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa becoming the only other #1 film in the month of October with an impressive debut. Grandpa earned $32 million in its debut, above my $28.3M prediction. This marks the second highest opening in the Jackass franchise and shows that the series hasn’t even come close to losing any steam.

Gravity fell to the #2 spot with $20.3 million in its fourth frame, slightly below my $21.2M prediction. It currently stands at $199 million and the possibility of reaching $300M domestic is still alive (especially when it starts earning Oscar nominations in the beginning of 2014).

In its third weekend, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks was third with $11.8 million, slightly higher than my $10.9M estimate. Phillips stands at $70M and should cross the century mark later on.

Ridley Scott’s The Counselor could not capitalize on its all-star cast that included Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem. Riding a wave of mostly negative reviews, The Counselor flopped with only $8 million for a fourth place showing, well below my $13.8M prediction. Moviegoers were simply ambivalent about the pic and I have no doubt that the weak reviews certainly didn’t help.

The Carrie remake received zero help from the Halloween time frame and tumbled 63% in its sophomore frame with only $5.9 million – below my $7.6M estimate. This actually put the horror flick in sixth place and allowed the animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 to be #5 with $6.1M.

Outside of the top five, the acclaimed 12 Years a Slave was #8, grossing a robust $2.1 million on only 123 screens. The picture, which is looked at as an Oscar front runner, expands to more screens this Friday.

Be sure to check the blog later today when I’ll have prediction posts up for next weekend’s trio of newbies: Ender’s Game, Last Vegas, and Free Birds.

Box Office Predictions: October 25-27

Unless it earns less than half of what Jackass 3D took in for an opening three years ago, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa with Johnny Knoxville should knock Gravity off its three week perch of being #1. The weekend’s other newbie is Ridley Scott’s The Counselor with an impressive cast and curiously, a so-so marketing campaign and no reviews at press time. You can read my prediction posts on both newcomers here:



Gravity lost about 30% of its audience from week two to three and I’d expect roughly the same for this weekend. A low 30s drop seems likely for Captain Phillips in week three. And, finally, Carrie opened to a disappointing third place showing in its debut and could easily fall over 50% in its sophomore frame.

And with that, my prediction for this weekend’s top five:

1. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Predicted Gross: $28.3 million

2. Gravity

Predicted Gross: $21.2 million (representing a drop of 29%)

3. The Counselor

Predicted Gross: $13.8 million

4. Captain Phillips

Predicted Gross: $10.9 million (representing a drop of 33%)

5. Carrie

Predicted Gross: $7.6 million (representing a drop of 52%)

As always, I’ll have updates on the blog’s Facebook page Saturday with final results Sunday!

Box Office Results: October 18-20

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity held the top spot at the box office for the third weekend in a row as three new films posted disappointing results. The space thriller with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney continues to capture audiences as it took in $30 million in week 3. This is right there with my $29.7M projection. Gravity has grossed an astonishing $170 million so far and still has $300 million in its sights.

In its second weekend, Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks slid a fairly modest 35% for a $16.7 million gross, below my $18.5M projection. The Somali pirate saga is on pace to  cross the century mark and be Hanks’s highest live-action earner in four years since 2009’s Angels and Demons. 

Opening with less than expected numbers in third place is the horror remake Carrie. The update of 1976’s Brian De Palma’s classic grossed $16.3 million, well below my $22.4M estimate. On top of its lackluster debut, horror flicks tend to suffer large drop-offs in subsequent weekend so the future looks rather bleak for this one.

The animated sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 continues to hang around in the top five as it made $10 million for the four spot. This is right on pace with my $9.3M projection.

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger saw their action fest Escape Plan open right on target with most projections in fifth place with a so-so $9.6 million, just below my $10.1M estimate. Clearly the two stars are no longer the draw they were in the 80s and 90s, but the pic did outdo the action stars solo entries from earlier this year The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head.

Finally, the Wikileaks drama The Fifth Estate starring Benedict Cumberbatch had a terrible opening with only $1.7 million, well under my what I thought was a modest $5.8M projection. The pic received many negative reviews and audiences simply ignored it.

That’s all for now, my friends. I’ll have predictions posts up later today for next weekend’s newbies, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Counselor soon enough!

Box Office Predictions: October 18-20

The horror remake Carrie, the Stallone/Schwarzenegger action pic Escape Plan, and the Wikileaks drama The Fifth Estate all join the box office fray this weekend. You can find my predictions on all three at these links:




Will any of them have any enough firepower to unseat Gravity from the #1 spot? As I see it, only Carrie stands a chance. However, I’m only putting it at a low 20s opening and that should not be enough to keep Alfonso Cuaron’s space phenomenon from the #1 perch for a third weekend. Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks scored a solid $25 million opening this past weekend and with an A Cinemascore grade, its second weekend decline should be small.

Based on my prediction for The Fifth Estate, it should open at #6 while Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 stays in the top five. And, with that, my predictions for the weekend’s top five:

1. Gravity

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million (representing a drop of 31%)

2. Carrie

Predicted Gross: $22.4 million

3. Captain Phillips

Predicted Gross: $18.5 million (representing a drop of 28%)

4. Escape Plan

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Predicted Gross: $9.3 million (representing a drop of 32%)

I’ll have an update posted Saturday on the blog’s Facebook page with a final report Sunday on the blog!