Oscar Predictions: Best Sellers

Michael Caine, the legendary 88-year-old Brit, has had a unique Oscar history. He’s 2 for 2 with victories when nominated for Supporting Actor (1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters, 1999’s The Cider House Rules). Yet Caine is 0 for 4 when up for Best Actor (1966’s Alfie, 1972’s Sleuth, 1983’s Educating Rita, 2002’s The Quiet American).

This weekend, his dramedy Best Sellers is out via streaming services. It casts him as a cantankerous author adapting to the industry in the 21st century. Lina Roessler directs with a supporting cast including Aubrey Plaza, Scott Speedman, and Cary Elwes.

While Caine is receiving solid notices for his performance, the picture itself is garnering mixed takes. The Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at 61%. Due to this, it’s a safe bet that the star won’t be contending for a 7th nod with the Academy. I suppose the Golden Globes (if they happen this year) are a slight possibility in the Musical/Comedy race, but that could also be a crowded field due to a high number of genre selections in the former. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files continues with 2010’s Saw 3D (also known as Saw: The Final Chapter) and it is of course not the final chapter as evidence by Spiral currently being #1 at multiplexes. Lionsgate termed it the endgame after the disappointing financial performance of Saw VI. Like all horror series, it’s never truly dead. As in all Saw flicks, even if characters are dead, they still manage to appear in the abundance of flashbacks we have seen time and again.

In the early moments of the seventh entry, we do see something very rare and that’s daylight. One of the traps from Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) actually happens in a setting that’s not a dingy dungeon. It happens in a crowded business district where spectators get to witness Hoffman’s handiwork. I must admit it was odd to see one of these games play out in a location that doesn’t make the grossest porta potty you’ve ever experienced look like the Taj Mahal.

That’s about the only new development to be found. Saw 3D brings back director Kevin Greutert for the second time in a row along with familiar screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The plot primarily hinges on Hoffman’s freshest game targeting Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery). He makes his living by claiming to be a Jigsaw survivor and reaping the book sale profits. The problem is he’s lying and that doesn’t sit well with Hoffman. The investigator trying to halt everything is Gibson (Chad Bonella, overacting even for a Saw pic).

Since this is the “last” chapter, we do finally get some answers on just what the heck happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). He was last seen footless all the way back in the 2004 original. Yet the answers provided aren’t exactly satisfying. This is also marks the least screen time for the OG gamesman Tobin Bell. His ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) easily doubles his minutes. As mentioned before, the switch from Bell’s Jigsaw to Hoffman always marked a shift in quality for this franchise.

In 2009, a little movie called Avatar set all kinds of box office records. This may have been a factor in the 3D technology being employed here. I didn’t see this in the theater and I suppose the flying body parts coming at you on a giant screen could have added something…

I kind of doubt it. Seven features in, the Saw productions have run out of creative juice. One could argue that happened after the third one and I wouldn’t argue. The return of Elwes isn’t the boost as you may wish. Saw 3D has one foot planted in monotonous traps and departed voices from the past. That other foot is long sawed off and sought after thrills from #7 are tough to find.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Jigsaw (2017)…

My previous Jigsaw File posts can be accessed here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/16/the-jigsaw-files-saw-vi-2009/

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

Perhaps I’m feeling like a glutton for punishment, but the upcoming release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw got me in a bloody nostalgic mood as we anticipate its premiere. Nearly 17 years after the low-budget original became one of the most profitable horror pics ever and spawned now eight sequels/reboots, I felt it was time to revisit the franchise.

Hence The Jigsaw Files where I will recap the series movie by movie. It naturally begins with the original Saw. Shot for a reported teensy budget of $1.2 million, it came out of nowhere in October 2004 to become a genre classic. So is it?

This marks the directorial debut of James Wan and he went on to be involved in numerous franchises. Some were of his own making (Insidious, The Conjuring). Others brought on his talents like in Furious 7 and Aquaman. Wan came up with the story along with Leigh Whannell, who has since helmed Upgrade and The Invisible Man (both critically acclaimed scare fests).

Most of you are familiar with the story. Whannell costars as Adam, a photographer who awakens in a dingy and feces covered washroom with Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). The duo soon discover that they are part of an elaborate game orchestrated by a serial killer who concocts these elaborate schemes. They have to figure out why they have been placed in such a foul setting and they only have hours to do so before their time expires.

The screenplay intersects their countdown with Detectives Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung) trying to figure out who this monster is. Saw is told in a non-linear fashion that isn’t totally clear until the climax. I had forgotten about the Lost TV series connection until my rewatch. Leung was the quirky medium Miles. Michael Emerson, who is involved in the mayhem happening here, is an Emmy winner for his brilliant portrayal of Ben Linus.

What’s striking about Saw upon another visit is that its meager budget limits some of the gore we became accustomed to in the sequels. Don’t get me wrong… it’s there, but not quite as prevalent. Elwes and Whannell get the most screen time (Glover apparently only shot for two days). Both actors have their moments of extreme overacting and I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Some may find this exercise humorless, but there’s some winking and nodding occurring in my estimation.

The other plot point that audiences might forget is that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw (who becomes this franchise’s Freddy, Jason, Michael… take your pick) plays a minimal role… kind of like Jason in the first Friday the 13th. This is, of course, until the surprise ending. And that ending is still one of the better twists in modern horror history. If you’re a stickler about it making sense… well, you might hurt your head deciding if it holds up to scrutiny. Yet it was effective when I first watched it and it still is today.

Saw is certainly not perfect. Its price tag limitations show, but even that adds to the B movie vibe. Wan shows right away why he’s become the in demand filmmaker he is now. And this Saw remains a cut above most of what followed and rightfully has the reputation that precedes it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw II (2005)…

The Unholy Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is praying that horror fans turn out next weekend for The Unholy, a supernatural fright fest that will test the genre’s waters in these COVID-19 times. The film marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos and it comes under the banner of Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Jeffrey Dean Morgan leads a cast that includes Kate Aselton, William Sadler, and Cary Elwes.

In addition to competition from limited capacity seating in many venues, the attention of many moviegoers is likely to be focused on Godzilla vs. Kong (which is looking to achieve the largest post pandemic opening yet). Sony has been fairly lax in promoting this with a trailer out just earlier this month.

That said, horror fans often cause these exercises to outpace expectations and that’s certainly possible here. However, my hunch is that a $3-4 million start is where this lands.

The Unholy opening weekend prediction: $3.4 million

For my Godzilla vs. Kong prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/24/godzilla-vs-kong-box-office-prediction/

Black Christmas Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions looks to scare up some Yuletide bucks this season with Black Christmas, the second remake of the 1974 slasher cult hit. Shot for a reported miserly $5 million (par for the course for its low cost and high profit studio), Sophia Takal directs with a cast including Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, and Cary Elwes.

Turning a tidy profit should be no trouble for the horror title. This genre is rather underserved at the moment and one would think this should at least double its budget out of the gate. That said, the 2006 Black Christmas rustled up only $16 million in its whole domestic run.

With the Blumhouse marketing machine behind this one, however, I expect Christmas to get past double digits for a solid start, especially considering the budget.

Black Christmas opening weekend prediction: $12.1 million

For my Jumanji: The Next Level prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/04/jumanji-the-next-level-box-office-prediction/

For my Richard Jewell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/06/richard-jewell-box-office-prediction/

Throwback Review: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Shadow of the Vampire is high concept cinema in bizarre fashion. It’s not wholly successful in its execution as it struggles to fill the running time of the silent era features it clearly adores. The gimmick is clever on paper and effective occasionally on-screen… what if your lead vampire in your movie was an actual one?

In Steven Katz’s script, the picture happens to be the 1922 German classic Nosferatu. The people portrayed here are real. What happens with them is not. John Malkovich is director F.W. Murnau. He can’t get the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel so he simply changes the names and keeps the plot (that part is true and resulted in legal proceedings). His casting of Dracu…, or Nosferatu, is said to be unknown theater actor Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe). It’s explained that he’s severely Method in his approach. The cast and crew, which includes Eddie Izzard in the Jonathan Harker part and Catherine McCormack as Mina, just go with it. That is until disappearances and strange illnesses begin to occur. Murnau knows the real secret. Max isn’t acting at all and he’s made a grand and deadly bargain to nab his lead. In lots of movies about making movies, the studio brass or producers are the bloodsuckers. Not here.

The project is centered on just how far a filmmaker will go to make a masterpiece. And Murnau’s heart of darkness takes him down some pitch black roads (in real life he was said to be a swell guy). Portraying pomposity and madness is right up Malkovich’s sleeve and he did it far more memorably in Being John Malkovich.

Vampire belongs to Dafoe, unrecognizable except for those bulging eyes. Under his makeup, the actor is a joy to watch and is basically the reason this is worthwhile. E. Elias Merhige serves behind the camera here. He does excel at capturing the look of the pre talkies. Yet I never escaped a feeling that the idea behind all this seemed smarter in conception than realization.

Saw 10th Anniversary Box Office Prediction

It’s been ten years since Saw became a major cult hit that spawned six sequels and kick started the directorial career of James Wan. He would move onto The Conjuring and will soon helm the seventh Fast and Furious picture. Lionsgate is celebrating this milestone by re-releasing the original Saw in theaters for Halloween and hoping audiences make a return trip to the theater to watch Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, and Tobin Bell as Jigsaw.

There’s no doubt that the Halloween timing could help, but I’m rather skeptical crowds will turn out for a film they can easily cue up on cable or on their DVD/Blu Ray player. There is also horror competition with Ouija in its second weekend, even though that title is likely to suffer a large drop.

Rolling out on approximately 1850 screens, I’ll predict Saw fails to gross over $5M in its re-release and that many genre fans will stay at home.

Saw 10th Anniversary opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million

For my Nightcrawler prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/10/26/nightcrawler-box-office-prediction/

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

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/10/26/before-i-go-to-sleep-box-office-prediction/