Today’s Daily Streaming Guide brings us a must watch for horror fans who like a little comedy and irreverence spliced in!
2012’s The Cabin in the Woods is streaming on Hulu. What begins as a seemingly run-of-the-mill scary pic about college students being terrorized in a cabin takes all kinds of unexpected and often humorous turns. The film is cowritten by Joss Whedon and a month after its release, he struck box office gold with the first Avengers. This is directed by his colleague Drew Goddard (making his debut) with a cast includes Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford doing sublime work, and genre legend Sigourney Weaver in a small yet pivotal role.
Cabin wasn’t a big hit at the multiplexes, but it’s deservedly achieved cult status since. I find it to be one of the wildly entertaining flicks of its kind in recent times.
You won’t need one of those neuralyzer doohickeys to forget MeninBlack: International, which extends the rust developed from part two of the franchise on. Will Smith has moved on from this series to dealing with aliens in Netflix pics and being the man in blue in Disney remakes. Tommy Lee Jones has retired as well. So the Marvel Cinematic duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok don the sunglasses in this reboot. Their chemistry was better with the MCU team and that movie had a funnier alien in the guise of Jeff Goldblum.
Hemsworth is the hunky Agent H, top operative at the U.K. MiB branch run by Liam Neeson’s High T. Thompson is essentially a fangirl of the super secretive force who’s been aware of their existence since childhood. She recruits herself to the suit and is assigned by Emma Thompson’s Agent O (reprising her MeninBlack3 part) to travel overseas and partner with her Thor. The plot involves stopping a nasty species that goes by the Hive. One of the baddies is an arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson that had an inter species love affair with H. Some of the other villains are kept secret for most of the running time, though you’ll see it coming from a galactic mile away. And there’s Kumail Nanjiani voicing the CG creation Pawny. He gets in a few mildly amusing lines.
F. Gary Gray has taken over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld and he doesn’t have to top a high bar of its predecessors. 1997’s original was a fun summer blockbuster melding science fiction and comedy with genuine chemistry from the two leads. I struggle to recall anything about the first sequel. #3 was a slight improvement if only for Josh Brolin’s uncanny impression of a young Tommy Lee Jones.
I doubt many have much of an affinity for this franchise beyond what came 22 years ago. And while International does indeed trot the globe from Paris to London and Morocco and New York to Italy, it mostly feels flat.
The Men in Black are back onscreen for the first time in seven years, but they look a lot different this time around. Subtitled International, this is a sequel/reboot of the franchise that ruled the summer 22 years ago. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are nowhere to be found. Instead it’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles with F. Gary Gray taking over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Liam Neeson, and Emma Thompson (reprising her role from 2012’s MIB3).
Despite its two stars being part of this season’s behemoth Avengers: Endgame, audiences might be skeptical to revisit a two decade old series that they identified with Smith (currently headlining the hit Aladdin). Comparing the opening grosses of the MIB trilogy that preceded it is tricky. All three opened over holiday weekends with the first two over July 4th and the third over Memorial Day weekend. Their traditional Friday to Sunday grosses were consistent in the low to mid 50s. When factoring in the extra holiday additions, parts one and two got into the 80s with #3 nearing $70 million. It’s worth mentioning that each entry earned less domestically overall than the previous one.
MeninBlack: International, holiday or no holiday, looks bound for the lowest premiere yet in the franchise. I’ll say low 30s.
MeninBlack: International opening weekend prediction: $30.7 million
**There’s really no way to write a review of Avengers: Endgame without some minor spoilers. You may wish to read this post viewing…
The word “epic” can be overused by those who review movies like me, but it unquestionably applies to Avengers: Endgame. It’s epic in its running time (none of the other 21 MCU pics run three hours) and epic in the number of well-known thespians reprising their superhero and villain characters. It doesn’t seem feasible that so many characters could manage to coexist in this vast universe without seeming like a gimmick. If you happen to think predecessor InfinityWar was overcrowded, you’ll get whiplash here. Truth be told, there are moments when this borders on playing like a greatest hits reel based on what’s preceded it during the last eleven years.
Yet Endgame figures out a rewarding way to stick the landing and honor the dozens of faces that we’ve spent billions of dollars visiting since 2008. At the conclusion of InfinityWar, bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) had collected his precious Infinity Stones and decimated half the intergalactic population into dramatic looking dust particles. What’s left is mostly the core of the OG Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). There’s others as Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is the sole surviving Guardian of the Galaxy. And we have the two notable characters that were MIA last summer – Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
One might think this whole saga might be about the original band and some newer friends taking on Thanos. You would be wrong. Endgame has plenty of time bending tricks up its endless story arch sleeves. The first is an unexpected resolution that comes very early. However, that climax is just a set-up to further complications.
This is indeed a time travel movie in which the screenwriters almost sheepishly concede the contrived nature of such a device. The survivors set upon a course of multiple back in time ways to retrieve the Stones and bring back their loved ones. It doesn’t happen overnight and the lengthy nature of the plan coming together provides funny and poignant moments. Tony is off the grid with his beloved Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a new addition. Bruce is in full Hulk mode, but kindler and gentler. Thor is rounder and drunkenly grappling with his losses. Hawkeye is a full-blown vigilante. When the gang revs up their figurative DeLoreans, it gives us a chance to revisit lots of MCU personnel. And it’s a LOT of former players. Some are genuinely surprising. During this lengthy stretch, the film walks a fine line of not devolving into nostalgic sugar shock amidst the action sequences. By the final act, it rises above it.
We know the battle scenes will be well choreographed and well-directed (with the Russo Brothers handling duties once again). The final one is rather jaw dropping with the mixing of so many known quantities. Thanos is one of the stronger villains in MCU history and he remains so here, though there’s nothing fresh to add about his character. His daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), on the other hand, continues her evolution as a fine addition to the roster.
The comic relief comes more from Thor as opposed to Ant-Man or Rocket and Hemsworth is up to the task. Captain America and Black Widow are given their emotional moments that we’re invested in from their backstories. To this writer, it’s Tony who’s always been the damaged beating heart of this franchise. The Marvel Cinematic Universe simply wouldn’t exist as it is without Downey Jr.’s brilliant work. That’s never changed. The quality of the movies he’s appeared in has. His performance has always been fantastic. If we’re ranking, I would put Endgame as an overall experience just under the first Avengers in 2012 and InfinityWar. I can’t promise that thinking about all the shifting time plot points might raise as many questions as answers. I won’t deny that its emotional payoff is real and we have Downey and an amazing group of technicians bringing these comics to life to thank for it.
Last year, Marvel’s BlackPanther 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 InfinityWar both received Visual Effects nods. Neither won. The middle child (2015’s AgeofUltron) got no love. Last year, Disney was undoubtedly more focused on getting BlackPanther 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…
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 InfinityWar 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
Director Drew Goddard follows up his cult hit The Cabin in the Woods next weekend with the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. Set at a novelty hotel in the late 1960s that occupies space in California and Nevada, the cast includes Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Cailee Spaeny, and Chris Hemsworth.
Early reviews for Royale have been mostly positive and it currently occupies a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Box office estimates I’ve seen have a wide range from low double digits to high ones.
While this is a project that cinephiles are excited for, I question whether this can break out with a mainstream audience. For starters, there’s competition in the form of the second weekend of Venom and A Star Is Born and the debut of First Man. Trailers and TV spots are a little murky as to what this is actually about. While there’s plenty of famous faces in the cast, I’m not sure any of them will help much in filling seats (even Thor himself).
Taking all that into account, I believe El Royale will premiere on the low-end of expectations and may even struggle to reach double digits.
Bad Times at the El Royale opening weekend prediction: $8 million