The Boogeyman Box Office Prediction

20th Century Studios is hoping plenty of viewers will be creeped out by The Boogeyman on June 2nd. The PG-13 horror pic is based on a half century old short story by Stephen King with Rob Savage directing. Cast members include Sophie Thatcher (no relation that I’m aware of), Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, and David Dastmalchian.

Budgeted at just over $40 million, this was originally slated for a streaming premiere on Hulu. Encouraging test screenings changed the plan and now it’s being unveiled in approximately 3000 venues.

This genre has seen its share of successes as of late. There are two comps from 2022 that seem appropriate. The Black Phone was a summer release with some similar themes and based on a novel by King’s son Joe Hill. It started off with $23.6 million. Last fall’s Smile is similar in the sense that it was supposed to roll out on Paramount+ and the pattern was altered due to its positive audience scores. A $22.6 million debut was the result.

The Rotten Tomatoes score is 64%. While under the 83% of Phone and 79% from Smile, that’s just fine to keep the buzz decent. I can’t find a compelling reason why this wouldn’t hit the mid to high teens or low 20s as well.

The Boogeyman opening weekend prediction: $17.7 million

For my Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse prediction, click here:

Air Review

The corporate intrigue in the muted boardrooms of Ben Affleck’s Air unfolds in Beaverton, Oregon. That’s the headquarters of Nike as a select few proceeded to break the dam of sports marketing and fit it to what it is today. It happened during the loud (fashion and otherwise) decade of the 1980s as a 3rd pick rookie out of North Carolina sought a shoe deal.

Michael Jordan was that draftee in 1984 and his sneaker endorsement selection is assumed to be Adidas (Converse is the other market leader at the time). Nike, while pacing first in the market for running shoes, is third in hoops apparel. Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) is the marketing exec who sees the future in MJ and shoots for a deal that his colleagues have understandable skepticism about. They include CEO Phil Knight (Affleck), who ironically spends many a conversation sans footwear, VP Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and Howard White (Chris Tucker), who’s still with the company today. There’s also the matter of convincing the Jordan family and mom Deloris (Viola Davis) is a fierce yet fair negotiator. Sonny’s deliberations with Jordan’s agent David Falk (Chris Messina) are far more profane and a frequent highlight.

Of course we all know how this turns out whether you’ve laced up Air Jordans or not. Yet the story behind the shoe, complete with frequent needle drops from classic music of the era, is worth putting on. Affleck and screenwriter Alex Convery provide a sturdy structure for this goodwill tale of the hunt for Jordan’s contract signature.

The script’s most surprising decision is to sideline #23 himself. There is no actor cast as Jordan and he is seen only from behind or in archival footage. It turns out to be a wise play. For starters, he may simply be too iconic and someone playing him might’ve been a distraction. Most importantly, Air is about the eventual business of MJ and not the man himself. There’s a ten-part ESPN Films documentary, with its subject seemingly in control of that material, that still does an impressive job covering him. Keeping Jordan at arms length and as an enigma makes sense in the confines of the film’s aims.

The actors provide worthy assists. Standouts including Bateman (he’s got a great scene where he explains why he doesn’t want to lose his job if negotiations go south), Messina, and of course Davis. Close buddies Damon and Affleck, as we witnessed a quarter century ago, continue to have a snappy chemistry.

Air rises above being a trivial pursuit of a corporation fattening its bottom line. Yes, one could argue that’s the eventual outcome, but this deal also gave future athletes more skin in the game. It’s all packaged in a winning formula featuring the aura of the ultimate competitor.

***1/2 (out of four)

Air Box Office Prediction

Amazon Studios hope adults are going for a night on the town when Air debuts on Wednesday, April 5th. The fifth directorial feature from Ben Affleck recounts the risky decision by Nike to develop a shoe based around an NBA rookie named Michael Jordan. SPOILER: It turned out well. Ben’s Good Will Hunting cowriter Matt Damon, as salesman Sonny Vaccaro, joins his pal Affleck (who plays company cofounder Phil Knight). The ensemble cast includes Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Matthew Maher, and real life married couple Viola Davis and Julius Tennon as MJ’s parents.

Solid buzz greeted the project when it debuted at South by Southwest. Air sports a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score and it could even be an awards player several months down the road. Adult dramas have faced a tough road recently though A Man Called Otto was a 2023 bright spot in the genre.

The connection to MJ and the star power could give this a lift over the five-day Easter frame. Amazon chose to go full theatrical and not simultaneously release on their streaming service. That is a vote of confidence and TV ads have played frequently during March Madness (in addition to a Super Bowl slot).

Some parents with 80s nostalgia might be distracted taking their kiddos to The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Yet I’ll say this manages to top $10 million over the traditional three-day with mid to high teens for the extended holiday.

Air opening weekend prediction: $12.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $18.9 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my The Super Mario Bros. Movie prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions: Air

Air is the fifth feature directed by Ben Affleck and it closed out the South by Southwest festival this weekend prior to its April 5th theatrical release. The 1984 set sports drama focuses on Nike’s decision to make a shoe deal with an NBA rookie by the name of Michael Jordan. In addition to being behind the camera, Affleck costars as the company’s co-founder Phil Knight. The director’s buddy Matt Damon headlines as marketing exec Sonny Vaccaro with a supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, and real life married couple Viola Davis and Julius Tennon as MJ’s parents and chief negotiators. #23 himself is not played by an actor and appears only in archival footage.

Early reactions from Austin indicate that Air might be the first legit awards hopeful to be released on the ’23 calendar. Several of the reviews are outright raves with comparisons to Jerry Maguire and Moneyball (both nominated for Best Picture). If this hits with audiences (and indications are it’s a crowdpleaser), that only increases its chances to make the big dance.

Affleck, of course, was famously snubbed by the Academy in 2012 even though his second directorial effort Argo won Best Picture. He’s yet to be nominated for his filmmaking. However, three of his previous four pics (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo) achieved one or more mentions from Oscar voters. The one that didn’t was his last – 2016’s flop Live by Night.

It’s early, but the chances of Air garnering nominations is high. I don’t know if Affleck will get his first directing nod, but this already looks like it’s shooting for one of the ten slots in BP. The original screenplay by Alex Convery, cinematography from three-time winner Robert Richardson, and editing from William Goldenberg are all possibilities.

As for the cast, I’m curious to see category placement. Damon could be put in lead and vie for his fourth overall acting nom behind Good Will Hunting, Invictus, and The Martian. Amazon could also choose to campaign everyone in supporting. The other male performer drawing lots of attention is Chris Messina as MJ’s agent David Falk. Fresh off her EGOT, Viola Davis might have the best chance and it would be her fifth nom after Doubt, The Help, Fences (where she won), and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It might help that many felt she was just snubbed for The Woman King.

Bottom line: Air is a real contender in the game of Oscar and my prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: Call Jane

Based on a dozen reviews thus far out of Sundance, Phyllis Nagy’s Call Jane stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Focused on the real life Jane Collective from the 1960s (a group of women who fought for reproductive rights prior to Roe v Wade), Elizabeth Banks stars alongside Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Chris Messina.

While its rating is high, most reviews so far are in the three star range. Nagy makes her feature film debut after drawing acclaim for her Carol screenplay in 2015. Banks’s lead performance is drawing solid notices but it’s the supporting work from Weaver garnering a bit of buzz. Despite appearing in a whole lot of high profile pics over the decades, she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 1988. She was actually up twice that year – in lead for Gorillas in the Mist and supporting for Working Girl. Her first nod came two years prior for Aliens. She’s never won.

A campaign for Weaver could be Jane‘s only real shot at awards recognition a year from now. Time will tell and my Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Birds of Prey Review

By her own admission, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) becomes a slightly less terrible person in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). She was, of course, first seen in 2016’s Suicide Squad where Robbie’s psychiatrist turned psychotic fell in love with Jared Leto’s Joker. The Squad is nowhere to be found and neither is her clown in crime. Harley is newly single and drinking her sorrows away when the proceedings begin. Her recent separation means she’s a marked gal with no protection from her former bonkers beau.

With the Joker (rather inexplicably) missing in action, flamboyant crime lord with a penchant for peeling faces Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) is the head baddie in a picture filled with them. He’s in search of a diamond that contains codes to a massive fortune. Roman isn’t the only one. Helena Bertinelli aka The Huntress (or The Crossbow Killer) had her whole family killed for it and she’s hellbent on exacting revenge. Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is Roman’s conflicted driver whose superpower seems to be her singing skills. Then there’s Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a teenage pickpocket extraordinaire who boosts and then consumes the crown jewel. Her intestines become a sought after commodity.

Rosie Perez is Detective Montoya, who must deal with all these crazies while getting no credit from her male coworkers. That’s a running theme in Prey where the females do the heavy lifting and pulverizing while the dudes hold the power. With all these characters being introduced (and their many grievances with Harley literally spelled out onscreen), our main character occasionally feels like a supporting participant in her own stand-alone. This is especially true early on.

Robbie was a bright spot in the very uneven Suicide Squad. Robbie still displays her demented joy in this role. In many ways, Prey improves on Squad. First off, her new squad of friends is a tad more interesting and colorful. McGregor is a better main villain and the veteran thespian has a ball going for the gusto.

Director Cathy Yan and her tech team construct some looney violent set pieces that are intermittently effective. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that by the time we arrive at a theme park for the climax, Prey had become rather repetitive. The pic keeps its tone more consistent than Harley’s first big screen foray, but it’s one that can become tiresome. There are times when Birds flies close to being the vehicle Robbie deserves and it is certainly not terrible, but it stays a tad grounded in its own wacky reality.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: I Care a Lot

Six years ago, Rosamund Pike burst onto the Oscar scene with her revenge minded femme fatale in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Since then, it’s been quiet on the nomination front. There have been a smattering of pics designed to possibly get her back in the mix – A United Kingdom, A Private War, Radioactive. None have been able to do so.

Pike’s latest showcase is J Blakeson’s thriller I Care a Lot, which screened over the weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. It casts her as a sketchy legal guardian who gets mixed up with criminals. Costars include Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Chris Messina, and Dianne Wiest.

The few reviews out have resulted in a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, though some critics are more effusive than others. There is some talk that it’s Pike’s best performance since Gone Girl. Yet as I explained in my previous Oscar Watch post (regarding Naomi Watts in Penguin Bloom), Best Actress looks competitive in 2020. And like with Bloom, the distributor that picks Care up will need to mount a spirited campaign. It’s not impossible, but competition might be too steep for Pike to get noticed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Birds of Prey Box Office Prediction

When Margot Robbie walks the Oscar red carpet next Sunday evening as a Supporting Actress nominee for Bombshell, she will do so as an underdog in that category. On the bright side, it’s a near certainty that she’ll be starring in the #1 film in the United States. Robbie returns as DC Comics villain Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, her stand-alone continuation of her character first seen in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Cathy Yan directs with a supporting cast including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor.

Graced with the lengthy subtitle and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, the eighth pic in the DC Extended Universe is not expected to hit Suicide Squad numbers ($133 million opening weekend) or last fall’s Joker ($96.2 million). As for the latter, projections are putting it at around half that figure.

Prey should be assisted by the fact that Robbie had an impressive 2019. In addition to her Academy approved work in Bombshell, she costarred in Quentin Tarantino’s hit Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While the official Squad sequel won’t be ready until summer of 2021, Quinn was certainly regarded as one of the original’s bright spots.

As of now, the high end of estimates puts this in the mid 50s. I’m predicting it will achieve that and could even climber higher if positive buzz develops in the coming days.

Birds of Prey opening weekend prediction: $55.6 million