Spiral Box Office Prediction

The Saw franchise is back in theaters on May 14 and it hopes to take a solid financial cut of box office grosses. Spiral (subtitled From the Book of Saw) is the ninth installment of the slasher series that began in 2004 and it definitely looks different (although not in every way). There’s more star power than we have seen before in the reboot with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson leading the way. Other costars include Max Minghella and Marisol Nichols. This looks to be the first Saw pic without stalwart Tobin Bell (aka Jigsaw). Lionsgate did bring back a regular in the director’s chair with Darren Lynn Bousman, who made parts II-IV. That’s likely not an accident as that trio posted the biggest domestic grosses of the bunch.

Another shift is in the release strategy as this is the first Saw entry not premiering in October. That wasn’t always the case. Originally slated for October 2020, it was actually pushed up to May of last year. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic changed that plan. The reported $20 million production budget is actually listed as the highest thus far. Even with continued theatrical capacity limits, Spiral should have no trouble turning a profit.

The high mark opening weekend for the franchise is almost surely out of reach. Saw III holds that record with $33.6 million. A better question might be whether it gets the lowest start of the nine. That mark is held by 2009’s Saw VI at $14.1 million. Spiral, as just announced this week, is getting some competition trying to attract a similar audience. The Netflix zombie flick Army of the Dead from director Zack Snyder snagged deals with certain chains to put it on around 800 screens (my prediction for that one is coming soon).

Spiral will open on far more screens and should have no trouble debuting in first place (as five of the previous eight have done). I’m thinking this probably ends up in the range of its processor Jigsaw, which made $16.6 out of the gate.

Spiral opening weekend prediction: $16.1 million

For my Those Who Wish Me Dead prediction, click here:

Those Who Wish Me Dead Box Office Prediction

For my Army of the Dead prediction, click here:

Army of the Dead Box Office Prediction

For my Profile prediction, click here:

Profile Box Office Prediction

Summer 2010: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today on the blog, we come to the third and final replay of the cinematic summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts covering 1990 and 2000, you may find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/18/summer-1990-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/25/summer-2000-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.

As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!

10. The Other Guys

Domestic Gross: $119 million

The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.

9. The Last Airbender

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.

8. Grown Ups

Domestic Gross: $162 million

Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.

7. The Karate Kid

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.

6. Shrek Forever After

Domestic Gross: $238 million

Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.

5. Despicable Me

Domestic Gross: $251 million

At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.

4. Inception

Domestic Gross: $292 million

Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.

3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Domestic Gross: $300 million

2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.

2. Iron Man 2

Domestic Gross: $312 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.

1. Toy Story 3

Domestic Gross: $415 million

Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.

And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:

Salt

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.

The Expendables

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.

Eat Pray Love

Domestic Gross: $80 million

This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.

Dinner for Schmucks

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Domestic Gross: $31 million

There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.

The Kids Are All Right

Domestic Gross: $20 million

This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.

MacGruber

Domestic Gross: $8 million

Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.

Winter’s Bone

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook. 

And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:

Robin Hood

Domestic Gross: $105 million

With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.

Sex and the City 2

Domestic Gross: $95 million

The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Domestic Gross: $90 million

A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.

The A-Team

Domestic Gross: $77 million

A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.

Knight and Day

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.

Jonah Hex

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…

Dolemite Is My Name Movie Review

There are plentiful amounts of F bombs thrown out in Dolemite Is My Name. They are the kind that you associated with Eddie Murphy years ago. The F no longer stands for the family fare he starred in that bombed at the box office. Think Pluto Nash. Or Meet Dave. Or Imagine That. No, this belongs in a small sub genre of pictures where some of the players here have had involvement before. Dolemite tells the true story of a man breaking into the movie business with wide eyed spirit and contagious tenacity. The quality of the material produced is secondary.

Murphy is Rudy Ray Moore, who’s working at a record shop in L.A. when we begin. He has dreams of stardom, but the general consensus is that his time has passed. Rudy just won’t let that happen as he develops a comic persona that is one part rhyming (he ended up being a huge influence in the hip hop community), one part glorious 70s outfits of the era, and all parts raunchy as hell.

He achieves success in the underground comedy world where his records sell, but a screening of the Billy Wilder pic The Front Page gives him another idea. Rudy doesn’t see humorous material on the screen for the black audience and he’s going to be the one to give it to them. Obtaining financing (even at the height of the blaxploitation genre) is next to impossible so he’s creative in his methods.

Surrounding Rudy is a colorful (especially the clothes) and eclectic group of collaborators who aren’t entirely sure what they’ve gotten themselves into. They include actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes, having a ball). He never fails to remind others that he had a big part in Rosemary’s Baby and only joins the picture when he’s allowed to direct. Keegan-Michael Key is the screenwriter who thinks he’s making the kind of serious drama he writes for the stage. When kung fu and set shattering sex scenes take precedence, that notion is dispelled. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a scene stealer as Lady Reed, Rudy’s stand-up partner plucked out of a Southern bar.

Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander have travelled this road before with Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Murphy gave one of his finest performances 20 years ago in Bowfinger, where his costar Steve Martin was a director with unbridled and naive enthusiasm. The Disaster Artist with James Franco mined similar territory. So while Dolemite does feel familiar in its beats, it has its own brand of passion for its unlikely star.

We have the headliner to thank for it. This is Live From Netflix and is indeed Eddie Murphy’s show. The performer seems more inspired than he has in some time. It might help if you’re a Dolemite devotee (Murphy and many of the cast members are). Yet this is an entertaining watch either way as we watch a legend in his element.

***1/2 (out of four)

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…

The Superman We Never Saw

When you’ve got yourself a documentary about a major Hollywood production that never ended up being made and its director Tim Burton isn’t the most eccentric individual being interviewed, you’re probably in for something fascinating. And so it is with The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, which tells the tale of why Burton’s proposed reimagining of the Man of Steel never made it to the screen.

The more eccentric character is by far Jon Peters, the mega producer who had successfully worked with Burton to bring Batman to the masses in 1989. The two were deep into pre-production on the late 1990s Superman Lives project before the plug was pulled and some of this doc’s greatest moments involve Peters being interviewed and, even more so, other people talking about him. Peters started out as Barbara Streisand’s hairdresser before becoming a major producing player. We hear tales of Peters’ insistence on having a giant spider featured in the film, his preference on having scripts read to him while he lays on the couch, his proclivity for putting employees in headlocks and trying out his jiu jitsu moves on underlings.

There’s a lot more to the story of how Superman Lives died and director/writer Jon Schnepp explores it in great detail here. This documentary has had its own difficult history in finally being released and it was partly funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The Supes reboot went through three screenwriters during its gestation: Kevin Smith at first, who brought his comic book geek sensibility before being jettisoned by Warner Bros brass, Peters, and Burton; Wesley Strick, who would eventually suffer the same fate; and its final writer Dan Gilroy, who would go onto direct my favorite pic of last year, Nightcrawler. Nicolas Cage was to star in the title role and there’s even fascinating footage of him trying on the iconic Superman costume, which the doc spends a lot of time talking delving into. In the late 1990s, Cage seemed like a fairly logical choice as he was coming off an Oscar for 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas and headlining A list action projects like The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off.  In other words, it was a few years prior to Cage seemingly accepting every single script that came his way. Other casting choices are discussed, including Sandra Bullock as Lois Lane, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen, Christopher Walken as Brainiac, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor (that actor would go onto play him in 2006’s Superman Returns).

What emerges from the documentary is a film about a film never made (it was three weeks away from shooting) that probably would’ve been something to behold. Would it have been good? Hard to say. The two subsequent Superman reboots that would follow years later (the aforementioned Superman Returns and 2013’s Man of Steel) were both rather disappointing in my view and many comic book lovers felt the same way. Burton’s track record over the last quarter century has been hit and miss. While his take on Batman was a rousing success, his “reimagining” of Planet of the Apes in 2001 left much to be desired. What’s clear is that it would have been a much different Superman than we’ve ever seen and would have looked a whole lot different (the long portions about its production design are quite intriguing).

One important through line that runs in the doc is the fact that Superman Lives was by no means guaranteed massive success in the late 1990s. We must remember that it wasn’t until the turn of the century that 2000’s X-Men truly helped usher in the golden age of comic book flicks that we’ve seen steadily over the last 15 years. When this project was gestating, 1997’s Batman and Robin had essentially killed that Caped Crusader franchise until Chris Nolan brought it back to life eight years later. Warner Bros. was nervous about a similar fate for Burton’s new project. Ironically, it was Batman and Robin director Joel Schumacher who killed Burton’s Batman series and helped pump the brakes on Burton’s budding Superman picture.

For comic book lovers, The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? will be a treasure trove of intel on why this project never saw the light of day. Yet for movie fans in general, it provides key insight into how movies are made… and how some aren’t made. And how its possibly crazy main producer was obsessed with spiders and jui jitsu.

Top Five Movie Review

Top Five showcases the work of an exceptionally brilliant stand up comedian who at last comes into his own on the silver screen. It took some time, but this is one solid payoff. Chris Rock’s greatest work in his quarter century of fame has always been created by him in the form what he’s accomplished on stage holding a mic. Not on SNL, where he was never used properly. Not in movies, which included him doing watered down bits of his act in the fourth Lethal Weapon and trying to fit into an action comedy with Anthony Hopkins. Even pictures he wrote himself, like the Heaven Can Wait remake Down to Earth and political satire Head of State, contained only glimpses of the edge and wit the star brought to a stage.

So it fits that Rock’s character here, Andre Allen, is a once revered comedian whose once hot film career has stalled. Allen has decided to take on more serious roles and nobody’s buying. They want to see him return for a fourth edition of his Hammy the Bear franchise, which casts him as a wisecracking cop in a bear suit. With no future Hammys on the horizon and a dud of a drama about Haitian slavery called Uprize about to debut, Andre’s life is garnering more attention for his impending nuptials to a reality TV star (Gabrielle Union). Their engagement and marriage is, of course, being shot as its own BRAVO series.

The picture takes place in the time span of one day, as Andre is being tailed by New York Times reporter Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) for a feature piece. She’s not your average interviewer and she manages to ask some probing questions to the actor that are more important than “Were you the class clown?” (though she asks that too). Soon the two are embroiled in occasionally deep and often very humorous discussions on their mutual addictions to alcohol, relationships, family, and fame. And we see Chelsea perhaps spark something in a performer who’s seemingly lost his creative way.

For Top Five to arrive not long after Rock made Grown Ups 2 causes me to wonder if he needed to make this. This is the freshest, most insightful and energetic and likely personal tale he’s ever commited to other than his stand up routine. There are genuine belly laughs yet its shift to a more serious tone in the second half works because the central characters are well developed. His chemistry with Dawson works and her performance is terrific, too.

While most of the action centers on the two leads, Top Five is jam packed with familiar faces from Kevin Hart to Tracy Morgan to Cedric the Entertainer. There are some cameos from unexpected celebs that are too good to spoil. Perhaps the best supporting character is JB Smoove as Andre’s barely needed bodyguard, who eventually really does come in handy.

The only minor quibble here is Hammy the Bear. It might’ve been a smarter move for writer/director Rock to make Andre have a similar film career to his real one. The Hammy thing is, well, kind of hammy and unnecessarily over the top silly in a screenplay that mostly avoids it.

Top Five is about an artist trying to rediscover what makes him special. We’ve always known Chris Rock is a force onstage. This is the first time he’s come darn close to greatness in this format.

***1/2 (out of four)

Top Five Box Office Prediction

Chris Rock is back in headlining mode as Top Five enters theaters this Friday. The acclaimed comedian wrote and directed the comedy and he stars as well. The supporting cast includes Gabrielle Union, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, and Cedric the Entertainer.

Top Five has garnered the approval of the critical community and it stands at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. As for Rock, he’s been in supporting mode for the greater part of this decade as he played second fiddle to Adam Sandler and others in the Grown Ups series. Prior to that, he’s seen some decent successes with solo ventures including Down to Earth and Head of State.

Positive word of mouth and reviews should help Top Five open to a solid start. What will limit it is the fact that it’s debuting on a relatively low 975 screens. It should still manage to surpass double digits out of the gate.

Top Five opening weekend prediction: $11.6 million

For my Exodus: Gods and Kings prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/12/06/exodus-gods-and-kings-box-office-prediction/

This Day in Movie History: February 7

11 years ago Today in Movie History – February 7 – Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey’s romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days debuted in theaters. The pic earned an impressive $23.7 million opening weekend to top the charts and wound up with $105 million domestically. While Hudson’s career has been a little quiet lately, McConaughey is currently the frontrunner to win Best Actor at the Oscars for Dallas Buyers Club.

As for birthdays, Chris Rock is 49 today. The “SNL” alum and brilliant stand-up comic first got on the radar screens of moviegoers with his dramatic turn as drug-addicted Pookie in 1991’s New Jack City. Later, Rock would parlay his stand-up success to starring in films that include Lethal Weapon 4, Head of State, The Longest Yard, and the two Grown Ups flicks.

Ashton Kutcher is 36 today. His TV work made him a star with “That 70s Show” and later on MTV’s “Punk’d”. His film career would get into gear with surprise hit Dude, Where’s My Car?. Other notables pictures include Just Married, The Butterfly Effect, Guess Who, What Happens in Vegas, No Strings Attached, and last year’s Jobs.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:

Chris Rock was in Head of State with Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac was in Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher

And that’s today – February 7 – in Movie History!