Oscar Watch: Wild Mountain Thyme

Despite a number of critically praised lead and supporting roles, Emily Blunt has yet to break through with Oscar voters. That certainly makes her one of the most high profile actresses yet to get a nomination. Other awards shows and critics groups (including SAG and the Globes) have feted her in pics including The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario, Into the Woods, The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place, and Mary Poppins Returns.

Her time probably isn’t far off, but it doesn’t sound as if she’ll get there with Wild Mountain Thyme. The romcom set in Ireland is slated for release this weekend. It comes from director John Patrick Shanley (adapting his own play) and he was on the radar screen of the Academy over three decades ago with Moonstruck, in which he won Best Original Screenplay. Costars here include Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, and Christopher Walken.

The reviews out today are on the negative side and it currently sports just a 33% Rotten Tomatoes score. Simply put, any Oscar attention is highly unlikely to materialize. On the other hand, the Hollywood Foreign Press has nominated Blunt six times. If distributor Bleecker Street mounts a spirited campaign for her in the Musical/Comedy category, I wouldn’t count her out for inclusion. The Academy is a totally different story. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

James Bond: An Oscar History

Of the six actors to have played the most famous spy in cinematic history, only one of them has ever been nominated for an Oscar. That would be, of course, Sean Connery and he was victorious in 1987 for his supporting work in The Untouchables. It is worth noting that the last two Bonds (Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) have Golden Globes nods in the Musical/Comedy category for The Matador and Knives Out, respectively.

With the recent death of Sir Connery, this got me thinking… how many actors from the nearly 60 year old franchise have been recognized by the Academy? And how much Oscar attention has the series itself received? For the first question, it was rather limited until Craig took over the role. For the second question, 9 out of the 24 official 007 entries have managed to get on awards voters radar screens. So let’s break it down, shall we?

Goldfinger (1964) was the third feature in the franchise and it marked the first nomination and win for the Bond catalogue. The pic took the Best Sound Effects trophy. One year later, Thunderball won for its Visual Effects. Connery’s final official appearance in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever resulted in a nod for its sound.

When Roger Moore took over the part, his debut saw the first theme song nominated courtesy of Paul McCartney’s title track to 1973’s Live and Let Die. There would also be song nods for both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and For Your Eyes Only in 1981. Spy would mark the first Bond flick to score multiple mentions with its score and art direction. And Moore’s 1979 space opus Moonraker was nominated for its visual effects.

George Lazenby’s one-off appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Timothy Dalton’s two 1980s pictures, and the 1990s-early 2000s four film Pierce Brosnan run yielded zero Oscar mentions. Same goes for Craig’s first two outings Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. 

So it had been over 30 years since a Bond adventure had been recognized on Oscar night when 2012’s Skyfall landed a franchise record 5 nominations. It won two with Adele’s theme song and its sound editing. The other nods were Score, Sound Mixing, and Cinematography. The song love would continue with 2015’s Spectre when Sam Smith won for his tune.

Add that up and we have 15 total nominations for the series and 5 wins.

We move to the thespians and their fortune at the big show. As mentioned, before the recent run of Craig titles, it was a bit limited. In fact, the number of actors who are Oscar nominees from the Craig run nearly equals everything that came before it. Giancarlo Giannini appeared in Casino and Quantum and he was a Best Actor nominee in 1975 for Seven Beauties. Ralph Fiennes (otherwise known as M) is a double nominee for Schindler’s List and The English Patient. Naomie Harris (or Moneypenny) achieved a Supporting Actress mention for 2016’s Moonlight. Albert Finney showed up in Skyfall and he was nominated five times in his long career. Craig’s original “M” was Judi Dench and she dates back to the Brosnan era. She’s a one-time winner with 6 other nominations.

That’s just the good guys. In the Craig era, the villains come with serious awards cred. Javier Bardem from Skyfall had taken Supporting Actor five years earlier in No Country for Old Men and is a two-time Best Actor nominee for Before Nights Falls and Biutiful. Christoph Waltz (Spectre) is a double Supporting Actor winner with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. And the next pic – the oft delayed No Time to Die – has Rami Malek as its main baddie. In 2018, he gave his acceptance speech for Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Going back to the beginning, From Russia with Love featured Lotte Lenye (a 1961 nominee for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) and Robert Shaw (nominated three years after Russia for A Man for All Seasons). And that’s actually the extent of performers from the Connery era nominated for Oscars… sort of. The legend did return to the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, though it is not considered part of the “official” catalogue. It does boast three Academy players with Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa), Max Von Sydow (Pelle the Conquerer and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and Kim Basinger (Supporting Actress recipient for 1997’s L.A. Confidential).

Telly Savalas costarred with Lazenby in Secret Service and he was nominated seven years earlier for his work in Birdman of Alcatraz. In the Moore era, there’s just Topol. He’s best known his nominated work in Fiddler on the Roof and he costarred in For Your Eyes Only. In the Dalton double feature, we have Benicio del Toro as he was a henchman in Licence to Kill. Over a decade later, he would win Supporting Actor for Traffic and get another nod for 21 Grams. Things picked up a bit with Brosnan. In addition to Dench, a trio of actresses were on their way or had already achieved nominations. Halle Berry co-headlined Die Another Day one year after winning Actress for Monster’s Ball. Minnie Driver had a small role in Goldeneye and would have her breakout part (along with Supporting Actress inclusion) two years later with Good Will Hunting. And Rosamund Pike was also in Die Another Day a decade plus before her Actress nod for Gone Girl. 

A final word. Not one of the 24 released 007 features has achieved any acting, directing, writing, or picture nominations of its own. Skyfall probably came the closest as some prognosticators wondered whether it could be the first to nab a Picture nod. It didn’t materialize, but its five nominations indicate it might have come the closest. Indeed, Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has seen him costar with the most Academy friendly costars. Let’s see if the next performer to play the iconic spy gets to act alongside that same kind of pedigree.

The War with Grandpa Box Office Prediction

My box office predictions have been in a dormancy stage as chains struggle to obtain new product in these COVID times. It picks up again next weekend with the release of The War with Grandpa as uncertainty continues with the financial viability for theatrical releases.

This comedy starring Robert De Niro has had a checkered history even before the virus. Shot in 2017, it was originally scheduled for a 2018 debut. However, its original distributor was The Weinstein Company and the release was shelved due to the high profile legal troubles of its founder. 101 Studios eventually picked it up and here we are.

Tim Hill directs and he’s mostly known for kid friendly and animated fare such as Alvin and the Chipmunks and this year’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. Costars include Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Rob Riggle, Oakes Fegley, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour.

When Tenet underperformed stateside in July, it set off a wave of delays. That includes just this week as No Time to Die experienced another push (this time to Easter 2021). Simply put, audiences have yet to develop a comfort level with a return to multiplexes.

Don’t look for Grandpa to change that. The film’s trailer was greeted with some eye rolling as this looks like a return to De Niro comedic mediocrity (just months after a more acclaimed turn in The Irishman). The Coronavirus questions persist: how many venues will this actually play in? This is even more of an issue now that Regal Cinemas has announced the closure of over 500 theaters. Amidst all of this, I believe Grandpa will struggle to hit $2 million for a quiet start.

The War with Grandpa opening weekend prediction: $1.9 million

Father Figures Box Office Prediction

Looking to tickle the funny bones of audiences over the long holiday weekend, Father Figures debuts next Friday. The pic casts Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as brothers searching for their biological pops after mom Glenn Close informs them it could be several men. J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, and Terry Bradshaw (playing himself) are among them. Katt Williams, June Squibb, and Harry Shearer are included in the supporting cast with Lawrence Sher directing.

Originally titled Bastards, the comedy was originally slated by Warner Bros. for a November 2016 opening before a delay until January 2017 and finally this Christmastime release. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence with the multiple push backs.

Figures has plenty of competition and of the five wide releases premiering over the weekend, it will likely place fifth among them. Its best hope would be to replicate what Why Him? (last year’s Christmas entry in the genre) did with $15.5 million over the four-day frame.

That could be wishful thinking. I’ll predict this only reaches high single digits to low double digits for its roll out.

Father Figures opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my Pitch Perfect 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/pitch-perfect-3-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Downsizing prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/13/downsizing-box-office-prediction/

Summer 2007: The Top 10 Hits and More

Well it’s Throwback Thursday and I’m giving you the culmination of my three-part series recounting the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago. We’ve already gone back to memory lane in 1987 and 1997. If you missed either of those posts, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/04/summer-1997-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

That means I’m traveling back a decade ago to 2007 and it’s a summer where threequels were majorly in vogue, accounting for four of the top six grossing pictures. Sequels were pervasive in general in this particular season and it was a breakout summer for one Seth Rogen.

As I have with these previous entries, I’ll count down the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. Rush Hour 3

Domestic Gross: $140 million

The third and final pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in this action comedy franchise is our first threequel on the list. It fell a steep $86 million short of what Rush Hour 2 accomplished six seasons earlier.

9. Knocked Up

Domestic Gross: $148 million

The comedic summer breakout continued Judd Apatow’s hit streak after The 40 Yr. Old Virgin from two previous summers and gave Seth Rogen his first big leading role. Katherine Heigl may have inexplicably trash talked it later, but audiences disagreed.

8. The Simpsons Movie

Domestic Gross: $183 million

Arriving nearly two decades after the still going FOX animated series debut, The Simpsons Movie surpassed all expectations with its gargantuan gross. Just last month, producers announced there’s been traction on a planned sequel.

7. Ratatouille

Domestic Gross: $206 million

Our second animated entry comes from the Pixar conglomerate. The critically hailed rat tale actually experienced one of the lowest openings for Pixar, but it still managed to top $200 million and its reputation has only grown.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Matt Damon’s third go-round as the title character is still the highest grossing entry of the franchise and the only to pass $200 million. The star returned to the series just last summer.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Domestic Gross: $292 million

The fifth installment of the $2 billion plus franchise marks the first one directed by David Yates, who would make the following three pics as well. It stands #5 of the 8 Potter pics in domestic gross.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Domestic Gross: $309 million

The third Pirates flick is when critics really started to turn on the series. Getting past $300 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it is nearly $115 million lower than its predecessor Dead Man’s Chest just one summer before.

3. Transformers

Domestic Gross: $319 million

Michael Bay’s bot series started a decade ago and it’s still going. The original ranks third of the five in grosses as its two sequels topped it, but the last two have fallen under it.

2. Shrek the Third

Domestic Gross: $322 million

Much like Pirates, this is when reviewers started to sour on this series. It was still chugging along, but it did fall $120 million below Shrek 2.

1. Spider-Man 3

Domestic Gross: $336 million

Anyone noticing a pattern here? Once again – a third franchise entry where critics started sharpening their knives. This end to the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy was considered a big letdown in quality, yet it still topped the summer while earning less than its two predecessors.

And now for some other notable pictures of summer 2007:

Live Free or Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $134 million

From a pure numbers standpoint, it’s the highest grossing pic to feature Bruce Willis in his signature role of John McClane (though that changes when adjusting for inflation). From a pure entertainment standpoint, the decision to make this the only PG-13 Die Hard film was a bit puzzling.

Superbad

Domestic Gross: $121 million

Mr. Rogen’s big summer kept rolling along with this acclaimed comedy in which he costarred and co-wrote. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and McLovin became household names due to this.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Before his movies moved to Netflix, Adam Sandler could still crank out $100M+ earners just a decade ago, even if it was this stale comedy co-starring Kevin James.

Hairspray

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Based on both the John Waters 1988 pic and the Broadway musical that followed it, Hairspray featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken performed above expectations.

Ocean’s Thirteen

Domestic Gross: $117 million

Worth mentioning because it’s yet another threequel that couldn’t quite match the grosses of the first two. An all female version of the Ocean’s franchise is soon coming to a theater near you.

Once

Domestic Gross: $9 million

That may be appear to a small gross, but this little Irish romantic musical came out of nowhere stateside and has achieved a devoted following. It’s even been adapted into a Broadway play.

And now for some of the flops of summer 2007:

Evan Almighty

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Yes, it may have crossed the century mark, but this spin-off of 2003’s Bruce Almighty was considered the flop of the season. Starring Steve Carell fresh off the acclaimed 40 Yr. Old Virgin, this family feature came with a reported $175 million budget. Audiences and critics weren’t impressed.

Stardust

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This fantasy flick with Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer only earned a bit more than half its $70 million budget domestically. However, director Matthew Vaughn has bounced back in a significant way with Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. 

The Invasion

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, bad reviews sunk this pic that featured Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, fresh off his heralded debut as James Bond.

I Know Who Killed Me

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Lindsay Lohan was a long way from Freaky Friday and Mean Girls with this panned psychological thriller that featured the starlet as a stripper. Audiences turned away.

And that does it, folks! You can rest assure you’ll see summer posts recounting 1988, 1998, and 2008 in a year’s time…

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Nearly four decades after Disney told the tale of Mowgli’s adventures in animated form, the studio continues its retellings of their catalogue in mostly CG form with The Jungle Book. The result is a satisfying effort that doesn’t reach the level of a true classic – just as the 1967 effort didn’t either. Still, it’s an unquestionable triumph of what technology can accomplish these days. In an age where talking animals have stampeded multiplexes, these ones look pretty darn amazing.

Jon Favreau has been tasked with bringing back Mowgli (Neel Sethi in an adequate child performance) and his story of being raised in the jungle. He’s part of a wolf pack that has nothing to do with Zach Galifianakis as he’s actually been raised by wolves. There’s also his panther mentor Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) who encourages our young protagonist to find others like him (you know, people) after his life is threatened by the fierce tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba, enunciating menace expertly).

This, of course, sets our hero off on an adventure where he comes into contact with many of the inhabitants of the vast wild lands he calls home. He partners up with honey grubbing bear Baloo (Bill Murray), has a frightening encounter with snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), and is taunted by apish thug King Louie (Christopher Walken).

The voiceover casting here is impeccable and adds a lot to these proceedings. Song and dance man Walker gets a solo take on “I Wan’na Be Like You” and “The Bare Necessities” is figured in. Truthfully, the musical numbers seem a little tacked on, but they’re not around long enough to really complain about. Plus the kids should dig them.

The Jungle Book and its message of the dangers of man vs. wild is a familiar one, but we’ve yet to witness it with special effects like these. We are aware Mowgli and the boy playing him probably spent months in front of a green screen. However, we forget it quickly with these ultra photo realistic creatures in front of us and their well cast actors voicing them. This is the biggest accomplishment that Favreau and his team pull off and it’s certainly enough to make this a worthy addition to the Mouse Factory’s long list of verbal beast experiences.

*** (out of four)

Nine Lives Box Office Prediction

Next weekend, the family comedy Nine Lives attempts to answer important queries such as…

Did Kevin Spacey lose or a bet or something?!?!?

The pic casts the two time Oscar winner and star of the acclaimed “House of Cards” as a rich businessman who experiences an accident that traps him into the body of a cat…

No seriously. What does distributor EuropaCorp have on Spacey??? 

Costars include Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken and directorial duties are handled by Barry Sonnenfeld (who’s had his share of hits with the Men in Black and Addams Family franchises)…

For that matter, what is Sonnenfeld doing directing this??? I mean, he did Wild Wild West, but still…

Who knows? Maybe Nine Lives will turn out to be a classic family comedy, but it sure doesn’t look like it judging from the trailer, which I thought might be a Funny or Die spoof or something when I first viewed it…

Mr. Spacey – if you’re doing this movie against your will, send us a signal or something…

I’ll predict this makes about a million bucks or so for each life in the title and decent odds that President Underwood spends conversations int the future trying to live it down.

Nine Lives opening weekend prediction: $9.8 million

For my Suicide Squad prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/26/suicide-squad-box-office-prediction/

For an explanation of why Kevin Spacey is in this movie, I got nothing…

The Jungle Book Box Office Prediction

For the past month, Disney’s mega-hit Zootopia has cornered the family market and stampeded to a current gross of over $275 million. The next kiddie friendly blockbuster looks to be the studio’s own The Jungle Book, which swings into theaters next weekend.

From Iron Man director Jon Favreau, this animal tale remakes Disney’s 1967 animated pic based on Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated works. It also continues their recent trend (Maleficent, Cinderella) of live action remaking titles from their storied past. Book casts newcomer Neel Sethi as young Mowgli with lots of familiar faces voicing the creatures. That list includes Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Lupita N’Yongo.

As I see it, The Jungle Book appears primed for a terrific opening in range with the aforementioned Mouse Factory products. 2014’s Maleficent debuted to $69 million. Last year’s Cinderella premiered with $67 million. Their respective domestic hauls were $241M and $201M. Interestingly, just today, Warner Bros own Jungle Book remake (directed by Andy Serkis) has been pushed from 2017 to 2018.

Boasting a current 100% Rotten Tomatoes score should only further positive word of mouth. I believe this could potentially top the remakes that came before it and exceed $70 million.

The Jungle Book opening weekend prediction: $74.6 million

For my Barbershop: The Next Cut prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/06/barbershop-the-next-cut-box-office-prediction/

For my Criminal prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/06/criminal-box-office-prediction/

Eddie the Eagle Box Office Prediction

Olympic sports tale Eddie the Eagle debuts next weekend, which recounts the true story of the first Brit to participate in the ski jump competition at the 1988 games. The inspirational pic features Taron Egerton in the title role with Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken among the supporting cast.

Eagle has garnered mostly positive notices, as it currently stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Trailers and TV spots have been decent, but I’m not sure this subject matter will break through in any significant way for Lionsgate. It could, however, do more brisk business in the U.K. I believe this will just manage to debut in double digits, which will probably give it a bronze medal behind Deadpool and Gods of Egypt.

Eddie the Eagle opening weekend prediction: $11.2 million

For my Gods of Egypt prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/02/18/gods-of-egypt-box-office-prediction/

For my Triple 9 prediction, click here:

Triple 9 Box Office Prediction

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.