Oscar Watch: Dolemite Is My Name

Ahead of its October 25 Netflix release, Dolemite Is My Name introduced itself to critics this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Seen as a comeback role for Eddie Murphy, early reviews suggest it’s just that. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who was instrumental to ushering in the blaxploitation genre of the 1970s with his title character. Craig Brewer, best known for helming Hustle & Flow, directs with a supporting cast including Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg, and T.I.

In 2006, Eddie was seen as the front runner in Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls. He was upset by Alan Arkin’s work in Little Miss Sunshine. This has been eyed as his first chance at Academy attention since. The issue could be significant competition in a Best Actor derby that appears stacked already.

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote the original screenplay and they’ve specialized in highlighting colorful entertainment figures in Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. Once again, they could face trouble nabbing nods as that writing race is jam packed.

So while Dolemite should succeed in garnering the kind of praise its star hasn’t seen for some time, awards chatter might be elusive. There could be one noteworthy exception. Ruth Carter’s costume design has been noted in numerous write ups. Just last year, she became the first African-American to win that category for Black Panther. She could find herself in the mix again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Sausage Party Movie Review

The comedic team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (they were childhood friends) was first witnessed by mass audiences in 2007’s inspired Superbad. That pic was conceived by the duo when they were young and that teen spirit infused it with a refreshing authenticity. Their cinematic marriage has since shown their fondness for raunchiness and weed. Nothing has quite hit the effectiveness of their first collaboration. Some have come pretty darn close (Pineapple Express, This is the End) while others have come up a bit shorter (The Watch, The Interview, The Night Before). Most of their works have performed well or at least decently at the box office (The Watch is a notable exception) and Sausage Party is the kind of movie you get to make when studios let you do whatever you want. It ends up on the higher scale of their work.

Party gives us the rare instance of a truly R rated animated flick. Rogen and Goldberg’s affection for vulgarity is on full display and one suspects it was green stuff other than money that may have assisted in coming up with the concept. Here it is: the food and products in your local grocery store are alive and blissfully unaware of what happens to them after they walk out of the sliding doors. Rogen’s Frank is a sausage and Kristin Wiig’s Brenda is a bun and they’ve been waiting to connect once they break out of their respective packages. In their understanding, this will occur once they’re purchased by the Gods (who are actually just your everyday consumers) and enter the Great Beyond outside of Shopwell’s.

A returned jar of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride) tries to warn his market friends of what lies ahead when their dream of freedom is met. Many are skeptical and what’s often most surprising about Sausage Party is its allegorical themes pertaining to religion and sex with some expected drug humor thrown in. It’s also chock full of bad puns (some quite hilarious) and plenty of the living products representing their stereotypes. The most obvious and amusing example? The villain of the establishment (voiced by Nick Kroll) is literally a Douche. We also have Sammy the Bagel, giving Edward Norton a chance to be funny and essentially do a Woody Allen impersonation and his ex-girlfriend Salma Hayek coming out of her shell as Theresa del Taco.

As mentioned, Goldberg and Rogen are free to do what they want here and Sausage Party does have plenty of uproariously inappropriate moments. There are also times when their out there idea is funnier in concept than actual execution. Additionally, the final gag practically begs for a post-credits sequence that never materializes. Still, at a brisk 88 minutes, this Party is fresh enough for consumption of its creators fans.

*** (out of four)

Sausage Party Box Office Prediction

It’s a banner year for animated movies at the box office (excluding the freezing out of Ice Age: Collision Course), yet a very different one opens next weekend with Sausage Party. The 3D animated flick comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and it is definitely not meant for the little ones.

Supermarket produce comes to life in the very hard R comedy that features a whole lotta familiar voices other than Mr. Rogen’s. They include Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. Made for a quite reasonable $30 million, this has been a passion project for Rogen and company and took years to get produced. Early reviews have been strong – it holds a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes (no word yet on whether actual rotten tomatoes are featured in this).

If there’s one genre where not a whole lot of data exists – adult animated pics would be one of them. 1996’s Beavis and Butthead Do America opened to $20.1 million and 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut earned $11.3 million. Word of mouth could certainly help here but in the end, I envision this performing similarly to some other Rogen features. This is The End earned $20.7 million in its initial weekend and this summer’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising disappointed with $21.7 million. That seems like a reasonable range for this Party and I’ll put it at just below $20M.

Sausage Party opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Pete’s Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/petes-dragon-box-office-prediction/

For my Florence Foster Jenkins prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/florence-foster-jenkins-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Zootopia and Sausage Party

Two wildly different 2016 animated features could both find themselves in the Best Animated Feature category come Oscar time next year.

The first is Disney’s Zootopia, which has ruled the box office kingdom for the last two weeks and looks to reach an eventual gross of $275-$300 million domestically. With a fantastic 99% Rotten Tomatoes score and bragging rights for being the biggest opener of all time for a traditionally animated tale, there is little doubt it will be among the five nominees. It could even win, though its biggest competitor might be Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory, which is out this summer.

Our second possibility is Sausage Party, which screened in a rough cut at the South by Southwest Festival last night. Billed as the first hard R rated CG flick, Party comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg. In addition to Mr. Rogen, featured voices include Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. It’s not out until August, but word of mouth from the festival is strong and this looks to be a potential sleeper hit come summer. This isn’t your typical animated material that the Academy would recognize, but it might be tough for them to ignore.

We’ll see how this race plays out as more competition is released in the coming months, but we may already have a couple of major possibilities in the mix.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Box Office Prediction

Nearly five years after the original turned into a somewhat minor cult classic, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 hits theaters this Friday and will attempt to at least make what its predecessor accomplished in 2010.

The R rated sequel was supposed to come out this past Christmas, but the studio pushed it to a less competitive February spot. Machine 1 star John Cusack opted not to return for the follow-up, but Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Chevy Chase are back to reprise their roles with Adam Scott thrown into the mix.

The original premiered to a decent $14 million with an eventual solid gross of $50 million stateside. I have serious doubts as to whether this sequel can match that. The first certainly has its fans (I count myself among them) yet there doesn’t seem to be a big clamor for a second helping. Even some admirers of the 2010 pic could opt to wait for VOD.

As I see it, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 may struggle to even reach double digits out of the gate and, ultimately, I don’t believe it will.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my McFarland, USA prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/15/mcfarland-usa-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on The DUFF, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/02/15/the-duff-box-office-prediction/

Get On Up Movie Review

Get On Up never fully finds a way to break out of the typical biopic conventions that we’ve come to anticipate from the genre. The same holds true for some of the prevalent flaws we find in these types of pictures. The rough edges of the central subject are mostly glossed over. Family dynamics including mother abandonment issues, no matter how true, are too familiar.

What director Tate Taylor has going in his favor are two big things: James Brown is one hell of a subject and Chadwick Boseman was born to play him. Told in a non linear structure, Get On Up explores sixty years of history for the Godfather of Soul, from childhood to the early 90s. We witness his troubled and poor upbringing, his rise to stardom, his business abilities that earned him more money than any other African American musician at the time, and so forth. There’s also his well known history with women that includes domestic violence and infidelity yet that subject is not a primary focus.

Taylor enlists some of his cast from his blockbuster The Help with Viola Davis as his mother who left him and Octavia Spencer as the aunt who raised him. Dan Aykroyd appears as Brown’s longtime business manager. The real Brown, by the way, had a cameo in Aykroyd’s The Blues Brothers in 1980. The second best performance belongs to Nelsan Eddie as best friend and JB hype man Bobby Byrd.

Just as Mr. Brown (his preferred method of what to be called) owned every stage he was on, the man playing him owns this picture and makes it worthwhile. Boseman embodies Brown and is quite remarkable during the musical numbers. Those sequences are the best thing about Get On Up. One of them includes mingling Boseman with the real Brown and it’s thrilling. Let’s face it: by now we have witnessd a lot of biopics that include the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, musicians with inflated egos, addictions, and Mommy and Daddy issues. The music isn’t usually as impossibly funky though with an actor expertly channeling a complicated legend.

*** (out of four)

Get On Up Box Office Prediction

The Godfather of Soul gets his own biopic when Get On Up debuts in theaters this Friday. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the hit 42, portrays James Brown with The Help director Tate Taylor behind the camera. Costars include Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson, and Jill Scott.

Get On Up could be in a good position for a solid debut. Taylor’s The Help opened in August three summers ago to $26 million. That would certainly be a good number for this. 42 premiered to $27 million in 2013.

The pic could be successful in bringing in African-American audiences and adult moviegoers burnt out on sci-fi blockbusters. I’ll predict Get On Up manages a debut in the mid 20s.

Get On Up opening weekend prediction: $24.9 million

For my Guardians of the Galaxy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/27/guardians-of-the-galaxy-box-office-prediction/