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:
According to lore, there are glorious stories of Bill Murray randomly showing up places and elevating an evening’s festivities to a new level. Heck, there’s even a documentary about it. The legend shows up in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and his small part does nothing to level it up. In fact, it seems needlessly random. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now entered Phase Five. It launches in troubling fashion. This is the 31st MCU pic and I’d rank it #31.
2015’s Ant-Man is one of the weakest links in the Marvel chain, but there were glimpses of the nifty and humorous little heist pic it wanted to be. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Rudd has an effortless charm as the small time crook turned Avenger. 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp was an improvement (in the MCU, the follow-ups often do exceed the quality of their predecessors). The third time is far from the charm.
The bulk of the action is set in the Quantum Realm – a gaudy setting that is far from low-key. Before we get there, Rudd’s Scott Lang is on a book tour and generally enjoying the fame garnered from being an Avenger. His home life with Hope/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and now 18-year-old daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) appears tranquil. Original title heroes and Hope’s parents Hank (Michael Douglas) and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) join the domestic bliss. However, cracks big and small emerge. Cassie seems frustrated by her dad’s coasting off of his previous laurels. The cracks under the ground are of more concern when her scientific experiments land the extended family in the subatomic Realm.
Janet spent 30 years (as revealed in the previous movies) in that particular universe. It’s revealed here that she engaged in far more activities than earlier thought. One includes a hinted at tryst with Bill Murray’s character and his superfluous cameo. Of more consequence is her relationship with Kang (Jonathan Majors), who was stuck with her underground for many years. Janet found a way out while he remained. That’s a plus since his full name is Kang the Conqueror and he destroys planets across multiverses as he sees fit. The villain Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from the first Ant-Man, now shrunk to a smaller size with a gigantic head, partners with our new main baddie. That results in some horrible CG (I think on purpose) in a sequel that employs other garish effects that are not meant to be funny.
The balance of comic sensibilities that worked well in portions of Ant-Man and especially the sequel collides with the ultra serious introduction of Kang. Hour one is sluggish. Hour two finds our heroes defending characters in the Quantum Realm that we’re never properly introduced to. While Pfeiffer’s role is fattened, sometimes Rudd and definitely Lilly feel like supporting players. Newton, taking over the role from Abby Ryder Fortson, struggles with her one-note character. The strongest performance belongs to Majors, but his menacing and seemingly multi-layered nemesis feels out of place in Ant-Man and Ant-Family’s stomping grounds. Kang might turn out to be a worthy villain to the MCU’s Avengers in future installments. The jury is out for now.
Phase Four and the start of Five have been wobbly. Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have been disappointments and Quantumania reaches the lowest level yet. Underwhelming movies in the MCU are starting to feel like groundhog day and audiences might stop randomly showing up if that persists.
The MCU hopes for enlarged returns for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania when its debuts Friday. This is the third film in the franchise with Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the title heroes with Jonathan Majors making his debut as villainous Kang.
31 pictures into the cinematic universe that began with Iron Man (2008), Marvel’s multi-billion grossing series has seen its share of Oscar nominations. This is particularly true in Visual Effects where 13 features have been up and none have yet to win (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is unlikely to break that stat next month with competition from Avatar: The Way of Water).
None of the MCU’s previous nods belong to Quantumania predecessors Ant-Man (2015) or Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Based on reviews today, that stat should also stay intact. While Majors is picking up decent reviews, the pic is currently at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s the second lowest score of any MCU title (Eternals is 47%). By comparison, the original Ant-Man hit 83% and the sequel had 87%. Bottom line: the chances for any awards attention is quite small. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hopes to score commanding grosses over the long President’s Day weekend starting February 17th. The 31st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and third in this particular franchise features Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly reprising their roles as the title heroes. Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas are back with Jonathan Majors being introduced as villain Kang the Conqueror. Peyton Reed (who helmed the first two) is back directing. Other cast members include Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O’Brian, and Bill Murray.
The initial movie in the MCU’s Phase Five (with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Marvels up next), Ant-Man looks to expand on the opening earnings of its predecessors. In the summer of 2015, Ant-Man made $57 million for its start (the second smallest MCU debut with The Incredible Hulk being lowest at $55 million). It ended up with $180 million domestically. Three years later, Ant-Man and the Wasp reached higher with $75 million and an eventual stateside tally of $216 million.
When it comes to the MCU, sequels typically outperform their originals (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a recent exception to the rule). Thor: Love and Thunder, on the other hand, built upon its three predecessors. Quantumania should follow that trend.
As far as President’s Day weekend, it shouldn’t come close to approaching the record. That was five years ago with Black Panther when it scored $202 million from Friday to Sunday and $242 million when factoring Monday. The runner-up is 2016’s Deadpool with respective three and four-day takes of $132 million and $152 million. Third place belongs to 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey ($85 million Friday to Sunday, $93 million four-day).
This should manage a third place all-time haul. I’ll say the three-day falls a tad short of $100 million and just shy of $110 million with Monday’s inclusion.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opening weekend prediction: $96.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $109.1 million (Friday to Monday)
For my Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey prediction, click here:
Denis Villeneuve’s Dune arrives nearly three decades after David Lynch’s oft criticized version of Frank Herbert’s mid 60s sci-fi novel. It is source material that I’m frankly not familiar with so take that for what it’s worth. With the director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 at the controls, this is a technically masterful and consistently stunning looking experience. I also must admit that I didn’t get swept up in it no matter how amazing the desert landscapes appear (and do they ever).
Set 10,000 years in the future, the dense plot (as in often hard to follow) introduces us to the royal family of Caladan. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) is the leader of House Atreides, a land with a plentiful supply of water and bagpipes. His concubine is Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) who possesses the powers of Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of mystical beings thought to bear children with God-like abilities. Their offspring is Paul (Timothee Chalamet). One problem: the Lady was supposed to have a girl who eventually delivers this story’s version of The One, but she skipped a step.
The Atreides are ordered by Empirical decree to take over Arrakis, a planet with hardly any water (I’m uncertain about bagpipes). However, it is the only land with spice and that substances serves many purposes. First, it gets you high and gives one visions that might play into the plot later. Most importantly, it fuels interstellar travel and is therefore an extraordinarily valuable commodity. It’s what Gollum would be droning on endlessly about if this were another epic adventure. House Harkonnen and their rotund ruler (Stellan Skarsgard), the current Arrakis deed holders, are not going to give up those property rights without a fight.
We sense where all this is heading due to Paul’s visions of Chani (Zendaya). She’s a native of Arrakis and their citizens called the Fremen have learned to use their planet’s sandy and almost unlivable terrain to their advantage. They will need to accept Paul as their captain and that development… will or won’t happen in part two. Yes, part one is a subtitle here. Like some Marvel products that preceded this, you may find yourself realizing that not a lot really happens in this origin tale by the time two and a half hours has lapsed.
I recognize this may sound like sacrilege to the book’s devotees. There is plenty to praise in this immensely gifted director’s adaptation. The cast is uniformly top notch from Chalamet on down (FYI – Zendaya is a part II kinda thing because her participation is limited). Ferguson is perhaps the standout in a sprawling ensemble that includes Josh Brolin (as a trusted Atreides warrior), Javier Bardem (as a Fremen warrior), and Charlotte Rampling as a Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.
Dune worshipers forgive me. While I spent time marveling at the look and anticipating the unearthing of giant sandworms, I would put this behind Arrival and the Blade Runner follow-up without hesitation. Saying it feels like half a movie is easy criticism. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. It is tempting to recommend Dune based on spectacular work of composer Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Greig Fraser and the sound and visual effects artists. Yet I often found myself a bit shocked by my lack of awe in the story itself.
I had no doubt while watching James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad that it’s a more realized vision of exactly what its director wanted. This was apparently not the case with David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad and maybe we will see his Justice League style extended cut one day. For this latest DC Extended Universe pic, Warner Bros reportedly let Gunn do his thing without interference.
The result is a hard R rated and often gleefully bizarre experience. There are some truly funny moments and inspired action sequences mixed with a host of repetitive ones. At one point, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) makes light of a character named Milton who just got popped. The joke is that she doesn’t remember him being part of the team because he’s so forgettable. Milton isn’t the only one. Frankly, I’m struggling a bit with my overall take. This Squad is unquestionably an improvement over its predecessor. Yet I never quite got immersed in its raunchy comic book violence or irreverent attitude in the way I did with Deadpool or Gunn’s own Guardians of the Galaxy.
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is still head of A.R.G.U.S., the government organization that has its own unique prison work release program. Felonious super villains are sent on black ops missions in the name of homeland security (or so they’re told). Many of the cast mates (including Will Smith’s Deadshot) are MIA this time around. Harley’s back as is Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). So is Waller’s right-hand man and Squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).
From the jump, we discover that no character may live past a scene or two and this does contribute to an unpredictable vibe. The newbies recruited include human weapons depot Bloodsport (Idris Elba), meaning of the word peace conflicted Peacemaker (John Cena), rodent whisperer Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). His name? Just like it sounds. Our primary CG creation is King Shark (voice by Sylvester Stallone), who’s half man/half Jaws. If he reminds you a bit of Groot from Guardians, mission accomplished.
Speaking of missions, it is to stop a recent coup in the fictional South American land of Corto Maltese. Now that their government has been overthrown, someone needs to destroy a secretive laboratory housing an experiment called Project Starfish. Part of the Squad’s goal is to capture The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who’s involved with the mysterious Starfish happenings. The eventual revelation of what that is pure B movie escapist joy that I won’t spoil.
Regarding our brand new characters, it’s a mixed lot. Elba’s Bloodsport has a character arc and motivations not unlike Smith’s Deadshot and it’s not terribly interesting. I will say his brief interaction with his daughter (Storm Reid) humorously didn’t go the way I thought it would. Cena uses his comedic chops effectively at times with his morally confused antihero. Gunn pushes pretty hard to make Ratcatcher 2 a heartwarming protagonist amidst the exploding heads and bodies being literally ripped apart. It could have gone the wrong way, but Taika Waititi’s casting as her dad helps save the day. King Shark’s contribution to that mayhem is rather amusing.
In one way, the more things change (and change they do from 2016) – the more they stay the same. This would be with Robbie’s Quinn, who retains the title of best performance and most enjoyable demented personality. For a while, she gets her own subplot that involves being romanced by the Corto Maltesian dictator (Juan Diego Botto) and being an unreliable torture subject. Those scenes work well and Robbie gets the lions share of the credit. Like in Suicide Squad, she’s the brightest star in The Suicide Squad.