Black Adam Review

In 1993, NBA superstar Charles Barkley famously told the world in a commercial that he was not a role model. Nearly three decades later, cinematic superstar Dwayne Johnson tells us repeatedly in Black Adam that he is not a hero. This latest offering from the DC Extended Universe kind of has a mid 90s vibe when it comes to comic book adaptations. That was a weak time for the genre prior to its explosion in the 21st century. As far as quality, this has more in common with 1996’s Kazaam, which starred Barkley’s Inside the NBA colleague Shaquille O’Neal. Adam may have a connection to 2019’s Shazam!, but shares little of its entertainment value.

A prologue in 2600 B.C. introduces us to the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. A young boy enslaved by an evil ruler chooses to take a stand against the oppression (even as his elders discourage it). He is rewarded by the Council of Wizards – hence that Shazam! tie-in as he’s given the immense powers of that character.

Flash forward 5000 years and Kahndaq is under a different kind of oppression from a crime syndicated known as Intergang. Archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) is in search of the Crown of Sabbac, which turns its wearer into a demonic being. Intergang is looking for it as well. When they clash, she manages to awaken Teth-Adam. He’s believed to be that heroic rebel from 50 centuries ago. Dwayne Johnson is the awoken being. Adam insists that’s he not a hero and keeps saying it.

The presence of this superhuman relic attracts the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who you may remember as The Suicide Squad‘s recruiter. Adam is looked at as a potential threat. The Squad doesn’t intervene. Neither does Superman or Batman or The Flash (though they’re glimpsed on the bedroom wall of Adrianna’s teenage son). Instead the Justice Society books passage to Kahndaq to investigate just how dangerous Adam is. Pierce Brosnan is the clairvoyant Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge is Hawkman, Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher (think Ant-Man but he can only grow big), and Quintessa Swindell is the twirling Cyclone. If this sounds like the B list of the DC pages, that’s certainly how it feels. That superficiality extends to the villain (Marwan Kenzari), the Intergang leader who dons the devilish crown. He might be more forgettable than Justice League‘s baddie Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and that’s saying a lot.

Jaume Collet-Serra directed Johnson in the pretty enjoyable Jungle Cruise. That collaboration was a better ride than this. Johnson is saddled with a hero (wait… NOT a hero!!!) who’s often a sullen bore. Very little of the actor’s dynamic personality comes through. It breaks through on occasion but not nearly enough. We’re cooking at a low boil. Everything in Black Adam has been done with more pizzazz in other DCEU and especially MCU pictures. Dwayne Johnson (and Tina Turner) are right in this case. We don’t need another hero.

*1/2 (out of four)

October 28-30 Box Office Predictions

Studios usually don’t roll out movies that they think will scare up huge box office dollars on Halloween weekend and that holds true for 2022. We have the supernatural horror tale Prey for the Devil and the expansions of Till and Tár (both with likely Best Actress Oscar contenders in Danielle Deadwyler and Cate Blanchett, respectively). You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on that trio here:

Devil may round up the most business of the newcomers, but my mid single digits forecast would put it in fourth place behind a trio of holdovers. My take on Till could put it in fifth or sixth position based on how Halloween Ends holds after its massive sophomore frame plummet (more on that below). As for Tár, it’s slated for approximately 1000 venues and my $1.8 million projection leaves it outside of the top five or six.

The top 3 should remain the same with Black Adam having no trouble topping the charts for a second weekend. How far it falls is a better question. With a so-so B+ Cinemascore grade, I foresee a slightly higher dip than the 54% that Shazam! experienced in 2019. If it approaches closer to 60%, a gross in the upper 20s would be the result.

Ticket to Paradise with George Clooney and Julia Roberts slightly surpassed expectations and it should hold well with a 35-40% decrease. The runaway hit Smile should be the fright fest of choice in third place as it continues its meager declines.

And with that, my top 6 take for the spooky close out session of October:

1. Black Adam

Predicted Gross: $28.1 million

2. Ticket to Paradise

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

3. Smile

Predicted Gross: $6.5 million

4. Prey for the Devil

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

5. Halloween Ends

Predicted Gross: $4.1 million

6. Till

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

Box Office Results (October 21-23)

The DCEU’s Black Adam, with Dwayne Johnson seemingly everywhere promoting it, opened in line with most prognostications at $67 million. That’s a bit above my $64.7 million take and in line with the studio’s Aquaman from 2018. It’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of the character. As mentioned, this should easily repeat in 1st position this weekend (and the weekend after until Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits).

Rom com Ticket to Paradise capitalized on its star power for $16.5 million, bettering my prediction of $13.7 million. That’s a needed boost for a genre that’s been struggling in recent years and an older crowd turned out to make the multiplex trek.

Smile continued to make Paramount happy with $8.4 million, a shade below my $9.5 million estimate. At $84 million after four weeks, the low budget pic is barreling toward $100 million domestically.

Halloween Ends went from 1st to 4th with a momentous 80% reduction. At $8 million, the final showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers didn’t match my $10.4 million projection. The two-week total is $54 million as it will fall quite a bit short of the $92 million that predecessor Halloween Kills made.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile rounded out the top five with $4.2 million (I said $5.2 million) and $28 million overall.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Predictions: Black Adam

Of the ten 10 previous films making up the DC Extended Universe, there’s only one Oscar nomination to be found. That’s the third film in the franchise – 2016’s Suicide Squad – and it’s a win in the Makeup and Hairstyling race.

Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson represents a new chapter in the DCEU as Warner Bros hopes the character becomes a fixture in future installments. Out Friday, the review embargo has lifted and critical reaction is certainly in the mixed variety. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 54%.

From Man of Steel up through last summer’s new version of The Suicide Squad, even the competitions where comic book adaptations can contend have escaped awards attention. That includes Best Sound and Visual Effects (where numerous MCU titles have been nominated though never won). From what I’ve seen reaction wise, there’s no reason to think Black Adam would be contending for a second DCEU nod. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

October 21-23 Box Office Predictions

Dwayne Johnson lends his star power to the DC Extended Universe in Black Adam and there’s the megawatt combo of George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the rom com Ticket to Paradise. They are the weekend’s new offerings and you can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Black Adam Box Office Prediction

Ticket to Paradise Box Office Prediction

While Adam is unlikely to approach the $100 million plus starts of other DCEU efforts, it should easily rock the charts with a gross in the mid 60s.

The two spot could be more of a battle. However, I’m guessing the Clooney/Roberts team-up (while it would’ve been more potent 20 years ago) should nab the runner-up position.

With a C+ Cinemascore grade, Halloween Kills couldn’t keep up with its two predecessors Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021). Last October, Kills plummeted 70% in its sophomore outing. I expect Ends may even get slashed a tad more. There’s even a possibility its second weekend could place behind the fourth frame of Smile, but I doubt it.

Finally, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile should round out the top five and here’s how I see it looking:

1. Black Adam

Predicted Gross: $64.7 million

2. Ticket to Paradise

Predicted Gross: $13.9 million

3. Halloween Ends

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

4. Smile

Predicted Gross: $9.5 million

5. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

Box Office Results (October 14-16)

Coming in nearly $10 million below the last tussle of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers was Halloween Ends with $40 million (under my take of $47.6 million). The budget is low so profitability isn’t an issue. Yet it will take the current (and final?) trilogy out on a low note.

Smile continued its impressive holds in second place with $12.5 million, just ahead of my $11.8 million estimate. The horror hit (which is likely starting its own franchise) has amassed $71 million in three weeks.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was third with $7.3 million (on target with my $7.2 million call). The family friendly musical stands at a middling $22 million after 10 days of release.

The Woman King was fourth with $3.7 million (I said $4.1 million) for $59 million overall.

Lastly, Amsterdam (as expected) fell a precipitous 57% in its sophomore weekend to $2.7 million. I was a bit more generous at $3 million. The big budget flop has taken in only $11 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Black Adam Box Office Prediction

Dwayne Johnson looks to bring his often rock solid box office bonafides to the DC Extended Universe with Black Adam on October 21st. The 11th feature in the franchise that began with Man of Steel nearly a decade ago is a spinoff of 2019’s Shazam! Like that pic, it is centered on a less widely known hero in the DC arsenal. Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Johnson recently in Jungle Cruise) directs. The supporting cast includes Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Viola Davis, and Pierce Brosnan.

It’s somewhat surprising that we’ve waited this long to see the live-action comic book genre and this leading man hook up. While this should perform well, Adam is unlikely to approach the opening grosses of the DCEU’s earlier titles like Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. They all made over $100 million (or close to it) out of the gate. Yet this should top the $53 million earned by Shazam! The best comp I see is Aquaman, which made $67 million during its traditional Friday to Sunday rollout. I’ll say it makes a little less.

Black Adam opening weekend prediction: $64.7 million

For my Ticket to Paradise prediction, click here:

Ticket to Paradise Box Office Prediction

March 25-27 Box Office Predictions

**Blogger’s Update (03/24): The Indian period adventure RRR is slated for a release on over 1100 screens and it could be a sleeper hit for the weekend based on buzz and pre-sales. I’m adding it in the mix for a third place debut.

Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, and Daniel Radcliffe will try to dislodge The Batman from its three-week perch atop the charts when The Lost City debuts this Friday. It’s the only newcomer this weekend and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on the comedic adventure here:

The Lost City Box Office Prediction

My mid to high 20s estimate for the well reviewed City gets it to first place as long as The Batman sees a drop in the high 30s to low 40s range. It could end up being a close race, but I’m giving Bullock and company the benefit of the doubt.

As for the rest of the top 5, current #2 Jujutsu Kaisen 0 easily surpassed expectations in its debut (more on that below), but the sophomore drop should be steep (similar to the 70% fall of animated manga tale Demon Slayer). That would leave Uncharted in third with Kaisen fourth. In the five spot, Dog (also with Channing Tatum) may have a slighter dip than in what might be a tight race for that position.

And with that, here’s my take on this Oscar frame’s top 7 performers:

1. The Lost City

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Batman 

Predicted Gross: $21.6 million

3. RRR

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million

4. Uncharted

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

5. Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Predicted Gross: $5 million

6. Dog

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

7. X

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

 

Box Office Results (March 18-20)

While there were newbies to view, The Batman ruled the roost while Jujutsu had a terrific premiere. Robert Pattinson’s debut as the DCEU Crusader took in $36.7 million, below my projection of $42.1 million. The three-week tally sits at an impressive $300 million.

Jujutsu blew away prognostications with $17.6 million. The FUNimation entry (which was already a hit overseas) easily toppled my meager $9.8 million take. Like other genre fare, its opening frame should represent a large portion of the overall domestic gross.

Uncharted was third with $7.8 million. I was right on target at $7.7 million. Total earnings are $125 million.

Horror pic from A24 capitalized on solid reviews and came in fourth with a decent $4.4 million. That’s ahead of my $2.9 million estimate and it will hope for solid holds in coming weekends.

Dog rounded out the top five with $3.9 million, a touch below my $4.6 million prediction. It’s up to $54 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was sixth with $3.1 million (I said $3.7 million) and the massive haul is $797 million.

Finally, crime drama The Outfit with Mark Rylance started in 8th place with a muted $1.4 million. That is better than my $1 million forecast, however.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

March 4-6 Box Office Predictions

It’s an eagerly awaited weekend at the box office as The Batman looks to have the second highest debut of the COVID era (behind only Spider-Man: No Way Home). The DCEU reboot with Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader is the only new release of this weekend (and the majority of March) and my detailed prediction post on it can be found here:

The Batman Box Office Prediction

The range of possibility is wide (anywhere from $100 to $200 million depending on what you’re reading). I believe a gross just north of $150 million is most likely and my projection gives it the 20th largest domestic opening of all time.

Holdovers should experience heftier dips than this past weekend with Uncharted, Dog, Spider-Man, and Death on the Nile all sliding a spot. Here’s how I see it looking:

1. The Batman

Predicted Gross: $155.2 million

2. Uncharted

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

3. Dog

Predicted Gross: $6.4 million

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

5. Death on the Nile

Predicted Gross: $2.5 million

Box Office Results (February 25-27)

The leftovers didn’t spoil during the last frame of February while the two newcomers didn’t prove appetizing to moviegoers.

Uncharted ruled the charts for the second frame with $23 million, just ahead of my $21.8 million forecast for a two-week total of $83 million. Tom Holland, as I mentioned last week, has himself another promising franchise.

Channing Tatum’s Dog was a good boy in its sophomore outing with $10.1 million, outpacing my $8.4 million take. The two-week haul is $30 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was third with $5.8 million (I said $6 million) for a gargantuan take of $779 million.

Death on the Nile was fourth with $4.4 million, edging my $3.7 million prediction for a stalled $32 million overall.

Jackass Forever rounded out the top five with $3.1 million (I went with $2.8 million). It’s up to $52 million.

The fresh product managed respective 8th and 9th place starts. Studio 666, the horror comedy from the Foo Fighters, made only $1.5 million compared to my $2.1 million estimate. Cyrano with Peter Dinklage fared even worse with $1.3 million (I said $1.8 million).

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Batman Box Office Prediction

Another chapter for the Caped Crusader flies into theaters March 4th with The Batman. The franchise reboot comes with high expectations and pent up anticipation as Robert Pattinson takes over the title role. Matt Reeves, best known for Cloverfield and the last two Planet of the Apes pics, directs. The supporting cast includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as the Penguin. Originally slated for summer 2021, it looks to rule the month of March after its COVID delay.

There is little competition in its way and its event picture status should propel it to huge numbers. How big? The Batman could be in line for a larger opening weekend than 2008’s The Dark Knight ($158 million) and 2012 follow-up The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million). And you may have forgotten that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actually holds the highest Bat premiere at $166 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home showed that moviegoers were more than ready to turn out in force with the right product. Early IMAX offerings have already sold out for opening day. Estimates are wide. It could be as low as $100 million or approach $200 million. I’m thinking $145-$165 million is the likeliest range.

The Batman opening weekend prediction: $155.2 million

The Suicide Squad Review

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. 

*** (out of four)

August 13-15 Box Office Predictions

After a weekend where The Suicide Squad majorly performed under expectations, there are three titles opening Friday and the studios are hoping this isn’t a trend. Ryan Reynolds stars in the video game inspired sci-fi comedy Free Guy and it should manage to top the charts. We also have horror sequel Don’t Breathe 2 and the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect with Jennifer Hudson. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the trio here:

Free Guy Box Office Prediction

Don’t Breathe 2 Box Office Prediction

Respect Box Office Prediction

With Free Guy pegged in the low to mid 20s, there shouldn’t be much question that it kicks off in first. I have Breathe achieving less than half of what its 2016 predecessor accomplished and that should be good enough for second place.

The real battle could be for third. As mentioned, The Suicide Squad was a dud (more on that below). I’m assuming it drops about 60% which puts it just over $10 million. The third weekend of Jungle Cruise and premiere of Respect could be right behind that, but it could be close.

Here’s how I foresee the top five shaking out:

1. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $21.3 million

2. Don’t Breathe 2

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million

3. The Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

4. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million

5. Respect

Predicted Gross: $8.5 million

Box Office Results (August 6-8)

The underperformance of The Suicide Squad generated plenty of attention this weekend. The reboot of the DCEU franchise earned just $26.2 million and that’s well below my projection of $40.8 million. I could go on, but I already did a separate blog post on it. You can find it here:

Squad Goals Thwarted

Disney’s Jungle Cruise didn’t fall quite as much as other pics in their sophomore frames in recent weeks. The Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt family adventure made $15.8 million (in line with my $15.5 million prediction) for a $65 million ten day take.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Old was third with $4.1 million in its third frame -a bit more than my $3.5 million projection for $38 million total.

Black Widow was fourth with $3.9 million (I said $3.7 million) as it stands at a COVID era best $174 million.

Stillwater rounded out the top five in its second outing with $2.8 million. I incorrectly had it outside the high five. It’s at a mere $9 million.

Finally, The Green Knight was sixth with $2.5 million (I went with $2.7 million) for $12 million overall.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…