Oscar Watch: If Beale Street Could Talk

One of the most eagerly awaited titles screening at the Toronto Film Festival has premiered in the form of If Beale Street Could Talk, the third directorial feature from Barry Jenkins. As you may recall, his second film Moonlight took home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 in rather memorable fashion over La La Land.

Beale Street is based on a James Baldwin novel and set in mid 70s Harlem. The pic sports a large ensemble cast led by Stephan James and Kiki Layne alongside Regina Hall, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Pedro Pascal, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein, and Dave Franco. Early reviews suggest this could be a player in multiple categories, including Best Picture and Director. In down the line races, it could be recognized for its score from Nicholas Britell as well as Cinematography, Editing, and Production Design. Jenkins could also contend for his Adapted Screenplay. While most critical reaction is strong, some have said it doesn’t quite match up to Moonlight. That said, we shall see if that particular buzz changes in the coming weeks and I feel pretty secure marking it for Picture consideration.

As for the cast, that’s a little murkier. James and Layne are receiving positive notices, but both the lead acting races seem awfully crowded. Both Hall and Parris could contend in Supporting Actress, but that too is far from guaranteed.

Bottom line: If Beale Street Could Talk likely did what it needed to do to be in the Picture and Director mix, while acting nods are a bit less clear.

The film opens domestically on November 30. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Flatliners Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/24) – My estimate for Flatliners continues to drop. I’m now putting it at just $6.3 million.

It isn’t the only September remake of a 1990 horror pic as Flatliners debuts in theaters next weekend. The film finds 5 medical students dangerously experimenting with near-death experiences with a cast that includes Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Nina Dobrev. This is actually more of a sequel than remake to 1990’s version that was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Julia Roberts, fresh off breakout Pretty Woman. Kiefer Sutherland, who costarred in the first, returns.

The original Flatliners probably benefited from Julia’s mega watt star power at the time. I don’t believe there’s an enormous amount of reverance for it. Sony Pictures best hope is that horror audiences who gobbled up It might be ready for something else.

That could be a tall order. I’m predicting Flatliners doesn’t hit double digits out of the gate.

Flatliners opening weekend prediction: $6.3 million

For my American Made prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/20/american-made-box-office-prediction/

 

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

The 20th and just wrapped season of “South Park” essentially posited a theory that a lot of the love for last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was due to our nostalgia goggles being tuned up to 11. In short, Trey Parker and Matt Stone came to the conclusion that Force really wasn’t very good. It was just that we were hungry for that feeling we had from Episodes IV-VI (I-III not so much).

Comedy Central’s show made their position clear through the ingenious creation of Member Berries, talking fruits who constantly reminded us of Star Wars characters and situations from decades ago. In other words, to Parker and Stone – The Force Awakens was partially just two hours of ” ‘Memba Han Solo?!?!?!” and ” ‘Memba R2D2?!?!?!”.

This is a feeling that many of the Star Wars legions of fans share in that Force was too much of a rehash of the beloved 1977 original. It’s fair criticism and somewhat true, but I personally felt it didn’t really take away from it being a very satisfying experience.

Another hallmark of South Park’s season (and the one before that) is that it’s been serialized into one long plot line over ten episodes. For 18 seasons, the show never did that. When we get to season 21, there are hints it could go back to the past as the finale was titled “The End of Serialization As We Know It”.

Why all the South Park talk? ‘Memba you’re supposed to be writing a review of the new Star Wars?!?!?! Well, I just love the show, but it also dovetails into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which marks the first interruption of this cherished franchise’s serialization. We have our inaugural spin-off in the series. The first without a Roman numeral episode behind the title. When Disney paid George Lucas billions of dollars to begin producing new titles, it was quickly revealed that we’d get individual stories without episode numbers involved about every other year.

Rogue One is the first and just as The Force Awakens had large expectations attached, so does this. It must simultaneously introduce new characters into that far, far away galaxy while feeding us those Member Berries. It must especially do so because the events in Rogue happen between Episode III (2005’s Revenge of the Sith) and IV (that first entry nearly forty years ago). This is when Darth Vader is alive and well and developing his Death Star to wreak havoc on the planetary system.

‘Memba Daddy issues?!?!?! They’re prevalent everywhere in this franchise and here too. Our central hero is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) was recruited against his will to develop that evil device Vader pines for. Jyn is separated from him as a child after being rescued from being taken by Imperial forces by Rebel leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Flash forward to Jyn as a young lady when she teams up with defected Imperial pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Rebel fighter Cassian (Diego Luna) to find her long captured Pops and stop Vader’s destructive deeds. In true Star Wars fashion, there’s also sidekick droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) providing effective comic relief.

‘Memba strange looking CG effects that hindered the prequels?!?!?! I found them here, but explaining them in detail would move into spoiler territory. I’ll just say there’s one well-known returning character whose inclusion is badly hampered by what I’ll refer to as technical issues.

Gareth Edwards, who last directed 2014’s pretty cool Godzilla reboot, clearly has reverance for the world George Lucas created. Since the happenings here directly lead to what we saw in 1977, Edwards does an often remarkable job in getting the look down for what transitions into Luke, Leia, and Han. The final third of Rogue One is non-stop action and it’s well-developed and thrilling. There’s not a performance I can complain about (at least not the live-action ones) and particular stand-outs include Ben Mendelsohn, an Imperial baddie trying to impress Boss Vader and Donnie Yen as a blind warrior whose belief in the Force is quite strong.

Yet this end of serialization as we know it for Star Wars presented this critic with some perhaps unavoidable challenges. I found it tough to get as involved in the central characters knowing that this is a one off picture. The Force Awakens gave us newbies mixed with oldies where we know their saga will evolve and grow. That’s not the case here. Therefore it’s often the case in Rogue One that the most memorable moments involve Member Berries being served to us as opposed to enjoying what is new. ‘Memba that feeling of dread mixed with excitement hearing James Earl Jones voice one of the greatest villains in film history?!?!?! Of course you do. You loved it then and will love it again.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

As you may have heard, there’s this movie coming out on Friday called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s the first spin-off in the heralded franchise (taking place between Episodes III and IV) and the eighth entry overall in the series.

At noon sharp, the review embargo on Rogue lapsed and we’ve seen a flood of critical reactions come in this afternoon. The verdict? Pretty darn good so far. It stands at 82% at press time on Rotten Tomatoes with several reviewers calling it an action-packed ride geared more towards adult and mega-fans. Not all write-ups have been totally positive. The bottom line is this: Rogue One will not get a Best Picture nomination at this year’s Academy Awards nor will its director, Gareth Edwards.

However, that wasn’t really expected. The real question is whether or not it receives any nominations. If it didn’t, Rogue One would the first Star Wars entry not to do so. Let’s take a trip down franchise lane, shall we?

1977’s Star Wars received a whopping nine nominations and won six. The three it missed out on were all biggies and they were all to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall: Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back was nominated for three and was victorious in Sound Mixing. The rest of the sequels and prequels – 1983’s Return of the Jedi, 1999’s The Phantom Menace, 2002’s Attack of the Clones, 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, last year’s The Force Awakens – received a total of 14 nominations (all in technical and musical score races) and won zero.

My feeling is that Rogue One has little chance of breaking the no nomination streak. I’ve got it currently predicted for three categories: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. It also stands a shot at Original Score. Yet like the five pics before it, I would estimate it also will not win in those races.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Box Office Prediction

The saga continues in the most powerful franchise force in movie history when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters next weekend. It’s been one year since Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke a slew of box office records when Disney took over the series, including best opening of all time and highest grossing domestic earner ever.

All seven pictures that have populated the science fiction tales have been classified as Episodes as part of an ongoing story featuring some of the most beloved and feared characters (plus Jar Jar) on the silver screen. Rogue is our first spin-off and it takes place between Episodes III (2005’s Revenge of the Sith) and IV (the 1977 original A New Hope). That means it focuses on the team tasked with stealing plans for the Death Star. Felicity Jones headlines a new cast of characters that includes Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk. It also means the return of Darth Freakin’ Vader complete with James Earl Jones voicing him. Gareth Edwards (who lasted 2014’s successful Godzilla reboot) directs.

Simply put, the return of the franchise a year ago after ten years of dormancy couldn’t have gone much better financially. Awakens took in an astonishing $247 million out of the gate and reached a $936 million eventual domestic haul. The eagerly awaited Episode VIII will be out in the same mid-December weekend next year. Rogue One is not expected to take in what Force did last year or VIII will next year due to its spin-off status. That said, expectations are still very high.

So the question is: just how high can this go? Some reports have suggested a number between $130-$150 million and that’s certainly a feasible estimate. Yet I can’t shake a feeling that it’ll manage to get a bit more. Rogue is in the enviable position of being the first spin-off and arriving just a calendar year behind the franchise’s return to global domination. In order to accomplish 2016’s largest opening, it would need to top another huge Disney property, Captain America: Civil War which made $179 million to kick summer off.

I don’t think it quite gets there, but generating $160-$170 million seems within reach. My estimate would give it the eighth biggest debut of all time between the final Harry Potter at $169 million and this spring’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at $166 million. Yes, my projection is a bit higher than what I’ve seen thus far. Yet it’s Star Wars, folks.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opening weekend prediction: $168.3 million

For my Collateral Beauty prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/06/collateral-beauty-box-office-prediction/

The Book of Life Box Office Prediction

20th Century Fox is hoping family audiences turn out for The Book of Life, opening Friday. The 3D animated comedy comes from producer Guillermo del Toro and features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, and frequent del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman.

Family competition does exist with the decently performing Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day entering its second weekend. As with most animated features that don’t have the Disney/Pixar label, The Book of Life faces an uphill battle to truly break out. It could cater to Hispanic families in a way few genre titles have, but I’m not sure that’s enough to get it past $20 million (though that’s not out of the question).

As I see it, this should open in the same mid to high teens range as recent animated titles Coraline, Paranorman, Free Birds and Escape from Planet Earth.

The Book of Life opening weekend prediction: $15.6 million

For my prediction on Fury, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/10/12/fury-box-office-prediction/

For my prediction on The Best of Me, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/10/12/the-best-of-me-box-office-prediction/