August 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (08/03): My projection for Easter Sunday has taken a downward turn. Instead of $8.2M, I’m now only projecting $5.6M and that puts it outside of the top five – with Minions: The Rise of Gru now getting the 5 spot.

Brad Pitt looks to conduct Bullet Train to a sizeable debut while the Jo Koy comedy Easter Sunday looks be a sleeper hit. They are the newbies as August dawns at the box office. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

There’s no question that Train (from John Wick maker David Leitch) will hit #1. It’s all about by how much. Some estimates have this in the $40 million range, but I’m skeptical. In the last couple of weekends, both Nope and DC League of Super-Pets have come in under expectations (more on those developments below).

While Pitt certainly has star power, I feel like buzz needs to pick up and fast for this to reach $40 million. Perhaps my projections will rise before Thursday evening. For now, I have Bullet a shade under $30 million.

As for current champ Super-Pets, a dip in the mid to high 30s seems likely and that should place it firmly as the runner-up.

The truly interesting competition could be for the #3 slot. Easter Sunday could surprise and vastly overperform and end up #2. Or it could be outside of the top five with below $8 million. I’m putting at $8.2 million in its basket and here’s where it could be awfully close. If Nope has another plummet close to 60% and Thor: Love and Thunder sees a mid to high 30s drop, the grosses for the trio could be separated by basically nothing.

That’s what I’m thinking will occur and here’s how I think the top 5 ends up looking:

1. Bullet Train

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million

2. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

4. Nope 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 29-31) 

The Warner Animation Group won’t be barking loudly about the earnings of DC League of Super-Pets as it came in the very low end of its range. With a muted $23 million, the animated superhero canine teaming of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a disappointment (coming in well under my $33.6 million prediction). The only silver lining could be lack of competition for the month. That could mean meager declines until the bulk of kiddos go back to school.

Nope, as anticipated with its lackluster B Cinemascore grade, cratered in its sophomore frame with $18.5 million (a smidge ahead of my $17.5 million projection). Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale is up to $80 million, though it will come in well under his predecessors Get Out and Us. 

Thor: Love and Thunder was third with $13.1 million, besting my take of $11.4 million. The MCU four-quel has hammered home $301 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took fourth at $10.9 million (I said $10.3 million) to brings it haul to $320 million.

Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five at $8.4 million, right on target with my $8.3 million guesstimate. The airborne phenomenon achieved another milestone at $650 million. It will soon become the 7th largest domestic earner in history when it vaults over Titanic ($659 million) and Jurassic World ($652 million).

Finally, When the Crawdads Sing held up solidly in weekend #3 with $7.5 million (I went with $6.9 million). The mystery based on a bestseller is past the half century mark with $53 million.

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

Oscar Predictions: DC League of Super-Pets

The Warner Animation Group kicked off nearly a decade ago with 2014’s The Lego Movie. This Friday, their 10th effort under the production banner is DC League of Super-Pets. It comes from director Jared Stern (who wrote The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie) and features the voices of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson as Batman and Superman’s respective canine pals.

While some of their titles have performed pleasingly at the box office, none of the pics have caught the attention of awards voters. Super-Pets currently sits at a decent 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet if Lego and its spin-offs and sequels didn’t block space on the Best Animated Feature final five, the competition from Disney and others will likely freeze this out too. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

July 29-31 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (07/27): I am revising my Super-Pets estimate down considerably- from $42.6M to $33.6M

DC League of Super-Pets should have no trouble hitting the top spot as July closes out at the box office. It’s the only wide new offering coming to multiplexes and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

DC League of Super-Pets Box Office Prediction

My low to mid 40s projection puts the animated comedic adventure reuniting Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in the same range with where Jordan Peele’s Nope premiered this past weekend.

There’s more on that Nope debut below, but it could be headed for a sophomore fall in the mid to upper 50s. Considering its weak B Cinemascore grade, it’s not out of the question that it could plummet even farther. We could see a close race for the #3 position between Thor: Love and Thunder and Minions: The Rise of Gru, depending on how far each title drops. The former is likely to see a larger decline. However, Super-Pets being out could cause Gru to have a heftier dip than its meager mid 30s decline last weekend. Top Gun: Maverick could hold the #5 slot with Where the Crawdads Sing falling to sixth place.

Here’s how I see that top 6 playing out:

1. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $33.6 million

2. Nope

Predicted Gross: $17.5 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $11.4 million

4. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

5. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

6. Where the Crawdads Sing 

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24) 

As mentioned previously, Nope started out on the lower end of expectations with $44.3 million. That’s under my call of $53.2 million and there were estimates that it would surpass my projection. While the sci-fi horror pic may end up turning a profit, Peele’s third outing opened nearly $30 million below his predecessor Us (which benefited by being the auteur’s follow-up to the unexpected smash Get Out). Word-of-mouth is not strong and that’s why you see me projecting a nearly 60% sophomore drop above.

Thor: Love and Thunder was runner-up after two weeks in first. Its $22.5 million gross is right on target with my take of $22.4 million as the MCU fourquel has hammered home $276 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took third with $18 million (I was close with $17 million) for a four-week tally of $298 million.

Where the Crawdads Sing had a solid hold in weekend #2 with $10.3 million, just ahead of my $9.5 million prediction. The ten-day earnings are $38 million.

Top Gun: Maverick was in the five spot with $10.2 million (I said $9.8 million). The overall $635 million haul is now 9th all-time as it just flew ahead of 2012’s The Avengers.

And that does it for now! Until next time…

DC League of Super-Pets Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/27): I am revising my estimate down considerably- from $42.6M to $33.6M

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart already share a successful cinematic history via Central Intelligence and the Jumanji franchise. On July 29th, they reunite to respectively provide the voices of Superman and Batman’s canine companions in the animated DC League of Super-Pets. The Warner Animation Group superhero tale (or rather… tail?) is directed by Jared Stern, who did work on the studio’s The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. John Krasinski voices the Man of Steel while Keanu Reeves does so for the Caped Crusader. Other familiar names contributing vocal work are Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Marc Maron, and Olivia Wilde.

The Legion of Super-Pets from the DC Comics dates all the way to 1962 and their connection to their iconic masters could get plenty of kids to the multiplexes. It might even get their parents slightly interested. The summer of 2022 has been unpredictable when it comes to animated features. Lightyear was a rare disappointment for Disney/Pixar and Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank outright bombed last weekend. On the other hand, Minions: The Rise of Gru was a massive hit that’s currently rising to a $300 million plus domestic haul. The Bad Guys was also a solid performer in the spring.

So what league will this premiere in? Estimates have it in the $40-50 million range. I see no reason why it would greatly exceed or fall short of expectations. I’m thinking it starts in the low to mid 40s though getting above $50 million is certainly doable.

DC League of Super-Pets opening weekend prediction: $33.6 million

 

Red Notice Review

Red Notice poaches from plenty of superior action comedies. It scrambles to find a consistent tone between being a parody of them and just being one of them. The trio of famous faces are hampered with their hastily written hardboiled characters. That’s what we get in this caper about thieves trying to retrieve Cleopatra’s blinged out eggs. And no matter how much I’ve liked Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot elsewhere, this is an easy picture to pan.

Rawson Marshall Thurber teams with Johnson for the third time after Central Intelligence and Skyscraper (they’ve gotten progressively worse). As Special Agent John Hartley, he’s hot on the trail of master cat burglar and escape artist Nolan Booth (Reynolds). There’s a plan afoot to reunite the ancient Egyptian queen’s bejeweled artifacts for a $300 million payday, but the two end up working together to stop another lifter known as The Bishop (Gadot). In a competition for world’s best art thief, The Bishop seems to have a slight upper hand. She’s framed Hartley and led an Interpol agent (Ritu Aryu) to think he’s in cahoots with the endlessly quipping Booth.

The elusive third egg is in the possession of quirky arms dealer Scotto Voce (Chris Diamantopoulos) and the trio double and triple and quadruple cross one another in hopes of achieving their score. Booth and Bishop’s reasoning is money and pride. Hartley’s is to clear his name. The three leads should do their own name clearing after this utter misfire.

Like Deadpool, the screenplay (by the director) goes the self-referential route at times. This is mostly through Reynolds. Unlike his Wade Wilson, he’s not very funny and doesn’t have solid one-liners to ironically spew. Whistling the Indiana Jones theme while the pic serves as a pale comparison doesn’t qualify as clever. Johnson gets to briefly find himself in a jungle setting in the third act and I believe that’s contractually obligated nowadays. Gadot’s comedic skills were effective in Wonder Woman… at least the first one. They’re strained and forced here.

A decent caper needs a worthwhile twist or two. If you pay even a little attention to the characters actions, you’ll spot them coming way before their reveals. For having a reported $200 million up on the screen (the small one since Netflix bought it), there’s not one action sequence worthy of note or hilariously inspired bit to break the monotony. Red Notice hops all over the globe with its megastars and goes nowhere fast. The true robbery is two hours of watching them coast.

*1/2 (out of four)

F9 Review

Make no mistake. We don’t watch the Fast and Furious movies because they have any resemblance to the real world. For a franchise that I cannot imagine was envisioned to reach nine entries deep, we can park our logic immediately and settle in for a thrill ride. Surprisingly it’s a formula that’s usually worked (certainly at the box office and often with the quality of the product). In F9, the luster has gathered rust. This is the first Fast feature since part 4 that I wouldn’t recommend as a guilty pleasure. We’ve reached the long-lost brother stage of the storyline. We also have characters blasting into outer space. So it’s time to stop being polite about what’s going on in this fading fantasy world.

Returning director Justin Lin (who made parts III-VI) and his cowriter Daniel Casey have swapped out ex-wrestlers turned thespians. Gone is Dwayne Johnson (a result of a feud with Vin Diesel), who brought a jolt starting in Fast Five. Tagging in is John Cena as the aforementioned and previously never mentioned sibling Jakob Toretto. As we are told in overdramatic and overlong flashbacks, he played a role in the late 80s racing death of his father. This doesn’t sit well with brother Dom (Diesel) and the two haven’t been on speaking terms since. Jakob reacts as most would with the family estrangement by becoming an international mercenary and obtaining a deadly computer system that will wreak global havoc. His employer is the son of a dictator (Thue Erstad Rasmussen) who’s working with part 8’s hacker bad girl Cipher (Charlize Theron).

The return of the banished brother causes Dom to interrupt his farm life seclusion with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their 5-year-old son. The band, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) reassemble for the forthcoming sequences where automobiles do things they have no earthly business doing. Also back are the thought to be dead Han (Sung Kang) and a trio of street racers from Tokyo Drift who are now (somehow) rocket scientists. Jordana Brewster (as Dom and Jakob’s sister Mia) hops a flight home. This is where I’ll address a sensitive issue. When Paul Walker died in 2013, the filmmakers were faced with the unenviable task of dealing with his character Brian who served as co-lead for the previous entries. They handled it deftly in Furious 7. However, in a saga that constantly beats the drum of helping your teammates, the explanation of Brian simply being retired and not taking part in the action strains credibility. We’re told he’s babysitting while wife Mia is away. I know it might seem silly to discuss credibility in a Fast flick, but it is an unfortunate minor distraction.

F9 takes too long to get its motor running. The 143 minute runtime (bogged down by those flashbacks of young Dom and Jakob) is a momentum stopper. Part of the intrigue involves a super powerful magnate (think more than fridge quality grade) that whips anything in its path towards it. It’s cool the first time we see the hurling. And then we witness it again and again. Cena has shown considerable comedic chops elsewhere. That magnetism is nowhere to be found here. Dwayne Johnson is missed as is Jason Statham as sparring partner Shaw. Theron, Kurt Russell as government agent Mr. Nobody, and Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mum are barely seen (though the latter’s brief appearance is kind of a hoot).

What we’re left with is a mopey family dynamic that the franchise didn’t need. Roman’s character brings self-reference to the screenplay, often commenting on the ridiculousness of everything – how come no one ever gets a scratch on them? As I said, that doesn’t matter much when we can mindlessly settle in and enjoy it. F9 doesn’t achieve that like the bulk of its predecessors. Put another way, my tank was half full for parts V-VIII and now it’s half empty. By the time Roman and Tej enter moonwalking territory, it should feel ludicrous in a positive way. Instead we’ve had to slog through over two hours of make it up as you go along nonsense to get there.

** (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…

Jungle Cruise Review

Jungle Cruise, based on the at this point ancient Disney theme park ride, is stocked with bad puns, over plotting, and elaborate adventure set pieces that includes inexplicable Metallica infused orchestral cues. This is a big budget fantasy with two megawatt movie stars and animals that absolutely look CG. There are occasions where the screenwriters don’t feel the need to convince us that the two leads have fallen for each other. That’s just what happens in these thrill rides. That said, I found the picture to be an energetic ball of fun that kids will probably dig on several occasions. It comes close at times to matching the joyfulness of the first Pirates of the Caribbean and mostly avoids the tedium that cursed the sequels to varying degrees.

The film takes place in 1916, two years into World War I or The Great War at the time since the protagonists didn’t know a sequel was coming. Dr. Lily (Emily Blunt) is a botanist who believe she’s found the locale for the Tears of the Moon. That tree is said to break curses and offer healing powers for the ill. She wants to find it to advance medicine, but she lets her haughty yet stylish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) try to sell potential funders. This is not a female friendly era after all. German royal Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) wants the Tears for more nefarious purposes. It involves using the Tears for fears and everybody wants to rule the world, don’t they? I can do bad puns too, folks!

Doc Lily and her brother need to find the Tree that is located deep in the Amazon River. Through a series of bumblings, her captain is Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). He arrives with his rinky dink boat, his Jaguar avatar assistant Proxima, and a cast of supporting characters tasked with making the jungle seem more dangerous than it is. The real danger involves obtaining the life force that is the Tree with its magical petals. Not only is the deranged Prince pining for it, but so is the cursed and undead Pirates like Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his minions.

By the time our two leads have been bitten by the love bug, Jungle Cruise gives us numerous action sequences on a majestic scale. Jaume Collet-Serra, best known for directing mid to low budget Liam Neeson genre exercises or horror flicks like The Shallows, accustoms himself well to the Mouse Factory machine. As mentioned, Frank and Lily’s romance might come off a bit shallow and forced. Yet the grand entertainment offered up by their surroundings makes up for it. And Johnson and Blunt certainly have the charisma to carry us on the journey. You could even say that we’re far from the shallow now (bad pun for the win!).

One could nitpick or pay admission to the notion that this mostly delivers on the rendering of its ride translated to the big screen (or wherever you may roam while viewing on Disney Plus). I found it fairly easy to go with the latter.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Jungle Cruise

Debuting in multiplexes and on Disney Plus, Jungle Cruise sails into theaters and couches on Friday hoping for smooth box office returns. Based on the longtime attraction at the Mouse Factory’s theme parks, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt headline the fantasy adventure from director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The studio has, of course, made a boatload of cash with similar fare. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise stands at over $4 billion worldwide. That series also earned some Oscar love. In addition to Johnny Depp’s nominated performance in the 2003 original, part 1 nabbed four tech nods in the sound races (when they were divided into categories), Makeup, and Visual Effects. Sequel Dead Men’s Chest earned four mentions in the two sound contests, Art Direction (now Production Design), and Visual Effects (where it won). Threequel At World’s End also won Visual Effects and was nominated in Makeup. The fourth and fifth editions garnered no Academy attention.

The early chatter for Jungle Cruise compares it to more to The Mummy (as in the Brendan Fraser one) and not Pirates. That adventure earned a lone Sound nod in 1999.

So where does Jungle Cruise stand? Reviews are decent with a 69% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Sound and Visual Effects are certainly possible. That said, even some of the positive critical reaction isn’t overly kind to the CG effects. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this make the shortlist for VE and not make the final five while Sound is a bit iffy as well. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

July 30-August 1 Box Office Predictions

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s theme ride based Disney adventure Jungle Cruise should have no trouble topping the charts as July rolls to August at the box office. It opens alongside the Matt Damon drama Stillwater and David Lowery’s medieval tale The Green Knight with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on all of them here:

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

After a rather sluggish weekend where no newcomer topped $20 million, Jungle should easily cruise to that and more. Whether it tops $30 million is more of a question mark (especially with the Delta variant complicating matters). I’m putting it just under $30M while no other title should hit $10 million.

The jockeying for slots 2-5 could be interesting. Let’s get The Green Knight out of the way. While Lowery is an acclaimed indie filmmaker, I don’t see this having much initial crossover appeal. I have yet to see a theater count and my estimate of $3.4  million puts it well outside the top 5 (my estimate could change based on number of screens). **Blogger’s Update (07/28): the 2500 estimated screen count has revised my estimate for this up from $2.2M to $3.4M

Stillwater is a bit more of a head scratcher. It has solid reviews yet I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been better positioned for an autumn release. It could certainly open higher than my $5.2 million projection, but I also wouldn’t shocked if it went lower.

The position of Stillwater in the top 5 will be determined by the sophomore drops of Old and Snake Eyes and the fourth weekend performance of Black Widow. 

Widow and Space Jam: A New Legacy have experienced hefty declines in their second frames. With mixed to negative reviews, I see no reason why Old and Snake Eyes won’t suffer the same fate. Both could see their fortunes fall in the mid 50s (that could be best case) or 60% or more. I’m thinking the latter. There’s a chance that Space Jam could stay in the high five if Snake Eyes dips in the mid 60s (I think it’ll be awfully close)

Here’s how I have all the action playing out:

1. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. Old

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

4. Stillwater

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

5. Snake Eyes

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

6. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

Box Office Results (July 23-25)

Considering its low budget, the performance of M. Night Shyamalan’s Old isn’t necessarily bad news for Universal. However, it definitely came in on the low end of expectations with $16.8 million for a gold medal showing. I was more generous at $19.8 million. Word-of-mouth doesn’t seem very encouraging and I anticipate a sophomore drop in the 60% range.

There’s really no way to spin the Snake Eyes gross in a positive way for Paramount with its disappointing silver medal. The hoped for G.I. Joe reboot tanked with just $13.3 million compared to my $17.2 million projection. You could say it was a real American no show with audiences. With a budget in the reported $100 million range, this should easily put this franchise on the skids for some time.

Black Widow took the bronze in weekend #3 with $11.6 million (I went a little higher at $12.9 million). The MCU stand-alone feature has made $154 million thus far and will be one of the lowest performers of the MCU library.

Space Jam: A New Legacy plummeted from its #1 perch to fourth with a near 70 percent fall. The $9.5 million gross was way under my take of $15.8 million and the two-week tally is $51 million. There’s no chance the LeBron and Looney Tunes sequel will make $100 million stateside.

F9 was fifth with $4.8 million (I said $5.1 million) to bring its total to $163 million.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was sixth in its second outing with only $3.5 million (I went with $4.5 million) for $16 million overall.

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