Known for his mega budget disaster flicks such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, director Roland Emmerich tries his hand at a World War II epic next weekend with Midway. Budgeted at $75 million (pretty low considering the reported $165 million price tag for his 2016 dud sequel Independence Day: Resurgence), the cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson.
I do not expect this to be Emmerich’s Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk. Those WWII efforts had critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. This does not. There will be competition for the adult and action crowd with the debut of Doctor Sleep and second frame for Terminator: Dark Fate.
IMAX elevated pricing could help a bit, but I doubt it. My suspicion is that Midway posts middling to poor numbers in the low teens for an inauspicious start.
The cavalcade of 2019 Disney live-action reimaginings continues next weekend with Maleficent: MistressofEvil. The fantasy adventure is the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, which focused on the villainous title character from SleepingBeauty. Angelina Jolie returns along with Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville. Newcomers to the fold include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Joachim Rønning (who recently co-directed the Mouse Factory’s PiratesoftheCaribbean: DeadMenTellNoTales) takes over for Robert Stromberg.
When it comes to comps for how Mistress might perform, that’s a tricky calculation. Since the release of part 1 five summers ago, there’s been eight Disney updates of their classic animated material. The last two from this summer (Aladdin and TheLionKing) were massive blockbusters based on beloved 1990s pics. This spring’s Dumbo, on the other hand, premiered with a so-so $45 million.
What about Maleficent itself? It opened just under $70 million with a $241 million eventual domestic haul. Yet five years is a fairly long break between sequels and some of the kiddos who attended could take a pass here. That brings up the example of AliceinWonderland and AliceThroughtheLookingGlass. In 2010, Wonderland was the first significant reimagining in several years. It debuted to $116 million. Six years later, LookingGlass was a huge flop and earned in the mid 20s for its start. For a non Disney example, SnowWhiteandtheHuntsman kicked off with a robust $56 million in 2012. Four years, its follow-up TheHuntsman: Winter’sWar sputtered with a meager $19.4 million.
While I don’t anticipate the drop-off here will be quite as dramatic as the last two scenarios, I do feel Evil will come in markedly lower than its predecessor. I’ll predict low to mid 30s could be the range and that means around half of the bounty from half a decade ago.
Maleficent: MistressofEvil opening weekend prediction: $32.3 million
For my Zombieland: Double Tap prediction, click here:
Based on a popular Japanese graphic novel, the sci-fi action spectacle Alita: BattleAngel is finally ready for release next Thursday. Robert Rodriguez serves as director with a screenplay from another well-known auteur by the name of James Cameron (as well as Laeta Kalogridis). Rosa Salazar provides the voice and motion capture work for the title character and other cast members include Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, and Jackie Earle Haley.
Alita was originally slated for release last summer before being pushed back to December. The folks at 20th Century Fox moved it from that crowded marketplace to Valentine’s Day. However, other movies should still be a factor. TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart will likely top the charts in its second frame while horror sequel HappyDeathDay2U opens and provides some direct audience competition.
The reported budget here is rumored to be possibly $200 million. The visuals have been praised while the film itself has had a mixed critical reaction (57% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). Alita is tracking to be a disappointment stateside considering the price tag and I agree with that assessment. I’ll say it manages high teens to low 20s for the traditional Friday to Monday portion of the Presidents Day frame, which should mean mid 20s when factoring in the Thursday gross.
Alita: BattleAngel opening weekend prediction: $19.7 million (Friday to Monday); $24.8 million (Thursday to Monday)
James Cameron is no stranger to Oscar attention with Titanic winning Best Picture 21 years ago and Avatar picking up a slew of nominations in 2009. In two weeks, he serves as co-writer for Alita: BattleAngel along with Laeta Kologridis. It’s directed by Robert Rodriguez. The pic is based on a well-known series of cyberpunk graphic novels from Japan. Rosa Salazar voices the title character and provides motion capture work for her movements in this mix of live and CG action.
Reviews are out and they’re skewing negative, along with some positive here and there. The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 44%. A lot of the critics are particularly picking apart the screenplay and that’s not an uncommon knock on Cameron’s writing.
Alita comes with a reported budget upwards of $200 million and it’s being seen as a potential costly flop stateside (foreign grosses could be a different story). While this clearly won’t contend for major categories in awards season, the state of the art visuals have been praised. And it’s worth noting that Cameron’s directorial efforts Aliens, TheAbyss, Terminator2: JudgmentDay, Titanic, and Avatar all won Best Visual Effects at the Oscars.
That said, there’s plenty of eye-popping blockbuster feasts on the schedule in 2019 (Avengers: Endgame and the next StarWars included). With the possibility of negative buzz enveloping it, this may not even be a slam dunk in that category. In that sense, it could be similar to 2017’s ValerianandtheCityofaThousandPlanets, which also had poor word-of-mouth and missed out in its most obvious slot for recognition. If this manages a nod, the two Sound races are possible as well.
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…
I love it when a plan comes together and Ryan Reynolds’ plan to bring a proper version of Deadpool to moviegoers pans out in a big and raunchy way. It marks the actor’s fourth appearance in a comic book based picture after Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he also played Mr. Pool. Those entries weren’t too memorable. The fourth time turns out to be the charm.
What sets Deadpool apart from Spideys and Avengers and Caped Crusaders is the level of R rated debauchery, amped up violence, and profanity not often found in the Marvel or DC universes. Yes, we see it in Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but not quite like this. The alter ego here is Wade Wilson, a former special forces operative who makes his dough as a mercenary. He doesn’t see himself as a good guy and he isn’t, though most of the jobs he takes have whiffs of virtue. Early on, Wade fools around and falls in love with escort Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and life is going well until a dire cancer diagnosis. Choosing to undergo experimental treatment for his illness, he leaves his girl and soon figures out that he’s been duped and is subjected to torturous experiments by a shadowy group led by British mutant Ajax (Ed Skrein). It leaves our antihero badly deformed and indestructible, hence the need for his superhero costume. Additionally, it leaves him pining for sweet and bloody revenge. Deadpool is soon joined in his journey by two X-Men – Colussus (Stefan Kapicic) and the entertaingly named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).
Along the way, Reynolds frequently breaks the fourth wall and talks to us in the audience. The screenplay fluctuates between his origin story and the here and now. It is a pic with its wicked tongue planted in its cheek. Much of what comes out of his mouth is hilarious and un-PC in a genre where a sense of sameness (see Avengers: Age of Ultron) has creeped in. Even the lead performer’s previous failures in spandex are slyly addressed. From the 80s inspired synth score coupled with Wham! and Salt n Pepa to a sex scene montage that shows our lead lovers freaky holiday progression, Deadpool isn’t afraid to be way out there. The gamble usually pays off.
Truth be told, Skrein’s villain and sidekick (Gina Carano) are forgettable. And there is the occasional joke that falls flat. Most, however, land. Reynolds has been working hard to get this character his own explicit feature for some time and it’s clear that he and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and first time director Tim Miller have their hearts in the proceedings. For an actor whose performances are a mixed bag, Reynolds’ sarcastic wit is absolutely perfect for this part, similar to what we’ve seen with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Pratt in their franchises.
Deadpool shakes up the comic book worlds we are now accustomed to seeing every three months or so and gives Mr. Reynolds some nice retribution on screen and in a genre where his previous efforts weren’t too fun. This one is tremendous fun.
Ryan Reynolds has appeared in two superhero flicks before and neither (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2011’s Green Lantern) are exactly considered genre classics, to be kind. However, the times could be a-changin’ as Deadpool hits theaters next weekend amidst a wave of positive buzz.
Based on the Marvel Comics character, Reynolds plays the title role with Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, and Gina Carano in the supporting cast with first timer Tim Miller directing. Deadpool has been graced with some terrific trailers (especially the red band ones) that have assisted in generating big audience interest. In case you couldn’t tell from the red band mention, Deadpool is the rare hard R rated comic book pic. One could say that could limit its audience (and this certainly has no shot of achieving the kind of grosses that Avengers or Batman manage), but this should at least meet or very likely exceed expectations.
Somewhat ironically, this may open right in the $53 million range of Reynolds’ critically derided Green Lantern, which then sputtered to a $116M overall take. The difference? That gross for Lantern was disappointing, but it would be just fine for Deadpool. I’ll predict this manages to get a bit beyond that.
Deadpool opening weekend prediction: $58.2 million
**Please note this gross is for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend, not the full President’s Day Weekend.
On Labor Day weekend, the fourth entry in the Transporter franchise hits theaters nearly seven years after the third edition with The Transporter: Refueled. A lot has changed in the meantime. Most notably, the series star Jason Statham is nowhere to be found and English rapper/actor Ed Skrein is the leading man. Cowritten by Luc Besson, who’s scripted the other films, Refueled will attempt to revitalize a franchise that had begun losing steam with part three.
It won’t be an easy task. The original pic in 2002 debuted to $9 million with an eventual $25 million domestic take. 2005’s Transporter 2 marked the highs of the series with a $16 million premiere and $43 million eventual gross. 2008’s Transporter 3 made $12 million out of the gate with a $31 million haul. The absence of Statham and long wait between pics leads me to believe The Transporter: Refueled may struggle to reach double digits. I think it’ll just manage it, if only due to the lack of product currently in the marketplace.
The Transporter: Refueled opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million (Friday to Monday for Labor Day weekend)
For my A Walk in the Woods prediction, click here: