Men Box Office Prediction

Men is a later than usual addition to my box office predictions as it opens in just two days. This is Alex Garland’s latest feature after his acclaimed sci-fi pics Ex Machina (2015) and Annihilation (2018). More of a horror experience than his usual fare, the A24 distributed tale currently holds an 82% Rotten Tomatoes score. Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear star.

While that’s certainly solid, some critics have predicted that this won’t be an audience favorite. The best hope might be for a decent start as a hefty sophomore weekend drop is likely coming. It sounds as if it’s going quite wide at an estimated 2500 screens (something I wasn’t aware of until this late date). I could see Men debuting in the same range as from the same studio. It grossed just over $4 million and that sounds about right here.

Men opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million

For my Downton Abbey: A New Era prediction, click here:

Downton Abbey: A New Era Box Office Prediction

 

Oscar Predictions: Men

In 2015, Alex Garland nabbed an Original Screenplay Oscar nod for his directorial debut Ex Machina. That acclaimed sci-fi tale also surprisingly took the gold in Visual Effects over heavy hitters like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

His 2018 follow-up Annihilation didn’t fare as well at multiplexes or with awards voters. Despite an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating (Machina got a 92%), it failed to generate any nominations.

On February 20th comes Garland’s third behind the camera effort Men. Featuring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, the A24 release sounds like it’s right up the distributor’s dark alley. That means it may score better with critics than crowds. The RT is currently the filmmaker’s lowest at 83% (still pretty darn solid). Like Annihilation, don’t expect it to be in the Academy mix. My Oscar prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Predictions: The Card Counter

Writer/director Paul Schrader experienced a career resurgence three years ago with First Reformed. The critically acclaimed work nabbed the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull a Best Original Screenplay nod. However, the Academy ignored the heralded lead performance from Ethan Hawke and it didn’t grab any other nominations.

Schrader’s latest is The Card Counter and it has premiered in Venice. Out September 10, the crime drama mixes political intrigue with the game of poker. The title character is portrayed by Oscar Isaac, who’s seeking his first nod despite lauded roles in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina. 

Early word-of-mouth from Italy suggests Schrader has another winning hand, though not all reviews are totally flush with praise. The lead is unsurprisingly being singled out, but if Hawke couldn’t get in for Reformed, I really question whether Isaac could. Whether he may contend in supporting for Dune is a question that will be answered in the next 24 hours. As far as all actors involved, he’s the only one that stands a remote chance and not costars Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, or Willem Dafoe.

I feel the same for its Picture and Director prospects. Original Screenplay is not out of the question though this doesn’t seem quite as highly regarded as Schrader’s predecessor. Bottom line: I wouldn’t count Card as much of an awards player. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Oscar Watch: After Yang

South Korean filmmaker Kogonada became a critical darling in 2017 with the release of his debut Columbus. The romance earned plenty of mentions on the top ten lists of critics, but only garnered awards nods with the independent ceremonies.

The Cannes Film Festival marks the premiere of his sophomore effort After Yang. The sci-fi drama stars Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith (of Queen & Slim), Haley Lu Richardson, Justin H. Min, Sarita Choudhury, and Clifton Collins Jr. Some of the reviews indicate this could also pop up on some end of year best of countdowns.

2015’s Ex Machina is being mentioned frequently a comparison in terms of quality and the fact that androids are prominently featured. That Alex Garland effort scored an Oscar nod in Original Screenplay and victory for its Visual Effects. With an early 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could After Yang also come before the minds of voters?

First things first – it is uncertain at the moment when Yang will be released. However, the positive buzz likely means A24 will get it out before year’s end. If so, Adapted Screenplay seems to be the biggest possibility. And just perhaps its acclaim could lead to a shot at the big dance. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 18th Edition

Continuing on with my Daily Streaming Guide for worthy titles available on various services – let’s call today the Alex Garland Edition. He’s the director behind both science fiction titles that are highly worthy of a look:

Netflix

We begin with his intelligent 2015 effort about artificial intelligence – Ex Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. Made for a reported lowly $15 million, this is the type of sci-fi that Stanley Kubrick probably would have been proud of. Machina even won the Oscar for Visual Effects over high-profile features like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also features one of the greatest out of nowhere dance sequences in cinematic history in my view.

Hulu

Garland’s excursion into high minded sci-fi continued with Annihilation, his 2018 follow-up. The visually stunning experience featuring Natalie Portman and Isaac (again) has themes that will stick with you post credits. And just like Ex Machina features a scene that floored me, so does this. The former involved dancing. The latter involves a human and a bear sharing the same voice. You’ll see what I mean. It’s terrifying and thrilling simultaneously.

I’ll be back at it soon, folks! Until then…

Annihilation Movie Review

In 2015, screenwriter and author Alex Garland announced himself as quite a special director with Ex Machina. With a visual style that drew fair comparison to Stanley Kubrick and a compelling story to go with it, that picture was one of the year’s highlights. There is no sophomore slump to be had with Annihilation, a challenging and eye-popping sci-fi experience that sticks with you after the credits roll (as did his first picture).

Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biology professor and Army vet whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) has been missing for a year after taking on a mysterious mission. He turns up one day after that disappearance, but doesn’t seem himself. A health scare causes him to be quarantined and causes Lena to search for answers. She finds some of them from psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It turns out Kane was part of a secret expedition to The Shimmer, a stretch of land that’s been evacuated and is undergoing government testing for bizarre activity within its perimeters. Many military personnel have entered it. Kane is the first to return.

Dr. Ventress and Lena figure out that some scientific experience may be better served to investigate The Shimmer, as opposed to military might. They assemble an all female squad that includes a physicist (Tessa Thompson), a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), and a geologist (Tuva Novotny) to join them. Other than the doctor, the rest of the team is unaware of Lena’s familial connection to The Shimmer.

The world that these five women enter is a beautiful, eerie, and dangerous one. There are surprises to be found in The Shimmer – so much so that saying too much would enter spoiler territory. All of the characters that enter it have backstories that cause them to take on such a risky mission. Lena’s is an obvious one – to find out what happened to her husband. Some of the others are a bit more subtle.

Annihilation, like Ex Machina, has certain sequences that are stunning. There’s a scene involving a highly abnormal creature (you’ll know when you see it) that is truly tension filled and weirdly wonderful. The production design and look of The Shimmer is a triumph. Portman’s central character is a complicated one. She’s not just the concerned wife looking for answers. Lena has her own demons and they tie directly into her mission. That holds true for all of the women. Leigh and Rodriguez are particular standouts in their supporting work.

After Ex Machina, I certainly anticipated Annihilation to be a visually glorious experience and it is. Yet we’ve also seen Garland’s abilities to tell a tale packed with food for thought afterwards. Annihilation has something to say about rebirth, marriage, disease, depression, and more. You may not even realize it all until later. In the meantime, I remained transfixed on the unique world it created to explore those issues.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Annihilation

Alex Garland’s Annihilation hits theaters tomorrow and the science fiction thriller has been subject to some glowing reviews. It stands at 88% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is the follow-up to director Garland’s 2015 debut Ex Machina, which nabbed two Oscar nominations. Machina won for Visual Effects (which was a bit of a surprise) and got a nod for Original Screenplay.

Annihilation is based on a novel and would compete in Adapted Screenplay. It’s unlikely this would compete for the big prizes like Picture, Director, or any of the acting races. Visual Effects could be a different story as critics have taken notice of that aspect of its production. Like Machina, it could find itself a contender in that category.

That said, distributor Paramount doesn’t seem very confident with Annihilation. That’s despite the positive critical reaction. The picture appears unlikely to make much noise at the box office and one wonders if the studio will push it for awards consideration at all. With the February release date, it’s possible Oscar voters will have simply forgotten Garland’s sophomore effort come voting time. Time will tell.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

 

Annihilation Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note part 2 (02/20): I am once again revising my estimate. Now to $10.4 million

Blogger’s Note (02/15): I’m losing faith a bit for Annihilation debut. Revising down from $14.4 million to $12.4 million

Three years ago, screenwriter Alex Garland made his directorial debut with the acclaimed sci-fi pic Ex Machina, which garnered an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination and won for Visual Effects. Next Friday, his sophomore effort Annihilation debuts. Based on the novel from James VanderMeer, Natalie Portman stars in the $55 million production combining sci-fi, horror, and action elements. Costars include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Machina lead Oscar Isaac.

While Annihilation is hitting theaters in the U.S., Canada, and China, it’s slated to roll out on Netflix in other international markets. Early critical buzz is pretty solid so far, but it could struggle to break out stateside. Audiences are likely to still be flocking to Black Panther, which will be in its second weekend of release (and doing its own annihilation of competitors).

Fans of Machina, the genre, and Portman may be enough to get this between $10 million on the low end and $15 million on the high end. I’ll project roughly in the lower end of that range.

Annihilation opening weekend prediction: $10.4 million

For my Game Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/14/game-night-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Florida Project

The first trailer was released today for The Florida Project, a coming of age drama that debuted at Cannes earlier this summer. It is director Sean Baker’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2015 feature Tangerine and early word for this Project is quite glowing as well. The pic was snatched up by A24 for distribution rights and it opens in limited release on October 6th.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has Florida at 100% and it stands a good chance at some 2017 Oscar recognition. A24 has proven itself to be a player over the last couple of cycles in the awards derby by distributing such titles as Ex Machina, Room, The Lobster, 20th Century Women, and most notably – last year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight. 

Early buzz here suggests a nomination may well be in store for Willem Dafoe. If so, it would mark his third nomination after 1986’s Platoon and 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire. Reviews suggest this is one of his finest performances. It’s not totally clear if he’ll be campaigned for in Lead Actor or Supporting, but the smart money is on the latter. I would also say it’s worth keeping an eye on the Original Screenplay category where Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch could find themselves in the mix.

As for Best Picture, A24 would need one heck of a push to make that happen, but they’ve proven themselves before. For that reason, this Project is one to keep an eye on when it comes to nominations.

Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…