Tag Archives: Ezra Miller

Oscar Watch – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry is back in theaters next weekend with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s the second in a series of five planned features as it looks to conjure up huge box office dollars like predecessor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did.

Early reviews are out and the reaction is mixed at 56% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even the most acclaimed Harry Potter pics were ever considered awards contenders for major categories. However, down the line technical races are another story.

Two years ago, the first Beasts managed two Oscar nominations: Production Design and Costume Design. It won the latter. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be a factor in both of those categories again. That said, voters could feel they’ve already honored the franchise with part 1. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are in the realm of possibility, if unlikely.

Bottom line: the costumes especially could garner attention, but don’t expect Grindelwald to exceed (and maybe not match) the first movie.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Box Office Prediction

The wizarding world of J.K. Rowling is back next weekend when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts. This is the follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which precedes the events of the massive Harry Potter franchise. David Yates (who made the last four Potter flicks and the first Beasts) is back directing. Returning cast members include Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, and Johnny Depp, whose role as the villainous title character will expand from his cameo in the predecessor. Jude Law joins the party as a younger Dumbledore.

There is no doubt that Grindelwald will easily top the charts upon its release, just as all Rowling universe titles have. The real question is how it opens in comparison to 2016’s effort, which premiered on the same November weekend. I believe there’s some solid historical data to consider.

In 2001, the first Potter film (The Sorcerer’s Stone) made $90 million out of the gate. One year later, follow-up Chamber of Secrets made just a tad less at $88 million. This seems like a likely scenario with Grindewald. 

The first Beasts took in $74.4 million for its start two years ago and I’ll put the sequel right under that for a low 70s beginning.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening weekend prediction: $72.1 million

For my Widows prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/widows-box-office-prediction/

For my Instant Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/instant-family-box-office-prediction/

Justice League Movie Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a bit of a mess and it earned its reputation as such in many ways. However, I found myself seemingly in the minority of those who sort of dug it. Where it failed – it failed significantly. That includes the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor with his manic and bizarre take on the iconic villain. There were some narrative choices that were questionable. Yet when BvS worked, I felt it worked well and that included Ben Affleck succeeding as Batman.

Justice League is less cluttered. Zack Snyder, directing this DC Universe for the third time, captains a tighter ship with a shorter running time than what’s preceded it… and nearly all recent comic book adaptations for that matter. It is, of course, Warner Bros venture into Avengers territory. There’s a somewhat lighter tone that we first saw in the summer’s Wonder Woman stand-alone feature. The inclusion of The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) contribute to that. So does the fact that the unusually somber Superman (Henry Cavill) who brooded through much of Man of Steel and BvS is absent much of the time.

As you’ll recall, Superman was dead and buried at the BvS conclusion. Justice League opens with the world missing him and crime on the rise. Batman is doing his level best, but he needs a squad. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still dealing with the loss she experienced in her own movie, but she’s game to help. They recruit the newbies only glimpsed upon in BvS: The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). It is their mission to thwart the Earth dominating plans of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), a motion capture evil alien. The League incorporates their powers to do so, but they know they must resurrect the Big S to complete the task.

The Avengers had the advantage of having introduced several of its core characters in separate entries. That doesn’t hold true here for half of the Justice League. Miller provides some decent comic relief, Momoa has a memorable moment or two and Fisher’s backstory is a bit blah. Their inclusion feels a little rushed and a little watered down.

Curiously the villain issue of BvS, while highly disappointing, was at least fascinating to witness in a rather bad way. Here the character of Steppenwolf isn’t really interesting at all. Many of these comic book adaptations have suffered the most from bland baddies and this is another.

League finds time to bring back Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and Clark’s mama (Diane Lane) in limited fashion. J.K. Simmons turns up briefly as the previously MIA Commissioner Gordon. It is Gadot who shines brightest, which is no surprise considering her rock solid solo spotlight just months prior.

In essence, Justice League feels ordinary too often. It’s got the same flaws as others in the genre. It has the same bright spots with certain performances. There’s action sequences that impress and others with dodgier CG. Call me crazy, but I admired BvS often for its occasional audacity and untidiness. With Justice, it joins a league of plenty others like it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Now that Harry Potter’s wand has been cinematically retired (at least until Warner Bros figures out how to eventually resuscitate him), it’s J.K. Rowling to the rescue with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is the first entry in the wizardry world with a screenplay directly from the famed author who created it. This expands greatly on her 2001 novel (which is when Harry debuted onscreen) to create another franchise meant to draw youngsters into its spell, as well as Potter fans of all ages.

In order to achieve that goal, David Yates is back directing. He’s responsible for the last four features in the Potterverse. Our central character this time around is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist from London who comes to New York City circa 1926 with a briefcase full of creatures. It’s not clear immediately why he’s in the Big Apple, but his back story tells us of his time at a little school called Hogwarts where he was expelled and was tutored by a much younger Dumbledore.

Wizards need to be registered stateside and Newt finds himself generating the skepticism of Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (obviously). She’s frustrated with her job, which is headed by its President (Carmen Ejogo) and enforced by Colin Farrell’s head of security. Newt and Tina team up to protect his various beasts and those who wish to destroy them. It’s not a two-person team as Newt befriends aspiring baker and World War I vet Jacob (Dan Fogler). Tina’s mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is also involved and is the apple of Jacob’s eye. Before we continue with the rest of the review, let me declare that the subplot of Jacob and Queenie’s flirtation and budding romance was my favorite thing about the movie. Fogler serves as the general comic relief here anyway and does so quite wonderfully. Sudol shines in her first role. Their chemistry has genuine magic and if there was ever a case for a rom com spin-off of a hoped for multi-billion dollar franchise, this is it.

Moving on, that’s a small but very winning part of the two-hour plus running time. I wish I could say the chemistry between Newt and Tina was as impressive, but it’s not. Tina is a bit of a blank slate in this first installment and it certainly remains to be seen whether Redmayne’s Newt will come anywhere close to being as beloved as you know who. He’s got a long way to go. Not even Harry Potter could have sold doing a “mating dance” with a titillated CG rhino and neither can Newt. On the other hand, Beasts has its own version of a Star Wars-like cantina scene with Ron Perlman’s cool voicing of a nefarious creation and it’s a highlight.

There are other performances worthy of note, including Ezra Miller as an abused teen with mysterious powers and Samantha Morton as his wizard hating adopted mom doing the abuse. Our main villain Grindelwald is mostly just spoken of but not seen (kind of like Voldemort was for a bit), but we know he’ll play a bigger role as the series moves along.

Fantastic Beasts is heavy on effects (most of them eye-catching) and creating the visually arresting template for sequels. I didn’t think it reached a Sorcerer’s Stone level of quality as far as part 1’s, but Rowling is generally successful in making us curious about what comes next with this real and generated crop of characters.

*** (out of four)

Justice League Box Office Prediction

The DC Cinematic Universe has reached Marvel Cinematic Universe territory as Justice League debuts next weekend. The reported $300 million production brings many of the company’s comic book creations together as it hopes to have the largest opening of the fourth quarter of 2017 until Star Wars hits next month.

In March of 2016, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice brought Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck) together for the first time. Now they’re joined by Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Miller). And, oh yes, there’s Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who just happened to star in her own summer 2017 pic that surprisingly turned out to the season’s biggest blockbuster ($412 million). Man of Steel and BvS director Zack Snyder is behind the camera once again. Other costars include series returnees Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, and the introduction of J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon. Expect some other familiar faces to pop up too.

Batman v Superman opened to a terrific $166 million a year and a half ago. However, poor reviews and mixed word-of-mouth meant a heavily front loaded gross. It ended up with $330 million. If nothing had happened in the interim, it may be a legitimate question as to whether some moviegoers are primed to see these characters again. The fantastic reception earned by Wonder Woman should help (there could be a sizable female audience who go to this simply to see Gadot’s character so quickly again).

That said, I don’t expect League to get close to that BvS number in its first three days. In fact, it could compete for biggest comic book adaptation debut of the month since Thor: Ragnarok posted $122 million this past weekend.

I believe it will just get there and probably post a premiere in line with another DC property – summer 2016’s Suicide Squad, which made $133 million for its start. I’ll put it just a bit under that.

Justice League opening weekend prediction: $128.4 million

For my Wonder prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/08/wonder-box-office-prediction/

For my The Star prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/08/the-star-box-office-prediction/

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them Box Office Prediction

The wildly popular fantasy world created by J.K. Rowling is back in theaters for the first time in five years as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them debuts next weekend. Based on a novel by the Harry Potter author, Beasts looks to create a new franchise for Warner Bros after that aforementioned wizard yielded the studio $2.3 billion dollars for the previous one. David Yates directs and he knows this universe well after making the last four Potter installments. Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne stars with a supporting cast that includes Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, and Jon Voight.

The reported $225 million production is intended as the first in a five-part series and it’s safe to say there’s a lot riding on this one. Seven of the eight Potter pics reside in the top 100 domestic earners of all time and even the lowest grossing one (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) made just under $250M.

So where does this first entry in a budding new franchise land? I don’t believe it’ll quite reach the $90 million that first Potter experience The Sorcerer’s Stone opened at 15 years ago. That said, a gross in low to mid $80s range out of the gate seems quite probable. I’ll predict it’ll do just that and we can expect to see plenty more wizards and muggles coming our way in the near future.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opening weekend prediction: $83.1 million

For my Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-box-office-prediction/

For my Bleed for This prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/10/bleed-for-this-box-office-prediction/

For my The Edge of Seventeen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/the-edge-of-seventeen-box-office-prediction/

Suicide Squad Movie Review

Suicide Squad is the latest in DC’s attempt to Marvelize its cinematic universe in considerably darker shades. It’s noisy and messy. It’s filled with some top-notch performances and fascinating characters mixed with utterly forgettable ones. In a pic filled with villains, there’s weak ones and strong ones. Yes, it’s what we’ve come to anticipate in a series that continues to follow what Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice started.

David Ayers directs this tale of super villains who are charged with saving the world. This is an idea hatched by government official Amanda Waller (a typically solid Viola Davis) and the team she assembles is an unknown one unless you’re an avid comic book reader. It includes master marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), loony tunes temptress Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), flame thrower with a fiery temper El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Aussie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), disfigured Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) and sword expert Katana (Karen Fukuhara).

We get back stories on them all – some more detailed and worthy of screen time than others. Will Smith gives a decent performance, even though his subplot of being a bad hit man who’s also a really dedicated dad (!) is as stale as it sounds. Still he acquits himself well, even if he’s done the dour anti-hero thing before in Hancock. The El Diablo story is helped by Hernandez’s work, even though his flashback info is a bit too serious for everything else happening here. Quite frankly, many of the others aren’t even worth mentioning.

The other that is? That would be Ms. Quinn, played with gusto and a Stockard Channing like Grease accent from Robbie. Her wise cracks land more often than not. She’s the highlight here and her road to villainy involves her romance with the granddaddy baddie of them all, The Joker (Jared Leto). Their story is one that works well, partly due to Leto hitting his mark in a role that’s obviously been well-played before. His screen time is limited (probably wisely) and I look with anticipation to seeing him again.

Where Squad fails majorly is with a dull main villain and that’s Enchantress (Carla Delevingne),  an archeologist turned witchy woman with world domination on her mind. In a movie filled with bad guys, the one they’re chasing shouldn’t be a bore. She is and so is her soldier boyfriend – Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) – from her pre-spell life.

The action sequences are a mixed bag, especially when Ayers films them in such darkness that it’s hard to tell what’s happening. This is an issue that has pervaded other DC adaptations. We expect CG to look pretty decent in everything now and that holds true here, though nothing really stands out.

For the first half or so, Suicide Squad is a bit of depraved fun. A lot of that is Robbie’s doing with some credit to Smith. After about the halfway mark, the feeling sets in that we aren’t terribly invested in what’s occurring and that the Squad goals of taking down the witch seem inconsequential. Batman v Superman was a bit of a mess as well (its main villain issues – aka Jesse Eisenberg – were also there). Yet I somehow left that experience ready to see the Justice League formed. Here – I’m indifferent to Squad seconds. Now if Harley wants to join her main man to battle Superman, Batman, and the others – that’s cool.

**1/2 (out of four)