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)

June 25-27 Box Office Predictions

The domestic box office should experience its largest debut in the COVID era with F9 as the only newcomer joining the fray this weekend. The ninth pic in the Fast and Furious franchise is poised to score the largest premiere since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all the way back in December 2019. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/15/f9-box-office-prediction/

The question is: how big will it be? My mid 60s estimate puts it slightly above what spinoff Hobbs & Shaw accomplished two years ago and not in the high 90s stratosphere of immediate predecessor The Fate of the Furious from 2017.

As for the holdovers that will populate the remainder of the top five, it could be a close race for #2. If current champ Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard loses around half of its opening audience and A Quiet Place Part II only falls about a third, the latter could remain in the runner-up slot. Look for family features Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Cruella to populate the remainder of the quintet.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. F9

Predicted Gross: $64.8 million

2. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $6.2 million

3. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

4. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Predicted Gross: $4.1 million

5. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $3.3 million

Box Office Results (June 18-20)

As anticipated, the trio of Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson/Salma Hayek in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard managed to top the charts and pretty much open in line with expectations. The poorly reviewed action sequel took in $11.3 million during the Friday to Sunday frame compared to my $12.6 million estimate. Its $16.7 million five-day take (it started out on Wednesday) is just under my $17.7 million projection.

A Quiet Place Part II dropped to second with $9 million, outpacing my $7.9 million prediction as the horror sequel now stands at $124 million.

Third place belonged to Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway with $6 million (I said $6.6 million). The ten-day tally is $20 million.

The sequels keep on coming with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in fourth at $5 million, falling under my guesstimate of $6.1 million. Total is $53 million.

Cruella rounded out the top five with $4.8 million and I incorrectly had it on the outside looking in. The Disney live-action remake is up to $64 million.

Finally, In the Heights suffered a hefty decline in its sophomore outing. Despite critical acclaim, the musical plummeted 63% for sixth place and $4.2 million. I was far more generous at $7.7 million. The lackluster tally is just $19 million.

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

F9 Box Office Prediction

F9 is widely expected to drive traffic into theaters in a way we have not witnessed since late 2019 – before anyone knew what COVID-19 was. The ninth official entry in The Fast and the Furious franchise appears poised to have the largest domestic opening since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a year and a half ago. It opens June 25th after a series of pandemic related delays. Justin Lin returns in the director’s chair for his fifth Fast flick and first since Fast & Furious 6. Long time and newer series regulars returning include Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Helen Mirren (reprising her role from spinoff Hobbs & Shaw), Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron. Newcomers to the mix are John Cena, Michael Rooker, and Cardi B.

Sporting a budget of at least $200 million, F9 has already made a fortune overseas at $270 million and counting. In 2015, Furious 7 nabbed the largest opening of all the pics (by far) at $147 million ($353 million overall). Tragically, part of that can be attributed to audience curiosity as it dealt with the final appearance of Paul Walker following his passing. 2017’s follow-up The Fate of the Furious debuted to $98 million and an eventual $225 million domestic haul (good for third overall in the ennead). Hobbs & Shaw, meanwhile, made $60 million for its start in 2019 with a $173 million final tally.

With capacity issues mostly having fallen by the wayside, F9 will be a test as to just how high first weekends can go in this market. A Quiet Place Part II set the initial benchmark at $57 million over the four-day Memorial Weekend frame. This is anticipated to zoom beyond that. Furious 7 set a mark that any sequel is unlikely to come close to. A debut in the neighborhood of Fast Five ($86 million) is certainly achievable. Yet I still think some multiplex resistance could stall that possibility. I’ll project $60-$70 million is the more likely range. My estimate puts this a few million under the $70 million made by Fast & Furious in 2009.

F9 opening weekend prediction: $64.8 million

Bloodshot Box Office Prediction

Two months before F9 (the latest edition of his wildly successful Fast & Furious franchise) debuts, Vin Diesel hopes to kick off a new series with Bloodshot next weekend. Based on the Valiant Comics superhero, Diesel is tasked with the title role in this directorial debut from David S.F. Wilson. The supporting casts includes Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, and Guy Pearce.

Diesel is certainly a franchise man with three under his belt: Furious, xXx, and the Riddick pics (four if you count his voice work as Groot in the MCU). The $42 million budget is low for the genre and probably the catering cost for an Avengers epic. So while the pic hopes international grosses make it profitable, this could struggle stateside.

Outside of the aforementioned films, Diesel has had some disappointments. 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter was developed with sequels in mind, but sputtered with just under $11 million for its start. 2008’s Babylon A.D. couldn’t even reach double digits in its premiere.

With muted buzz, I expect Bloodshot to fire blanks with high single to low double digits. At least the headliner has his signature role on deck in short order.

Bloodshot opening weekend prediction: $9.6 million

For my I Still Believe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/03/i-still-believe-box-office-prediction/

For my The Hunt prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/05/the-hunt-box-office-prediction/

For my My Spy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/05/my-spy-box-office-prediction/

Hobbs & Shaw Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/31): My estimate has dropped from $82.6 million to $72.6 million

Two of the most popular characters from the venerable Fast and Furious franchise get their  own spin-off (the first of the long running series) with Hobbs & Shaw next weekend. The action extravaganza comes with a reported $200 million budget and is headlined by the title characters respectively portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. David Leitch (co-director of John Wick and sole director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) is behind the camera. Costars include Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren (reprising her maternal role from 2017’s last entry The Fate of the Furious).

Despite the absence of Vin Diesel and other actors associated with the franchise that started 18 years ago, Hobbs & Shaw is likely to perform similarly to other pics in the canon. The largest opening was accomplished in 2015 with Furious 7 with a gross of $147 million. Tragically, part of the reason its start was significantly more than the others was due to the untimely death of Paul Walker and that picture representing his swan song. Follow-up Fate of the Furious two years later landed the second highest start of the eight features at $98 million.

This might fall a bit under those gaudy numbers and I think low to mid 80s is most feasible. That would put it in line or a just bit below the $86 million accomplished by Fast Five in 2011.

Hobbs & Shaw opening weekend prediction: $72.6 million

The Fate of the Furious Box Office Prediction

Universal Pictures’ billion dollar franchise keeps rolling along as The Fate of the Furious
parks into multiplexes on Easter Weekend. The eighth (yes, eighth) street racing action spectacle finds Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray taking over behind the camera. Fate finds the majority of thespians associated with the series returning – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacis, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, and Nathalie Emmanuel. We also have a pair of Oscar winners joining the mix with Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, as well as Scott Eastwood (whose dad has won some Oscars). Of course, this is the first picture (excluding 2006’s Tokyo Drift) without Paul Walker, who died during the filming of Furious 7.

When Diesel and Walker returned to the franchise in 2009’s Fast and Furious, it sparked a box office resurgence that’s never let up. That fourth entry debuted to $70 million with an overall $155M domestic haul. Follow-up Fast Five in 2011 opened to $86 million ($209M eventual tally). 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 made $97 million out of the gate and $238M eventually. And 2015’s Furious 7 easily set the high mark with a $147 million premiere and $353M overall.

The grosses of Furious 7 were likely (and sadly) expanded due to it being Walker’s last on-screen appearance. Therefore it stands to reason that Fate probably won’t reach the heights of that predecessor. That said, this looks to be a franchise that is still going strong and it would be surprising if it didn’t post the second largest bow thus far.

I’ll predict the fate of this is an opening gross in the low to mid $120M range.

The Fate of the Furious opening weekend prediction: $122.7 million

For my Gifted prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/09/gifted-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: January 27-29

Three new titles debut this weekend, but none in the trio may dislodge Split from a second weekend atop the charts. The newbies are: sixth and presumably last franchise pic Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, family friendly pet tale A Dog’s Purpose, and Matthew McConaughey vehicle Gold. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/resident-evil-the-final-chapter-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/a-dogs-purpose-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/gold-box-office-prediction/

We’ll begin with Resident Evil. While all other entries in the series have managed over $20 million (except for the first in 2002), the near five-year gap between sequels should hurt this, similar to how it just hurt Underworld: Blood Wars. Still, a second place showing looks probable.

That brings us to A Dog’s Purpose. Based on a hugely successful bestseller, I had this pegged at nearly $18 million until last week when a TMZ story alleged very questionable animal handling practices on set. My feeling is that the story has gotten big enough to hurt this significantly and I now have it barely topping double digits.

As for Gold, middling reviews could hinder this one and I’ve got it outside the top five with mid single digits.

Returning champ Split had a much larger than expected debut (more on that below). Even if it dips more than 50% (typical for horror titles), I still see it remaining #1.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage had an unimpressive opening and I expect it to fall from #2 to #6. That’s because both Hidden Figures and La La Land should reap the benefits of Oscar nominations. La La, in particular, looks poised to receive the most Academy nods of any picture in history tomorrow morning and that could contribute to a bump.

And with that, my top 8 predictions for this weekend:

1. Split 

Predicted Gross: $18.5 million (representing a drop of 53%)

2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Predicted Gross: $14.6 million

3. Hidden Figures

Predicted Gross: $12.8 million (representing a drop of 19%)

4. A Dog’s Purpose

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

5. La La Land

Predicted Gross: $9.9 million (representing an increase of 18&)

6. xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 55%)

7. Sing

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million (representing a drop of 38%)

8. Gold

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million

Box Office Results (January 20-22)

On the weekend that we just had, maybe it’s somewhat appropriate and ironic that the #1 movie in America is titled Split. And the M. Night Shymalan pic rocketed out of the gate with a fantastic and unforeseen $40.1 million, more than doubling my teeny $19.6M estimate. This is the director’s fourth highest domestic debut, trailing Signs, The Village, and The Last Airbender. It puts the director, who’d been on a downturn until 2015’s low-budget The Visit performed well, on even more of an upswing.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage managed a middling $20.1 million in second, under my $25.4M prediction. The Diesel power is clearly stronger with his Fast and Furious franchise.

Two-week champ Hidden Figures was third with $15.7 million (a bit above my $13.7M forecast) for $83M thus far.

Sing was fourth with $9 million (I said $8.4M) to bring its tally to $249M.

Fifth place belonged to La La Land with $8.4 million (not matching my $11.4M estimate) for an $89M total. Still, as mentioned, its Oscar bump could be forthcoming.

Rogue One was sixth with $7.2 million (I said $7.8M) for a $512M haul.

#7 – Monster Trucks in weekend #2 with $7 million (I said $6.2M). Total gross: $22M.

#8 – Patriots Day, also in weekend #2 of wide release with $5.7 million (I said $7.2M). Total gross: $23M.

#9 – Sleepless in its sophomore frame with $3.4M and #10 was The Bye Bye Man, also with $3.4M in weekend 2. My respective guesstimates were $4.3M and $5.9M.

The Founder with Michael Keaton opened to stale results with $3.4 million in 11th, a bit shy of my $4.1M estimate.

Finally, two other newcomers posted low numbers as 20th Century Women expanded wide and made $1.4 million (I was higher with $2.8M) and faith-based dramedy The Resurrection of Gavin Stone earned $1.3 million (I said $1.6M).

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

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Box Office Prediction

Lest ye forget, the Fast and Furious series isn’t the only franchise that Vin Diesel has been a part of and I’m not talking about Riddick or Guardians of the Galaxy. Next weekend, Mr. Diesel returns in the title role of xXx: Return of Xander Cage. 

In 2002, the star (hot off the first Fast feature) headlined summer action blockbuster xXx, which opened to $44 million with an eventual $142M domestic haul. Yet, just like the first Furious sequel, he decided to sit out the follow-up, xXx: State of the Union which featured Ice Cube instead. That one didn’t fare so well with just a $12 million debut and $26M overall gross.

Cage finds D.J. Caruso taking over the directorial duties with a supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, and Tony Jaa. The question is: will moviegoers return to the super spy action series nearly 15 years after the original?

The answer: to an extent. Diesel has obviously gotten max exposure in recent years with the well-received Furious extravaganzas. There is the cautionary tale of 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter, which he hoped would turn into a franchise but sputtered with just $27 million domestically. xXx may earn that and then some in its first weekend of release. I’ve got it pegged in the mid to high 20s and even though that’s not reaching what the first Cage opus made a decade and a half ago, it’s OK.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage opening weekend prediction: $25.4 million

For my Split prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/10/split-box-office-prediction/

For my The Founder prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/11/the-founder-box-office-prediction/

For my 20th Century Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/20th-century-women-box-office-prediction/

For my The Resurrection of Gavin Stone prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/the-resurrection-of-gavin-stone-box-office-prediction/

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Now that this latest iteration of the Star Trek film series has reached its third entry, the creative forces behind it are free to just let Beyond be a two-hour episode upon itself. In other words, JJ Abrams was quite successful directing the first two features in 2009 and 2013 and establishing a new cast playing iconic roles. By part III, those objectives have already been met and Abrams leaves his successor Justin Lin the opportunity to make this one an action packed sci-fi spectacle. We also have the hallmarks of the 50-year-old franchise that include celebrating the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew and injecting well-placed humor.

In a way, Star Trek Beyond reminded me of the previous 007 pic, Spectre. How so? Spectre arrived three movies after Daniel Craig had put his stamp on another half century old institution. By the time part 4 rolled around, I was ready for something that needn’t burden itself with continually reshaping itself. Spectre didn’t and was mostly successful. Beyond doesn’t either and is even more satisfying.

We begin in year 3 of the USS Enterprise’s five-year voyage that they embarked on at the conclusion of Star Trek Into Darkness. Not all is well. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, grown and confident in the role) is struggling with the endless journey. Trusty Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having girl troubles with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and mourning the reveal that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has passed. This, of course, holds special meaning to the audience due to Nimoy’s passing in between pics.

Everything perks up for the crew when the ship is invaded by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless extraterrestrial tracking a relic that Kirk has in his possession. This attack leaves the crew splintered for a decent portion of the running time, allowing many of the members their moments to shine. That includes Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who both continue to provide sturdy comic relief. Sofia Boutella is a fine addition as an alien who joins Team Enterprise. Both Saldana and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are a bit more relegated to the sideline in terms of the overall story (tragically, Yelchin died just a month before the film’s release). John Cho’s Sulu is given a previously not revealed character development. And when it comes to the main villain, Elba is quite menacing and effective.

Without having to set up anything new, Beyond gets right to the fun stuff and doesn’t let up. Lin is no stranger to elaborate action sequences, having helmed four Fast and Furious flicks. Yet enough time is set aside to explore the strong bonds of the team. It’s about family… to borrow a theme that Fast and Furious characters endlessly beat into our skulls. So while this might be the simplest of the trio of new Star Trek’s we’ve witnessed, it also manages to be the most purely entertaining.

***1/2 (out of four)

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence is not bad, which is more than you can say with some scripts that Kevin Hart has been saddled with over the last few years. From Ride Along (both of them) to The Wedding Ringer to Get Hard, the talented Mr. Hart has not seen much material that rises above the strictly mediocre. With a worthy comedic partner in Dwayne Johnson that he has an easy chemistry with, Intelligence may not be very intelligent but it’s got its share of genuinely amusing moments due to their partnership.

The film begins in 1996 when the two stars are high school seniors. Hart is Calvin. He’s the star athlete, resident heralded drama thespian, and runaway Most Likely to Succeed. Johnson is Robbie, whose figure is anything but rock solid. He’s bullied mercilessly by his fellow students and Calvin is the only guy who seems to show him any mercy.

Flash forward two decades as the two are up for the 20 year reunion. Calvin has become a bored accountant in a dead end job, still married somewhat unhappily to his high school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet). Robbie is now the blandly named Bob Stone,  complete with a physique befitting the actor portraying him. He’s now in the CIA and being accused of being a rogue agent trying to sell secrets to the highest bidder.

What follows is a routine buddy flick where Bob/Robbie and Calvin must team up while chased by people who may or may not be bad guys. Amy Ryan gets the change of pace role of the government agency head pursuing them and Aaron Paul pops up as Robbie’s former partner. The threadbare plot of Central Intelligence is ho-hum at best, but it’s also not what it’s centrally about.

The pic rises and falls on the interaction between the leads and there’s some good stuff to be witnessed. Johnson has already proven his sense of humor (he seems well aware that his character in the Fast & Furious franchise is supposed to be funny). We also have some messages written in about bullying that’s presented slightly better than you might expect in this type of material. There’s some unexpected cameos from other well known comedy actors that are welcome. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had a hit in 2013 with We’re the Millers, which I enjoyed. That effort had the benefit of hilarious supporting work from Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn and a whacky villain role for Ed Helms that accentuated the proceedings beyond its main stars. Central Intelligence doesn’t have that, but at least the two names above the title help deliver something a bit more worthy of their talents.

**1/2 (out of four)