Oscar Predictions: When You Finish Saving the World

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival is underway and, if history is any judge, we could see films and performances that may be talked about come Oscar time a year from now. In 2021, CODA premiered at the fest in January and it looks to be on its way to a Best Picture nod a couple weeks from now. In 2020, Judas and the Black Messiah also got its start and (with the elongated Academy schedule from that frame) hit the BP derby. In 2020, three BP nominees (The Father, Minari, Promising Young Woman) made their initial stops in Park City, Utah.

Sundance’s opening night selection is When You Finish Saving the World and it marks the directorial debut of Jesse Eisenberg. A Best Actor nominee back in 2010 for The Social Network, the dramedy stars Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard. Early buzz is mixed and the Rotten Tomatoes score sits at 73%. Most critical reaction indicates the characters are unpleasant to watch with reviews pretty divided on its overall effectiveness.

Eisenberg also wrote the screenplay and Emma Stone serves as a producer. And while World has received some praise, this is highly unlikely to be an awards breakout. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review

The original Ghostbusters, lest we forget, was filled with ribald humor coming from SNL vets that were in the prime of their careers. Overloading the reboot/sequel Afterlife with gooey family drama feels, in many ways, as misplaced as the missteps that 2016’s version took or that 1989’s traditional follow-up was a fairly weak retread of the first. This franchise hasn’t succeeded in their attempts to capitalize on what made 1984’s pic special and that extends to this.

It’s not for a lack of trying as the 2021 iteration goes to extreme lengths to get our nostalgia radars working into overdrive. Jason Reitman takes over directorial duties from his father Ivan, who made the 80s blockbusters. There’s not a piece of attire or Twinkie or demonic marshmallow from 1984 that isn’t placed with the clear purpose of inspiring wild cheers. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows the name of every nearly four decade old artifact, vehicle or gadget. In this Afterlife, it more often feels forced than welcome.

We shift from the Big Apple to the sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma. Egon Spangler, Harold Ramis’s nerdy scientist from the OG ‘Busters, has relocated to a dilapidated farmhouse and cut off contact with his family and former colleagues. His demise in the prologue causes his heirs to inhabit the dusty domicile. This includes down on her luck daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids. Since I think it’s now contactually necessary for Stranger Things players to participate in these reboots, Finn Wolfhard is her teenage son Trevor. Mckenna Grace is the real lead as 12-year-old daughter Phoebe, who resembles her granddad in looks and interests. An outcast at school, she bonds with fellow geek Podcast (Logan Kim) and her summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

Trevor and Phoebe are completely unaware that Egon was a Ghostbuster (we’ll just go with that I suppose). Paranormal activities start revealing his life’s work including Phoebe’s ongoing chess game with an unseen spirit. The iconic car (yay!) is stored on the property. Of course, the late Egon was in Summerville for a reason and it has to do with familiar haunters from ’84 and preventing them from returning.

This all leads to familiar heroic faces eventually turning up (though not with significant screen time). With their limited participation, the question is whether the new and much younger generation of spirit crushers is compelling enough to warrant a feature. I didn’t think so, but there are some positives. Grace’s performance is terrific (while Wolfhard and his budding romance with his bellhop coworker Celeste O’Connor adds little). Rudd’s considerable talents (he takes a liking to Callie) add a bit of fun. The sight of Bill Murray randomly turning up anywhere is good for a smile (though not much more here than reading about how he does so in real life).

However, the tone in general struck me as off. It’s hard not to be touched by its tribute to the late Harold Ramis (a man responsible for so many laughs in landmark comedies of the past). I felt the sentiment because of that and not the absence of Egon. Afterlife seems trapped in the notion that our emotional connections to these characters run deeper than they do. Like many reboots nowadays, the mere presence of something old is meant to provide the requisite entertainment value. It made me feel mostly dispirited.

** (out of four)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Box Office Prediction

It’s in with the old and in with the new as Ghostbusters: Afterlife debuts in theaters November 19th. This was originally scheduled to haunt multiplexes in the summer of 2020 before numerous COVID delays. Jason Reitman directs and there’s some family legacy involved as dad Ivan made parts I and II in 1984 and 1989. Newcomers to the series include Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Tracy Letts, and Paul Rudd (not to mention Stay Puft Marshmallow Minis according to the trailer). Returnees from the 80s are Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver.

If rebooting this franchise sounds familiar – that’s because it happened five years ago to middling results. The Paul Feig helmed remake led by Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig took in $46 million on its opening weekend but fizzled quickly due to so-so reviews and audience reaction. It also featured the OG Busters making cameos. This new iteration serves as a direct sequel to the first two.

Some estimates have Afterlife beginning at $50 million or above. That’s certainly doable, but I’m not so sure. While it’s obviously a well-known property and the ’84 original is rightly considered a classic, both follow-ups have been letdowns. The 71% Rotten Tomatoes score is OK, but its actually below the 74% that greeted the ballyhooed 2016 pic.

I’m projecting that this makes it to $35-$40 million and doesn’t get to the number we saw just a half decade back.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife opening weekend prediction: $38.1 million

For my King Richard prediction, click here:

King Richard Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The attendees of New York Comic Con were treated to a surprise this weekend with a screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The fourth film in the franchise that famously began in 1984 serves as a direct continuation to the original and its 1989 follow-up. It’s all about family with Jason Reitman as director (his father Ivan made those first two). Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, and Paul Rudd join the bustin’ action with series stalwarts Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver making appearances. Afterlife is finally coming to life after numerous COVID delays with a November 19th stateside release.

Early reviews indicate a long gestating sequel has extreme reverence for its past. Some critics claim it might be a bit too nostalgic, but reaction is overwhelmingly pleasing with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% (based on 11 reviews).

The original classic 37 years ago managed 2 Oscar nominations. They’re what you would expect: Best Original Song for that addictive title track by Ray Parker Jr. and Visual Effects (it lost to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Also as you might expect, Ghostbusters II and the ballyhooed 2016 Paul Feig reboot with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig achieved zero awards attention. I would anticipate the same for this despite the kudos. Visual Effects is a remote possibility, but there’s a slew of contenders more likely (Dune, The Matrix Resurrections, Eternals to name just some).

My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Addams Family 2 Box Office Prediction

One of America’s best known spooky families returns in animated form on October 1 with The Addams Family 2. The sequel to the 2019 hit brings back the vocal stylings of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Bill Hader, and Wallace Shawn. Javon Walton replaces Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley. Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan direct once again.

Two Octobers ago, the original started with a better than expected $30 million and wound up at $100 million. It came in second behind Joker. The follow-up will undoubtedly also be in runner-up status to another comic book character with Venom: Let There Be Carnage (which opens against it). In  fact, with Venom being PG-13, it could siphon away some younger viewers.

The other challenge is that Universal made the curious decision to make part 2 available for home rental on the same day. This was a bit of a surprise considering family entertainment has fared relatively well given the COVID circumstances.

Due to those factors, my snap judgment is that The Addams Family 2 may earn just over half of what the first nabbed out of the gate.

The Addams Family 2 opening weekend prediction: $16.6 million

For my Venom: Let There Be Carnage prediction, click here:

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Box Office Prediction

For my The Many Saints of Newark prediction, click here:

The Many Saints of Newark Box Office Prediction

The Turning Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (01/22): I’m revising my estimate down from $12.2 million to $9 million

Universal Pictures is hoping horror fans turn out next weekend for The Turning. The supernatural tale is based on the late 19th century Henry James novel The Turn of the Shrew. Floria Sigismondi, best known for her music video and TV work, directs. Mackenzie Davis and Joely Richardson star along with Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things and It fame) and Brooklyn Prince (from The Florida Project) as orphans with some dark secrets.

The project was originally set to film back in 2016 before production was halted and its original director and writer were fired. Over one year later, it was back on track with a new team. Will the troubled development mean troubling box office returns? My feeling is yes.

Low double digits to low teens appears most probable. It’s always worth noting that horror can over perform, but I’m not seeing it here.

The Turning opening weekend prediction: $9 million

For my The Gentlemen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/16/the-gentlemen-box-office-prediction/

It Chapter Two Movie Review

It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.

In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.

On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.

Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.

Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.

The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Addams Family Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/10): My estimate has risen from $21.7 million to $26.9 million

Snapping into theaters over a half century after the TV series and over a quarter century after the two film versions of that show, an animated version of The Addams Family debuts next weekend. Originally based on the Charles Addams comics, this iteration of the macabre clan sounds like something Tim Burton should have his fingerprints all over. And indeed, he was once attached to direct it. However, it’s Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (who last made the R rated Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg toon Sausage Party) shepherding the project. Voices of the family include Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Bette Midler, in addition to Allison Janney and Elsie Fisher.

Attempting to reach a kiddie audience pre Halloween (and a week before Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is out), it could be a somewhat tough sell for youngsters unfamiliar with the source material. That applies to the small screen 1960s version and the 1990s big screen one. In fact, this may not hit the $24 million achieved by 1991’s first live action Addams out of the gate (1993 sequel Addams Family Values didn’t fare as well).

I do envision this managing a debut of over $20 million, but perhaps not by much. That would likely put it in third place behind Joker and Gemini Man.

The Addams Family opening weekend prediction: $26.9 million

For my Gemini Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/gemini-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Jexi prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/02/jexi-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Goldfinch

John Crowley’s The Goldfinch looks like a picture made for Oscar consideration. It’s a prestige drama based on a well known novel (from Donna Tartt). This is the follow up to the filmmaker’s Brooklyn, which did receive a nod in the biggest race four years ago. Nicole Kidman is in it, as is Ansel Elgort in his first headlining role since Baby Driver.

Yet I found it curious that Warner Bros didn’t screen it last weekend in Venice or Telluride. After all, its Toronto screening today is a mere five days ahead of its stateside release. That’s not much time to build awards buzz.

Now we know why. The Goldfinch is being savaged by some critics and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 22%. So while numerous movies have increased their visibility on the voter circuit in the last few days, this would be a casualty. If anything, perhaps Roger Deakins (who at last won a gold statue two years ago for Blade Runner 2049) could see his cinematography noticed. That would be the extent of it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Goldfinch Box Office Prediction

Based on a 2013 novel by Donna Tartt that elicited mixed reaction, The Goldfinch arrives in theaters next weekend. The drama is director John Crowley’s follow up to his Oscar nominated 2015 effort Brooklyn. Ansel Elgort headlines with a supporting cast that includes Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard (currently also costarring in It Chapter Two), Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, and Nicole Kidman.

The film will have its premiere this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Interestingly, it skipped both Telluride and Venice. Those earlier screenings could have provided the opportunity for any awards chatter and I’m curious to see if Warner Bros knew that might not materialize.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, I’ve found the trailers to be a bit too mysterious and a tad lackluster. We’ll see if reviews this weekend could possibly change the dynamic, but I currently see The Goldfinch struggling to reach double digits. That unimpressive result would put it in third place behind the aforementioned It sequel and Hustlers.

The Goldfinch opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million

For my Hustlers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/09/04/hustlers-box-office-prediction/