Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.
Warner Bros is betting that Elvis will get moviegoers all shook up when it hits theaters on June 24th. The extravagant musical comes from Baz Luhrmann, maker of Moulin Rouge! and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Austin Butler, in a performance garnering some awards chatter, plays The King with Tom Hanks as The Colonel. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge, Luke Bracey, Natasha Bassett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
While Butler’s work has been lauded across the board, reviews for the film are a bit more mixed. It received a warm welcome at the Cannes Film Festival and it could certainly be an audience pleaser. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 77%.
The studio would love for Elvis to approach the earnings of Bohemian Rhapsody from 2018 (and maybe win some of the same Oscars). The Freddie Mercury biopic took in $51 million for its start with an overall domestic haul of $216 million. Coincidentally that’s the same figure that Gatsby made for Luhrmann’s personal best. WB is hoping for a better beginning than 2019’s Rocketman, the Elton John tale which debuted with $25 million (with a $96 million eventual tally).
Obviously Elvis Presley is one of music’s biggest sensations ever and that could propel this to a premiere on pace with Rhapsody. Older moviegoers have recently proven they’re willing to venture out thanks to Top Gun: Maverick.
I’m tempted to project this hits $45-50 million, but I’ll hedge a bit and say it fall a little shy of that.
After a stellar premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Rocketman plays its way into theaters next weekend. The long planned biopic of legendary piano man Elton John starring Taron Egerton comes on the heels of similar genre entry and smash hit BohemianRhapsody. It even shares a director in Dexter Fletcher, who filled in on the Freddie Mercury tale after Bryan Singer was dropped from the project. Costars here include Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
The film’s French Riviera rollout resulted in praise for Egerton. An Oscar nod for him (especially after Rami Malek won in 2018 as Mercury) is certainly feasible. Some reviews were mixed, but this currently holds an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score.
As mentioned, the easiest comp is Rhapsody, which debuted to an amazing $51 million in November with $216 million total domestically. However, while buzz is strong here, it likely won’t reach those heights in the busy summer season. I still think mid to high 30s can be reached and that would have Elton’s story still standing tall.
Rocketman opening weekend prediction: $36.1 million
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The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing over in France and the highest profile feature so far has screened (with Quentin Tarantino’s OnceUponaTimeinHollywood following next week). That would be Rocketman, a flashy musical biopic featuring Taron Egerton as legendary performer Elton John. Costars include Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Ahead of its May 31st stateside bow, festival goers rewarded the pic with a lengthy standing ovation (with Elton and Egerton attending). This might prove to be an audience pleaser. Some early reviews are glowing while others are more mixed.
Box office could be strong, but will this blast off with awards voters? We have very recent history to consider. I’m referring, of course, to last year’s BohemianRhapsody. Despite its rocky critical reaction, that film was a hit with audiences and Oscar voters. The Freddie Mercury biopic ended up winning four gold statues, including Rami Malek’s portrayal of the Queen frontman in Best Actor.
Rhapsody made an astonishing $903 million worldwide. Rocketman may not reach that territory. If it does, it could be impossible to ignore. Yet even if it turns out to be a sizable crowd favorite, Academy voters could nominate this in a variety of categories. That includes Picture, Actor, and the sound races (for which Bohemian was victorious in both). The comparisons between Rhapsody and Rocketman don’t end there. Dexter Fletcher took over directorial duties from Bryan Singer on the former. He is behind the camera again for the latter.
Bottom line: there’s a chance that voters might not honor Mr. John like they did Mr. Mercury, but Cannes reaction at least indicates it’s a possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody hits many familiar notes and plot points as it explores the great showman that was Freddie Mercury and his iconic band Queen. There’s strain in his family – his actual one and the one that consists of his band mates. There’s the rise to fame and corruption of it. We have relationships strained to the point of apparent breakdown before reconciliation. Truth be told, many of these story arcs are so well-worn that you may feel you already know the words to them in the screenplay before they’re spoken.
However, it manages to succeed in a couple of meaningful ways. More than most music biopics, Rhapsody often captures the sheer magic that was Mercury. In the performance of Rami Malek, we have more than a fine impersonation (with the assistance of fake teeth). His work here captures the magnetism that Queen’s front man had. Additionally, the film builds its tale around their music that culminates in a Live Aid set that plays like a phoenix rising through the ashes.
We first meet the awkward looking Freddie handling luggage at Heathrow in London. He’s shy to a point, but also brimming with confidence in his vocal abilities as he rightly should. Freddie takes advantage of a lead singer opening in the band Smile and dubs it Queen. The rest, as they say, is history.
Regarding that history, Rhapsody has taken its licks for alternating some of the band’s timeline and events. It’s fair criticism, but the aim here is more of a celebration of the tracks that Mercury, Brian Ferry (Gwilym Lee, who nails the guitarist’s look and stance), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) create. Segments are featured around the title track, “We Will Rock You”, and “Another One Bites the Dust”. Freddie’s relationship with Mary (Lucy Boynton) is chronicled through the creation of “Love of My Life”. She’s his one-time fiancee who realizes his homosexuality perhaps before he does. Yet their bond is stronger than the physical.
The screenplay from Anthony McCarten also delves into the group’s business dealings. There’s a cheeky scene about the release of “Rhapsody” that allows Mike Myers (as a very 1970s looking record exec) to reference his famous head banging scene in Wayne’s World. We see the hangers-on that nearly deep six the band. Contrary to early reports, we do glimpse Freddie’s promiscuity and substance abuse and eventual AIDS diagnosis.
It’s not the movie’s nature to go too far down that rabbit hole. If you are expecting that, you may walk away disappointed. I walked away impressed by its achievement in capturing what made Freddie and his musical family so special. I didn’t walk away sensing any of the well-publicized behind the scenes drama that resulted in director Singer being replaced well into the shooting schedule by Dexter Fletcher. And I certainly left marveling at Malek’s commitment in bringing Freddie to the screen, with the loud and gorgeous sounds of his live performance in front of a billion plus people ringing in my ears.
The review embargo is officially lapsed for next weekend’s BohemianRhapsody, the highly publicized Queen biopic headlined by Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Critical reaction appears to mostly match the social media buzz that emerged a couple of weeks back.
In short – Malek gives a bravura performance as the legendary frontman while the picture itself is more of a mixed and conventional bag. At the moment, its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 50%. Don’t expect this to come anywhere near a Best Picture nod. In my weekly prediction posts, I’ve had this hovering in the bottom rungs of 25 possibilities. I anticipate it falling out completely on Thursday.
Malek, on the other hand, is still viable. He could especially find himself making the final five if Rhapsody soars at the box office. Yet I believe it’s a legitimate question as to whether the reviews risk pushing him out of contention.
Bottom line: Bohemian getting Best Picture attention isn’t real life. That’s just fantasy, but Malek’s nomination could still happen.
The film opens November 2. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (10/30/18): My estimate has been bumped from $31.8M to $41.8M
In the United States, famed British band Queen had two #1 hits with “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Next weekend, a biopic of its legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury is likely to top box office charts when Bohemian Rhapsody debuts. Named after one of their signature tunes (used memorably in 1992’s Wayne’s World), Rami Malek stars as Mercury. The supporting cast includes Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, and Wayne Campbell himself – Mike Myers. The film shares credit for its directors, as original filmmaker Bryan Singer was replaced well into the shooting schedule with Dexter Fletcher. That move attracted plenty of publicity.
With its well-received and rocking trailers, Rhapsody appears poised to knock off Michael Myers from #1 when it opens. It certainly has breakout potential due to familiarity with the band, but it could also leg out well if it achieves positive audience word-of-mouth. Reviews will be out shortly, but early buzz suggests the picture is a bit of a mixed bag while Malek’s portrayal of Mercury could generate Oscar attention.
I’ll say this starts its cinematic journey in the high 30s to low 40s range.
Bohemian Rhapsody opening weekend prediction: $41.8M million
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