Writer/director Miranda July unveiled her comedic heist drama Kajillionaire back in January at the Sundance Film Festival. The pic is headlined by Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood with a supporting cast that includes Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, and Gina Rodriguez.
Slated for a limited theatrical opening in late September with a VOD debut on October 16th, it received positive notices from critics and stands at 92% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. As to whether this receives much attention from awards voters, it could potentially be more of a factor at the Golden Globes if Focus Features places it in the Musical/Comedy competitions.
Even that could be a reach as its studio will need to mount a spirited campaign. Best Picture and Original Screenplay at the Oscars seems highly unlikely. It will, however, be worth watching if any of the actors gain any traction. My suspicion is that it would be Jenkins and Winger. The former could be competing against himself with the upcoming drama The Humans. Winger is a thrice nominated performer who hasn’t been in the mix since Shadowlands back in 1993. In my first round of ranked predictions two weeks ago, I placed her 8th in Supporting Actress, but she fell to 13th last week.
Bottom line: Kajillionaire has a limited path to any legitimate attention at the big show. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A remake of an acclaimed 2011 Mexican pic with the same name, the action thriller MissBala hits theaters next weekend. Catherine Hardwicke, best known for making the original Twilight, directs with a cast led by Gina Rodriguez. She plays a tourist to our Southern border neighbor who gets mixed up with law enforcement and drug cartels. Ismael Cruz Cordova and Anthony Mackie are included in the supporting cast.
This is Rodriguez’s first headlining role after her successful TV career and co-starring parts in DeepwaterHorizon and Annihilation. Bala arrives in what is traditionally a sleepy box office weekend that will include a highly rated game between the New England Patriots and L.A. Rams on Sunday. It’s the only new release out as studios don’t expect large openings during this frame.
I believe this could struggle to reach double digits and I’ll say it falls under it.
The Warner Animation Group sets the Legos aside momentarily when Smallfoot debuts next weekend. The 3D computer animated comedic musical (a twist on the Bigfoot story) comes from director Karey Kirkpatrick. He made the well-received Over the Hedge over a decade ago and the not so well-received live-action Eddie Murphy pic Imagine That in 2009. Channing Tatum, James Corden, LeBron James, Zendaya, Common, Danny DeVito, and Gina Rodriguez are among the voices heard here.
As mentioned, the current animation department at Warner Bros has mostly been giving us Lego titles as of late. One exception was 2016’s Storks. It also opened in September and made $21.3 million for its start. That is likely a far better comparison that anything involving those famous blocks.
A low 20s to mid gross should put this in second place next weekend behind the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School.
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.
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.
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
Next Friday, the makers of the animated Ferdinand hope to siphon some youngsters and their parents away from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The 20th Century Fox title (which happens to be the former studio of Luke Skywalker and company) is based on the 1936 children’s novel The Story of Ferdinand, which tells the tale of a kindly bull. John Cena provides the voice of said bull with Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Gina Rodriguez, and Peyton Manning also lending their sounds. Carlos Saldanha, who made some of the Ice Age and Rio features, directs.
Competition is significant. Many kids should be preoccupied with Disney’s franchise juggernaut that opens the same day. And there’s also Coco, which should still be pulling in some coin in weekend #4.
That said, Fox employed a similar strategy two years ago when Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip opened directly opposite Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That gamble resulted in an OK $14.2 million debut yet it experienced small declines over the following holiday weekends.
Ferdinand has the benefit of not being at the tail end of a waning franchise, as Chipmunks was. That might cause it to make a bit more out of the gate and probably hold better in future frames. I’ll go high teens for its start.
Ferdinand opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million
For my Star Wars: The Last Jedi prediction, click here:
Sony Pictures is hoping family and faith-based audiences make the journey to The Star next weekend. The animated tale is centered around some talking animals and their adventures as the first Christmas is occurring. Some familiar faces in both the film and music world provide voices including Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key, Tyler Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Zachary Levi, Tracy Morgan, Anthony Anderson, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Patricia Heaton, and even Oprah Winfrey.
Made for a small reported budget of just $18 million, The Star will hope to shine brightly with its intended audience before Pixar’s Coco arrives just five days later for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Prognosticating for this one is a little tricky. I could certainly see it exceeding expectations with a gross high in the teens. However, I believe a more likely scenario is an opening weekend in the lower double digits to maybe lower teens with hope that it holds over well the following holiday weekend (even with the Coco competition).
The Star opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million
Recounting the BP Oil Spill disaster of 2010 that was both a human and environmental tragedy, DeepwaterHorizon spends a good deal of its running time concentrating on the competence of those workers on the enormous rig. Peter Berg’s dramatization of the events off the Southern coast of Louisiana finds Mark Wahlberg’s engineer Mike and Kurt Russell’s supervisor Jimmy trying their best at their positions while dealing with cost cutting corporate elements. It’s something many in the audience are likely to relate to and the pic coasts for a bit on simply being a story about people working.
Yet it’s the elements that arrive later during that massive explosion that give Deepwater its disaster flick cred. Had this not been a true story, I’m not so certain the visual spectacle that pervades the third act would’ve been as meaningful. The action sequences are well rendered if not particularly anything new from a run of the mill summer blockbuster.
We get to know more than just Mike and Jimmy. There’s John Malkovich’s BP “company man”. He’s the guy cutting corners and the actor himself is given a pretty decent monologue about it. There’s Kate Hudson as Wahlberg’s wife, watching the drama unfold from afar and Gina Rodriguez as a fellow crew member.
Horizon also features a lot of technical jargon that those without an engineering degree or knowledge of the industry could be lost with. It doesn’t really matter. The script does a perfectly serviceable if unspectacular job letting us meet some people whose everyday occupations put them in previously unseen peril.
The last time that director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg hooked up, their war drama Lone Survivor grossed a terrific $125 million domestically in early 2014. Nearly three years later, the pair have collaborated on Deepwater Horizon. This is another true-life tale focused on the 2010 BP oil rig explosion and the people who had to battle it. Costars include Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien.
With a reported budget of $156 million, Summit Entertainment better hope moviegoers flock to see the disaster pic… or they may have their own financial disaster on their hands. Early reviews have been mostly strong. It stands at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics particularly praising its technical aspects.
Lone Survivor earned $37 million in its first weekend of wide release. That is probably the highest of bars for Horizon. One difference is that Survivor benefited from strong military interest that simply won’t come into play here. Still, the combination of Wahlberg with this well-known story could be enough to get this to mid 20s, in range with the opening of Captain Phillips from three years back or Fury from two years ago.
Deepwater Horizon opening weekend prediction: $24.7 million
For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here: