Oscar Watch: Worth

Sara Colangelo’s Worth debuted all the way back in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival, but is finally being released by Netflix on September 3rd of this year. The fact based drama centers on the activities around the 09/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Its cast is led by a trio of Oscar nominees in Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan. Colangelo is best known for The Kindergarten Teacher, her acclaimed second feature with Maggie Gyllenhaal that didn’t gain traction with the Academy. Max Borenstein is the screenwriter and this is certainly a departure for him as he’s recognized for penning the 2014 Godzilla reboot and Kong: Skull Island.

The streaming debut arrives just prior to the 20th anniversary of the tragic day. Early reviews from Sundance were mixed and Worth currently has a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating. There have been numerous pictures centered around 09/11 and the War on Terrorism and few have become contenders come Oscar time. The Report and The Mauritanian are two recent examples.

With its so-so critical reaction, don’t expect Worth to prove itself worthy of awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Godzilla vs. Kong Review

Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong is lighter than its MonsterVerse predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters from 2019. I don’t just mean lighter in tone (which it is), but actually lighter where it counts. When the two title character titans clash, we can actually see it. That’s an improvement over what transpired two years ago when Godzilla’s battles were too dimly lit or obscured by pounding rain. That’s a major plus, but not every aspect of this franchise has leveled up. The human characters are still an uninteresting and bland group. We have fine actors whose primary responsibility is to talk about the massive CGI combatants and react to what they’re doing. Their character development is a secondary consideration. That said – we’re not here for that, are we? This is the culmination of three pictures leading to a movie being named Godzilla vs. Kong and it frequently manages to deliver.

We last left King Kong in the 1970s during Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla in the aforementioned Monsters when he successfully warded off King Ghidorah and others. The fourth franchise entry picks up five years after Monsters as Kong is being monitored by Monarch on his native island. His human contact is mostly with linguist Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who’s a native of the island. A magazine cover identifies the doctor as the “Kong Whisperer”, but it’s clearly Jia who’s found the most sincere connection with the massive ape. Also on Kong patrol is geologist Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard).

While Kong is living a pretty chill existence on Skull Island, Godzilla’s fiery temper unexpectedly flares up. The not so jolly green giant has resurfaced to do lots of property destruction. His inexplicable attitude adjustment causes the CEO of APEX (Demian Bichir) to recruit Kong to solve this dilemma. APEX is a big shadowy corporation that sells itself as trying to solve the Titans problem. That doesn’t gel with conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and he’s got sympathizers with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, returning from Monsters) and her nerdy buddy Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison’s dad, played by Kyle Chandler, also reprises his Monsters role.

Enough with the plot which also involves specialized vehicles zooming through gravity fields. All of this is a prelude to watching Godzilla and Kong fight. It happens early (no shades of the slow buildup of 2014’s Godzilla) and round 1 transpires on water and is gloriously lighted for our entertainment.

The main event is in Hong Kong and that’s when we learn why Godzilla is being so irritable (hint: corporate greed is a factor). The climactic matchup is preceded by some fairly dull scenes with humans. No performance is bad. They’re just inconsequential with the exception of Hottle’s Jia in a winning performance. As long as we’re able to ignore the poor people in the buildings that are demolished with Kong and Godzilla’s every twitch and stumble, these skirmishes are expertly staged and enjoyable. I’d put it a notch below 2014’s Godzilla stand-alone from Gareth Edwards, but a hair above Kong: Skull Island and certainly ahead of Monsters. This delivers on its title well enough and is lit properly.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Godzilla vs. Kong

While domestic audiences (via the theater or HBO Max) are about to find out who wins the epic showdown titled Godzilla vs. Kong, there is no doubt which creature holds the advantage with Oscar voters. It opens Wednesday and the review embargo is up as of today. The Adam Wingard directed monster mash currently holds an 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That’s currently above the three other titles in the MonsterVerse franchise: 2014’s Godzilla (76%), 2017’s Kong: Skull Island (75%), and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (42%).

Now you may be thinking that no movie with Godzilla or Kong in the title has been nominated for Best Picture and it won’t start now. You would be 100% correct. The real question is whether this shows up in the 2021 derby for Best Visual Effects. In that space, our massive gorilla holds a distinct advantage. The 1976 remake of King Kong won a special Academy Award for its visuals and the 2005 remake won Visual Effects outright when it became its own category. In the current MonsterVerse, Kong: Skull Island landed a nomination in the race (losing to Blade Runner 2049). As for Godzilla, the last three American produced iterations (1998 and 2014’s Godzilla and its 2019 sequel) garnered a grand total of zero nods for its effects.

There are likely to be a number of spectacles this year that could contend in VE (several of them pushed back from 2020) so competition will be fierce. Yet Kong has shown his prowess in getting Academy members to notice him and perhaps he can bring his nemesis along for the ride. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review

Looking back on my Godzilla review from 2014, I spoke of how it felt like a party where the main character (that would be the fire breathing title one) wasn’t invited until halfway through. You expected Godzilla to be there the whole time. That left a level of disappointment, but the Gareth Edwards reboot of the franchise was worth the wait in the end. The sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters RSVP’s the main attraction early on and he brings some familiar friends to the shindig. That doesn’t make the party better.

Michael Dougherty takes over directorial duties in a follow-up that feels bigger with its sprawling cast and action sequences. It also feels more cluttered and more like a prelude to what’s coming next in the MonsterVerse (Godzilla vs. Kong). That’s not an issue shared by 2014’s predecessor. Monsters picks up five years after the events of Godzilla when the creature managed to save the world and leave some collateral damage. That includes the young son of biologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and animal behavioralist Mark (Kyle Chandler). The parents have reacted differently and separately from the tragedy. Dr. Emma still believes in Godzilla’s global saving abilities, but in a dangerous way that teams her with an ecoterrorist (Charles Dance). Mark’s grief is directed toward Godzilla. Daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is caught in the middle.

The family drama pits the estranged couple on opposites ends of the battle. More monsters are awoken from their slumber in various Monarch stations to wreak havoc. It results in the destruction of monuments in quite familiar Independence Day/Transformers style fashion. Toho stalwarts Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are the aforementioned party dwellers joining the fray. The big fights are shot in destinations where the forecast is either a downpour or so dark that it’s often frustratingly hard to tell what is happening.

In addition to the Russell family, lots of recognizable actors are left to mostly stand and gawk at the monstrous activity. The film does have the distinction of adding another performer to the trifecta of prominent N.W.A. members (speaking of monster verses!) from Straight Outta Compton. In Kong: Skull Island, we had Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). Now we have O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who played his dad Ice Cube in Compton) as a soldier. David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and Ken Watanabe reprise their 2014 roles while Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, and Zhang Ziyi are fresh gawkers. There’s not really a human performance to highlight. Just as Bryan Cranston earned some rightful criticism for his wild overacting in Godzilla, here we have Kyle Chandler often speaking in an intense and earnest hoarse whisper that is perhaps more annoying.

There’s a brief middle section where Godzilla is given a unique wakeup call. It transpires underwater where we discover the iconic radioactive creature’s original habitat. I found this to be the most well-constructed and engaging sequence. It hints at ancient stories that would probably be cool to explore. This doesn’t last long and before we know it, we are back to the dimly lit and rain soaked above ground CG brawls. They’re occasionally fun, but they will fall straight outta mind in short order. Maybe King Kong getting in on this will brighten things up.

** (out of four)

For my Godzilla (2014) review, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/09/20/godzilla-2014-movie-review/

For my Kong: Skull Island review, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/11/kong-skull-island-movie-review/

Godzilla vs. Kong Box Office Prediction

The fourth film in the MonsterVerse franchise stomps into theaters and HBO Max on Wednesday (March 31) with Godzilla vs. Kong. Adam Wingard takes the directorial reigns with a cast including Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, and Demian Bichir. Of course, the real stars are the giant green monster (from 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and massive gorilla (of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island) who will duke it out in the production with a budget reportedly in the $200 million range.

This awaited matchup was originally set for viewing last spring before going through the now familiar myriad of delays due to COVID-19. It’s the latest example of Warner Bros. unveiling their pics simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service. With theaters in New York and Los Angeles now operating (albeit in diminished capacity) and with vaccinations rising, Godzilla vs. Kong is being seen as a major test for the industry. The previous COVID era highest opening weekend belongs to Wonder Woman 1984 (another WB/HBO Max venture) at $16.7 million over this past Christmas. That number exceeded expectations and the thought is that Kong will outpace it.

I tend to agree. It is worth noting that the last MonsterVerse title, King of the Monsters, was a box office disappointment. Due partly to poor reviews, it premiered in late May 2019 to a subpar $47 million with an eventual domestic gross just north of $100 million. By comparison, 2014’s Godzilla took in $200 million while Kong: Skull Island made $168 million. A $47 million debut here would be beyond even the wildest expectations in these Coronavirus times.

Godzilla vs. Kong has the benefit of bringing these two iconic creatures together and that’s a significant selling point. It’s also the kind of epic production that many may wish to see on a giant screen as opposed to on their couch via HBO Max (though I’m sure plenty of moviegoers will go that route).

With a five-day rollout, I believe a Friday to Sunday haul in the $20 million range is possible with mid to high 20s overall for the entire frame.

Godzilla vs. Kong opening weekend prediction: $21.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $27.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my The Unholy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/03/26/the-unholy-box-office-prediction/

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Box Office Prediction

Continuing its own cinematic universe that will lead to two monstrous creatures facing off next spring, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stomps into multiplexes next weekend. The reported $200 million dollar film is a sequel to 2014’s Godzilla reboot from Gareth Edwards. Michael Dougherty takes over directorial duties with a cast including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown of “Stranger Things” fame, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. Returnees from part one are Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Ken Watanabe.

As mentioned, Monsters is part of a larger Warner Bros scheme to get the giant green nuclear waste creation to grapple with the world’s best known giant ape. Godzilla vs. Kong  will hit screens in March of 2020. Five summers ago, Godzilla debuted to a cool $91 million on its way to $200 million domestically. In 2017, Kong: Skull Island made $61 million out of the gate and $168 million total.

I would anticipate we’ll see Kong money and not Godzilla cash here and perhaps a bit less. Mid to high 50s seems probable with overseas earnings expected to be anything but toxic.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters opening weekend prediction: $58.7 million

For my Rocketman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/23/rocketman-box-office-prediction/

For my Ma prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/24/ma-box-office-prediction/

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Top Ten Summer Hits of 1998: A Look Back

Each summer on the blog, I recount the top 10 summer hits from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. Last week was 1988 and the sounds of three decades ago. If you missed it, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/21/top-ten-summer-hits-of-1988-a-look-back/

Today we move to 1998 and the tunes burning up our CD players (if we were lucky enough to have one in our car) 20 years ago. As with previous posts, I rank each track from 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (summer smash) and reveal the most important truth: is said song on my Apple Music?

Let’s get to it!

10. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo

We start off quite well with this ballad from K-Ci and JoJo, who originally rose to fame with the R&B group Jodeci. It’s schmaltzy, yes, but in the best way and it gets the job done with the singers expert vocal performances.

My Ranking: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

9. “Crush” by Jennifer Paige

I must confess to having no recollection of this track when I saw it was #9. Listening to it again, it’s a pleasant enough ditty from the one-hit wonder. That said, it’s also rather forgettable.

My Ranking: 6

It Is On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Make It Hot” by Nicole featuring Missy Elliot and Mocha

Timbaland was mostly busy around this time stirring up classics for Aaliyah and Missy Elliot. Yet he concocted this gem for Nicole with assists from Elliot and Mocha. It was her only major hit, but it’s a terrific example of its producer’s wizardry behind the boards.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

7. “Come with Me” by Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page

Combine Puff’s love of sampling with the guitar riffs of Jimmy Page’s “Kashmir” and promoting the summer’s unfortunate Godzilla reboot? You get a hit… albeit one that is just as ultimately disappointing as the film in which it appeared on the soundtrack.

My Rating: 5

Is It On My Apple Music? No

6. “My All” by Mariah Carey

Ms. Carey has certainly had her share of powerful ballads. “My All” is an effective one, though I don’t rank it among her most memorable.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes (but mostly because I have her greatest hits and don’t listen to this one hardly at all)

5. “Adia” by Sarah MacLachlan

The Canadian singer is now mostly known for causing you tear up during commercials to help dogs, but she had a string of hits including this one. I’ve never been a big fan and this track does little for me, despite her lovely voice.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

4. “My Way” by Usher

The title track from Usher’s multi-platinum album is a Jermaine Dupri produced banger that spent lots of time being played loudly in my 1987 Ford Thunderbird 20 years ago. Check out Tyrese in the video as well.

My Rating: 9

It Is On My Apple Music?: Yes

3. “Too Close” by Next

An incredibly catchy R&B song from a band that didn’t produce many more hits. This one, however, could still be a massive hit today.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

2. “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

Another Canadian crooner had her first major crossover hit with this ballad. It moved Twain out of just being known as a country act to one with serious pop appeal.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

1. “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica

It’s no “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, but this mid-tempo pop track paired two of the era’s most successful R&B singers to hugely successful results on the charts. Looking back now, I don’t love it (I could list stronger tracks by both Brandy and Monica) but it’s decent.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

And there you have it! The sounds of 1998 in the summertime…

I’ll return soon with 2008.

Bad Samaritan Box Office Prediction

The horror thriller Bad Samaritan arrives in theaters next weekend and it seems to be flying pretty far under the radar. Dean Devlin directs his sophomore pic, but he’s been no stranger to audiences for decades. He was the producing partner of Roland Emmerich and was behind the scenes with efforts including Stargate, Independence Day, and the unfortunate 1998 version of Godzilla. Just last year, he put out his debut – disaster flick Geostorm. That mega-budgeted effort took in a weak $33 million domestically. Compared to what I expect Samaritan to do, Geostorm might be considered a blockbuster.

David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Carlito Olivero, and Kerry Condon are among the cast members in the home invasion tale that turns into a fright fest. Genre fans have had their fix as of late with A Quiet Place and Truth or Dare.

Samaritan is slated to open on roughly 1800 screens, which is actually higher than Overboard or Tully (the two features opening on the same day). Even with more showings, I’ll project this premieres third of the three new releases in theaters that should be a quiet place of their own.

Bad Samaritan opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million

For my Overboard prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/24/overboard-box-office-prediction/

For my Tully prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/26/tully-box-office-prediction/

Geostorm Box Office Prediction

Next weekend we will find out if Geostorm is a direct hit or disaster at the box office… or somewhere in the middle. The disaster pic marks the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, known most for producing efforts from Roland Emmerich, including Stargate, Independence Day and its sequel, and 1998’s Godzilla. Gerard Butler headlines a cast that features Ed Harris, Abbie Cornish, Jim Sturgess, Andy Garcia, and Richard Schiff.

The film was originally scheduled by Warner Bros for release over a year and a half ago. That kind of delay usually doesn’t inspire confidence. There are also movies debuting against it that could siphon some audience away, including Only the Brave and The Snowman. 

I’ll predict Geostorm doesn’t even reach the teens for a muted start.

Geostorm opening weekend prediction: $11.2 million

For my Boo 2! A Madea Halloween prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/11/boo-2-a-madea-halloween-box-office-prediction/

For my Only the Brave prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/11/only-the-brave-box-office-prediction/

For my The Snowman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/12/the-snowman-box-office-prediction/