Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Oscar Watch – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry is back in theaters next weekend with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s the second in a series of five planned features as it looks to conjure up huge box office dollars like predecessor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did.

Early reviews are out and the reaction is mixed at 56% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even the most acclaimed Harry Potter pics were ever considered awards contenders for major categories. However, down the line technical races are another story.

Two years ago, the first Beasts managed two Oscar nominations: Production Design and Costume Design. It won the latter. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be a factor in both of those categories again. That said, voters could feel they’ve already honored the franchise with part 1. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are in the realm of possibility, if unlikely.

Bottom line: the costumes especially could garner attention, but don’t expect Grindelwald to exceed (and maybe not match) the first movie.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Box Office Prediction

The wizarding world of J.K. Rowling is back next weekend when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts. This is the follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which precedes the events of the massive Harry Potter franchise. David Yates (who made the last four Potter flicks and the first Beasts) is back directing. Returning cast members include Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, and Johnny Depp, whose role as the villainous title character will expand from his cameo in the predecessor. Jude Law joins the party as a younger Dumbledore.

There is no doubt that Grindelwald will easily top the charts upon its release, just as all Rowling universe titles have. The real question is how it opens in comparison to 2016’s effort, which premiered on the same November weekend. I believe there’s some solid historical data to consider.

In 2001, the first Potter film (The Sorcerer’s Stone) made $90 million out of the gate. One year later, follow-up Chamber of Secrets made just a tad less at $88 million. This seems like a likely scenario with Grindewald. 

The first Beasts took in $74.4 million for its start two years ago and I’ll put the sequel right under that for a low 70s beginning.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening weekend prediction: $72.1 million

For my Widows prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/widows-box-office-prediction/

For my Instant Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/07/instant-family-box-office-prediction/

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Now that Harry Potter’s wand has been cinematically retired (at least until Warner Bros figures out how to eventually resuscitate him), it’s J.K. Rowling to the rescue with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is the first entry in the wizardry world with a screenplay directly from the famed author who created it. This expands greatly on her 2001 novel (which is when Harry debuted onscreen) to create another franchise meant to draw youngsters into its spell, as well as Potter fans of all ages.

In order to achieve that goal, David Yates is back directing. He’s responsible for the last four features in the Potterverse. Our central character this time around is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist from London who comes to New York City circa 1926 with a briefcase full of creatures. It’s not clear immediately why he’s in the Big Apple, but his back story tells us of his time at a little school called Hogwarts where he was expelled and was tutored by a much younger Dumbledore.

Wizards need to be registered stateside and Newt finds himself generating the skepticism of Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (obviously). She’s frustrated with her job, which is headed by its President (Carmen Ejogo) and enforced by Colin Farrell’s head of security. Newt and Tina team up to protect his various beasts and those who wish to destroy them. It’s not a two-person team as Newt befriends aspiring baker and World War I vet Jacob (Dan Fogler). Tina’s mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is also involved and is the apple of Jacob’s eye. Before we continue with the rest of the review, let me declare that the subplot of Jacob and Queenie’s flirtation and budding romance was my favorite thing about the movie. Fogler serves as the general comic relief here anyway and does so quite wonderfully. Sudol shines in her first role. Their chemistry has genuine magic and if there was ever a case for a rom com spin-off of a hoped for multi-billion dollar franchise, this is it.

Moving on, that’s a small but very winning part of the two-hour plus running time. I wish I could say the chemistry between Newt and Tina was as impressive, but it’s not. Tina is a bit of a blank slate in this first installment and it certainly remains to be seen whether Redmayne’s Newt will come anywhere close to being as beloved as you know who. He’s got a long way to go. Not even Harry Potter could have sold doing a “mating dance” with a titillated CG rhino and neither can Newt. On the other hand, Beasts has its own version of a Star Wars-like cantina scene with Ron Perlman’s cool voicing of a nefarious creation and it’s a highlight.

There are other performances worthy of note, including Ezra Miller as an abused teen with mysterious powers and Samantha Morton as his wizard hating adopted mom doing the abuse. Our main villain Grindelwald is mostly just spoken of but not seen (kind of like Voldemort was for a bit), but we know he’ll play a bigger role as the series moves along.

Fantastic Beasts is heavy on effects (most of them eye-catching) and creating the visually arresting template for sequels. I didn’t think it reached a Sorcerer’s Stone level of quality as far as part 1’s, but Rowling is generally successful in making us curious about what comes next with this real and generated crop of characters.

*** (out of four)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Box Office Prediction

The saga continues in the most powerful franchise force in movie history when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters next weekend. It’s been one year since Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke a slew of box office records when Disney took over the series, including best opening of all time and highest grossing domestic earner ever.

All seven pictures that have populated the science fiction tales have been classified as Episodes as part of an ongoing story featuring some of the most beloved and feared characters (plus Jar Jar) on the silver screen. Rogue is our first spin-off and it takes place between Episodes III (2005’s Revenge of the Sith) and IV (the 1977 original A New Hope). That means it focuses on the team tasked with stealing plans for the Death Star. Felicity Jones headlines a new cast of characters that includes Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk. It also means the return of Darth Freakin’ Vader complete with James Earl Jones voicing him. Gareth Edwards (who lasted 2014’s successful Godzilla reboot) directs.

Simply put, the return of the franchise a year ago after ten years of dormancy couldn’t have gone much better financially. Awakens took in an astonishing $247 million out of the gate and reached a $936 million eventual domestic haul. The eagerly awaited Episode VIII will be out in the same mid-December weekend next year. Rogue One is not expected to take in what Force did last year or VIII will next year due to its spin-off status. That said, expectations are still very high.

So the question is: just how high can this go? Some reports have suggested a number between $130-$150 million and that’s certainly a feasible estimate. Yet I can’t shake a feeling that it’ll manage to get a bit more. Rogue is in the enviable position of being the first spin-off and arriving just a calendar year behind the franchise’s return to global domination. In order to accomplish 2016’s largest opening, it would need to top another huge Disney property, Captain America: Civil War which made $179 million to kick summer off.

I don’t think it quite gets there, but generating $160-$170 million seems within reach. My estimate would give it the eighth biggest debut of all time between the final Harry Potter at $169 million and this spring’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at $166 million. Yes, my projection is a bit higher than what I’ve seen thus far. Yet it’s Star Wars, folks.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opening weekend prediction: $168.3 million

For my Collateral Beauty prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/12/06/collateral-beauty-box-office-prediction/

Oscar History: 2001

As far as film history, the year 2001 will most be remembered for the first installments of two billion dollar franchises, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Other than that, not much will be remembered about the year. It was an exceptionally weak year for movies.

This was reflected in a relatively unimpressive group of Best Picture nominees. Ron Howard’s good but not great A Beautiful Mind would take top prize against Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, Todd Field’s In the Bedroom, and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. The other nominee: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which began a three-year streak of the franchise’s entry being nominated.

I’ve always felt Fellowship was the best of the trilogy and I certainly would’ve had no problem with it winning over Mind. The Academy decided against some edgier material, such as David Lynch’s critically lauded Mulholland Drive and Chris Nolan’s twisty thriller Memento.

Ron Howard took Best Director over Altman and Jackson. Lynch would be nominated here for Mulholland, as well as Ridley Scott for Black Hawk Down. Field and Luhrmann were the two auteurs whose Picture was nominated left out. Certainly, I would’ve reserved a slot for Nolan for his work in Memento.

Denzel Washington would earn his first Best Actor prize for Training Day (he won Supporting Actor for Glory in 1989). Other nominees: previous year’s winner Russell Crowe for Mind, Sean Penn for I Am Sam, Will Smith as Ali, and Tom Wilkinson for In the Bedroom.

I would have considered Johnny Depp for his performance in Blow or Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. Keeping with the Memento kick, how about Guy Pearce for his challenging lead role? And if you’ve read my previous Oscar History posts, you’ll notice I usually advocate for comedic performances, which the Academy typically ignores. So how about a shout-out to Ben Stiller for his hilarious turn as Derek Zoolander?

Oscar history would be made as Halle Berry became the first African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. It would also be the first year where both the Actor and Actress prizes went to African-Americans. Other nominees: Judi Dench in Iris, Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom, and Renee Zellwegger for Bridget Jones Diary. Other performances worthy of consideration: Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive and Audrey Tautou in Amelie.

Jim Broadbent was a surprise Supporting Actor winner for Iris, beating out favorites Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and Ian McKellen in Lord of the Rings. Other nominees: Ethan Hawke for Training Day and Jon Voight in Ali.

Steve Buscemi in Ghost World and Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums were worthy nominees. And here’s a totally outside-the-box selection from me: Bruce Davison’s wonderful performance as Kirsten Dunst’s dad in the romantic drama Crazy/Beautiful, a greatly underrated film.

Jennifer Connelly would win Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind. Other nominees: Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith (both for Gosford Park), Marisa Tomei for In the Bedroom, and Kate Winslet for Iris.

I probably would have found room for Cameron Diaz’s effective performance as Tom Cruise’s jilted lover in Vanilla Sky.

So, all in all, other than some historical Actor and Actress winners, 2001 was a pretty blah year for the Academy. A Beautiful Mind is a solid flick, but definitely one of the least memorable Best Picture winners of recent years, as I see it.