Oscars 2021: The Case of King Richard

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard is the next film to be served up in my Case Of posts focused on 2021’s Best Picture nominees. For my takes on the other five entries thus far, you can peruse them here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Belfast

Oscars 2021: The Case of CODA

Oscars 2021: The Case of Don’t Look Up

Oscars 2021: The Case of Drive My Car

Oscars 2021: The Case of Dune

The Case for King Richard

The uplifting tale of Richard Williams (Will Smith) and his tutelage of Venus and Serena hit all its expected categories on nomination morning: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), Original Screenplay, Editing, and Original Song (courtesy of Beyonce). It’s an easy movie to like and if Academy voters are in feel good mode, they could court this one for attention.

The Case Against King Richard:

There’s other feel good choices with Belfast and CODA. Green showing up in Best Director would have been an indicator of strength, but it didn’t materialize. Richard also struggled at the box office (it simultaneously premiered on HBO Max). The best opportunity it has for a win is with Smith, who might make it to the podium in Actor on his third try.

The Verdict

Smith definitely has the strongest chance to feel the Richard love. It’s a long shot for BP.

My Case Of posts will continue with Licorice Pizza

Oscars 2021: The Case of Dune

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune brings us to the halfway point of my ten Case Of posts for the Best Picture contenders. If you missed the first four, you can access them here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Belfast

Oscars 2021: The Case of CODA

Oscars 2021: The Case of Don’t Look Up

Oscars 2021: The Case of Drive My Car

The Case for Dune:

If the Academy’s voters are looking to honor the nominee that garnered the highest box office returns, they can do so here as the sci-fi epic made $107 million domestically while being simultaneously available on HBO Max. Dune stands as the second most nominated film of 2021 with 10 mentions including Adapted Screenplay and a number of tech nods that it’s expected to win.

The Case Against Dune:

Many anticipated that this would garner the most mentions on Oscar nomination morning, but it fell short by two to The Power of the Dog. In doing so, Dune missed a major race when Villeneuve surprisingly failed to make the director cut. Quite simply, it’s hard to imagine this taking the big prize without its filmmaker being acknowledged.

The Verdict:

Dune should have no trouble winning some Oscars next month. Sound and Visual Effects are likely in the bag and Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, and Production Design are all feasible. Picture seems out of reach and voters will have another chance to honor it (and its director) with the forthcoming sequel.

My Case Of posts will continue with King Richard

Oscar Predictions: Navalny

Focused on the Russian opposition leader who was mysteriously poisoned in 2020, Navalny struck a chord with Sundance festival goers and won the documentary audience award and festival favorite prize.

It comes from filmmaker Daniel Roher and is slated for distribution on CNN and via HBO Max in the early portion of the year. Standing at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, this will attempt to carry its buzz forward through awards season and could absolutely be a factor in the Doc Feature competition at next year’s Oscars.

Sundance is often a successful launching pad in the genre. Last year, a third of the 15 doc contenders (including Flee, Faye Dayi, and Summer of Soul) got their starts in Park City. Navalny may be on the list this time in 2023 and my Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Matrix Resurrections Review

When the director seems to have ambivalent (at best) feelings about returning to their franchise, that emotion might rub off on the audience a bit. And so it is with The Matrix Resurrections, arriving 18 years after parts II and III with Lana Wachowski back (though not with her sister Lilly who co-directed previous installments). An overriding theme is that Wachowski is making part IV because the studio was going to do it regardless. Apparently she’d rather not leave it in the hands of others. The more things change, the more they stay the same in one respect. Our fourth trip into this world, like the second and third, can’t come close to matching the heights of the 1999 original (no matter how many throwback clips we see from it).

A glaring flaw is Resurrections mirrors that of the first sequels. So much after part one about The One centered its drama on Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) powerful connection with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). For the most part, we were told as opposed to shown that development. The 2021 model is dependent on our wistful nostalgic pining of their romance. It’s one that I and I suspect many others just don’t possess.

In The Matrix, we were introduced to a fresh and exciting cinematic universe at the perfect time. As the 20th century drew to a close, questions abounded about machines and technology and their potential to overpower humans and their free will. It was potent in its message back then and (of course) the action was mind blowing and influenced many a 21st century spectacle.

2003’s follow-up The Matrix Reloaded was in many respects a mess, but an often highly entertaining one. Its freeway shootout was a marvel that holds up gloriously today. The first act set in a sweat drenched orgiastic Zion… not so much. The Matrix Revolutions arrived six months after Reloaded and despite some nifty moments, it was a serious letdown critically and financially.

Yet franchises never die in Hollywood so Wachowski seems to be battling her own free will and giving us her next iteration. For those who may have forgot (and it’s easy to forget Revolutions), Neo and Trinity both lost their lives while saving what was left of the human race from machine domination. In Resurrections, Neo’s real life persona Thomas Anderson is indeed alive and living 60 years in the future as a video game programmer. His lauded creation is essentially what we saw in the previous trilogy. His therapy sessions with Neil Patrick Harris’s analyst hints of his recollections and, for that, he’s prescribed blue pills. When Anderson is confronted with his past, it comes from a younger Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a new team of rebels led by a white rabbit tattooed Bugs (Jessica Henwick).

It also turns out Trinity is around in the form of Tiffany, now married with kids and without knowledge of her gravity defiant history. The deal cut by the lovebirds in Revolutions still stands albeit on shaky ground. Humans and machines have found a way to coexist but others want war times to resume. The plot, however, really isn’t focused on extinction. Tiffany is the McGuffin – and the drama centers on her chosen pill intake. It seems a tad low-pressure for a series typically concentrated on civilization’s existence.

In addition to a more youthful Morpheus, we also have Jonathan Groff as a boyish Agent Smith. Neither of their characterizations match those of Laurence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving, respectively. The screenplay, in particular, does a disservice to Mateen (a fine actor) and the treatment of Morpheus. So crucial in the trilogy, he’s relegated to an insignificant status in this one. On the flip side, Jada Pinkett Smith returns as General Niobe and she’s aged six decades. The makeup is decent. Her decision making hasn’t improved much when it comes to advising our protagonists.

Wachowski’s self-referential treatment of the material starts off fairly funny and the first hour has its charms. When a holdover from Reloaded and Revolutions appears to spew English and French rantings about our text obsessed and social media culture, it’s moved to eye rolling emoji territory. In Reloaded, that mid-picture car flipping street extravaganza alone arguably made the first sequel worth the price of admission. There’s no such centerpiece in Resurrections that approaches it. Instead we get a follow-up where the filmmaker is struggling to justify its existence and even pontificating through her subjects that it’s not warranted. Maybe she should have left this revolution for someone else to start.

** (out of four)

Benedict Cumberbatch vs. Will Smith: A Best Actor Showdown

When King Richard came out in November, the preceding reviews and buzz pointed to a likelihood in the Best Actor race for this year’s Oscars – Will Smith would be on his way to his first gold statue. Playing Richard Williams, patriarch of the family that gave us tennis royalty Venus and Serena Williams, the film provides us multiple Academy bait scenes for the actor.

Mr. Smith has gone to the Oscars before as a nominee. 20 years ago, he was up for Ali (where to lost to Denzel Washington in Training Day). 15 years back, he scored his second nod for The Pursuit of Happyness (coming up short to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland).

This time around felt different. Obviously Smith is a beloved figure across the entertainment spectrum from movies to music to TV and he’s had blockbuster upon blockbuster in the last quarter century. Richard seemed like the right role for him to get that Oscar. Third time’s the charm.

That could still absolutely happen. In fact, I still have him ranked #1 in the Actor derby where he’s been perched for months. Yet I must admit, doubts are creeping in.

Why? A couple of reasons. First off, King Richard underwhelmed at the box office and that’s being kind. The sports drama has taken in less than $15 million. Part of the reason has to be due to its simultaneous release on HBO Max, but there’s no sugarcoating that it’s a subpar performance.

Secondly, there’s the rise of Benedict Cumberbatch in Netflix’s The Power of the Dog. The actor (who’s about to land his second nod after 2014’s The Imitation Game) is becoming the critical favorite and he’s picking up hardware from their associations. It also helps that Cumberbatch has been highly visible in 2021 with four pics (including financial behemoth Spider-Man: No Way Home).

In that sense, the 2021 Best Actor race is starting to look like what we witnessed in 2020. As an aside, I do see this a two-person competition at the moment (though Andrew Garfield from Tick Tick, Boom! may have a remote shot). There’s a head vs. heart vibe emerging. Last year, the sentimental favorite was the late Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The performance that was equally if not more hailed by critics came from Anthony Hopkins in The Father. And it was Hopkins who ultimately and somewhat surprisingly prevailed.

Could we see a repeat in 2021 and a slight upset by Cumberbatch over the favored Smith? Stay tuned…

December 31-January 2 Box Office Predictions

As 2021 transitions into 2022, the top five on the box office charts should look similar to as it did over Christmas with Spider-Man: No Way Home easily on top and Sing 2 firmly in the runner-up spot. There are no new wide releases this weekend as New Year’s Eve falls on Friday and holdovers should all experience fairly small drops.

One in particular – the football drama American Underdog with its A+ Cinemascore grade – could even gain viewers and rise to the third spot. That’s assuming The Matrix Resurrections, after its subpar debut and mixed audience reaction, has the steepest fall of the leftovers. The King’s Man should round out the top five in its sophomore frame.

And with that – here’s I foresee the year closing out and the new one beginning at multiplexes:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $52.8 million

2. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $19.6 million

3. American Underdog

Predicted Gross: $5.7 million

4. The Matrix Resurrections

Predicted Gross: $4.8 million

5. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

Box Office Results (December 24-26)

Let’s start with this caveat – some studios (namely Sony and Warner Bros) are apparently taking a holiday break and haven’t reported final box numbers from the Christmas weekend. So some of these tallies are estimates…

As anticipated, Spider-Man: No Way Home dominated the holiday with a reported take of $84.5 million in weekend 2. That brings its total to approximately $470 million through December 26th. The 68% drop is considerably larger than I anticipated and I had it making $125.2 million over the three days. Regardless – this movie is setting pandemic records right and left.

Sing 2 was second with $22.3 million from Friday to Sunday and $37.9 million when counting its Wednesday and Thursday opening grosses. I went a bit higher at $31.3 million and $46.8 million, respectively, but you can expect the Illumination Entertainment animated sequel to play well into the next few weeks.

The Matrix Resurrections, as mentioned, disappointed. Perhaps the HBO Max simultaneous release didn’t help, but there’s no way to spin the fourth franchise entry (arriving 18 years after the last) simply failed to meet expectations. It took in an estimated $12 million from Friday to Sunday and $22.5 million since Wednesday for third place. I was far more generous at $26.7 million and $40.3 million.

Sequelitis also struck down The King’s Man. The Kingsman prequel was fourth with $5.9 million (Friday to Sunday) and $9.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday) compared to my projections of $8.8 million and $13.1 million.

American Underdog debuted on Christmas Day for a two-day haul of $5.8 million. I said $7.2 million. As discussed above, I look for this to stick around and rise from fifth to third.

West Side Story was sixth with $2.8 million, outpacing my $2 million prediction for $23 million total.

A Journal for Jordan also started on Saturday and made $2.2 million over two days. I was a tad higher at $2.9 million.

Eighth place belonged to the expansion of Licorice Pizza with $1.9 million, right on target with my $1.8 million estimate. It’s made just over $3 million overall.

Sing 2 took a big bite out of Encanto‘s audience (plus it became available on Disney Plus). It was ninth with $1.8 million and I overshot with $4.3 million. Total is $88 million.

Finally, Ghostbusters: Afterlife rounded out the top ten with $1.2 million (I went with $2 million) for $120 million total.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time!

2021: The Year of Zendaya

Going into 2021, Zendaya had already collected an Emmy for her leading role on HBO’s Euphoria and was known to moviegoers for her parts in the Spider-Man franchise and The Greatest Showman. She is the subject of my second write-up for performers who had a meaningful 2021 and it’s no coincidence that she’s the second that appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently breaking all pandemic era box office records). The first was Benedict Cumberbatch… and we might not be done yet with Home costars.

Her inclusion isn’t just due to her onscreen (and apparently offscreen) pairing with Spidey himself, Tom Holland. The actress/singer began the year garnering Oscar chatter for the Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington. While she didn’t ultimately nab an Academy mention, she was on the Critics Choice Awards radar for her acclaimed performance.

By summertime, she lent her voice to Space Jam: A New Legacy (voicing Lola Bunny). Her involvement with Warner Bros/HBO Max continued in the fall with the long awaited sci-fi epic Dune. It looks to be her first picture that will achieve plenty of award nominations and the sequel is already lined up for 2023.

And, of course, she capped it all off with her third appearance as MJ in the massive MCU series. Zendaya expanded her reach in 2021 as her films reached plenty of homes this year. My Year of posts will continue…

The Matrix Resurrections Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (12/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising down Resurrections prediction from $30.7 million for the three-day and $47.2 million for the five-day to $26.7 million and $40.3 million for the five-day

The Matrix Resurrections won’t be The One when it opens December 22nd, giving itself a five-day Christmas rollout. That’s thanks to what should be a robust sophomore frame for Spider-Man: No Way Home. It might not even be The Two if Sing 2 manages to squeak by it for the runner-up position.

Arriving 18 years after The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions hit screens in 2003, this is the fourth franchise entry that began in 1999 and changed how we look at action blockbusters. The original Matrix is a landmark. The sequels that followed were met with considerably more mixed reaction (especially part 3).

Lana Wachowski directs without her sister Lilly (they made the trilogy together). Returning are Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lambert Wilson, and Jada Pinkett Smith. New to the game are Yahya Abdul-Mateen (taking over for Laurence Fishburne as a more youthful Morpheus), Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Christina Ricci. Once slated for May, it was postponed for pandemic purposes.

There’s no doubt that Resurrections is an event picture that has many devotees of the series ready to rush out. That said, it’s a major question mark as to how high this gets. While this is certainly an experience many will want to catch on the biggest screen possible, there is the option to view it simultaneously on HBO Max. Plenty of viewers not of the die-hard persuasion could choose to watch from the comfort of the couch. And while I’m sure many younger viewers are familiar with parts I-III – they may not have the reverence for it that fans, say, 35 and up do. Furthermore there is that pesky Spider-Man hanging around gobbling up the Yuletide dollars.

Don’t get me wrong. Resurrections could have a huge opening and amass $70 million from Wednesday to Sunday. Reloaded took in over $90 million for its start and held the title of highest grossing R-rated pic for over a decade until Deadpool replaced it. On the other hand, Revolutions couldn’t keep up and petered out with $139 million total.

One rather obvious comp is Dune, another sci-fi spectacle that followed 2021’s Warner Bros pattern of premiering their theatrical fare on HBO’s subscription service. It made $40 million over the traditional opening weekend. I’m estimating that Resurrections won’t hit that number from Friday to Sunday, but that the extra two days could bring in $45-$50 million.

The Matrix Resurrections opening weekend prediction: $26.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $40.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Sing 2 prediction, click here:

Sing 2 Box Office Prediction

For my The King’s Man prediction, click here:

The King’s Man Box Office Prediction

For my American Underdog prediction, click here:

American Underdog Box Office Prediction

For my A Journal for Jordan prediction, click here:

A Journal for Jordan Box Office Prediction

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 26-28

Hollywood is hoping for a bountiful harvest over the long Turkey Day weekend. We have three newbies premiering: Disney’s animated Encanto, Ridley Scott’s murderous melodrama House of Gucci with Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, and franchise reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Encanto Box Office Prediction

House of Gucci Box Office Prediction

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City Box Office Prediction

The Mouse Factory, as it has over numerous Thanksgiving frames in recent years, should top the charts… should. While I don’t have Encanto nearing the grosses that titles like Moana and Coco have accomplished for the holiday, my low 30s Friday to Sunday estimate has it edging out the sophomore weekend of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. 

The latter had a start at the higher end of projections (more on that below) and if it falls in the high 30s, it could challenge Encanto for box office supremacy.

Gucci is a big question mark. I have it comfortably in third with a lower double digits take for the traditional weekend and close to $20 million for the five-day (all newcomers hit theaters on Wednesday). Gaga’s fans in particular could vault it to better numbers. On the other hand, mixed buzz could put it lower.

Resident Evil is a series that experienced its smallest opening weekend with its previous sixth installment The Final Chapter in 2016. It made just shy of $14 million. I’m not optimistic with Raccoon and I believe it could find itself in a close battle with Eternals for the four spot.

As for leftovers, Clifford the Big Red Dog and King Richard (after a disappointing premiere) are likely to post minimal declines. Yet both could fall outside the top five.

And with that, let’s do a top 7 this time around:

1. Encanto

Predicted Gross: $31.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $46.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

2. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Predicted Gross: $27 million

3. House of Gucci

Predicted Gross: $12.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $19.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

4. Eternals

Predicted Gross: $7.9 million

5. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $11.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

6. Clifford the Big Red Dog

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

7. King Richard

Predicted Gross: $4.8 million

Box Office Results (November 19-21)

Ghostbustin’ made audiences feel good as the long in development sequel took in $44 million. As mentioned, that’s toward the top of prognostications and bodes well for a healthy run ahead. The sci-fi comedy drove past my $38.1 million estimate.

Eternals dropped to second after two weeks in first with $11 million (a touch below my $12.6 million take). The MCU fantasy stands at $136 million.

In third, Clifford the Big Red Dog slid a bit more than I figured in weekend #2 with $8.1 million (I went with $10.5 million). Total is $33 million.

I have to think Warner Bros. is questioning their choice to simultaneously release Will Smith’s sports drama King Richard on HBO Max. Serving up a weak fourth place debut, it made just $5.4 million. Not approaching my $9.2 million projection, it will hope for minimal declines ahead (and boffo HBO numbers).

Dune rounded out the top five with $3.1 million, below my $4.2 million prediction as it’s approaching the nine figure mark with $98 million.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of November 19-21

**Blogger’s Note (11/18): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my King Richard estimate down from $11.2M to $9.2M

Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks to spook up a healthy #1 debut and Will Smith’s Oscar hopeful King Richard debuts in theaters and HBO Max. They’re the newbies out on the pre Thanksgiving frame and you can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Box Office Prediction

King Richard Box Office Prediction

I’m on the lower end of estimates with Afterlife (high 30s) as I’m unsure how much anticipation is truly built up for the newest iteration of the franchise (just five years after a reboot failed to meet expectations). It’ll certainly open atop the charts and hope for a leggy run with the holidays almost underway.

King Richard could open anywhere from 2nd to 4th. The HBO Max simultaneous premiere will siphon away some viewers, but I’m actually on the higher end of the range here and think it could surpass double digits (placing it third behind the third frame of Eternals).

Clifford the Big Red Dog had a much better than anticipated start and its sophomore decline could be around 35-40% as it should experience a much smaller drop over Turkey Day. Dune should take the five spot.

Here’s how I see it going down:

1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife 

Predicted Gross: $38.1 million

2. Eternals

Predicted Gross: $12.6 million

3. Clifford the Big Red Dog

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

4. King Richard

Predicted Gross: $9.2 million

5. Dune

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million

Box Office Results (November 12-14)

The sophomore fall for Eternals wasn’t quite as pronounced as I thought it might be. The MCU title, which has drawn mixed audience and critical notices, dropped 62% (not abnormal for its franchise) to $26.8 million. That’s ahead of my $23.2 million estimate. The ten-day gross is $118 million.

Clifford the Big Red Dog had a terrific start in second with $16.6 million from Friday to Sunday and $22.2 million since its Wednesday premiere – dwarfing my respective takes of $11.8 million and $17.6 million. With an A Cinemascore grade, look for Dog to leg out commendably with the holiday season nearly upon us.

Dune was third with $5.5 million compared to my $4.9 million prediction and it stands at $93 million.

No Time to Die took the four spot at $4.5 million (I said $4.3 million) to bring it to $150 million.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage rounded out the top five with $3.9 million, a bit ahead of my $3.4 million projection. The sequel hit a milestone as it’s up to $202 million.

Finally, Oscar hopeful Belfast (out on 580 screens) debuted in seventh with $1.7 million. I was a bit more generous with $2.3 million. Kenneth Branagh’s coming-of-age drama will look to stick around with awards season approaching.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…