Last Christmas is an example of immense talent behind the scenes and blaring over the soundtrack resulting in a holiday concoction that just does not come together. It tries hard and it has attractive leads. Director Paul Feig has made rom coms successfully with Bridesmaids and shown range with 2018’s twisty humorous thriller A Simple Favor. Emma Thompson lends her writing skills and plays the over top mother to the lead character. And the film’s title is the eponymous 80s Wham! classic which plays frequently, in addition to numerous other tracks from the band and George Michael’s solo career.
This picture should work. My faith that it would did not last long. Emilia Clarke sheds her Game of Thrones image as Kate, an aimless Londoner who immigrated from Yugoslavia with her parents and sister. She spends her days working at a year round Christmas shop run by a quirky store owner who goes by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). In fact, nearly everyone is quirky in this screenplay. Even the homeless people at the shelter where Kate volunteers when she finally starts to have a heart. They’re homeless, but ya know… they’re fun homeless.
Speaking of having a heart, that’s a big plot point and I guess that’s all I can say without going into spoiler territory. Kate’s outlook on life begins to change when she meets the elusive Tom (Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians and the aforementioned A Simple Favor). Their potential courtship is interrupted by occasional forays into commentary on immigration, mental health, a bizarre romance between Santa and a customer, and whatever George Michael ballad or uptempo tune fits the moment.
The result is a tonal mess even with the singer’s beautifully toned voice playing. I’m not a Scrooge. Thompson appeared in Love Actually and I ate that extravagant Yuletide offering right up. Despite the heart being in the right place of the filmmakers, Last Christmas mostly left me praying for my time back.
Director Guy Ritchie returns to the genre that made him known in the first place with crime comedy The Gentlemen next weekend. Matthew McConaughey headlines the pic that was already released in the United Kingdom on New Year’s Day to OK results. Costars include Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 75% with most reviewers claiming it doesn’t quite match the quality of earlier titles with similar plot themes.
Over 20 years ago, Ritchie burst onto the indie scene with his humorous gangster tale Long, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and followed it up with the successful Snatch. Later efforts in the genre like Revolver and RocknRolla failed to make a stateside impact. Over the past decade, the auteur has veered into blockbuster territory with the Sherlock Holmes franchise and last year’s massive hit Aladdin.
As for its lead, McConaughey is badly in need of a solid performer. His filmography over the past few years has been littered with bombs (Gold, The Dark Tower, White Boy Rick, Serenity, The Beach Bum).
I suspect that The Gentlemen won’t be it. That said, it should certainly make more than Revolver (which didn’t get a stateside wide release) or RocknRolla (which topped out at $5 million). My forecast has McConaughey and company just below or just topping double digits for its start. I’ll go with the former.
The Gentlemen opening weekend prediction: $9.6 million
The Yuletide rom com Last Christmas presents itself in theaters next weekend from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. If you’re hoping it features the classic Wham! holiday track in its soundtrack, you’re in luck as it plays (as well as some unreleased songs by the late lead singer George Michael). Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame headline. Costars include Golding’s Rich mother Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson (who co-wrote the script).
While its two leads don’t really have a track record opening a film, this should succeed in bringing in a female audience (and perhaps some fans of Mr. Michael). Even though the genres are different, this could premiere with similar numbers to Feig’s previous effort A Simple Favor ($16.1 million).
I’ll say that range is likely as Christmas hopes to leg out solidly in the weeks ahead.
Last Christmas opening weekend prediction: $16.9 million
Over 16 years ago, MyBigFatGreekWedding unexpectedly became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time with its focus on culture and love. That chord was struck once again in the summer of 2018 with CrazyRichAsians. Based on the bestseller by Kevin Kwan and directed by Jon M. Chu, Asians received rave reviews and audiences turned out to the tune of a $174 million domestic haul.
The film made a little history along the way by becoming the first major Hollywood studio production to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast since 1993’s TheJoyLuckClub. This allowed for star making roles for leads Henry Golding and Constance Wu, as well as actress/rapper Awkwafina. For veteran Michelle Yeoh, best known to stateside moviegoers for TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon, her potential mother-in-law role garnered awards chatter.
Asians certainly achieved its status as the summer’s giant sleeper and is the largest earning rom com since 2005’s Hitch. It also changed the faces we normally see in the genre (like GreekWedding) and that earns it a place atop the year’s major cinematic stories.
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is the type of character who would be in the book club that reads something like ASimpleFavor. Yet the cyclone level of twists in the story might only be thought up by someone like Emily (Blake Lively) after drinking too many of her patented mid afternoon dry martinis. Paul Feig’s satiric thriller is, alas, based on a novel by Darcey Bell that probably has been read in those clubs.
This takes the issues of female empowerment found in GoneGirl or TheGirlontheTrain (also from literary works) and casts a black comedic cloud over it. It occasionally risks collapsing under its sheer volume of plot turns. And somehow it rarely ceases to be a hoot with two dynamic lead performances.
We meet Stephanie on her daily vlog filled with cooking tips and child rearing tips. She’s a single mom whose husband died in a car accident along with her brother. Her instinct is to do it all, including hoarding over school parenting projects. She doesn’t blink when Emily, whose kid attends school with Stephanie’s, starts asking her to be an unpaid nanny. Emily has a hectic job as PR manager for a fashion designer, the already mentioned drinking problem, and has-been writer turned professor husband Sean (Henry Golding from summer smash CrazyRichAsians). The two end up bonding with Stephanie deeming Emily her “best friend” (there’s a bracelet involved).
Then one day Emily vanishes and Stephanie’s daily posts become a darker (though always humorous) search for a missing person. Her protective nature draws her close to Sean, so much so that the authorities begin to question their motives. What follows is a relentless stream of genre clichés: insurance claims, alternate identities, unknown twins, and love triangles, just to name some. This is kitchen sink level stuff. It’s borderline exhausting, but you get the feeling that Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer know it and are furiously winking. The director is known for his straight up comedies such as Bridesmaids, TheHeat, and Spy. While this does venture into paperback adapted material, it does it with tongue in cheek planted wit. This is more in tone with 1998’s under appreciated WildThings than something like GoneGirl.
Kendrick and Lively are the show here and their chemistry makes it work. Stephanie’s desperation for companionship is sold by Kendrick, who thinks she’s found someone special beyond her unseen blog watchers. She’s done so with Emily, whose back story is filled with too many secrets to keep track of (you will lose count). Lively has a ball revealing them. So do we once we realize keeping up with it all is secondary to its ridiculous and fun nature.
CrazyRichAsians is a vibrant and colorful romantic comedy that’s fairly conventional in its genre trappings at times. However, it isn’t so traditional with the world it explores or with the faces populating the love story. It serves as a lovely advertisement for visiting Singapore – albeit with some locales that might require deep pockets to see. This works best by having the most important ingredient in that there’s legit chemistry between the two leads.
That would be Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor in New York City and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding). They seem to be living a nice life in the Big Apple when she accepts his invitation to accompany him to Singapore for a wedding. Rachel figures out soon that his family isn’t just wealthy, but they’re basically the Kennedy’s of their country. Or in some ways they’re the Kardashian’s, with plenty of Young’s living that kind of excessively lavish lifestyle.
This isn’t necessarily a Cinderella trajectory Rachel finds herself on. Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) quickly decides she isn’t good enough for her beloved son. And there’s plenty of other women around who are jealous of her nabbing the nation’s hottest bachelor, who’s expected to move back home and take over the family business.
Based on a bestseller from Kevin Kwan and directed with energy by Jon M. Chu, Asians shows us a culture rarely seen in an American produced studio effort. In that way, it’s fair to make comparisons with 2002’s unexpected smash hit MyBigFatGreekWedding. This also takes some time to show the culinary delights of the land, as well as gorgeous visual ones.
Similar to plenty of complicated love stories, there are elements of classism at the forefront. One subplot involves a cousin (Gemma Chan), a kindly socialite who’s “married under” what her elders anticipated. Her marriage serves as a preview for the problems that may lie ahead for Rachel and Nick.
CrazyRichAsians gets a lot of mileage out of its far off destination. Wu and Golding make it gel. I expect both to get their own mileage career wise from their solid performances here. Yeoh, who stateside audiences know best for 007 flick TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon) is strong in a tricky part. She’s a bit of a villain with genuine intentions. The screenplay and her performance make it work. Rapper Awkwafina gets the zany best friend role to Rachel and does have some amusing moments.
The dazzling sights of Singapore are joyous to behold, but this is worth watching for the reason many in this genre are. I liked Rachel and Nick a lot and wanted to see them make it through the time-tested rom com challenges that come their way.
Director Paul Feig is best known for his comedies featuring Melissa McCarthy like Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. He changes things up next weekend with the release of thriller A Simple Favor. It’s based on the debut novel from Darcey Bell released last year. The cast is headlined by Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding (fresh off his breakthrough role in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians).
Favor could have the benefit of appealing to a female audience in the midst of more male-driven fare such as The Predator and White Boy Rick, which both open the same day. The current forecast is in the $12-$15 million area. I feel that Kendrick, Lively, and the intended demographic could cause this to debut on the high-end of that range and perhaps exceed it.
A Simple Favor opening weekend prediction: $17.9 million
Opening next week, Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to be a late summer sleeper hit. Based on a bestseller by Kevin Kwan, the romantic comedy is said to be a crowd pleaser. Critics have taken notice. The film stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a far cry from previous directorial efforts from Jon M. Chu, who made G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jem and the Holograms.
If this picture manages to be a success, could Oscar voters take notice of the first Asian-American led studio effort in a quarter century (since The Joy Luck Club)? That will depend on competition. The only race I see where this could possibly be included is Best Adapted Screenplay.
Last year, the competition in that particular race was lighter than usual. That may not be the case this year with potential contenders like BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, First Man, A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, and Boy, Erased. However, if some of those titles don’t match expectations (which is often the case), Crazy Rich Asians could make a play.
Blogger’s Note II (08/14/18): My estimate is rising once again and I’m going with $22.5 million for the three-day and $33.4 million for the five-day.
Blogger’s Note (08/10/18): I am ramping up my estimate for this based on buzz from $14.2M to $19.4M for the traditional weekend and high 20s for the five-day.
In what could turn out to be some smart counter programming, romantic comedy CrazyRichAsians opens next Wednesday. The Warner Bros release is, rather shockingly, the first stateside studio effort in a quarter century (1993’s TheJoyLuckClub) to feature a predominately Asian-American cast. It’s based on a 2013 bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The cast includes Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh. Jon M. Chu, who made JustinBieber: NeverSayNever and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, directs.
The film seems to be garnering some positive buzz and it could bring out a female audience, as well as a community clearly underrepresented at multiplexes. Even with that breakout potential, the Wednesday opening probably means it’ll debut behind Mile22 with Mark Wahlberg.
I will estimate a traditional weekend opening in the low teens and that could mean a gross close to $20 million for the five-day total.
CrazyRichAsians opening weekend prediction: $22.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $33.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)