The Boogeyman Box Office Prediction

20th Century Studios is hoping plenty of viewers will be creeped out by The Boogeyman on June 2nd. The PG-13 horror pic is based on a half century old short story by Stephen King with Rob Savage directing. Cast members include Sophie Thatcher (no relation that I’m aware of), Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, and David Dastmalchian.

Budgeted at just over $40 million, this was originally slated for a streaming premiere on Hulu. Encouraging test screenings changed the plan and now it’s being unveiled in approximately 3000 venues.

This genre has seen its share of successes as of late. There are two comps from 2022 that seem appropriate. The Black Phone was a summer release with some similar themes and based on a novel by King’s son Joe Hill. It started off with $23.6 million. Last fall’s Smile is similar in the sense that it was supposed to roll out on Paramount+ and the pattern was altered due to its positive audience scores. A $22.6 million debut was the result.

The Rotten Tomatoes score is 64%. While under the 83% of Phone and 79% from Smile, that’s just fine to keep the buzz decent. I can’t find a compelling reason why this wouldn’t hit the mid to high teens or low 20s as well.

The Boogeyman opening weekend prediction: $17.7 million

For my Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse prediction, click here:

Oscar Predictions: Retrograde

Documentarian Matthew Heineman is no stranger to tackling hot button issues and awards voters have rewarded his features in the past. 2015’s Cartel Land was an Oscar nominee for Documentary Feature. Additional acclaim was bestowed upon 2017’s City of Ghosts and last year’s The First Wave, which took us into a NYC hospital at the height of the COVID epidemic. Heineman’s lone fictional work was 2018’s A Private War, in which Rosamund Pike nabbed a Golden Globe Best Actress nod in the Drama competition.

His latest is the Nat Geo produced Retrograde, recounting America’s final nine months in the Afghanistan War. It’s out already on an awards qualifying run prior to a December 11th Hulu bow. Initial reviews are typical for the filmmaker at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Both Ghosts and Wave didn’t make the Academy’s cut. If Retrograde can manage to make the shortlist, it could certainly vie for one of the five spots. Based on recent history, I’m not yet comfortable slotting it there. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Prey Review

Touching down 35 years after the glistening biceps and grisly kills of Predator, Prey puts the “pre” in prequel by taking us all the way back to 1719. Our setting is the Northern Great Plains in a mountainous region inhabited by a Comanche Indian tribe. The elements of the time are their own enemy and so is the wildlife roaming free. This includes lions and bears of the somewhat unconvincing CG variety. There’s also a gruesome scene where buffaloes earn their wings.

Dan Trachtenberg’s film poses the question – what if we dropped one of those Predators in this unique cinematic universe? The answer is a clever spin on the franchise that marks its own territory. It limits the callbacks to the original so that when they surface, they’re appreciated. The screenplay isn’t muddied by burying itself in nostalgia and that’s something plenty of other series can’t claim as of late.

There are no semiautomatic weapons or choppas for Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young warrior who longs to be a hunter. Her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) is considered one of the best. It’s clear that her community simply doesn’t view her as capable of doing the same. She gets the chance when that extraterrestrial entity (still a triumph of creature design) makes a visit. Her trusty hound Sarii joins her. Camouflaging itself to attack at the right moments and still giving its potential victims a fighting chance, this is indeed Predator’s best vehicle since part 1.

Predator 2 certainly had its guilty pleasures back in 1990 while 2010’s Predators was a mixed bag. By 2018, Shane Black’s The Predator fell apart as it went along and marked a low point. Prey‘s concept of taking the iconic monster back 300 years is simple and effective. Midthunder’s determined heroine is a huge plus and she’s easily the most engaging protagonist since Arnold. Predator isn’t the only predator around as French colonists surface to torment the Comanches. This group’s encounters with Naru and the beast are violent highlights.

Besides some occasionally questionable CG, it’s fair to say that Prey works on every level imaginable. I found myself immersed in the striking landscapes that its unwelcome guest crashes. Trachtenberg stages his action sequences with precision and there’s no time wasted in its 100 minutes. This is how you do a prequel. With this crew involved, I’d eagerly sign up for more predatory journeys through history.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Aftersun

Irish thespian Paul Mescal has received an Emmy nod and plenty of critical praise for his role on Hulu’s Normal People and he recently made his cinematic debut in Netflix’s The Lost Daughter. 

More kudos are coming his way via Cannes for Aftersun, a family drama currently holding at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The first feature from Charlotte Wells and produced by Moonlight auteur Barry Jenkins, the A24 acquisition is potentially the type of project that could generate awards chatter with the right campaign.

The issue could be that A24 will have other pics to focus on and there’s only so much promotion to go around. Time will tell, but there’s no doubt Mescal is an actor on the upswing. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Deep Water Review

After giving us well-regarded erotic thrillers in the 1980s (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction), 90s (Indecent Proposal), and 00s (Unfaithful), Adrian Lyne is back in genre form after 22 years with Deep Water. Unfortunately it’s often as lifeless as the marriage it portrays and even when its central relationship gathers steam in the third act, I still found myself mostly unsatisfied.

Based on a 1957 by Patricia Highsmith (who wrote the novels that became Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley), Water is certainly a cinematic step-down from those pictures. Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) doesn’t have much to do in his sleepy small Louisiana town. He’s an early retiree after inventing a chip that powers drones. The political ramifications of his former occupation are glossed over though it seems like the screenwriters wanted to explore it further. He spends his days tending to his pet snails and his precocious daughter (adorably played by Grace Jenkins who gives the most memorable performance).

Her mom is Melinda (Ana de Armas), who is not content being a soccer mom. Vic and Melinda spend their evenings at endless gatherings of their well to do neighbors that include Lil Rel Howery and his muted comic relief and Don (Tracy Letts), a screenwriter looking for inspiration. He may have found it with the Van Allens. Melinda is not shy about flaunting her flirtations and likely sexual dalliances with a string of hunks like the surfer looking Joel (Brendan C. Miller) and ivory tickling Charlie (Jacob Elordi). A previous hookup turned up dead and the townspeople whisper about Vic’s possible involvement. The chatter intensifies when Melinda’s latest conquests follow similar fates.

There’s perhaps some deeper meaning to glean about the nature of suburban marriages and jealousy and my hunch is that it’s found in Highsmith’s source material. It generally isn’t on the screen (or stream in this case since it’s a Hulu release). Instead we get a film where’s little joy in the repetition. Deep Water never quite finds the balance of being a kooky guilty pleasure and an engrossing sexual nail-biter. Occasionally it comes close with the former as Vic bizarrely explains the nutritional dangers of those snails.

Part of the problem is that the leads aren’t given compelling characters to play. Affleck does portray his general malaise with the desired effect while de Armas is saddled with a one-note femme fatale. If she’s supposed to be sympathetic, the writers failed to accomplish that mission. There is a cute moment when their adorable offspring belts out Leo Sayer’s mid 70s tune “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”. As for Deep Water, it made me feel wistful of an era when these types of exercises were better. Lyne made some of them and this recent proposal falls short of being a decent one.

** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Deep Water

Adrian Lyne’s erotic thriller Deep Water was supposed to surface in theaters way back in November 2020 before its COVID delays. It marks the director’s first feature in 20 years since Unfaithful. The multiplex release was scrapped and a year and a half later, it’s slated for a Hulu streaming debut on Friday. The cast includes former couple Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas along with Tracy Letts, Lil Rel Howery, Dash Mihok, Finn Wittrock, and Kristen Connolly.

The embargo is up. Some critics have called it a worthy throwback to 80s/90s era psychosexual dramas. Others aren’t as kind as evidenced by the 47% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Lyne’s previous efforts have yielded awards attention. 1983’s Flashdance garnered 4 down the line nominations with a win for that title song. 1987’s Fatal Attraction nabbed six including Picture, Actress (Glenn Close), and Supporting Actress (Anne Archer). Diane Lane received a Best Actress mention for the aforementioned Unfaithful two decades back.

So it’s not unreasonable to think of Lyne’s work as Oscar bait. It just won’t happen here as Water‘s critical reaction won’t give this any oxygen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Summer of Soul

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has had a sterling career with his rap group The Roots and as Jimmy’s Fallon’s Tonight Show bandleader over the years. He can now add acclaimed documentary filmmaker to his resume with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The film focuses on the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone that took place in the summer of 1989. That also happened to be the season of another festival named Woodstock.

Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to massive acclaim and ended up taking that festival’s Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. The doc hits theaters and Hulu streaming this Friday. More reviews have come in and it stands at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Will the Sundance love translate to Oscar voters? Every time I write about documentaries in these posts, I must point out the Academy’s branch in that category is notoriously unpredictable. Oftentimes, the most hailed and popular docs don’t make the cut. I suspect distributor Fox Searchlight will give this a major push and that could put it over the edge. That said, projecting the pics of this genre which make it in is always a tricky proposition. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Run Review

**There’s really no proper to review Run without some spoilers, so consider yourself warned.**

Cinematic logic dictates that no matter carefully the villain in a thriller strives to cover up their crimes, they will save a newspaper article in a fairly convenient location that exposes their vicious deeds. Same goes for opened mail that was meant for someone else. These time tested cliches are in Aneesh Chaganty’s Hulu pic Run, the director’s follow-up to his well regarded Searching from 2018. And there are additional moments in the efficient 89 minutes of screen time that are straight out of its Genre 101.

That said, Run has some things going for it. We open with Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) giving birth prematurely to her daughter whose survival in question. Flash forward 17 years later and Chloe (Kiera Allen, making her film debut) is alive, but in a wheelchair and experiencing various other illnesses. It’s time for the homeschooled teen to eagerly leave the nest for college which Mom appears cool with. Not so fast.

It takes little time for the screenplay to establish that a Munchausen by proxy situation could be happening. For those who haven’t consulted their medical journals lately, the question is whether Diane is purposely keeping her actually health child sick and confining her to their Washington farmhouse. The casting of Paulson, known for playing whackos, is a solid clue.

Run is elevated by its lead performances. We know what to expect from its known actress and Paulson plays this Mommie Dearest to the hilt. However, it’s Allen who shines. Chloe is certainly a character to be pitied, but she’s also much smarter and resourceful than your average daughter in distress.

As mentioned, the mechanisms of the storyline do cover familiar ground as Chloe tries to wheel or (maybe) walk far away from this matriarchal mayhem. Diane would have been wise to invest in a paper shredder as she tries to cut off Chloe’s access to the outside world. Yet Run earns points with a genuinely strong and sympathetic heroine and a final twist that confirms she is still a step ahead of her captor.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

As the latecomers for awards consideration are getting their industry screenings, the Oscar picture is becoming a bit more clear for several contenders. In the case of The United States vs. Billie Holiday (hitting Hulu on February 26), the verdict is not encouraging. The biopic of singer Billie Holiday has yet to have its official review embargo lifted, but word of mouth indicates many think this is a misfire.

The pic comes from director Lee Daniels, whose 2009 effort Precious picked up six Academy nominations and victories in Supporting Actress for Mo’Nique and its Adapted Screenplay. Based on early buzz, the only performer with any shot of recognition is Andra Day in the title role for Best Actress. The supporting cast that includes Natasha Lyonne, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph appear to be non-factors.

As I have discussed on the blog previously, Best Actress is a crowded field with four likely slots filled: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). The fifth spot does appear up for grabs and some pundits have lauded Day’s work as a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing experience. However, I find it more plausible that the Academy could go for anyone from Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) to Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit) to Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead), to name just three. Last week, I had Day in the mix at #5. Expect her to drop when I release my new estimates this Thursday.

Down the line races such as Production and Costume Design (and perhaps Makeup and Hairstyling) could be possibilities here, but I have a hunch Holiday could also be blanked come nomination morning. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Happiest Season

Hulu looks to have a holiday hit on their hands when Happiest Season holds its streaming debut on November 25th. The rom com stars Kristen Stewart as her character embarks on a holiday outing with the family of her girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis). Problem is, said girlfriend hasn’t yet come out to said family. Clea DuVall directs with a supporting cast including Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, and Mary Steenburgen.

The review embargo lifted today and the results indicate a winner. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at 93%. Particular praise has gone to a trio of performances: Stewart, Plaza, and Levy (who’s having quite a year with his multiple Emmys for Schitt’s Creek). When it comes to Oscar, however, I am skeptical that Season has any impact (potentially similar to another acclaimed Hulu comedy Palm Springs).

The Golden Globes, on the other hand, could be a different story. The pic could contend in the Musical/Comedy race, but I especially think Stewart could be recognized in Best Actress. Ms. Stewart has had a number of critically appreciated roles in her post Twilight years. A nod in the Musical/Comedy category would mark her first Globes mention. Oscar may have to wait for another season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…