The Depths of Hellboy

Over the past year and change, the superhero genre has been flush with massive successes such as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and current box office champ Shazam!, which has dutifully met expectations. The upcoming Avengers: Endgame is looking to set the all time opening record in two weeks. Something was bound to eventually get lost in the shuffle and that turned out to be Hellboy this weekend.

The film rebooted the Dark Horse Comics franchise that debuted in 2004 with Guillermo del Toro behind the camera and Ron Perlman as the horn clad anti-hero. A 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, built on the grosses of its predecessor.

Neil Marshall took over directorial duties for the new Hellboy with David Harbour of “Stranger Things” cast as the title character. All along the way, the marketing campaign seemed curiously muted. It was as if Lionsgate might have known they had a dog on their hands. And they did. The review embargo didn’t lift until late this week. Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe with bad critical reaction with a 15% score. CinemaScore audiences haven’t been kind either with a lowly C rating.

On Sunday, the initial results have Hellboy in third place with just $12 million. Not only is that behind the second frame of Shazam!, it’s after the debut of the Regina Hall comedy Little. To put that in perspective, the 2004 Hellboy made $23 million out of the gate. The Golden Army took in $34 million. For both of those films, the opening weekends represented a hefty chunk of the overall earnings. In the case of the second installment, it fell hard in its sophomore frame due to another comic boom sequel premiering called The Dark Knight. With its toxic word of mouth, I expect this version to tumble at least 60% in weekend #2 and probably more.

If there’s any silver lining for the studio, it’s that the reboot cost a reported $50 million. That’s certainly low on the scale for this genre. Yet we can be sure this iteration of the character is a one-off. And we’ve found out what the depths of Hellboy are on a financial level and it’s not pretty.

Hellboy Box Office Prediction

Rebooting itself 15 years after its half demon anti-hero first appeared in theaters, Hellboy hits theaters next weekend. Based on the Dark Horse Comics that started in the early 90s, David Harbour of “Stranger Things” takes over the title role from Ron Perlman. Costars include Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, and Thomas Haden Church. Neil Marshall, best known for making horror pic The Descent, directs after Guillermo del Toro handled the first two installments.

In 2004, the original film adaptation took in $23 million in its opening frame and $59 million total domestically. It took on cult status quickly and that catapulted 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army to a $34 million start with $75 million overall.

Those numbers are nowhere in the MCU or DCEU range as of late. While certainly different in tone, Hellboy arrives during the second weekend of Shazam!, which should still be performing well and a month after Captain Marvel. The chances of this, which seems to be lacking buzz, getting lost in the shuffle is real.

I’ll predict that even though it arrives more than a decade since we’ve seen this character, Hellboy will experience the lowest premiere of the trio.

Hellboy opening weekend prediction: $17.4 million

For my Missing Link prediction, click here:

For my Little prediction, click here:

For my After prediction, click here:

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Unlike its surprise hit predecessor, no animals are harmed in the duration of John Wick: Chapter 2. However, dozens and dozens of other miscellaneous henchmen are. Especially their heads, which is a specialty of our title character to turn them into squib fodder.

2014’s John Wick gave our retired assassin (Keanu Reeves) a decent reason to use his killing skills. His dying wife gave him a dog as a gift and bad guys disposed of it (they also stole his sweet ride). This led to a shoot-em-up extravaganza that served as a comeback role for Reeves and one of the more distinctive action titles in a while. Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch fashioned an ultra stylish, ultra violent, and occasionally ultra inventive experience. The first Wick burned with an intense, brooding and often humorous showcase for its star. Yet it also began building a world gleefully not grounded anywhere in reality that let the creative juices of screenwriter Derek Kolstad run free. This was especially evident in scenes at The Continental Hotel in New York City, a fancy establishment reserved for nefarious types who make their living from offing others.

It was time spent at that hotel that gave John Wick an air of something new and creative and it turns out there’s a Continental in Rome as well. That’s where the majority of the carnage here takes place. The sequel picks up right after the events of the original as Wick wraps up his business from the previous outing. He’s ready to go back to retirement with his new unnamed canine companion when an Italian baddie (Riccardo Scamarcio) visits his home. It turns out Wick made a deal with him some time ago to accept any job with no questions asked. Our villain’s task is to kill his sister so he can elevate his crime boss status and that brings Wick to Rome with an arsenal.

What follows is a lot of what we saw in the original – grandly choreographed sequences in which Wick uses his talents. This could run the risk of becoming redundant. There’s only so many ways of killing villains, but I’ll be damned if Wick doesn’t find some fascinating ways to do it. Still, it’s the little touches that make chapters 1 and 2 special from time to time.

For instance, I love the idea of an old school telephone company setting where the women working in the office look like goth versions of tellers from the 1950s. Their job is to pass along information when a hit is ordered (of which John is certainly subject to). I found myself interested in all the rules that the film’s enormous supply of assassins must abide by and the hints of larger syndicates. Some of those new professionals include Common (whose fights scenes with Wick are a highlight) and Ruby Rose as a mute vixen who hurls insults through sign language. Laurence Fishburne pops up as an underground (literally) crime leader whose group will probably play a larger role in the inevitable sequel.

While Wick’s motivations in this chapter aren’t quite as rage inducing as his departed pup, Chapter 2 recognizes the unique qualities that put chapter 1 above your typical genre material. Thankfully it keeps it at a level where I’m curious what the next chapter brings beyond the limitless supply of mercenaries whose cranial areas will be irreparably harmed.

*** (out of four)

John Wick: Chapter 2 Box Office Prediction

In the fall of 2014, stylish action thriller John Wick exceeded box office expectations with it earned $14 million in its opening weekend and $43 million overall domestically. Since then, its cult status has grown and now Chapter 2 unfolds in theaters next weekend. Keanu Reeves returns in the title role and Chad Stahelski is back behind the camera. The sequel reunites Keanu with his Matrix costar Laurence Fishburne. Other supporting cast includes Common, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, and Ruby Rose (appearing in her third 2017 pic after January’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter).

Wick is debuting alongside two other sequels and spin-offs in the second weekend of February as The Lego Batman Movie and Fifty Shades Darker also premiere. There’s little doubt that this will place third among them, but I still look for it to eclipse the opening number of its predecessor.

I’ll forecast that Chapter 2 manages a high teens to low 20s rollout.

John Wick: Chapter 2 opening weekend prediction: $20.7 million

For my The Lego Batman Movie prediction, click here:

For my Fifty Shades Darker prediction, click here:

Scoop Movie Review

A year after Woody Allen felt London calling in 2005’s Match Point instead of his usual New York stories, he returned to the British city a year later in Scoop. It isn’t a picture talked about too much in his extensive catalogue and ten years later, I’ve learned there’s pretty good reason for it.

The aforementioned Point was a pivotal comeback work for Woody and also provided a role for Scarlett Johansson that she was perfect for. Here she’s rather miscast as mousy journalism student Sondra on London holiday. When she attends a magic show by Sid or “The Great Splendini” (Allen), she’s called onstage for the whole disappear in the box act. When she gets in, she’s greeted by the spirit of a recently killed famous journalist (Ian McShane). He has information on London’s famed Tarot Card Killer that he believes to be hunky aristocrat and aspiring politician Peter (Hugh Jackman). Naturally, Sondra falls for him as she’s investigating the case along with Sid as the “did he or didn’t he?” mystery plays itself out.

Woody dabbling in murder mystery hijinks is nothing new. He did it seriously in 1989’s terrific Crimes and Misdemeanors and with far more laughs in 1993’s Manhattan Murder Mystery. When we talk of Mr. Allen’s extensive filmography, there’s his dramatic work and his hilarious stuff. Scoop is one that wants to be on the hilarious side, but is too slight and inconsequential to succeed. Anything with Allen dropping one-liners is going to have its bright spots and they exist here. The best dialogue belongs to him. It does move along briskly, too. And his career long obsession with death is intact here. Yet, as mentioned, Johansson is a little out of her element and Jackman has little to do other than veer between kinda charming and maybe sinister. It’s not bad (the director rarely does bad), but it is forgettable.

Ten years after Scoop, it’s simple to see why it’s been lost in the shuffle. And I say that with all due respect.

**1/2 (out of four)


The Brothers Grimsby Box Office Prediction

Sacha Baron Cohen is back in his first starring role in nearly four years with action comedy The Brothers Grimsby and the effort looks to be a real test of his drawing power. From Now You See Me director Louis Leterrier and costarring Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane, Isla Fisher, and Gabourey Sidibe – Grimsby may represent a low mark for Cohen’s headlining output.

He burst onto the film scene in 2006 with Borat to the tune of a $26 million opening and improved those numbers with Bruno‘s $30 million premiere three years. His last vehicle, 2012’s The Dictator, managed $17 million out of the gate. That number would probably be on the higher end of expectations for this, which is managing an OK 50% on Rotten Tomaotes and looks unlikely to be a breakout hit like he’s experienced in years past.

While Grimsby should reach double digits, I believe it may not get much beyond that for a disappointing haul.

The Brothers Grimsby opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my 10 Cloverfield Lane prediction, click here:

For my The Young Messiah prediction, click here:

For my The Perfect Match prediction, click here:

Hercules Movie Review

For all the partially deserved fanboy flack that Brett Ratner gets for his middling X-Men entry, 2006’s The Last Stand, the truth is that the guy knows how to create fairly passable entertainment. I would apply this to everything from Red Dragon to After the Sunset to Tower Heist. His latest is Hercules. This is not a re-teaming with Eddie Murphy focusing on Sherman Klump’s nephew, but a significantly loose reimagining of the Greek god tale with its tongue often firmly planted in the strong cheekbones of its star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If taking on this well worn story sounds like a big undertaking and effort for Mr. Ratner (if only there were a term to better describe that), he doesn’t embarrass himself even if the final product is just mildly satisfying.

Johnson is a natural choice to play the son of Zeus (or is he?) and we find this version of Hercules as a for hire mercenary with a band of merry misfits. They include his young nephew who hates that his legendary uncle won’t let him fight. We have a knife thrower and a dude who doesn’t speak, but we know he will eventually at an “important moment”. And we also know the nephew will get his chance to show his bravery. The most interesting of the Herculean back up group is played by Ian McShane who can apparently see his the details of his own demise. The pic has a little fun with this detail. Rounding out the team is basically Xena, Warrior Princess.

We soon arrive at our hero and team’s latest mission which is to save a village led by a Lord played by John Hurt and his daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) with her young boy who shall be king one day. That is if Hercules and company can save them. Family issues are also front and center with Hercules himself and we learn details of his tragic history relating to why he was banished from Athens.

Our nemesis is someone who may or may not be a centaur and we have a couple of laughs from that detail as well. We get a series of battle sequences and inspirational speeches as the beleaguered village must learn war tricks from the title character. Training montage included. It’s all familiar territory with the one welcome difference being that the screenplay doesn’t take itself seriously like most efforts in the genre.

The vibe gets a bit more toned down in the third act and by that time, these proceedings begin to wear out their welcome. It’s actually the early battle sequences that are most impressive before becoming a little repetitive (some occasional dodgy creature CG doesn’t help). Like Ratner flicks before it, passable is an apt word for description with Hercules.

**1/2 (out of four)