Shazam! Movie Review

Mixing the typical comic book movie issues with a little Big and even a touch of the recent Instant Family, the DC Comics adaptation of Shazam! is able to produce crowd pleasing results. As the DCU must turn to their less iconic characters for feature attention, I would say the title hero here is somewhat equivalent to the MCU’s Ant-Man. He’s sarcastic. He’s not as serious. In fact, if the knock on this overall universe is that it’s too dark (think Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Justice League), Shazam! is practically translucent.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid jumping between temporary dwellings after being separated from his mom as a toddler. The young teen seems to find a decent home with five other children and kindly caregivers. Yet he’s still searching from mom.

In a prologue circa 1974, we meet another youngster by way of Thaddeus Sivana. He experiences a mystical meetup with Shazam in the form of Djimon Hounsou in heavy old age makeup. Trying to find a human worthy of inheriting his considerable superpowers, he deems him not properly pure of heart. Sivana grows up to be Mark Strong with a myopic focus on battling the eventual Shazam.

That turns out to be Billy. When he is called for his own encounter with Hounsou, he gets the job. This means when he utters “Shazam!”, he turns into Zachary Levi (who could have been cast as Superman). He’s still a teen embodying a comic book strongman and that takes a lot of learning. One of his foster siblings (Jack Dylan Grazer) is in on the secret.

A lot of exposition must be established here and Shazam! probably doesn’t need to be over two hours long. The mommy and daddy issues explored are quite familiar to genre fans. The film does manage to find slightly different angles. Just as Instant Family showed the true heroism of foster parents, so does this. Levi is a hoot as our crime fighting man child. Strong is fine, but he doesn’t exactly alter the general rule that the villains in many of these pics aren’t as interesting as they should be.

Shazam! works best when it’s focused on Billy/Shazam while he works with his new family and not while grappling with Savani and his monstrous CGI creatures that represent The Seven Deadly Sins. Director David F. Sandberg has crafted an origin story with a lot of heart among the usual action and it fosters enough appreciation to make this rewarding.

*** (out of four)

Instant Family Movie Review

There’s an air of authenticity to Instant Family as its director Sean Anders and his wife are foster parents in the real world. Is it also a big Hollywood comedy with famous movie stars that works overtime to tug those heartstrings? It is, but the mission is mostly accomplished by credits roll.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) spend their days flipping houses and enjoying their child free upper middle class existence. A trip down the Internet wormhole gets Ellie intrigued in adopting a toddler. Pete gets on board in short order and we witness the steps needed to do so. This include a weeks long course led by two social workers played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro. Both are rock solid casting choices. An interesting picture could certainly be made about the saints of that profession.

Pete and Ellie get more than they bargained for when teenage girl Lizzy (Isabela Moner) catches their attention. She has two younger siblings in tow and soon it’s a quintet filling a freshly refurbished abode. And there’s plenty of drama (with much humor mixed in) that cause the Wagners to question their new life direction. This isn’t simply a new project.

This is far from a hard-hitting expose on the foster care system. Yet the screenplay from Anders and John Morris doesn’t shy away from the issues that fill it, including addiction, abandonment, and self-worth. It walks a fine line between being effective or risking becoming too mushy for its own good. By the third act, the sentimentality is still strong with this one. However, I’d be deceptive if I said it hadn’t won me over. Much of that has to do with Moner’s touching performance as the untrusting youth and fierce protector of her siblings.

Anders knows this subject and even while there’s a polished Tinseltown shine covering it, his heart comes through. I left Family appreciative of the time spent with them.

*** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: December 7-9

Before an onslaught of holiday titles enter the marketplace, it looks to be a sleepy weekend at the box office as no wide releases open. That means November leftovers should continue to populate the top five.

I don’t see the rankings from the past frame changing with Ralph Breaks the Internet slated for a three-peat. While the post Thanksgiving weekend often sees large drops, that should ease a bit here with most titles dropping in the 30s.

Truth be told, it’s a lackluster weekend before nearly a dozen Christmas offerings arrive in the two weeks following.

Here’s my take on the top 5:

1. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Predicted Gross: $16.7 million

2. The Grinch

Predicted Gross: $14.2 million

3. Creed II

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

4. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Predicted Gross: $6.2 million

5. Bohemian Rhapsody

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

Box Office Results (November 30-December 2)

Ralph Breaks the Internet easily ruled the roost for the second weekend in a row as nearly all titles dipped a tad below my projections. The Disney sequel made $25.5 million (I was higher at $28.7 million) for a two-week tally of $119 million.

The Grinch was second with $17.9 million (I said $20 million) as it crossed the double century mark with $203 million.

Creed II placed third in its sophomore outing with $16.6 million compared to my $18.2 million estimate. Total gross is $80 million.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was in fourth position at $11.3 million (I said $12.1 million) for $134 million overall.

Bohemian Rhapsody got the five-spot with $8 million, in line with my $7.8 million prediction. The Freddie Mercury biopic is up to $164 million.

Instant Family was sixth with $7.1 million (I said $7.9 million) for earnings of $45 million.

Finally, horror fans propelled low-budget The Possession of Hannah Grace to a better than anticipated showing in seventh with $6.4 million, doubling my $3.2 million forecast.

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

Box Office Predictions: November 30-December 2

As is traditionally the case, the post Thanksgiving weekend should be a quiet one for new releases as audiences should continue to feast on leftovers. The only newcomer is horror pic The Possession of Hannah Grace and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/22/the-possession-of-hannah-grace-box-office-prediction/

I’m not expecting much from Possession with my meager $3.2 million forecast. That would leave it outside the top 5 and most likely in the bottom rungs of the top 10. That means the top half of the top 10 is likely to stay the same – with some potential flip flopping occurring.

Ralph Breaks the Internet may lose close to half its audience in its sophomore outing and that would easily place it first once again with a gross in the high 20s. That drop would put it in line with the post Thanksgiving sophomore frames of Frozen, Moana, and Coco – all Disney titles that debuted over the long holiday.

The battle for #2 could be a little more interesting. In 2015, Creed dipped 49% in its second weekend (which also was a post holiday one) and I think this will roughly follow suit. If that occurs, I expect The Grinch will continue its smallish declines as we move closer to Christmas. That could allow the surly green guy to move into the runner-up position.

In 2016, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them plummeted a steep 59% in its third weekend and sequel The Crimes of Grindelwald could be facing the same fate. That said, remaining in fourth place shouldn’t be a problem.

For the #5 slot, I believe Instant Family could manage to jump Bohemian Rhapsody by a razor-thin margin as it looks to have a minor dip compared to other pics.

And with that, my top 6 projections for the weekend upon us:

1. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Predicted Gross: $28.7 million

2. The Grinch

Predicted Gross: $20 million

3. Creed II

Predicted Gross: $18.2 million

4. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

5. Instant Family

Predicted Gross: $7.9 million

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million

Box Office Results (November 23-25)

Ralph Breaks the Internet, as expected, ruled the Turkey Day frame with $56.2 million for its Friday to Sunday haul and $84.7 million from Wednesday to Sunday. The Disney sequel managed to surpass my respective estimates of $54.4 million and $79.8 million. As mentioned, this should have no trouble being #1 at the box office for probably the next two weekends.

Creed II also opened with highly impressive results in second with the largest live-action Thanksgiving debut of all time. The boxing sequel made $35.5 million over the traditional weekend and $56 million for the five-day gross. This was above my respective projections of $31.4 million and $45.3 million. Opening larger than its predecessor, it appears poised to top the $109 million overall gross of 2015’s Creed.

The Grinch was third with $30.3 million (I was right there at $30.1 million) to brings its three-week total to an opposite of grumpy $180 million.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald went from first to fourth with $29.3 million (I went higher with $34.8 million). It’s taken in $116 million thus far and should come in well under the $234 million made by its predecessor.

Bohemian Rhapsody was fifth with $14 million (I said $14.1 million) for $152 million overall.

Instant Family held up nicely after a so-so debut in sixth with $12.3 million (I said $12.7 million). The Mark Wahlberg/Rose Byrne dramedy eased just 15% to bring its two-week tally to $35 million. I expect this to continue to play well into the holiday season.

It was bad news for Lionsgate as the latest Robin Hood reboot (with a reported $100 million price tag) was DOA in seventh with $9.1 million for the three-day and $14,2 million for the five-day. That’s on the mark with my $9.7 million and $14.1 million take on it. Expect this to fade fast.

Widows was 8th in its sophomore frame with $8.2 million, shy of my $9.5 million estimate for $25 million total.

Green Book expanded nationwide with middling results in ninth place with $5.5 million over Friday to Sunday and $7.4 million for the five-day. It did get over my predictions of $4.5 million and $7.4 million. Its studio will cross their fingers that the A+ Cinemascore grade allows it to have sturdy legs.

A Star Is Born was 10th with $3 million (I went with $4 million) and it’s nearing double century territory with $191 million.

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

Box Office Predictions: November 23-25

Blogger’s Note (11/20): On the eve of their debuts, I have respectively increased and decreased projections for Creed II and Green Book

Well it’s Turkey Day weekend at the box office and that always makes for a crazy frame to predict the numbers we shall see over the long holiday! We have four newcomers debuting and/or expanding to the masses: Disney animated sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet, follow-up to the 2015 punchy blockbuster Creed II, the latest Robin Hood tale with Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx, and Oscar hopeful Green Book. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the quartet here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/13/ralph-breaks-the-internet-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/creed-ii-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/14/robin-hood-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/17/green-book-box-office-prediction/

There’s little doubt that the Mouse Factory should rule the charts with return of Ralph. It’s a familiar position for the studio as they’ve opened Frozen and numerous Pixar pics over Thanksgiving.

Creed II certainly has breakout potential. I have it performing very similar, however, to its predecessor three years ago on the same weekend. That estimate would put it in fourth behind family offerings Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in weekend #2 and The Grinch in weekend #3.

This particular holiday often sees holdover experience extremely slim declines as moviegoers take the weekend to sample leftovers. Both Instant Family and Widows debuted under expectations (more on that below), but I have them both holding quite sturdily.

I’m not looking for the newest Robin Hood to score many points with audiences and have it slated for a lowly seventh place start.

Green Book expands to around 1000 screens and it’s quite a question mark. It’s getting serious awards chatter, but its limited release numbers this past weekend were not too impressive. I still think it can reach double digits for the five-day roll out and that leaves it in ninth place considering all the competition.

With every newbie debuting on Wednesday and all the returnees attempting to be stay afloat, my typical top 5 forecast becomes a top 10 this time around! Here they are:

1. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Predicted Gross: $54.4 million (Friday to Sunday), $79.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

2. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Predicted Gross: $34.8 million

3. Creed II

Predicted Gross: $31.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $45.3 million

4. The Grinch

Predicted Gross: $30.1 million

5. Bohemian Rhapsody 

Predicted Gross: $14.1 million

6. Instant Family

Predicted Gross: $12.7 million

7. Robin Hood

Predicted Gross: $9.7 million (Friday to Sunday), $14.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

8. Widows

Predicted Gross: $9.5 million

9. Green Book

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $6.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

10. A Star Is Born

Predicted Gross: $4 million

Box Office Results (November 16-18)

All new releases seemed to come in a bit under the forecasts and that started with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. As anticipated, it easily topped the charts at $62.1 million, but that’s about $12 million less than its predecessor from two years ago and under my $70.1 million take.

The Grinch fell to second with $38.5 million in its sophomore frame. I was right there at $38.6 million. It’s made $126 million so far as it should continue to play well into the season.

Bohemian Rhapsody was third with $16 million (I went higher at $19.5 million). It’s three-week tally is $128 million.

Instant Family, despite good reviews and the star power of Mark Wahlberg, was fourth with a middling $14.5 million. I was considerably higher at $19.4 million. The silver lining could be a very solid hold coming up.

And despite great reviews, heist thriller Widows disappointed in fifth with $12.3 million (I said $15.8 million). Like Family, it hopes to level out over the holiday.

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

Box Office Predictions: November 16-18

A trio of newbies enter the marketplace in the pre-Thanksgiving weekend as J.K. Rowling’s latest wizard tale Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Mark Wahlberg family comedy Instant Family, and critically hailed ensemble heist drama Widows debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/06/fantastic-beasts-the-crimes-of-grindelwald-box-office-prediction/

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

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

There’s little doubt that Beasts will easily take its perch atop the charts, as every Rowling based pic has going back to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seventeen years ago. I’ve got it premiering just under its predecessor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November 2016.

After it solid start, The Grinch should drop to second place. The direct competition from Beasts could mean a drop in the low to possibly mid 40s.

The rest of the top 5 gets interesting as Bohemian Rhapsody enters its third frame and battles with the newcomers. I’ve become a bit more convinced that Family will manage to outdo Widows out of the gate. If we take the Freddie Mercury biopic down about 40%, it could slightly edge Family.

Here’s my take on the weekend’s high five:

1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Predicted Gross: $70.1 million

2. The Grinch

Predicted Gross: $38.6 million

3. Bohemian Rhapsody

Predicted Gross: $19.5 million

4. Instant Family

Predicted Gross: $19.4 million

5. Widows

Predicted Gross: $15.8 million

Box Office Results (November 911)

It was sturdy holiday greetings for The Grinch as the animated Christmas flick took in $67.5 million, a bit ahead of my $63.4 million projection. There’s plenty of competition in the pipeline, but this should still play well throughout the upcoming season.

Bohemian Rhapsody was second in its sophomore weekend at $31.2 million (I said $29.8 million). In just ten days, it’s hit the $100 million mark.

Zombie war pic Overlord opened in third with a so-so $10.2 million, chomping past my $8.2 million estimate. It wasn’t expected to be this weekend’s #2 newcomer, but that has more to do with another film coming up in the recap.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms dropped to fourth with $10 million, on pace with my $10.2 million prediction. The Disney disappointment has made $35 million in two weeks.

A Star Is Born was fifth with $8.1 million (I said $8 million) to bring its haul to $178 million.

Opening in sixth place was The Girl in the Spider’s Web with a meager $7.8 million compared to my $9.4 million take. The soft reboot of the franchise could not connect with audiences seven years following the successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Lastly, today we lost an icon who created many of the heroes and villains that have dominated pop culture and our 21st century cinematic universe. RIP Stan Lee and thank you.

Instant Family Box Office Prediction

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are a couple who bring in a trio of foster kids in next weekend’s comedy Instant Family. The pic reunites Wahlberg with director Sean Anders, who made both of the successful Daddy’s Home features. Costars include Isabela Moner, Octavia Spencer, and Tig Notaro.

Family was originally scheduled to hit screens in February 2019 before Paramount pushed up the date. It will try to bring in family audiences on a weekend where Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens directly against it and The Grinch will be in its sophomore frame. That could certainly limit the potential for a robust debut, but the studio will hope that word of mouth carries it to a leggy run over the holidays.

I’ll predict a high teens teens premiere is what we’ll see as the currently unknown buzz will determine the rest of its fate.

Instant Family opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/11/06/fantastic-beasts-the-crimes-of-grindelwald-box-office-prediction/

For my Widows prediction, click here:

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