After premiering to solid reviews at the London Film Festival last week, the sci-fi animated comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong hits multiplexes on October 22. From directors Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith, the voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, and Rob Delaney.
Wrong is the first effort from Locksmith Animation, a British outlet. Distributed by 20th Century Studios (a subsidiary of Disney), future Locksmith titles will be handled by Warner Bros. This is a rare wide release animated work not based on existing IP that isn’t coming specifically from the Mouse Factory or Illumination or DreamWorks.
Reviews are decent with an 84% Rotten Tomatoes score. Yet I really question whether family audiences are even aware of its existence. There’s not much competition for kiddos (The Addams Family 2 will be in its fourth weekend). I still am skeptical that this reaches double digits for the start.
Ron’s Gone Wrong opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million
The computer animated sci-fi comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong has debuted at the London Film Festival prior to its UK bow next weekend and US premiere on October 22nd. The film marks the first effort from Locksmith Studios which is owned by 20th Century Studios. Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith co-direct and the voice cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Justice Smith, and Rob Delaney.
Buzz coming from London is mostly solid though measured in its praise. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 80%. I’m not confident this will serve as a major contender in Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. It has no chance of winning. In my estimation, there are arguably three slots filled (Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines). Disney’s forthcoming Encanto certainly has the resume to contend. Assuming it makes the cut, that leaves one spot that could be filled by Belle, Vivo, or something else. I don’t foresee Ron’s having quite the right ingredients to fill it.
My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…
Two days ahead of its streaming debut on Disney Plus, Pixar’s latest comedic fantasy Luca has seen its review embargo lifted. It marks the feature-length directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa (who’s done story artist work on some of the studio’s pics) and has a cast voice cast that includes Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan.
Set in the Italian Riviera, the coming-of-age tale is taking the same distribution route as last year’s Soul by passing multiplexes for home viewing. In 2020, Soul was seen as the sturdy frontrunner for Best Animated Feature and that narrative never changed. That Pixar effort sported a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score and ended up winning gold at the Oscars. The path for Luca could be trickier.
Its Tomato meter currently sits at 89% and while that’s quite good, many critics are saying Luca is not in the upper echelon of Pixar fare. I would say the question is not whether Luca gets nominated (it will), but whether it wins. The score by Dan Romer also has a shot in that race. Disney already has another entry from this spring that could make the final five in Animated Feature (Raya and the Last Dragon), but Luca would have an edge. However, there’s also The Mitchells vs. the Machines from Netflix and it should serve as major competition for the top prize. This is in addition to films slated for the second half of 2021 (remember the names Flee and the Mouse Factory’s own Encanto).
Bottom line: You can never count out Pixar. Luca will likely hear its name included when the Animated Features contenders are named. Its victory presents a more challenging path than Soul experienced. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.
In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.
On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.
Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.
Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.
The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.
Two years ago, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel It broke box office records in the horror genre and became an instant audience favorite. Yet it didn’t end up registering with awards voters in any fashion… not even for Pennywise’s creepy makeup job.
This weekend, the eagerly awaited sequel arrives and the review embargo has floated away. ChapterTwo holds a decent 79% Rotten Tomatoes score, but that’s beneath the 86% achieved by its predecessor. A consistent theme in much of the critical reaction is that many parts work, but that it’s also overlong and doesn’t quite measure up to chapter one.
If It couldn’t garner Oscar attention, don’t expect this to. I will make make one further prediction. Another common factor in the reviews is praise for Bill Hader’s performance and he’s said to be a scene stealer. Don’t be surprised to see some chatter and wishful thinking for a Supporting Actor nod that will never come to pass. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
ItChapterTwo will no doubt float to the top of the charts next weekend when it’s unleashed in cinemas. The Stephen King adapted horror epic continues the story of the Losers Club battling demonic clown Pennywise and hopes to rake in similar earnings to its 2017 predecessor. Andy Muschietti returns in the director’s seat with Bill Skarsgard back as Pennywise. Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the youthful Losers Club. Part 2 also flashes forward in time and finds James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader (said to be a scene stealer), Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean portraying their adult versions. This is the only wide release of the weekend as other studios steered clear.
It was a genuine box office phenomenon when it came out during the same post Labor Day frame two years ago. Bursting out of the gate with $123.4 million, it ended its domestic gross at just over $327 million. That made It the largest September opening of all time and highest debuting and overall earning horror feature ever.
ChapterTwo stands a real chance at breaking those records. Unlike some sequels in 2019 that followed long after previous entries, chapter one is still fresh in the minds of audiences. There’s a desire to see how it wraps up. That said, I’ll say this falls under what that creepy clown and company accomplished in 2017.
ItChapterTwo opening weekend prediction: $109.7 million
Mixing the typical comic book movie issues with a little Big and even a touch of the recent InstantFamily, 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 BatmanvSuperman: DawnofJustice or JusticeLeague), 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 InstantFamily 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.
Blogger’s Note (04/04): On the eve of its premiere, my estimate has changed from $59.5 million to $52.5 million
The DC Extended Universe adds another cinematic hero to its stable with the release of Shazam! next weekend. The tale of a teenager who morphs into a superhero was first introduced in comic book pages nearly 80 years ago. David F. Sandberg directs with Zachary Levi as the title character and Asher Angel as his younger self. Costars include Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, and Grace Fulton.
Said to heartfelt and funny, Shazam! is already a winner with critics and sporting a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. DC, while not quite up to MCU levels, has been hitting its stride lately with mega performers like WonderWoman and Aquaman. There were previews of this that surprisingly managed to outdo what Jason Momoa’s creation did late last year. However, that was during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
The range expected is $40-$60 million. I have a hunch its good word of mouth will propel it to the upper reaches of those expectations. It’s feasible the range could be surpassed, but I’ll say high 50s.
It’s been a rough stretch at the box office in recent weekends and Hollywood’s prescription seems to be… send in the clowns! That happens on September 8th when It unleashes itself into multiplexes. It could set some records along the way.
Based on Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, the Warner Bros pic has been building steady momentum through its creepily effective trailers and TV spots. There’s an entire generation of moviegoers who recall the 1990 miniseries where Tim Curry portrayed demented clown Pennywise. This time around, it’s Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard donning the makeup. Andy Muschietti, who made the well-regarded 2013 horror flick Mama, is behind the camera. The rest of the youthful cast deemed The Losers includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Finn Wolfhard (who you may recognize from Netflix’s Stranger Things).
As mentioned, the current rough stretch on the box office charts looks to demolished by this killer clown. Tracking has been rising in recent weeks with It, so much so that the following records could be done away with. The current all-time September best debut is 2015’s Hotel Transylvania 2 with $48 million. When it comes to horror titles in general, that record is held by 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3 at $52 million. If you throw 2001’s Hannibal into that category, that gets you to $58 million.
The current financial slumber in theaters should only help It break out in a major way. Genre enthusiasts should eat this up and crossover appeal based on buzz and solid early word-of-mouth should be significant. I’m predicting It will break all the records mentioned and float north of $60 million for its start.