Blogger’s Update (10/18): Reports have come out that this is only getting 500 screens next weekend. Therefore I am revising my estimate down from $2.7 million to just $1.3 million.
Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling spy is back on-screen next weekend when Johnny English Strikes Again hits theaters. This is the third entry in a franchise that began 15 years ago and saw a 2011 follow-up experience dwindling returns compared to the original. David Kerr directs with a supporting cast that includes Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Jake Lacy, and Emma Thompson.
In the summer of 2003, Johnny English opened to $9.1 and a $28 million overall domestic gross. Eight years later, Johnny English Reborn managed just $3.8 million out of the gate and $8.3 million overall. The sequel’s total stateside earnings is under the opening gross of its predecessor. It is worth noting that these English sagas perform far better overseas, where each made $160 million overall.
I expect the lackluster returns to continue here for part 3, while it should continue more robust earnings in other parts of the globe. I’ll say Strikes Again strikes out here and doesn’t even match the unimpressive numbers of Reborn.
Johnny English Strikes Again opening weekend prediction: $1.3 million
A genetically deformed gorilla, wolf, and alligator walk into a major metropolitan area and destroy buildings. That was the concept of the video game in which Rampage was based upon and the movie adaptation doesn’t burden itself with over ambition in bringing it to the screen. Throw in Dwayne Johnson and lots of CG effects and what do you get? A fairly middling experience that will probably manage to thrill teenage boys whose fathers spent their quarters on the game at the arcade in the 1980s.
Davis Okoye (Johnson) is a primatologist. He’s great with animals and doesn’t really enjoy interacting with people, as the screenplay incessantly reminds us. He’s developed a particular bond with George, an albino gorilla who lives at the sanctuary where Davis works. They’re practically a comedy team as Davis has taught him tricks like flipping the bird. The duo’s future nightclub act is disrupted when a canister of debris containing genetic mutation material lands near George and causes him to grow into a destructive beast. This nasty stuff is also consumed by the aforementioned wolf and alligator.
I could go into further plot detail on the specifics, but here’s the bottom line. Rampage is all about getting that trio of monsters en route to Chicago where they can flick tanks and helicopters into buildings with ease. Davis teams up with an engineer (Naomie Harris) and an outlaw government figure (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to not only stop the creatures, but prevent the military from overreacting to the potential carnage. And there’s Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy as the sister/brother duo who run the evil corporation that made the stuff that turned funny George into bad George.
Unfortunately for us, there’s about an hour of filler before Rampage reaches its Windy City destination. That time is a bit of a strain. Since it’s Dwayne Johnson playing a primatologist, it will come as no shock that he’s also ex-Special Forces. We get a bit of his background (including some anti-poaching messages) and same goes for Harris’s character who used to work at the conglomerate that wreaked this havoc.
By the time we arrive at the gorilla and wolf and alligator warfare, we’re greeted with some decent set pieces in the Transformers vein. Yet that even manages to overstay its welcome and the CG, while decent, has seen stronger offerings (it’s nothing compared to the animal work in the latest PlanetoftheApes pics).
This is Johnson’s second collaboration with Brad Peyton, who directed him in SanAndreas. That was another so-so spectacle that was easily digestible and forgettable. The makers of and actors in Rampage do seem to know this is silly junk food and earn some points for never taking it seriously. And there’s certainly been other video game adaptations that have been way worse. We’re talking faint praise, I suppose, but Rampage can only do so much with the simple concept of “smash building, smash car, and repeat.”
Pairing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a bunch of CG animals in an adventure flick? If that sounds like a recipe for box office success, that’s because Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle became Sony’s biggest hit at the end of 2017. And next weekend’s Rampage (while it won’t approach the numbers of that franchise follow-up) looks poised to bring in generous earnings.
The Warner Bros release is based loosely on the 1980s video game. It marks Johnson’s third collaboration with director Brad Peyton following Journey: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas. Both of those titles managed to top the century mark ($103 million and $155 million respectively) and this should do the same. Costars include Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Joe Manganiello, Jake Lacy, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Perhaps more importantly, other costars are giant gorillas, wolf’s, and alligators.
The question is whether Rampage falls more in line with $27 million debut of Journey 2 or the $54 million accomplished by Andreas. The former seems a bit low to me while the latter is high. I’ll project a mid to possibly high 30s opening is more the ticket.
Audiences get a chance to get acquainted with MissSloane when it opens wide next weekend. The political drama stars Jessica Chastain as an influential DC lobbyist who takes on the powerful gun lobby. John Madden (director of ShakespeareinLove and the two MarigoldHotel pics) is behind the camera with a supporting cast that includes Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow and Sam Waterston.
Sloane is getting a bit of attention due to Chastain’s performance. Reviews have singled out her work and she may be in line for an Oscar nomination (though that is a highly competitive race this year and she could be on the outside looking in). That said, critical reaction has been mixed and it stands at 62% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Political movies always face an uphill struggle with moviegoers and this may especially hold true in a year where the subject is everywhere around us.
Debuting on approximately 1600 screens, Sloane may just get to mid single digits.
MissSloane opening weekend prediction: $4.6 million
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Yet another piece of the Oscar puzzle revealed itself last night when MissSloane premiered at the AFI Film Festival. This comes from director John Madden (who helmed the 1998 Best Picture winner ShakespeareinLove) and focuses on the issues of gun control and Washington lobbyists.
Some of the early reviews have been positive but others have been mixed (it sits at 60% at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes). This looked like a potential long shot contender for Picture and Director recognition and the buzz out of AFI suggests it won’t happen.
There’s a sterling supporting cast that includes Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy, and Sam Waterston. Don’t look for their names, however, to garner any Academy attention. And there’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who’s been singled out in some notices and could be a dark horse contender in Supporting Actress (though that probably won’t happen).
No, where MissSloane could factor into awards season is the way it’s always thought to have been and that’s with the lead performance from Jessica Chastain. She’s been nominated twice before – in Supporting for 2011’s TheHelp and lead in 2012’s ZeroDarkThirty. Initial reviews have praised her work and remarked that she carries the movie.
In a normal year, Chastain might be a shoo-in for a nomination. Not in 2016 and that’s because Actress is incredibly competitive this year. The trio of Annette Bening (20thCenturyWomen), Natalie Portman (Jackie), and Emma Stone (LaLaLand) all look poised for nods. The final two slots look to be filled by a combo of any of the following: Chastain, Meryl Streep (FlorenceFosterJenkins), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Amy Adams (Arrival). Upset entries could include Isabelle Huppert (Elle) or Rebecca Hall (Christine). And we are still waiting on Taraji P. Henson (HiddenFigures) and Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers).
See what I mean by competition? That said, Chastain (while no threat to win) solidified her name into this busy race with the Sloane screening.
How to Be Single is about four single gals finding their way in the Big Apple and if that sounds like “Sex and the City”, you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s Alice (Dakota Johnson), our central Carrie character. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the inappropriate Samantha like friend. Lucy (Alison Brie) is the Charlotte-ish hopeless romantic who’s constantly trolling dating sites for true love. And Meg (Leslie Mann) is the career woman (and Alice’s older sister) whose got it together, but realizes she needs a baby. Kind of like Miranda.
Alice is just embarking on her first dip into the single pool when she breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and sees what NYC has to offer. It includes a bartender (Anders Holm) that has the playa life down cold and a sweet widower and dad (Damon Wayans Jr.) still getting over his wife’s death. There’s also the ex-flame (Nicholas Braun) who keeps turning up. Truth be told, none of these relationships are terribly interesting or well-written and Dakota Johnson still seems to be struggling to infuse much personality into her performances. This is also a problem that plagued Fifty Shades of Grey, which was far more dreadful than this.
If anything, How to Be Single is just kind of dull and conventional. It sold itself as a raunch fest, but it’s not. My favorite moments involved Mann and her earnest younger boyfriend (a funny Jake Lacy), yet the script never succeeds in juggling its separate plot lines. More of those characters might have worked. Maybe. The screenwriters might have figured out a way to make them tiresome, too.
Todd Haynes’s Carol takes its source material from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, written at a time when its subject matter was considered taboo and where its hopeful conclusion was unfathomable to many of the readers. There’s a Hitchcock connection here as Highsmith is primarily known for writing the book in which Strangers on a Train is based, but The Price of Salt (in which Carol is based) tells a lesbian romance in which she used an alias to release it. Sixty plus years later, the film serves as an often engaging and very well acted tale of a different time in which this particular love story was considered toxic.
Set in New York City in the 1950s (with beautiful production design and first rate cinematography), Cate Blanchett plays the title character. She’s a well to do housewife with a young daughter going through a rough divorce. Her estrangement from her husband (an always solid Kyle Chandler) is not explored in great depths, but we soon learn part of the issue was her affair with a long time friend (Sarah Paulson, who’s currently giving Emmy worthy work on FX’s O.J. limited series). Carol meets Therese (Rooney Mara) in a department store as she’s Christmas shopping and the two are quickly taken with one another. Therese, an aspiring photographer, is stuck in a listless relationship with Richard (Jake Lacy) and she quickly begins to accept Carol’s overtures for lunch dates and eventually, a road trip. As their relationship grows, so does the drama surrounding Carol’s divorce proceedings in which her sexuality can be used as an excuse for her to lose custody of her child.
This picture moves along at a pace that some critics would describe as deliberate, which can fairly be called slow in this case. The screenplay by Phyllis Nagy focuses on the couple with the supporting characters relegated to the sidelines. It’s quite helpful that Blanchett and Mara both give strong performances. Ms. Blanchett has the flashier role, but Mara is equally as impressive with a quieter role in which she believably conveys this young woman figuring herself out with a woman who’s grown more comfortable with who she is.
I’m sure this source material was considerably more shocking in its era and Carol now stands as a technically pleasing love affair with two actresses shining in their parts.