Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winning director of Traffic, has apparently given us a fun and breezy true life story about tax evasion. It comes in the form of TheLaundromat which has premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The pic is star studded as well with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, James Cromwell, and Sharon Stone.
Reviews are out and they’re mostly solid. Yet from what I’ve seen thus far, I’m not sure if this will be an Oscar contender. Hitting Netflix in October, there’s been some comparisons to Adam McKay’s TheBigShort, which did score several nods four years ago. There’s also mentions of Soderbergh’s 2009 pic TheInformant! and that’s no accident since they share the same screenwriter – Scott Z. Burns.
Mr. Burns could get attention for his upcoming political drama TheReport with Adam Driver and Annette Bening. Streep’s category placement is still uncertain but she seems to be a lead. It’s foolish to ever count her out, but she might also factor into Supporting Actress with the upcoming LittleWomen. Banderas looks to be a contender in lead for Pedro Almodovar’s PainandGlory. Oldman won two years ago for DarkestHour. And Netflix itself might focus more on MarriageStory and TheIrishman.
In other words, that’s some significant players involved here who are getting mentions for other projects. While TheLaundromat is getting mostly positive feedback, it may not translate to Academy attention (with the potential exception of Adapted Screenplay). My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
The central theme of the Jurassic franchise is whether the scientific re-creation of dinosaurs for profit is enough reason to justify their existence. Of course, the real reason these movies exist is so we can gaze upon glorious CG creatures that took our breath away 25 years ago in Steven Spielberg’s JurassicPark. Three years ago, Colin Trevorrow gave us JurassicWorld. It did just enough to tap into our nostalgia for the original while keeping another central theme prominent in all series entries – the humans are less interesting than their prehistoric counterparts.
In the inevitable sequel JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom, we have a newer problem in that the dinosaurs are becoming increasingly less fascinating. When we left that theme park in 2015, it was in tatters due to the havoc wrought by its main attractions. We’re informed that the dinos still roam the deserted Isla Nublar and there’s a political debate as to what to do with them. That conversation is accelerated as a volcano is about to erupt on the island and incinerate everything. As audience members, let’s just choose to forget that even if the park had become successful and free of T-Rex breakouts, it would’ve only existed for three years because of that volcano. We don’t watch Jurassic pics for logic, after all.
The impending meltdown gets the attention of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s former operations manager, who’s now an advocate for the dinosaurs survival. Her nephews from JurassicWorld aren’t seen or mentioned. Perhaps they were smart enough to want nothing to do with all this. She’s recruited by Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell), the ailing former partner of the late John Hammond, to gather up Isla Nublar’s famous residents. Claire recruits her ex-flame and dino whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt) to join her, along with a ragtag group of assistants and military types led by mercenary and hunter Ted Levine. It turns out Lockwood’s assistant (Rafe Spall, a rather bland villain) might have conjured up other ideas for the creatures true purposes. Oh and Lockwood has a granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Kids in Jurassic flicks are mandatory. She’s got a spotty British accent and an eventual revelation about her character that is downright bonkers.
Our return to Jurassic World does allow for a couple imaginative action sequences that are well choreographed and filmed by franchise newcomer J.A. Bayona (Trevorrow isn’t behind the camera but has co-writing credit). In the second half, the pic moves to a more insulated setting. This section is less satisfying. While Bayona and company get a wee bit of credit for trying something different, the execution falters.
That’s the real issue here. 25 summers ago, the visuals of JurassicPark were brand new and stunning. The technology, while still state of the art, isn’t fresh anymore. Human characters here aren’t compelling either. The dynamic between Pratt and Howard is as dull as before. Jeff Goldblum turns up as Dr. Malcolm for the first time since 1997’s TheLostWorld, but his presence is brief and forgettable. What wowed us a quarter century ago is now a listless undertaking occasionally punctuated by genuine excitement. Put another way, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom has a tough time justifying its existence.
Blogger’s Note (06/15): I am revising my prediction down from $155.4 million to $140.4 million
Arriving three years after its predecessor set a series of box office records, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom looks to flex its dino might next weekend. The fifth picture in the massive franchise that just turned 25 years old, Kingdom is the sequel to JurassicWorld and brings back Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Jeff Goldblum (for the first time since 1997’s TheLostWorld). New cast members include Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine. J.A. Bayona takes over directorial duties from Colin Trevorrow.
The history of this franchise setting opening weekend milestones is significant. Steven Spielberg’s original in 1993 had the largest debut ever at $47 million a quarter century ago. TheLostWorld would achieve the same honor four years later with $72 million. And, of course, JurassicWorld stunned prognosticators in 2015 with $208 million out of the gate, which stood as the greatest premiere until StarWars: TheForceAwakens topped it six months later.
FallenKingdom will not and is not expected to break records. JurassicWorld seemed to have its stars aligned for a spectacular opening. It had been nearly a decade and a half since the previous installment and the nostalgia factor was off the charts. Mostly positive reviews didn’t hurt and Mr. Pratt was coming off a star making role in GuardiansoftheGalaxy.
Critical reaction is mixed. The sequel currently sits at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes (World got to 71%). The film is already out in a number of foreign markets and it earned $151 million worldwide over the weekend (a bit above expectations).
The stateside tracking for Kingdom is between $130-$150 million. My general feeling is that this franchise has continually exceeded expectations and may do so here, albeit not by much. JurassicWorld was a phenomenon while this is looked at as another summer sequel. It just happens to be one with a huge fan base who love returning to see these CG creatures.
JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom opening weekend prediction: $140.4 million
A quarter century after Steven Spielberg’s JurassicPark thrilled audiences with its eye-popping visuals, the fifth entry in the franchise arrives domestically two weeks from Friday. However, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom is out tomorrow in the United Kingdom, so critical reaction is present. The verdict? Mixed. Kingdom currently sits at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes (predecessor JurassicWorld ended up with 71%).
No Oscar prognosticator looked at this as Best Picture material. This series is all about the potential for technical recognition. The 1993 original was nominated for and won three gold statues: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. For those around at the time, Park was an undeniable marvel with said visuals and the sounds of the dinosaurs wreaking havoc. The 1997 sequel managed one nod for Visual Effects and lost to a little something called Titanic.
2001’s JurassicParkIII, no surprise, was ignored by the Academy. On the other hand, it may surprise you to learn that 2015’s World also came up empty with voters. The pic did set box office records at the time, but couldn’t even manage Visual Effects or Sound recognition.
The answer as to why could be simple. In this particular franchise, there’s really little room for improvement when it comes to its technical capabilities. JurassicPark set a high bar in Isla Nublar for the CG dinos and their sounds. The Academy has moved onto other impressive tech work for other pictures.
Bottom line: If JurassicWorld couldn’t manage down the line nods, don’t expect any for Kingdom.
Chadwick Boseman is back in biopic form next weekend when Marshall debuts. The courtroom drama finds the actor playing a young Thurgood Marshall, who would eventually becomes the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Reginald Hudlin directs with a supporting cast that includes Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, and James Cromwell.
This is Boseman’s third go-round playing a high-profile real figure. In 2013, he starred as Jackie Robinson in 42, which opened to $27 million. The following year, he was the Godfather of Soul James Brown in Get On Up, which debuted with $13 million.
In my view, Marshall would need some Oscar buzz and great reviews to make an impact with audiences. It doesn’t appear that will be the case. My verdict is a mid single digits premiere for the Open Roads feature.
Early reviews are out for Marshall, which casts Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall in this courtroom drama set decades before he became the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court. The film comes from director Reginald Hudlin, known mostly for 90s comedies like HouseParty and Boomerang. Costars include Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, and James Cromwell.
With a Best Actor race that’s looking somewhat thin thus far, Boseman seemed like a decent possibility for inclusion. He’s had an impressive career playing real-life figures Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in GetOnUp. The actor has also increased his visibility with a larger audience as Black Panther in CaptainAmerica: CivilWar and in his own spin-off next year. Yet he hasn’t received attention from the Academy.
Marshall is getting decent critical notices so far, but not to the level where Best Picture seems feasible. I also find it likely that Boseman will be 0 for 3 in Best Actor portraying his third high-profile person, unless the picture manages to really break out with audiences.
In case you didn’t know, Disney and animation seem to go pretty well together most of the time and this Friday, the studio rolls out Big Hero 6. Based on a Marvel comic, the superhero comedy will attempt to debut at #1 amid strong competition from Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar.
It’s got a very good shot. Disney animation has been on a massive hot streak lately and their 2013 fall entry, Frozen, took in $400 million domestically. Big Hero 6 is getting solid reviews from critics and it currently sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The $150 million budgeted feature seems unlikely to gross the $67 million that Frozen managed last November, though it’s certainly not out of the question. I do, however, feel it should have no problem topping the $49 million earned by Wreck-It Ralph in 2012.
My prediction reflects a belief that Big Hero 6 should manage a healthy debut with a long and prosperous run ahead. And I do believe it will open #1, just over Interstellar.
Big Hero 6 opening weekend prediction: $61.4 million