September 17-19 Box Office Predictions

**Blogger’s Note (09/16): I am revising my prediction for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. It appears to be in more of a limited release than I anticipated so my estimate goes from $3.4 million to $1.7M. That puts it outside of the top five and allows Candyman the five spot.

A trio of newcomers are out Friday, but none stand much of a chance at dethroning Marvel’s sizzling Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. We have Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, Gerard Butler’s action thriller Copshop, and the Jessica Chastain led biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

Cry Macho Box Office Prediction

Copshop Box Office Prediction

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Box Office Prediction

I’m not projecting any of the newbies will hit double digits, but I’ll say Eastwood’s latest comes closest. I’m hedging a bit since Macho will stream on HBO Max. However, it should make enough to overshadow Copshop (though Butler has over performed in the past).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a tricky one since there’s no screen count available at press time. The pic is garnering Oscar buzz for Chastain. My estimate could fluctuate. For now, I have it in a battle with Free Guy for the four spot.

As mentioned, Shang-Chi should have no issue making it three weeks on top. A low 40s drop might put it just over $20 million.

And with that, my take on the top 5:

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $20.1 million

2. Cry Macho

Predicted Gross: $6.4 million

3. Copshop

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

4. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million

5. Candyman

Predicted Gross: $2.6 million

Box Office Results (September 10-12)

It was a glorious weekend for Shang-Chi as it achieved the best sophomore frame of any feature during COVID. The MCU blockbuster took in $34.7 million, a tad below my $36.4 million prediction. The ten-day is up to an impressive $144 million. While Rings fell short of Black Widow‘s pandemic era best start, it held up considerably better for the follow-up.

Free Guy was second with $5.5 million as it crossed the century mark at $101 million. My projection? $5.5 million!

Despite plenty of internet chatter over the weekend due to its wild twists, James Wan’s horror flick Malignant stalled with audiences (though many may view it on HBO Max). It was third at $5.4 million, falling under my $7.6 million take.

Candyman held the four spot at $4.7 million (I said $5.1 million) as its made $47 million.

Jungle Cruise rounded out the top five with $2.3 million (I was right there at $2.4 million) and it sails in with $109 million overall.

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

Malignant Review

Malignant is exactly the kind of movie you get to make if you’re responsible for the success of three hugely profitable horror franchises like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring Universe. That’s James Wan and he’s also dabbled in other cinematic series by directing Furious 7 and Aquaman. Here he gets to return to his roots and clearly do whatever he pleases. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I volleyed between wanting to commend and condemn him for it.

A prologue set in 1993 introduces us in dimly lit fashion with Gabriel. He’s a young psychiatric patient who can control electricity and speaks in a manner where he sounds like he’s on a bad Zoom conference call. There’s also some serious killing skills involved.

In the present day, he reappears in the visions of Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis). The Seattle native lives in a creepy home with her creepy abusive husband Derek (Jake Abel). She’s preggers and anxious after suffering previous miscarriages. A fight with Derek results in the appearance of Gabriel that leaves her a widow.

Turns out that Madison shares a connection with the murderer that’s stronger than his cell phone connection when he threatens victims. Writing a proper review would spoil the surprises of what’s to come, so I’ll be careful. Gabriel is exacting revenge on some medical professional who scarred his childhood. The adopted Madison must exorcise repressed memories from her own upbringing to solve the mystery. Helping our central figure is sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson). Searching for the bloody connection between Madison and Gabriel are two detectives – sympathetic Kekoa (George Young) and no nonsense Regina (Michole Briana White).

Much of the backstory is told via grainy videotapes. That seems appropriate as Wan is paying homage to 1980s slashers that would have went straight to the aisle for your VHS perusing. There’s cheesy dialogue, a reliance on splatter over scares, and I never had a doubt that Wan is having a ball getting away with making it. This might have gotten a lengthy writeup in Fangoria magazine and I bet its maker would’ve loved that. The magazine still exists but the article woulda been cooler in 1985.

Malignant is bound to be debated by genre fans for its WTF twist that occurs in the third act. I won’t lie – I grinned ear to ear when first revealed. Yet it was more of a reaction to the filmmaker getting a $40 million budget to put this out to unsuspecting viewers. Wan is a master craftsman and there are a few moments of technical bravura. Conversely there’s plenty of times where it looks like his cheapest pic since Saw and that’s not an accident.

I could never fully escape the thought that Wan is having more fun than I was. The first half of Malignant isn’t much different than your run-of-the-mill sound effects laden fright fest. Once it reaches the aforementioned nutty turning point, I admired the brazenness more than the execution.

**1/2 (out of four)

September 10-12 Box Office Predictions

In the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas: I was way off! I’m speaking of the marvelous performance of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which smashed the Labor Day weekend all-time record. We’ll get to that in a second. The major release this weekend is James Wan’s latest horror offering Malignant. My detailed prediction post on it can be found here:

Malignant Box Office Prediction

There’s arguably been an over saturation in the market lately for scary pics. Malignant doesn’t seem to have much heat, but I have to give the reminder that this genre often over performs. I’ll still go with under $10 million and that would be good for second place.

Back to Shang-Chi. The acclaimed 25th MCU entry claimed the second highest COVID era debut (barely behind the other Marvel premiere from 2021 – Black Widow). Scarlett Johansson’s stand-alone title fell a steep 68% in its sophomore frame. I don’t foresee that occurring with Shang-Chi. With an A Cinemascore grade and it not being available on Disney Plus, a mid 50s dip seems more likely as it could foreseeably be #1 for the entire month of September.

Here’s how I see the top 5 shaking out:

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $36.4 million

2. Malignant

Predicted Gross: $7.6 million

3. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

4. Candyman

Predicted Gross: $5.1 million

5. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $2.4 million

Box Office Results (September 3-6)

Mark it down as one of my incorrect forecasts ever. I thought the challenges facing Shang-Chi (COVID and the fact that big movies don’t really come out at this time of year) meant a $58.9 million four-day gross. Whoops. Try $94.6 million! Its $75 million traditional three-day take, as mentioned, is just after the $80 million that Widow made. Simply put, this is another testament that theatrical only can still be a moneymaking venture and that’s music to industry ears. To put it in perspective, the previous Labor Day record was 2007’s Halloween at $30 million. Rings tripled that and then some.

On the flip side, I was a little too generous to the holdovers. Candyman earned $12.5 million in its sophomore frame (a bit under my $13.4 million projection). The horror sequel/reboot, after its better than expected start, is up to $41 million.

Free Guy was third with $11.2 million (I said $14.2 million) and it’s made $94 million as it hurls towards the century mark.

PAW Patrol: The Movie sat in the four spot with $5.3 million compared to my $6.7 million prediction. Tally is $31 million.

Rounding out the top five was Jungle Cruise with $5.1 million. Once again, I went with more at $6.9 million. It has sailed off with $106 million.

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

Malignant Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (09/09): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising from my prediction down from $10.2 million to $7.6 million**

The drawing power of director James Wan and a horror audience that’s had plenty to watch lately will be put to the test on September 10th with Malignant. The fright fest comes from a genre filmmaker who kickstarted the Saw, Conjuring, and Insidious franchises. Lately he’s been dabbling in other series as he helmed Furious 7 and Aquaman. The cast includes Annabelle Wallis (who starred in the Conjuring spin-off Annabelle), Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Mckenna Grace.

Originally slated for late summer 2020 before its COVID pause, the Warner Bros property will premiere simultaneously on HBO Max. As mentioned, moviegoers have been inundated with scare tactics in the last few months. This includes sequels to A Quiet Place, Escape Room and Don’t Breathe, a third Conjuring, another Purge, and the new Candyman. 

Malignant has a couple of disadvantages. It’s not based on a known property (though one could argue Wan’s original forays into his now well-known franchises weren’t either). The other is the over saturation of the market. My biggest concern is a lack of buzz and its availability at home. That said, horror fans continually demonstrate their willingness to show up.

The previous Conjuring experience also hit HBO when it landed at multiplexes and it took in $24 million. I have a feeling the prognosis for Malignant is that it may earn about half of that figure and maybe a little less.

Malignant opening weekend prediction: $7.6 million

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Review

Remember those Brady Bunch episodes when they went to Hawaii and Bobby found the evil tiki that ruined part of their vacation? Similar happenings occur in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to the Warren bunch – our happily married demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga). It involves a satanic totem that wreaks even more havoc than Greg wiping out while surfing or Alice throwing her back out during a hula lesson. The latest Conjuring franchise pic delves deeper into the occult than previous entries and it is again based loosely on a true story.

This centers on the 1981 case of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was the first American to claim demonic possession as a defense during trial. As we learn in the pretty effective opening sequence, his curse was passed like a hot potato from 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). That little boy is exorcised by the Warrens and church officials in a body twisting procedure, but his malady is transferred to his sister’s boyfriend. That results in Arne returning home from work and his dogs are barking. His feet are fine. Arne works in a boarding kennel and those pups know something is off with him. The rest of Connecticut figures it out shortly after when he brutally stabs his boss.

Ed and Lorraine are naturally sympathetic to Arne’s forthcoming legal proceedings and seek to discover the backstory of how this came to be. Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities unveils a tale of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Ed is hampered by heart problems. In fact, he experiences more ticker palpitations than you might as a viewer.

In 2013, the original Conjuring emerged as one of the finest horror pics in recent years. None of the official sequels or spinoffs have come too close to matching it and that holds. Michael Chaves takes over directorial duties from James Wan. Like the first two, this is well-made and doesn’t suffer from the cheap knockoff vibe that, say, Annabelle had. To be fair, even the Annabelle follow-ups improved. The last time we saw the Warrens was in 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home and I would say it had more pure entertainment value than this.

That’s not to say Devil is bad. It’s just another so-so example of creaking sound effects and jump scares that intermittently possesses a genuine scare. This even gets a little gooey towards the conclusion with its love conquers all theme. You can’t blame the filmmakers. Ed and Lorraine, in real life apparently and certainly on screen, have been through a lot. It’s too bad they weren’t in Hawaii back in the seventies. Maybe Alice would have had a far more pleasant hula lesson.

**1/2 (out of four)

Annabelle Comes Home Review

The first Annabelle spinoff in 2014 felt like a cheap and quick money grab after the success of The Conjuring the year before and I’d say it stands as the worst experience in this cinematic universe. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation managed to slightly improve on its predecessor as it told the 1950s set backstory of the demonic doll. Some horror aficionados felt it was a significant improvement, but I wouldn’t go that far. Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place about a year after the events of The Conjuring, accomplishes what very few trilogies can. I think this is the best of the trio and about on the level with The Conjuring 2 as far as effectiveness. That means it’s nowhere near the quality of the film that kicked the whole shebang off, but it’s well-crafted and feels like some effort got put into it.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and they basically bookend this latest haunting. The real focus is their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) as she deals with that supremely creepy looking title doll. Her parents have recently acquired Annabelle and locked her in a case that explicitly warns others to keep it closed. When the Warrens go off somewhere investigating what will probably be a Conjuring flick someday, Judy is left in the care of high school babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins the party and is curious if there are evil spirits lurking in the Warren household. She’s also desperate to connect with her recently deceased father.

As we know, Daniela has found the right house to do just that. Her actions unlock a whole lotta spirited occurrences which come with the franchise’s now well-known and precise sound effects editing. Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle‘s and The Nun (he also penned both It pics). This walks a sometimes pleasurable line between the terrorized babysitter premise while being steeped in Conjuring lore. We briefly see several other spirits awakened and that includes a dog who’s a bad boy and a board game with a mind of its own.

Yet Annabelle Comes Home never turns into Ouija or Cujo. Most of the focus is on Annabelle. And despite her still scary appearance, no Conjuring sequel/spinoff has quite nailed the key objective: being consistently scary itself. With the exception of Annabelle’s first 2014 starring role, they look good and sound really good. They’re also far cries from what started it all.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

America’s favorite paranormal investigating peeps The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are back in theaters and on HBO Max next week in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the second sequel to the 2013 horror hit and the eighth overall entry in the Conjuring Universe. Michael Chaves (who made the previous series effort The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directorial duties from James Wan, who produces and shares a story credit. Costars include Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard.

Originally scheduled for a September 2020 premiere before its COVID delay, Devil will attempt to reach an opening weekend gross commensurate with its predecessors. That could be a helluva task. Both pics with Conjuring in the title made just over $40 million for their starts. The first two Annabelle spin-offs took in over $30 million out of the gate. Another spin-off, The Nun, actually holds the series record with $53 million. Yet the past two flicks couldn’t match up. The third Annabelle made just over $20 million while the aforementioned la Llorona hit $26 million.

Those dwindling earnings could continue here. I’m a bit surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this just one week after A Quiet Place Part II, which should still be making loud noises at multiplexes. Furthermore, some fans with Max subscriptions will opt to view it in the comfort of their home. This franchise, on the other hand, has often shown an ability to over perform (The Nun hitting $50 million plus was not anticipated). Yet for the reasons described, I believe Devil could end up having the lowest domestic debut of the whole bunch.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million

For my Spirit Untamed prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/27/spirit-untamed-box-office-prediction/

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

It’s not brain surgery for fans of this franchise to view Saw III. Well, except, maybe when actual brain surgery is performed. I know I turned away when I saw it a decade and a half ago. Same goes for the rewatch. The third feature in the series is up as I recap the Saw sagas prior to the release of Spiral. If you didn’t catch my first two write-ups, they’re right bloody here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

Saw III finds our criminal mastermind Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) in a reflective mode as his cancer is finally about to put a stop to his intricate games. He’s still got one up his hospital gowned sleeve and it’s for Jeff (Angus Macfayden), who’s mourning the death of his adolescent son three years earlier. Depressed and seeking revenge on the many people responsible for that demise, Jigsaw gives him the elaborate opportunity. This involves potential payback for witnesses, judicial personnel, and the driver who subjected Jeff to the loss.

In a Saw pic, we know that means torture devices that test their fate and test previous meals of moviegoers watching it. Jeff’s journeys are intercut with Jigsaw’s failing health in a makeshift hospital. As we learned at the conclusion of Saw II, he’s got a partner in crime with Amanda (Shawnee Smith). Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) is the surgeon brought in (kidnapped) to save his life. Of course, if she doesn’t, Amanda has built a contraption to immediately end the doctor’s life once Jigsaw’s expires. And let the games begin!

Darren Lynn Bousman returns as director for the second time and James Wan and Leigh Whannell are back for story credit. This would mark the final time that this trio would collectively have their hands in the franchise. And they sure go out of their way to tie the first three pictures together… logic be kinda damned! Donnie Wahlberg reprises his role as the detective from part 2 as does Dina Meyer. Even Whannell’s Adam from the original is seen in flashback form.

Saw III, to its credit, creates a more emotional situation for Jeff to find redemption. Unlike most of the lead characters in I and II, he’s not a horrible person. He’s just in a horrible situation due to tragedy and he actually makes some decent choices based on Jigsaw’s vile experiments. And I have to say, this is the first time in the franchise where Jigsaw’s trials of human behavior really seem too complicated for anyone to comply with. I mean that in the context of this grisly and implausible cinematic universe, but still…

By the third act, Saw III begins to fall all over itself in attempting to connect various loose ends. It all feels a bit much. There are many who think this is second only to the original in terms of quality. I would put it a notch behind #2 as well.

Find out how this series progresses or regresses when The Jigsaw Files returns with Saw IV (2007)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

As we await the release of the ninth Saw franchise gorefest Spiral, my Jigsaw Files posts continue with Saw II. If you missed my first entry for the 2004 original, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

When Saw was released in October of 2004, Lionsgate didn’t know they had a series that would continue into three separate decades. The opening weekend grosses changed that and a sequel was immediately commissioned. Not only that – the studio wanted it out fast in time for the 2005 Halloween box office. Darren Lynn Bousman, as luck would have it, already had a screenplay outside of the Saw universe that could serve as a template. Franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell was brought in to bring the script into this demented world. And Saw II was hurried into production to meet that all important drop date.

The rushed production schedule does not deter this from generally doing what a sequel needs to do. It builds upon its predecessor. It looks like more of a sophisticated final product (at $4 million, it nearly quadrupled the budget of part one). There’s a twist ending that legitimately manages to surprise. Most of all, Saw II (even more than Saw) sets the formula for those that followed.

Whether that’s a good thing likely depends on your stomach for this type of material. Like many horror follow-ups, part II is bloodier and more sadistic. Picking up from the shocking ending of Saw when we learn who Jigsaw is, this puts a lot more meat on the bones of its central antagonist. We learn more about John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his cancer diagnosis that causes him to develop these games of survival. Or as he describes it… “testing the fabric of human nature.” In John/Jigsaw’s world, he’s allowing his potential victims a chance to appreciate their lives and give them a second chance. A lot of them don’t see it that way.

His sights are set on corrupt detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) here. Jigsaw orchestrates the abduction of eight strangers in a dim dungeon to toy with. This includes the detective’s teen son (Erik Knudsen). The seven others are all of a criminal mind. The unexpected addition is Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who we glimpsed in Saw and was a survivor of Jigsaw’s tests (she even appreciated his unconventional method of getting her off smack).

Jigsaw is captured early in the film. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is on purpose and he holds court with Detective Matthews as he tries to save his estranged boy. According to the ailing prisoner, the detective only needs to follow his instructions step by step. Unfortunately, the new character on the block’s temper prevents that from happening. I’m not sure if Bousman and Whannell wanted us to root for Wahlberg’s character. Probably not. If by any chance they did, that’s a failure because we don’t mind Jiggy gettin’ the best of him.

Saw II truly begins the parade of gross out gags and creative deaths that have marked the series. The most squirm inducing involves needing to find a key. In this situation, the key is the needle and the haystack happens to be needles. By the time we reach our climax, a time shifting revelation manages to fool us. It’s not as effective as Jigsaw rising from that disgusting washroom floor in Saw, but it’s pretty good stuff.

I give the filmmakers due credit with the first sequel. This was made to make a release date and it did so without seeming like a rip-off of its source material. Far from it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw III (2006)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

Perhaps I’m feeling like a glutton for punishment, but the upcoming release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw got me in a bloody nostalgic mood as we anticipate its premiere. Nearly 17 years after the low-budget original became one of the most profitable horror pics ever and spawned now eight sequels/reboots, I felt it was time to revisit the franchise.

Hence The Jigsaw Files where I will recap the series movie by movie. It naturally begins with the original Saw. Shot for a reported teensy budget of $1.2 million, it came out of nowhere in October 2004 to become a genre classic. So is it?

This marks the directorial debut of James Wan and he went on to be involved in numerous franchises. Some were of his own making (Insidious, The Conjuring). Others brought on his talents like in Furious 7 and Aquaman. Wan came up with the story along with Leigh Whannell, who has since helmed Upgrade and The Invisible Man (both critically acclaimed scare fests).

Most of you are familiar with the story. Whannell costars as Adam, a photographer who awakens in a dingy and feces covered washroom with Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). The duo soon discover that they are part of an elaborate game orchestrated by a serial killer who concocts these elaborate schemes. They have to figure out why they have been placed in such a foul setting and they only have hours to do so before their time expires.

The screenplay intersects their countdown with Detectives Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung) trying to figure out who this monster is. Saw is told in a non-linear fashion that isn’t totally clear until the climax. I had forgotten about the Lost TV series connection until my rewatch. Leung was the quirky medium Miles. Michael Emerson, who is involved in the mayhem happening here, is an Emmy winner for his brilliant portrayal of Ben Linus.

What’s striking about Saw upon another visit is that its meager budget limits some of the gore we became accustomed to in the sequels. Don’t get me wrong… it’s there, but not quite as prevalent. Elwes and Whannell get the most screen time (Glover apparently only shot for two days). Both actors have their moments of extreme overacting and I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Some may find this exercise humorless, but there’s some winking and nodding occurring in my estimation.

The other plot point that audiences might forget is that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw (who becomes this franchise’s Freddy, Jason, Michael… take your pick) plays a minimal role… kind of like Jason in the first Friday the 13th. This is, of course, until the surprise ending. And that ending is still one of the better twists in modern horror history. If you’re a stickler about it making sense… well, you might hurt your head deciding if it holds up to scrutiny. Yet it was effective when I first watched it and it still is today.

Saw is certainly not perfect. Its price tag limitations show, but even that adds to the B movie vibe. Wan shows right away why he’s become the in demand filmmaker he is now. And this Saw remains a cut above most of what followed and rightfully has the reputation that precedes it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw II (2005)…