F9 Review

Make no mistake. We don’t watch the Fast and Furious movies because they have any resemblance to the real world. For a franchise that I cannot imagine was envisioned to reach nine entries deep, we can park our logic immediately and settle in for a thrill ride. Surprisingly it’s a formula that’s usually worked (certainly at the box office and often with the quality of the product). In F9, the luster has gathered rust. This is the first Fast feature since part 4 that I wouldn’t recommend as a guilty pleasure. We’ve reached the long-lost brother stage of the storyline. We also have characters blasting into outer space. So it’s time to stop being polite about what’s going on in this fading fantasy world.

Returning director Justin Lin (who made parts III-VI) and his cowriter Daniel Casey have swapped out ex-wrestlers turned thespians. Gone is Dwayne Johnson (a result of a feud with Vin Diesel), who brought a jolt starting in Fast Five. Tagging in is John Cena as the aforementioned and previously never mentioned sibling Jakob Toretto. As we are told in overdramatic and overlong flashbacks, he played a role in the late 80s racing death of his father. This doesn’t sit well with brother Dom (Diesel) and the two haven’t been on speaking terms since. Jakob reacts as most would with the family estrangement by becoming an international mercenary and obtaining a deadly computer system that will wreak global havoc. His employer is the son of a dictator (Thue Erstad Rasmussen) who’s working with part 8’s hacker bad girl Cipher (Charlize Theron).

The return of the banished brother causes Dom to interrupt his farm life seclusion with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their 5-year-old son. The band, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) reassemble for the forthcoming sequences where automobiles do things they have no earthly business doing. Also back are the thought to be dead Han (Sung Kang) and a trio of street racers from Tokyo Drift who are now (somehow) rocket scientists. Jordana Brewster (as Dom and Jakob’s sister Mia) hops a flight home. This is where I’ll address a sensitive issue. When Paul Walker died in 2013, the filmmakers were faced with the unenviable task of dealing with his character Brian who served as co-lead for the previous entries. They handled it deftly in Furious 7. However, in a saga that constantly beats the drum of helping your teammates, the explanation of Brian simply being retired and not taking part in the action strains credibility. We’re told he’s babysitting while wife Mia is away. I know it might seem silly to discuss credibility in a Fast flick, but it is an unfortunate minor distraction.

F9 takes too long to get its motor running. The 143 minute runtime (bogged down by those flashbacks of young Dom and Jakob) is a momentum stopper. Part of the intrigue involves a super powerful magnate (think more than fridge quality grade) that whips anything in its path towards it. It’s cool the first time we see the hurling. And then we witness it again and again. Cena has shown considerable comedic chops elsewhere. That magnetism is nowhere to be found here. Dwayne Johnson is missed as is Jason Statham as sparring partner Shaw. Theron, Kurt Russell as government agent Mr. Nobody, and Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mum are barely seen (though the latter’s brief appearance is kind of a hoot).

What we’re left with is a mopey family dynamic that the franchise didn’t need. Roman’s character brings self-reference to the screenplay, often commenting on the ridiculousness of everything – how come no one ever gets a scratch on them? As I said, that doesn’t matter much when we can mindlessly settle in and enjoy it. F9 doesn’t achieve that like the bulk of its predecessors. Put another way, my tank was half full for parts V-VIII and now it’s half empty. By the time Roman and Tej enter moonwalking territory, it should feel ludicrous in a positive way. Instead we’ve had to slog through over two hours of make it up as you go along nonsense to get there.

** (out of four)

June 4-6 Box Office Predictions

The first box office frame of June brings a battle of horror sequels as Hollywood basks in the glow of a profitable holiday weekend. With A Quiet Place Part II surpassing expectations, it should be poised for a loud sophomore frame. The competition comes from The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the eighth picture in the billion dollar franchise’s cinematic universe. We also have DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed, a spinoff of the Netflix series and kinda sorta sequel to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. You can find peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newcomers here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/26/the-conjuring-the-devil-made-me-do-it-box-office-prediction/

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

It feels a bit strange to predict Devil will experience the lowest overall opening of the entire series, but that’s where I’ve landed. I can’t help but wonder if Warner Bros would want a little more daylight between its debut and the sophomore frame of Quiet if they had a do-over. My forecast of just under $20 million should put it in second place unless Cruella has a remarkable hold.

As for Emily Blunt and company, it’s worth noting that the original Quiet Place fell only 34% in its follow-up outing. The sequel may dip a tad further, but a gross in the mid 20s to even low 30s is on the table. Cruella should be #3 in the lower teens range. I don’t have much faith in Spirit and my meager estimate has it in fourth. Raya and the Last Dragon should round out the top five.

So it’s horror sequels and family entertainment and different kinds of spirits in the top five this weekend and here’s how I see it all transpiring:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

3. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $13 million

4. Spirt Untamed

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 28-31)

Originally slated for March 2020, moviegoers proved they were willing to wait for A Quiet Place Part II. John Krasinski’s critically heralded sequel posted a COVID era best Memorial Day weekend debut of $57 million. That easily outshines my $43.6 million projection. Studios must be rejoicing in this encouraging sign for the summer season ahead.

Disney’s Cruella with Emma Stone also opened to pleasing numbers with $26.5 million (ahead of my $22.7 million estimate). Despite being on Disney Plus as well for a premium price, parents and kids turned out for the Mouse Factory’s latest live-action update of an animated classic.

Holdovers populated the 3-5 slots and it was close. Raya and the Last Dragon was third at $2.8 million (I went lower at $1.6 million). Its total is $51 million. Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man took fourth with $2.7 million (I said $2.4 million) for $22 million overall. Spiral was fifth after two weeks at #1 with $2.6 million (under my $3.2 million prediction) for a $20 million tally.

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

May 28-31 Box Office Predictions

In what is bound is to be the biggest box office weekend so far in the COVID-19 era, the Memorial Day frame marks the unofficial kickoff of the summer season at multiplexes. There are two genuinely high-profile debuts with John Krasinski’s horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II with Emily Blunt and Disney’s live-action remake Cruella with Emma Stone in the title role. My detailed prediction posts on the pair can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/03/11/a-quiet-place-part-ii-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/19/cruella-box-office-prediction/

As I have said a lot recently, we are in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time in a long time where we have two major releases out in the same holiday weekend. Just as entities are opening up everywhere, the same can be said for theaters. I believe AQPII can top $40 million over its four day premiere with Cruella managing low to mid 20s. There is the lingering suspicion that either or both can outdo my estimates.

The rest of the top five will be filled with holdovers and they may experience smallish declines given the holiday. And with that, my top 5 projections from Friday to Monday for a weekend that Hollywood has been eagerly anticipating:

1. A Quiet Place Part II

Predicted Gross: $43.6 million

2. Cruella

Predicted Gross: $22.7 million

3. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $3.2 million

4. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $2.4 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.6 million

Box Office Results (May 14-16)

As anticipated, it was the calm before the potential storming back of big grosses over this past frame. Spiral repeated at #1 in its sophomore outing with $4.5 million. It held up rather well for its genre ahead of my $4 million prediction. The overall gross for the gross out Saw sequel is $15 million.

Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man remained in second with $2.9 million. My estimate? $2.9 million! Total is $18 million.

Third place belonged to Angelina Jolie’s Those Who Wish Me Dead at $1.9 million compared to my $1.7 million take. The two week tally is $5 million.

Raya and the Last Dragon was fourth with $1.6 million, just under my projection of $1.7 million for $48 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong rounded out the top five with $1.4 million. I incorrectly had it outside my top five. At $96 million, the monster mash is inching ever so close to becoming the first $100 million domestic earner in the COVID era.

Finally, Demon Slayer was sixth at $1.3 million (which was my estimate) and it’s at $43 million overall.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

May 14-16 Box Office Predictions

It’s been a minute since we have had four new releases to ponder, but that’s the situation this weekend as theaters continue to open their doors. The ninth pic in the Saw franchise Spiral, Angelina Jolie’s thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, the Zack Snyder directed zombie fest Army of the Dead, and tech suspense flick Profile all open on Friday. My detailed prediction posts on the quartet can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/05/spiral-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/06/those-who-wish-me-dead-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/07/army-of-the-dead-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/07/profile-box-office-prediction/

Spiral should have no trouble scoring a #1 premiere. The question is: what kinda Saw bucks are we talking? I think this could certainly over perform (word of mouth is decent), but my estimate puts it in line with the last entry in the series – 2017’s Jigsaw. 

The runner-up slot should go to Ms. Jolie and her joint venture with Warner Bros/HBO Max. However, unlike the recent Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat, a start north of $10 million (and certainly $20 million) seems unlikely.

Blogger’s Note: Dead prediction downgraded to $3.8 million

Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man should fall to third after its opening met expectations (more on that below). I anticipate his latest action tale to lose a bit more than half its audience.

Here’s where things get a little interesting. Army of the Dead is the first Netflix release to open on a fairly wide screen count (at least 600). If that holds, the potential for a $2-$3 million haul is feasible. It could even do more. What’s unknown at this juncture is whether the streaming giant will actually report its grosses. They haven’t in the past in their limited theatrical runs, but we are venturing into new territory. With this question unanswered, I’ll be doing a top five that includes Army and one that does not.

As for Profile, it’s hitting a large 2000 screens. Yet I suspect its low profile and my predicted $1.2 million forecast could prevent it from making the top five in either scenario.

And with that, here’s my two versions of this weekend’s top five:

1. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $16.1 million

2. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $3.9 million

3. Those Who Wish Me Dead

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

4. Army of the Dead

Predicted Gross: $2.5 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.4 million

***If no Army grosses, Raya would move up to #4 and I’ll say Demon Slayer is fifth with $1.3 million

Box Office Results (May 7-9)

As mentioned, Wrath of Man took the pole position and met expectations with $8.3 million. How much did it meet them? It certainly met mine as my projection was $8.3 million!

Demon Slayer dropped to second with $2.7 million, on par with my $2.9 million estimate. Its three-week tally is $39 million.

Also in its third frame, Mortal Kombat was third with $2.4 million compared to my $2.7 million take. Overall gross stands at $37 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong was fourth with $1.9 million (I said $2 million). The monster mash continues to inch toward the century mark at $93 million.

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon flew off with another $1.9 million. I incorrectly had it outside the top five. It has earned $43 million.

Finally, the Billy Crystal/Tiffany Haddish dramedy Here Today showed zero staying power as it opened in seventh with $1 million. I was a bit more generous at $1.5 million.

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

Wrath of Man Box Office Prediction

Jason Statham stomps back into multiplexes on May 7th with Wrath of Man. The revenge action thriller marks his fourth collaboration with Guy Ritchie who directed him in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Revolver. Costars include Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, and Scott Eastwood.

The MGM release finds Statham trying to carry a picture to solid grosses. In recent years, he’s mostly been seen in the role of Shaw in the Fast and Furious franchise and its spin-off. If you go back to 2013’s Homefront that primarily relied on his star power, it resulted in an opening weekend just south of $7 million. Wrath could manage to exceed that.

Wrath could post grosses in the range of recent Liam Neeson genre fare like Honest Thief and The Marksman, which both started with earnings in the $4 million range. I’ll give it a fairly significant bump from that since venues are in a better spot than when those flicks premiered.

Wrath of Man opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my Here Today prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/04/29/here-today-box-office-prediction/

Hobbs & Shaw Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (07/31): My estimate has dropped from $82.6 million to $72.6 million

Two of the most popular characters from the venerable Fast and Furious franchise get their  own spin-off (the first of the long running series) with Hobbs & Shaw next weekend. The action extravaganza comes with a reported $200 million budget and is headlined by the title characters respectively portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. David Leitch (co-director of John Wick and sole director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) is behind the camera. Costars include Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren (reprising her maternal role from 2017’s last entry The Fate of the Furious).

Despite the absence of Vin Diesel and other actors associated with the franchise that started 18 years ago, Hobbs & Shaw is likely to perform similarly to other pics in the canon. The largest opening was accomplished in 2015 with Furious 7 with a gross of $147 million. Tragically, part of the reason its start was significantly more than the others was due to the untimely death of Paul Walker and that picture representing his swan song. Follow-up Fate of the Furious two years later landed the second highest start of the eight features at $98 million.

This might fall a bit under those gaudy numbers and I think low to mid 80s is most feasible. That would put it in line or a just bit below the $86 million accomplished by Fast Five in 2011.

Hobbs & Shaw opening weekend prediction: $72.6 million

The Meg Movie Review

There’s not a whole lot to add to the finned villain genre some 43 years after Jaws, but The Meg tries to do so in the form of size. The title refers to a megalodon. That’s a creature long thought to be extinct. It’s so big that it can eat normal sharks as a light snack. Size matters in this movie. We actually have two gargantuan megs that a crew must contend with. The human group of potential chum is led by Jason Statham, his massive biceps, and that voice that sounds as if he gargles gravel.

Statham plays Jonas and he’s still reeling from an incident five years ago in which he lost a group of sailors on a submarine. Jonas is convinced that an unknown and large ocean dweller caused that tragedy. As a side note, it’s interesting that the screenplay portrays him as despondent over that loss. Other characters later on seem to develop a process of rapid grieving for people they actually know.

Yet we don’t watch these pictures for lessons on dealing with death. We watch to see inventive ways for it to happen. Jonas is lured back into the water when his ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) and her mates are trapped deep underwater with that big fish lurking. She’s an employee of Mana One, a cool looking research facility looking for new species. The corporation is headed by an eccentric (is there any other kind?) billionaire played by Rainn Wilson. Li Bingbing is an oceanographer with a precocious young daughter who also serves as Jonas’s immediate love interest. Recognizable faces like Cliff Curtis and Ruby Rose are also along for the ride.

The Meg never quite develops a satisfying identity. The PG-13 rating eliminates the opportunity for gory delights. There’s winking humor and even some of it lands. And there’s also dramatic moments that seem to want to be taken seriously. It spills its creative guts early on and essentially repeats itself. A third act that finally lets the monster expose himself to the beach going masses feels truncated.

Statham throws himself into the role and it’s admirable. We do see a couple of man vs. beast exchanges that I hadn’t seen before. However, this doesn’t rise to the level of genuine guilty pleasure or generate enough suspense, humor, or horror. They’re too infrequent to completely excuse the sizable gaps of mediocrity.

** (out of four)

The Meg Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/08/18): On the eve of its premiere, I am bumping my estimate up from $19.7 million to $22.7 million

The second weekend of August is one that Warner Bros hopes is their Shark Week when The Meg opens. Focused on a group of scientists tracking a 75-foot creature sporting massive jaws, the film stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis. Jon Turteltaub, whose had a lengthy directorial career including the National Treasure pics, is behind the camera.

Other than the giant shark itself, the most eye-popping thing about The Meg is its reported $150 million budget. This is an American/Chinese co-production and it better hope for generous earnings overseas.

As for its stateside expectations, it can be dangerous to underestimate audiences shark love. Two summers ago, The Shallows debuted to a better than anticipated $16.8 million. Last summer, 47 Meters Down (which was originally slated for a TV premiere) took in $11.2 million for its start.

There’s always breakout potential in this genre, but I’m looking at The Meg managing to hit Shallows numbers and a bit more.

The Meg opening weekend prediction: $22.7 million

For my Slender Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/31/slender-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Dog Days prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/31/dog-days-box-office-prediction/

For my BlacKkKlansman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/blackkklansman-box-office-prediction/

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of Point Break, or Point Brake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.

The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious 7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).

As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.

The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick Die Another Day? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.

Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.

*** (out of four)

The Fate of the Furious Box Office Prediction

Universal Pictures’ billion dollar franchise keeps rolling along as The Fate of the Furious
parks into multiplexes on Easter Weekend. The eighth (yes, eighth) street racing action spectacle finds Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray taking over behind the camera. Fate finds the majority of thespians associated with the series returning – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacis, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, and Nathalie Emmanuel. We also have a pair of Oscar winners joining the mix with Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, as well as Scott Eastwood (whose dad has won some Oscars). Of course, this is the first picture (excluding 2006’s Tokyo Drift) without Paul Walker, who died during the filming of Furious 7.

When Diesel and Walker returned to the franchise in 2009’s Fast and Furious, it sparked a box office resurgence that’s never let up. That fourth entry debuted to $70 million with an overall $155M domestic haul. Follow-up Fast Five in 2011 opened to $86 million ($209M eventual tally). 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 made $97 million out of the gate and $238M eventually. And 2015’s Furious 7 easily set the high mark with a $147 million premiere and $353M overall.

The grosses of Furious 7 were likely (and sadly) expanded due to it being Walker’s last on-screen appearance. Therefore it stands to reason that Fate probably won’t reach the heights of that predecessor. That said, this looks to be a franchise that is still going strong and it would be surprising if it didn’t post the second largest bow thus far.

I’ll predict the fate of this is an opening gross in the low to mid $120M range.

The Fate of the Furious opening weekend prediction: $122.7 million

For my Gifted prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/09/gifted-box-office-prediction/