Oscar Watch: Toy Story 4

The fourth edition of Toy Story is unveiled in theaters next weekend and reviews are out today. It is the 21st film for Pixar that began in 1995 with… Toy Story. And when it comes to Oscar voters honoring the studio’s works, there’s a rich history.

Critics so far have given a 100% stamp of approval to the sequel. The Academy established the Best Animated Feature in 2001. There’s been 18 winners and half of them are Pixar pics. The studio has also nabbed two nods in Best Picture with 2009’s Up and 2010’s… Toy Story 3.

First things first: there is approximately zero doubt that part four will get Animated Feature recognition. And unless something special comes along in the second half of the year (perhaps Frozen 2?), it has an excellent shot at winning. It’s also feasible that it could land Pixar’s third Picture nod, but that is far less certain at this juncture.

Another category where Toy Story 4 could contend is Best Original Song. There’s two possibilities: Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let Yourself Throw Away” and “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy”, which was written by Newman and is performed by country superstar Chris Stapleton.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Toy Story 4 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/19)… and it’s a significant one. Revising my estimate down from to $191.5 million to $167.5 million.

With the release of Toy Story 4 next weekend, Pixar should have no problem having the top three animated openings of all time. The big question is whether or not it manages to have the largest so far. The sequel arrives nearly a quarter century after Toy Story kicked off the Disney owned Pixar phenomenon and nearly a decade since Toy Story 3. The iconic characters of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) return along with the vocal works of Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, and the late Don Rickles. New actors joining the party include Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves. Josh Cooley makes his directorial debut.

Each chapter in this cinematic universe has seen its overall domestic gross increase with each entry. Part 3 took in $110 million in its first frame and legged out to $415 million. That predecessor currently has the fifth highest animated start ever. Toy Story 4 is in line to easily top that and more.

Last summer’s Incredibles 2 nabbed the record for the genre by a wide margin when it took in $182 million. Pixar also holds the #2 spot with 2016’s Finding Dory with $135 million. I don’t see Woody and Buzz’s fourth go round having any issue topping that and it could definitely hit the #1 designation.

I’ll say it falls just a manages a few million over the Incredibles sequel for a historic start.

Toy Story 4 opening weekend prediction: $167.5 million

For my Child’s Play prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/childs-play-box-office-prediction/

For my Anna prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/13/anna-box-office-prediction/

Instant Family Movie Review

There’s an air of authenticity to Instant Family as its director Sean Anders and his wife are foster parents in the real world. Is it also a big Hollywood comedy with famous movie stars that works overtime to tug those heartstrings? It is, but the mission is mostly accomplished by credits roll.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) spend their days flipping houses and enjoying their child free upper middle class existence. A trip down the Internet wormhole gets Ellie intrigued in adopting a toddler. Pete gets on board in short order and we witness the steps needed to do so. This include a weeks long course led by two social workers played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro. Both are rock solid casting choices. An interesting picture could certainly be made about the saints of that profession.

Pete and Ellie get more than they bargained for when teenage girl Lizzy (Isabela Moner) catches their attention. She has two younger siblings in tow and soon it’s a quintet filling a freshly refurbished abode. And there’s plenty of drama (with much humor mixed in) that cause the Wagners to question their new life direction. This isn’t simply a new project.

This is far from a hard-hitting expose on the foster care system. Yet the screenplay from Anders and John Morris doesn’t shy away from the issues that fill it, including addiction, abandonment, and self-worth. It walks a fine line between being effective or risking becoming too mushy for its own good. By the third act, the sentimentality is still strong with this one. However, I’d be deceptive if I said it hadn’t won me over. Much of that has to do with Moner’s touching performance as the untrusting youth and fierce protector of her siblings.

Anders knows this subject and even while there’s a polished Tinseltown shine covering it, his heart comes through. I left Family appreciative of the time spent with them.

*** (out of four)

Snatched Movie Review

Amy Schumer burst onto the film scene two summers ago with Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck. It was a solid vehicle to showcase the comedienne’s raunchy yet intelligent humor. Snatched is the follow-up. It’s occasionally raunchy, but it’s rarely intelligent and it struggles to even fill the 90 minute runtime with memorable material.

The pic also marks Goldie Hawn’s return to the silver screen after a decade and a half. She looks great, but it’s a shame she’s saddled with the overprotective mother role and given little chance to expand it. Schumer is Emily and she’s recently single after her rocker boyfriend dumps her when he realizes the fringe benefits of success. Emily is also unemployed and holding onto two non-refundable tickets to Ecuador for what was to be a romantic getaway with her departed beau. Enter Linda (Hawn), Emily’s mom who lives a quiet life with her cats and agoraphobic son (Ike Barinholtz). Despite her reluctance, mom joins daughter in South America.

While Linda is content to read her magazines and novellas in the hotel room, Emily is looking for some wild vacation times. She thinks she’s found it with a hunky dude who takes her to a rave and then agrees to show her and Linda around the next day. That’s when the pair are indeed snatched.

What follows is a rather surprisingly laugh free experience that is over in about an hour (it takes a third of the 90 minutes to get to the actual snatching). Some familiar faces pop up including Wanda Sykes and a mute yet deadly Joan Cusack as vacationers who assist the nabbed duo. Christopher Meloni turns up as a very poor man’s Indiana Jones.  Barinholtz has a couple funny moments as the bizarre shut-in son.

Yet it’s not encouraging when the bit that made me chuckle hardest involved a tapeworm and is a sight gag that lasts about a minute. Schumer’s stand-up work and her Trainwreck role showcases a refreshing honesty and sexuality that used to be reserved for just the boys onstage and onscreen. There’s nothing about Snatched where the word refreshing is warranted. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is often excruciatingly ordinary and these leads deserve better.

** (out of four)

Snatched Box Office Prediction

Nearly two years after she broke through on the silver screen in a major way, Amy Schumer is back with Snatched next weekend. The action comedy teams the comedienne with Goldie Hawn, making her first film appearance in almost 15 years. This duo play a mother/daughter (which was the working title of the pic) on a vacation that goes all wrong. Jonathan Levine (who made 50/50 and The Night Before) directs and the supporting cast includes Ike Barinholtz, Joan Cusack, Wanda Sykes, and Christopher Meloni.

In the summer of 2015, Schumer’s Trainwreck rode a wave of great buzz to a $30 million debut and $110 million overall domestic gross. The fact that this is her follow-up should automatically get a substantial number of her fans out there. It also doesn’t hurt that Snatched is being unveiled on Mother’s Day weekend and it should serve as decent counter programming to the second weekend of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (in which Hawn’s longtime beau Kurt Russell costars).

Even with those clear pluses, I don’t feel the anticipation for this as there was for Trainwreck. I expect Snatched to grab a high teens to low 20s beginning.

Snatched opening weekend prediction: $21.1 million

For my King Arthur: Legend of the Sword prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/05/03/king-arthur-legend-of-the-sword-box-office-prediction/

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Box Office Prediction

It has, at least to me, a title that makes me laugh every time I think of it. Yet I’m not convinced that will lead to an impressive performance on the charts.

Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island partners Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone headline the music documentary spoof Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Costars include Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett (pulling double duty over the weekend with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), and Martin Sheen. There’s also a bunch of cameos from real pop stars such as Adam Levine, Mariah Carey, Usher, and Carrie Underwood.

Mr. Samberg’s digital shorts on “Saturday Night Live” were a solid staple of the show for many years with classics like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick in a Box”. His film career, on the other hand, has been pretty unimpressive box office wise. 2007’s Hot Rod and 2012’s That’s My Boy both were critical and commercial disappointments.

I’ll predict Popstar struggles to even reach high single digits.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/25/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-out-of-the-shadows-box-office-prediction/

For my Me Before You prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/25/me-before-you-box-office-prediction/