Oscar Watch: Frozen II

One week ahead of its massive launch, the review embargo has lifted for Disney’s Frozen II, the sequel to the 2013 animated smash that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Financial expectations are understandably enormous and a big question was whether it matches the quality of the original.

Early critical reaction suggests… not quite. Frozen achieved a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating while the follow-up is currently at 81%. Part 1 was nominated for two Oscars and won both – Animated Feature and Best Original Song for the omnipresent “Let It Go” as sung by Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta called her at the Academy ceremony).

Frozen II is very likely to be nominated in both races like its predecessor. The tune is likely to be the ballad “Into the Unknown”. However, unlike the original, it may not be the favorite to win in either category. The biggest competition in Animated Feature comes from another Mouse Factory sequel with this summer’s Toy Story 4 (which I still believe to be the frontrunner). Another non-Disney sequel, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, could also be a factor – albeit less so than Woody and Buzz. In Original Song, there’s serious competitors in the form of Elton John and Taylor Swift tracks from Rocketman and Cats, respectively.

Bottom line: Frozen II should nab the same nods that Frozen did. Victories are another story. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Frozen II Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/16): I’ve upgraded my estimate from $113.7M to $126.7M

Today, frozen is the word described by many as what they’re experiencing when they attempt to view Disney Plus on its first day of launch. Next weekend, Frozen II looks to heat up a sleepy box office and continue the Mouse Factory’s stellar year. This is the sequel to the 2013 smash hit that earned over a billion dollars worldwide. The computer animated musical fantasy has Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad returning to voice their known characters along with newbies Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Marsha Plimpton, and Jason Ritter. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee make a return engagement behind the camera.

Six years ago in November, part 1 turned into a phenomenon. Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the critically hailed Oscar winner took in $93 million and legged out impressively to a domestic haul of $400 million. This time around, expectations are understandably sky high. A gross north of $100 million out of the gate is anticipated.

With its rather short span between entries, Frozen II should achieve that status. I suspect earnings in the neighborhood of what Toy Story 4 ($120.9 million) took in this summer is the range. I’ll put it a few million over that mark.

Frozen II opening weekend prediction: $126.7 million

For my A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/13/a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-box-office-prediction/

For my 21 Bridges prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/15/21-bridges-box-office-prediction/

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Box Office Prediction

Those animated and ill tempered fowls based on the video game you were obsessed with on your smart phone are back next week with The Angry Birds Movie 2. Our first Birds flew into theaters in the summer of 2016 and the sequel returns the vocal stylings of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage. Newcomers include Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, and Eugenio Derbez. Thurop Van Orman makes his directorial debut.

Three years ago, Birds kicked off to a solid $38 million. Unlike many other animated offerings, it didn’t leg out particularly well with a final gross of $107 million. Surprisingly, critical reaction to this follow-up is stronger than what transpired before. This stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 44% for its predecessor.

That said, I don’t see the sequel outdoing part 1. It opens on a Tuesday – perhaps in an effort to nab more kid business before schools start. A premiere of mid to high teens to over the traditional Friday to Sunday frame and low to possibly mid 20s for the six day is where I’m at.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $25.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Good Boys prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/07/good-boys-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

A Dog’s Journey Box Office Prediction

A Dog’s Journey finds its way to theaters next weekend and it comes without the controversy that greeted its predecessor. In 2017, A Dog’s Purpose got in some water when video surfaced of an animal being mistreated on set. The film managed to turn into a decent sized hit with an opening just north of $18 million and $64 eventual domestic gross. That’s enough to warrant a sequel and Journey is also based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron. Gail Mancuso takes over directorial duties from Lasse Hallstrom. Josh Gad is back voicing the lead canine and costars include Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, and Betty Gilpin.

I’m not confident that Journey will follow the same box office path as Purpose did with its high teens range. I do think it’ll manage to top 2019’s A Dog’s Way Home, which premiered to $11.2 million. A gross just under the teens seems like the right call.

A Dog’s Journey opening weekend prediction: $11.8 million

For my John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/07/john-wick-chapter-3-parabellum-box-office-prediction/

For my The Sun Is Also a Star prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/10/the-sun-is-also-a-star-box-office-prediction/

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

In his version of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh allows himself a part as big as his glorious mustache. The supporting players are often relegated to bits as small as the crumbs that might fall out of said mustache if his character didn’t maintain it so fastidiously.

That character is famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Don’t pronounce it Hercules or he will correct you in the exacting fashion he orders his eggs. That precision extends to his career. There’s right and wrong and nothing in between. Poirot’s worldview is challenged when he boards the Orient Express circa 1934, which happens to be the year Agatha Christie’s source material was penned.

Booking passage from stunning Istanbul to Paris, Poirot looks forward to a break from his work, but his powers of detection are utilized when a murder occurs. Nefarious character Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is stabbed multiple times during the night. Everyone onboard is a suspect and there’s about a dozen of them that Poirot must consider.

A lot of familiar faces are among the possibilities. There’s Michelle Pfeiffer’s flirty and dramatic Caroline. Daisy Ridley’s mysterious Mary and her connection with Leslie Odom Jr.’s Dr. Arbuthnot. Judi Dench’s domineering Princess Dragomiroff and her quiet assistant (Olivia Colman). Josh Gad is the victim’s right-hand man and Willem Dafoe is German professor Gerhard. Penelope Cruz is there as the faithful Pilar who hints at a more sinful past. And there’s more.

Yet even though Branagh has assembled a fine troupe of actors, this is the Poirot show. He dominates the running time with his outsized personality and facial hair. The character is introduced as a bit of a caricature but he becomes more sympathetic as the details of the murder and those who may have committed it are slowly revealed.

For those who’ve never read the book or seen any of the other filmed versions (the most notable being Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation with Albert Finney as Poirot in a considerably smaller ‘stache), Murder might keep you guessing. A lot of other audience members, I suspect, already know the outcome.

Branagh brings a visual style here that is grand and sweeping. There’s some complicated and impressive tracking and overhead shots to behold. We also have the train careening through the wilderness and into tunnels that often look a bit too digitized for my taste.

Truth be told, this Murder doesn’t add much fresh to Christie’s story. Viewers who are fans of the 1974 pic might deem this unnecessary. It’s still an often fascinating whodunnit with a talented director, albeit one who hogs the spotlight a bit. Poirot may eventually change his views by the closing credits and it mirrors my reaction. It doesn’t get it totally right or totally wrong. There’s an in between.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Murder on the Orient Express

Ok, so perhaps you’re thinking the idea of Murder on the Orient Express receiving Oscar attention is a track taken too far. Yet it’s not so crazy when considering that the Sidney Lumet 1974 version of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit novel garnered an impressive six nods, including Best Picture and Actor (Albert Finney). Ingrid Bergman even won Supporting Actress 43 years ago for her role.

Reviews are out today for the Kenneth Branagh remake opening next Friday. Some of the critical notices have paid homage to Branagh’s apparently glorious mustache in his portrayal of detective Hercule Poirot. The reviews themselves have been mixed and it currently stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad, but nowhere near what it needs for awards chatter.

It’s not exactly a surprise, but I wouldn’t suspect we’ll find this Express iteration getting the kind of Academy attention we saw four decades ago.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Murder on the Orient Express Box Office Prediction

43 years ago, Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie murder mystery novel Murder on the Orient Express received six Oscar nods and winning box office results. This time around, it’s Kenneth Branagh both directing and starring in the new version, playing super sleuth Hercule Poirot (portrayed in 1974 by Albert Finney). Just like in the original, an all-star cast surrounds including Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, and Leslie Odom Jr.

Orient will look to cash in with adult moviegoers and hope that competition doesn’t get in the way. Thor: Ragnarok (by the way, the first Thor was directed by Branagh) will be in its second weekend. Daddy’s Home 2 opens directly against it.

Even though this is a remake based on a well-known property, Murder could stand out among the sequels it’s pitted against. If reviews and word-of-mouth are encouraging, it could additionally play well throughout subsequent weekends.

I’ll predict Express chugs along to a mid 20s opening and it could well compete for the #2 slot with Daddy’s Home 2 as Thor should retain top position in its sophomore frame.

Murder on the Orient Express opening weekend prediction: $24.6 million

For my Daddy’s Home 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/31/daddys-home-2-box-office-prediction/