Oscar Predictions: The Batman

You have to go back to 2008’s The Dark Knight to find the last Batfilm to receive an Oscar nomination. It landed the most of them. While famously missing Best Picture (it’s often called the flick that caused the Academy to expand beyond five nominees), it garnered eight nods and won Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Sound Editing. The other nominations were for Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. 1989’s Batman was 1 for 1 in its nominations with Art Direction while follow-up Batman Returns was up for Makeup and Visual Effects and Batman Forever received a mention for Sound Effects Editing. Batman Begins from 2005 made the Cinematography final five. Batman and Robin, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League all failed to show up at the big show.

That history lesson is, of course, given to you because reboot The Batman  with Robert Pattinson opens Friday and the review embargo lifted today. Early critical reaction has resulted in an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some write-ups are calling it masterful. Others are more mixed in the praise with some complaints of over length in particular.

So what are its Oscar prospects? As I see it, pretty strong in many of the races mentioned above. That includes Sound (now just one competition), Visual Effects, Production Design (what was Art Direction), Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematography, and even Original Score (from Michael Giacchino). Director Matt Reeves, taking over the franchise, has experience in the VE derby with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. 

Those down the line nods could be plentiful for The Batman. However, I don’t see it getting Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, or nominations for its actors. It won’t be for lack of social media chatter. We have seen numerous comic book adaptations receive fervent support online (from The Dark Knight to Deadpool to Avengers: Endgame to Spider-Man: No Way Home). Only Black Panther and Joker have made the BP cut. I don’t envision The Batman being the third, but tech nods should happen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

The Suicide Squad Review

I had no doubt while watching James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad that it’s a more realized vision of exactly what its director wanted. This was apparently not the case with David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad and maybe we will see his Justice League style extended cut one day. For this latest DC Extended Universe pic, Warner Bros reportedly let Gunn do his thing without interference.

The result is a hard R rated and often gleefully bizarre experience. There are some truly funny moments and inspired action sequences mixed with a host of repetitive ones. At one point, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) makes light of a character named Milton who just got popped. The joke is that she doesn’t remember him being part of the team because he’s so forgettable. Milton isn’t the only one. Frankly, I’m struggling a bit with my overall take. This Squad is unquestionably an improvement over its predecessor. Yet I never quite got immersed in its raunchy comic book violence or irreverent attitude in the way I did with Deadpool or Gunn’s own Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is still head of A.R.G.U.S., the government organization that has its own unique prison work release program. Felonious super villains are sent on black ops missions in the name of homeland security (or so they’re told). Many of the cast mates (including Will Smith’s Deadshot) are MIA this time around. Harley’s back as is Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). So is Waller’s right-hand man and Squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

From the jump, we discover that no character may live past a scene or two and this does contribute to an unpredictable vibe. The newbies recruited include human weapons depot Bloodsport (Idris Elba), meaning of the word peace conflicted Peacemaker (John Cena), rodent whisperer Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). His name? Just like it sounds. Our primary CG creation is King Shark (voice by Sylvester Stallone), who’s half man/half Jaws. If he reminds you a bit of Groot from Guardians, mission accomplished.

Speaking of missions, it is to stop a recent coup in the fictional South American land of Corto Maltese. Now that their government has been overthrown, someone needs to destroy a secretive laboratory housing an experiment called Project Starfish. Part of the Squad’s goal is to capture The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who’s involved with the mysterious Starfish happenings. The eventual revelation of what that is pure B movie escapist joy that I won’t spoil.

Regarding our brand new characters, it’s a mixed lot. Elba’s Bloodsport has a character arc and motivations not unlike Smith’s Deadshot and it’s not terribly interesting. I will say his brief interaction with his daughter (Storm Reid) humorously didn’t go the way I thought it would. Cena uses his comedic chops effectively at times with his morally confused antihero. Gunn pushes pretty hard to make Ratcatcher 2 a heartwarming protagonist amidst the exploding heads and bodies being literally ripped apart. It could have gone the wrong way, but Taika Waititi’s casting as her dad helps save the day. King Shark’s contribution to that mayhem is rather amusing.

In one way, the more things change (and change they do from 2016) – the more they stay the same. This would be with Robbie’s Quinn, who retains the title of best performance and most enjoyable demented personality. For a while, she gets her own subplot that involves being romanced by the Corto Maltesian dictator (Juan Diego Botto) and being an unreliable torture subject. Those scenes work well and Robbie gets the lions share of the credit. Like in Suicide Squad, she’s the brightest star in The Suicide Squad. 

*** (out of four)

Army of the Dead Box Office Prediction

In a newsworthy announcement from this week, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead will roll out in hundreds of venues on May 14 prior to its Netflix debut one week later. The zombie thriller (sporting a reported budget of $90 million) stars Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notrao, and Garret Dillahunt.

This is the first time where the streaming giant and some theater chains have agreed on a wider release plan. Cinemark and Alamo Drafthouse are just two companies that will be showing Snyder’s latest. The same cannot be said for AMC and Regal so that limits Army‘s capacity. While some Netflix titles have played on limited screens for awards consideration, the estimated 600 count here is a high mark.

Snyder’s name has been visible due to his reworking of 2017’s Justice League that recently hit HBO Max. That combined with its often popular genre could bring out eager fans who wish to get the jump on its streaming release. That said, 600 screens certainly limits its potential. There’s also the matter of Spiral, the reboot of the Saw franchise that could siphon viewers aware and appears poised to easily debut at #1.

Giving Army a per screen average of around $4,200 would result in a gross between $2-3 million and that’s what I’m envisioning.

Army of the Dead opening weekend prediction: $2.5 million

For my Spiral: From the Book of Saw prediction, click here:

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

For my Those Who Wish Me Dead prediction, click here:

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

For my Profile prediction, click here:

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

Shazam! Movie Review

Mixing the typical comic book movie issues with a little Big and even a touch of the recent Instant Family, the DC Comics adaptation of Shazam! is able to produce crowd pleasing results. As the DCU must turn to their less iconic characters for feature attention, I would say the title hero here is somewhat equivalent to the MCU’s Ant-Man. He’s sarcastic. He’s not as serious. In fact, if the knock on this overall universe is that it’s too dark (think Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Justice League), Shazam! is practically translucent.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid jumping between temporary dwellings after being separated from his mom as a toddler. The young teen seems to find a decent home with five other children and kindly caregivers. Yet he’s still searching from mom.

In a prologue circa 1974, we meet another youngster by way of Thaddeus Sivana. He experiences a mystical meetup with Shazam in the form of Djimon Hounsou in heavy old age makeup. Trying to find a human worthy of inheriting his considerable superpowers, he deems him not properly pure of heart. Sivana grows up to be Mark Strong with a myopic focus on battling the eventual Shazam.

That turns out to be Billy. When he is called for his own encounter with Hounsou, he gets the job. This means when he utters “Shazam!”, he turns into Zachary Levi (who could have been cast as Superman). He’s still a teen embodying a comic book strongman and that takes a lot of learning. One of his foster siblings (Jack Dylan Grazer) is in on the secret.

A lot of exposition must be established here and Shazam! probably doesn’t need to be over two hours long. The mommy and daddy issues explored are quite familiar to genre fans. The film does manage to find slightly different angles. Just as Instant Family showed the true heroism of foster parents, so does this. Levi is a hoot as our crime fighting man child. Strong is fine, but he doesn’t exactly alter the general rule that the villains in many of these pics aren’t as interesting as they should be.

Shazam! works best when it’s focused on Billy/Shazam while he works with his new family and not while grappling with Savani and his monstrous CGI creatures that represent The Seven Deadly Sins. Director David F. Sandberg has crafted an origin story with a lot of heart among the usual action and it fosters enough appreciation to make this rewarding.

*** (out of four)

Aquaman Movie Review

In movies nowadays, the superhero genre has become so popular that a rule now applies to well-known thespians. You can play a hero or then you act long enough to see yourself become the villain. Or vice versa. Patrick Wilson was a good guy in Watchmen and now he’s a bad guy in Aquaman. Willem Dafoe was the key villain in SpiderMan, but he’s an ally to the title character here. As for Nicole Kidman, she was Bruce Wayne’s love interest in Batman Forever. Now she’s Aquamom.

This is all in a feature-length experience that HBO’s “Entourage” treated with humor. The thought back then… who would really buy this comic book creation in his own two-hour saga? Director James Wan’s weird but often endearing take ups the ante by padding nearly an extra half hour. It sorta works. It does by knowing that it’s silly most of the time despite occasional meanderings into thinking it belongs in Lord of the Rings territory. While it doesn’t, some of the battle scenes approach that grandeur.

We’ve seen Aquaman before in the DC Extended Universe. He was introduced briefly in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I still think is a little better than its reputation) and his role was expanded in the sub par Justice League. He gets the whole origin treatment here. In 1985, the Queen of Atlantis names Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washes up on shore after a storm in Maine. She makes the acquaintance of the local lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and Splash style romantic sparks fly. Leaving her King hubby behind underwater, Atlanna and her new flame bear a son named Arthur and that little tyke eventually becomes the heavily tattooed punk rockish muscle man embodied by Jason Momoa.

As we witnessed in the previously mentioned pics, Momoa’s Aquaman becomes a mysterious superhero above water when not chugging beers with Dad. Atlanna, on the other hand, is long gone after being hunted down by her husband’s henchmen and returning below the surface so her new family isn’t harmed. She’s said to be dead.

Soon enough, Arthur is pressured to see Atlantis for the first time. His half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) is hell-bent on becoming the ruling Ocean Master. That means the destruction of Earth is on his to do list. Mera (Amber Heard) is the daughter of an Atlantean  King (Dolph Lundgren) allied with Orm. She disagrees with her father and along with Arthur’s old mentor (Willem Dafoe), they attempt to recruit our hero to become the King himself.

The family drama is a very familiar plot point in most movies in the genre – no matter which cinematic universe it takes place in. This is no exception. Orm is the Loki to Aquaman’s Thor, but he’s not near as memorable. Mera is the love interest and she has some humorous moments due to her unfamiliarity with our land. Those light moments reminded me of Gal Gadot’s acclamations to her fresh surroundings in Wonder Woman. And while we’re talking similar plot themes, this will remind you of Black Panther from time to time.

There’s only so much you can accomplish with this well-worn origin stuff, but James Wan conjures up a visually vibrant tale with an engaging lead. Momoa’s Aquaman is a bit of a Hulk like creation who seems impervious to harm. Frankly, the tension is a bit watered down because it seems like he could swat Orm off like a fly. Yet the action sequences are effective when they’re not too weighed down in confusing CG mayhem. The best one takes place in Italy when all the players remain dry. Aquaman is worth the watch, despite its flaws, as it builds plenty of worlds we’ll see again and with more details. This uses what seems like a record of title cards to tell us where we are as the plot moves along. Unlike other films where we might see “St. Louis” with The Arch in frame, they’re necessary here. Most of the places we visit come with acceptable levels of entertainment value.

*** (out of four)

Aquaman Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): Update here as I’m increasing my $74.3 million estimate up to $77.3 million.

We don’t have Vincent Chase from TV’s “Entourage” starring in it as portrayed on that show years ago with James Cameron directing. Yet DC Comics hero Aquaman finally gets his stand-alone experience next weekend. Instead it’s Jason Momoa reprising his role as the waterlogged warrior after first seeing him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. James Wan, who made the Conjuring entries and Furious 7, directs. The supporting cast includes Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicole Kidman. In a bit of irony, Julie Andrews has a voice-over while Mary Poppins Returns serves as competition over the pre-Christmas frame.

Aquaman marks the sixth DC Extended Universe feature that began in 2013 with Man of Steel. The lowest grossing opener of the series was Justice League in November of last year with $93 million. All others (Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman) took in over $100 million. Forecasts and expectations aren’t as high here, but Warner Bros is certainly hoping for a sizable hit. The film opened in China last weekend to robust results. Reviews are fairly solid with a current Tomato rating of 78%.

No previous DC Universe production has premiered in the crowded holiday month of December. Direct competition comes from both Poppins (family crowd) and Bumblebee (action crowd). With Disney’s famous nanny getting a two-day jump on Wednesday, Aquaman appears in good position to grab the #1 spot.

My feeling is that it will do so with a gross in the mid 70s.

Aquaman opening weekend prediction: $77.3 million

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/15/welcome-to-marwen-box-office-prediction/

Justice League Movie Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a bit of a mess and it earned its reputation as such in many ways. However, I found myself seemingly in the minority of those who sort of dug it. Where it failed – it failed significantly. That includes the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor with his manic and bizarre take on the iconic villain. There were some narrative choices that were questionable. Yet when BvS worked, I felt it worked well and that included Ben Affleck succeeding as Batman.

Justice League is less cluttered. Zack Snyder, directing this DC Universe for the third time, captains a tighter ship with a shorter running time than what’s preceded it… and nearly all recent comic book adaptations for that matter. It is, of course, Warner Bros venture into Avengers territory. There’s a somewhat lighter tone that we first saw in the summer’s Wonder Woman stand-alone feature. The inclusion of The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) contribute to that. So does the fact that the unusually somber Superman (Henry Cavill) who brooded through much of Man of Steel and BvS is absent much of the time.

As you’ll recall, Superman was dead and buried at the BvS conclusion. Justice League opens with the world missing him and crime on the rise. Batman is doing his level best, but he needs a squad. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still dealing with the loss she experienced in her own movie, but she’s game to help. They recruit the newbies only glimpsed upon in BvS: The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). It is their mission to thwart the Earth dominating plans of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), a motion capture evil alien. The League incorporates their powers to do so, but they know they must resurrect the Big S to complete the task.

The Avengers had the advantage of having introduced several of its core characters in separate entries. That doesn’t hold true here for half of the Justice League. Miller provides some decent comic relief, Momoa has a memorable moment or two and Fisher’s backstory is a bit blah. Their inclusion feels a little rushed and a little watered down.

Curiously the villain issue of BvS, while highly disappointing, was at least fascinating to witness in a rather bad way. Here the character of Steppenwolf isn’t really interesting at all. Many of these comic book adaptations have suffered the most from bland baddies and this is another.

League finds time to bring back Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and Clark’s mama (Diane Lane) in limited fashion. J.K. Simmons turns up briefly as the previously MIA Commissioner Gordon. It is Gadot who shines brightest, which is no surprise considering her rock solid solo spotlight just months prior.

In essence, Justice League feels ordinary too often. It’s got the same flaws as others in the genre. It has the same bright spots with certain performances. There’s action sequences that impress and others with dodgier CG. Call me crazy, but I admired BvS often for its occasional audacity and untidiness. With Justice, it joins a league of plenty others like it.

**1/2 (out of four)

2017: The Year of Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins

At the beginning of summer 2017, if you’d told most box office prognosticators like me that Wonder Woman would outdo the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man that season, they would have thought your Lasso of Truth was defective.

That’s exactly what happened this year as the highest profile female comic book adaptation yet turned into the summer’s biggest hit. It will end up as the 3rd highest earner of the calendar year after Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast. 

Much of the credit goes to Gal Gadot, who was first seen as the character in last year’s not so well received Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the inclusion of Gadot’s Wonder Woman and her take on the iconic character was seen as one of the film’s bright spots.

Her solo pic was not expected to gross $412 million domestically, but that it did. That’s more than the aforementioned Marvel heroes and also Thor. And, yes, it’s bigger than November’s Justice League, which also included her character.

Much credit is also due to Patty Jenkins, who crafted one of the most critically acclaimed comic adaptations. It’s even generating some Oscar buzz. Her directorial effort marks (by far) the most box office bucks a female director has ever achieved.

While Justice League was a slight damper on Wonder Woman’s cinematic portfolio thus far, it certainly should not tamper excitement for the sequel coming in November 2019. And you can credit the director and lead actress for making that happen in 2017.

Box Office Predictions: December 15-17

As the weekend approaches, the burning box office questions are clear:

How will the animated Ferdinand open after Pixar’s Coco has dominated the charts for three weeks straight?

Could Wonder jump above Justice League as they enter their fifth respective weekends?

How well will The Disaster Artist hold after an impressive 800 theater expansion?

Oh… who am I kidding? We all know what this weekend is really about…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi freaking opens!!! After The Force Awakens crushed every box office record in sight two years ago, anticipation is mighty high for episode VIII. You can read my detailed prediction on it and Ferdinand here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/04/star-wars-the-last-jedi-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/06/ferdinand-box-office-prediction/

As you can see, I have Jedi slated for the second biggest domestic debut of all time behind its predecessor. My estimate puts it about $28 million shy of Awakens.

My take on Ferdinand is that it will get close to $20 million (it could surpass it) for a solid second place showing as it will may play well into the holiday frames ahead.

The rest of the top 6 should be filled with leftovers as a handful of high-profile titles open in the approaching Christmas weekend.

Here’s my top 6 projections:

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Predicted Gross: $219.7 million

2. Ferdinand

Predicted Gross: $18.6 milion

3. Coco

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million (representing a drop of 39%)

4. Wonder

Predicted Gross: $4.9 million (representing a drop of 43%)

5. The Disaster Artist

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million (representing a drop of 34%)

6. Justice League

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million (representing a drop of 55%)

Box Office Results (December 8-10) 

It was the quiet before the Force this weekend as Coco remained #1 for the third weekend in a row with $18.4 million, right on pace with my $18.3 million forecast. The Pixar effort has amassed $135 million total.

Justice League was second with $9.6 million (a bit above my $8.2 million prediction) as it’s earned $212 million overall.

Wonder placed third with $8.4 million (I said $7.6 million) as it crossed the century mark at $100 million.

The Disaster Artist received a nice expansion with a fourth place showing at $6.3 million, ahead of my $4.2 million projection.

Thor: Ragnarok rounded out the top five with $6.2 million (I said $6.5 million) as it blew past the triple century mark at $301 million.

Finally, the Morgan Freeman/Tommy Lee Jones comedy Just Getting Started sputtered in 10th place with just $3.2 million – not matching my generous $5.2 million prediction.

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

Box Office Predictions: December 8-10

The second weekend of December at the box office may look similar to this past one with Pixar’s Coco atop the charts for the third time. Unlike this previous frame, there are some newcomers as the Morgan Freeman/Tommy Lee Jones geriatric comedy Just Getting Started debuts and James Franco’s critically heralded The Disaster Artist greatly expands its theater count. You can peruse my Just Getting Started detailed prediction here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/29/just-getting-started-box-office-prediction/

As I see it, Just Getting Started may be lucky to eek out a fifth place showing. The Disaster Artist could be a wild card, but if its estimated 800 screen expansion stands, I’ll put it at $4.2 million and outside the top 5. Should its theater count expand, so will my forecast for it.

All in all, it’s a rather quiet weekend. However, that won’t last long as Star Wars: The Last Jedi is on deck next weekend.

And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. Coco

Predicted Gross: $18.3 million (representing a drop of 33%)

2. Justice League

Predicted Gross: $8.2 million (representing a drop of 50%)

3. Wonder

Predicted Gross: $7.6 million (representing a drop of 39%)

4. Thor: Ragnarok

Predicted Gross: $6.5 million (representing a drop of 34%)

5. Just Getting Started

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

Box Office Results (December 1-3)

Coco ruled the top spot again with $27.5 million, a bit ahead of my $25.2 million projection. The Pixar pic has taken in $110 million since its Thanksgiving release.

Justice League was second once again at $16.6 million (in line with my $16.8 million prediction) for a total of $197 million.

Wonder took third with $12.1 million (a bit below my $14.4 million calculation) for $87 million overall.

Thor: Ragnarok was fourth with $9.8 million, topping my $7.7 million estimate for $291 million thus far.

Daddy’s Home 2 was fifth with $7.5 million (I was close at $7.1 million) for an $82 million overall gross.

Murder on the Orient Express was sixth with $6.7 million (I said $6.9 million) and it’s made $84 million.

And that does it for now, folks! I’ll be back Monday with full box office predictions for the following weekend and tomorrow I will post my detailed Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening weekend estimate!