Oscar Watch: Trolls World Tour

Well… it feels a little strange to be back doing an Oscar Watch post, but here we are! The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives during this time and that certainly has impacted the release of films as movie theaters are shut down.

Studios have had to be creative lately and the animated sequel Trolls World Tour became available for digital distribution today in lieu of a theatrical bow. The DreamWorks Animation flick is a follow-up to the hit 2016 musical and features the voice work of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Four years back, the original Trolls broke through with audiences and most critics with a 76% Rotten Tomatoes score. Part 2 is a notch below that with a still solid 71%. That said, the predecessor failed to nab a Best Animated Feature nomination and I wouldn’t expect this to grab one either.

Of course, there is the genuine question of shifting release dates with various titles already pushed to 2021. That could potentially increase the chance for a nomination, but I wouldn’t count on it.

In 2016, Trolls did achieve one nomination. That was for Justin Timberlake’s hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”. It lost to “City of Stars” from La La Land. Mr. Timberlake has teamed with SZA for “The Other Side” and that seems to be the track that DreamWorks might campaign for an Original Song nod. However, “Side” has currently peaked at 17 on the Billboard Top 40. Its road to a nomination is certainly less assured than the massive “Feeling!”.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Wonder Wheel

As the New York Film Festival draws to its close, another piece of the Oscar puzzle has revealed itself with Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel. Early critical reaction is a bit mixed yet there seems to be general consensus that Kate Winslet’s lead performance is wonderful.

As has been discussed numerous times already on the blog, Best Actress looks packed with this year. There’s already acclaimed performances from Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes, Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul, and Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game, among others. That’s in addition to Meryl Streep’s unseen but likely contending work in The Post. Even with all that significant competition, Winslet could well be in line for her 8th nomination, having won once in 2008 for The Reader.

The cinematography for Wheel has also received praise and that’s certainly a race where a nod is doable. However, I am now thinking Woody’s latest is a long shot to nab a Best Picture nomination and Original Screenplay seems less assured now (that’s another crowded category). Juno Temple has received some decent ink today, but a Supporting Actress nomination could be a stretch. Male costars Justin Timberlake and Jim Belushi appear to be non-factors.

Bottom line: Winslet keeps her name in the mix, but other categories seem less likely now than they did yesterday.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2016 Oscars Reaction

Well… then! Who expected that ending at the Oscars?? One that involved Bonnie and Clyde, Leonardo DiCaprio, wrong envelopes, and a mild Best Picture upset! Yes, the jokes about that already infamous finale to the 89th Annual Academy Awards deserves the endless tweets about M. Night Shyamalan coming up with it and Steve Harvey being off the hook for his Miss Universe gaffe.

All in all, it was a fairly unpredictable night even up until that wild conclusion. My predictions went 14 for 21. Expect for Picture, I did get all the high-profiles race right: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) for Director, Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) for Actor, Emma Stone (La La) for Actress, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) for Supporting Actor, Viola Davis (Fences) for Supporting Actress, Moonlight for Adapted Screenplay, and Manchester for Original Screenplay. Animated Feature Zootopia and Foreign Language Film The Salesman were also rightly called. Down the line categories that I got right: Original Score and Song (La La and “City of Stars” from that film), Production Design and Cinematography (La La), and Visual Effects (The Jungle Book).

I whiffed on Documentary – O.J.: Made in America was the front runner and won over my upset pick I Am Not Your Negro. Others: Sound Editing (Arrival instead of Hacksaw Ridge), Sound Mixing (Hacksaw instead of La La), Makeup and Hairstyling (Suicide Squad over Star Trek Beyond), Costume Design (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over Jackie), and Editing (Hacksaw over La La).

And, of course, Best Picture, where La La Land won for about two minutes before the Academy’s producers pointed out a mistake and that Moonlight actually won.

The evening started on a happy note with Justin Timberlake dancing his way into the auditorium to his hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job hosting for the most part. Some bits worked better than others. I enjoyed the group of tourists unknowingly being brought to the theater and his endless ribbing of Matt Damon. The candy and cookies falling down to the audience felt a little old hat. The In Memorium package was a little tough with the legends lost this year and props to Jennifer Aniston for mentioning the passing of Bill Paxton as news had just broke that morning.

Did the show feel long? Of course. It always does, but for those that stuck around… yowza! That was an Oscar ending that will not soon be forgotten.

2016 Golden Globes: Who Will Win?

This Sunday evening, the Golden Globes (perhaps the most significant Oscar precursor) airs with Jimmy Fallon hosting. Unlike the Academy Awards, the Globes divide both Picture and the Lead Acting races in two categories: Drama and Musical/Comedy.

Here’s how I have each race playing out with the winners predicted. As a side note, I decided to not do my weekly Oscar predictions yesterday and will have an updated post on Thursday next week!

With that, let’s get to the races…

Best Drama

The Nominees: Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Todd’s Prediction: Moonlight

Analysis: Not an easy prediction as this will probably boil down to Moonlight and Manchester, with both Hacksaw and Lion being potential spoilers (Water is only pic I see as having no shot). The winner of this category will likely vault into a two-way race with La La Land as to what comes out on top at Oscar time.

Best Musical/Comedy

The Nominees: 20th Century Women, Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins, La La Land, Sing Street

Todd’s Prediction: La La Land

Analysis: It would be pretty shocking if Damien Chazelle’s ode to Hollywood musicals didn’t win here. I suppose perhaps Jenkins has a dark horse shot, but this is the easiest pick of the bunch to make.

Best Director

The Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Longergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Todd’s Prediction: Damien Chazelle

Analysis: Jenkins has racked up a slew of precursors and a win for Gibson would be seen as completing a remarkable comeback after multiple personal issues. However, at the end of the day, I believe the La La love will extend to its director.

Best Actor (Drama)

The Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Joel Edgerton (Loving), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences).

Todd’s Prediction: Casey Affleck

Analysis: Like the Oscar race, this looks to be between Affleck and Washington. I’ll give the former the slight edge as he’s won more precursors and Manchester itself was nominated for Picture, whereas Fences was not.

Best Actress (Drama)

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals), Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Todd’s Prediction: Natalie Portman

Analysis: While I wouldn’t totally rule out an Adams or Huppert win, Portman has the edge in her acclaimed role of Mrs. Kennedy.

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)

The Nominees: Colin Farrell (The Lobster), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins), Jonah Hill (War Dogs), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)

Todd’s Prediction: Hugh Grant

Analysis: Conventional wisdom would point to a Gosling win, but I believe the Hollywood Foreign Press will provide a bit of an upset here and honor Grant. Also – don’t be too shocked if Reynolds manages to surprise.

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)

The Nominees: Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply), Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Todd’s Prediction: Emma Stone

Analysis: Bening and Streep are long shots, but it would be a rather large upset if Stone didn’t emerge victorious here.

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), Dev Patel (Lion), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)

Todd’s Prediction: Mahershala Ali

Analysis: Bridges or Patel are feasible, but Ali has received the bulk of precursor awards and I believe that will continue here.

Best Supporing Actress

The Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Todd’s Prediction: Viola Davis

Analysis: Davis is the clear front runner here and at the Oscars. An upset win (possible for any of these actresses other than Spencer) could dispel that notion, but it probably won’t occur.

Best Screenplay

The Nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Nocturnal Animals

Todd’s Prediction: Moonlight

Analysis: La La and Manchester are in the mix here, but this is probably where Barry Jenkins will get his win and not for direction.

Best Original Score

The Nominees: Arrival, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight

Todd’s Prediction: La La Land

Analysis: Tough one and it’s not out of the question to envision any of them winning. I’ll just go La La and see what happens.

Best Original Song

The Nominees: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls, “City of Stars” from La La Land, “Faith” from Sing, “Gold” from Gold, “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Todd’s Prediction: “City of Stars”

Analysis: There’s some real heavy hitters here: Justin Timberlake, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Stevie Wonder with nominations. Yet I think the HFPA honors La La once again.

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, Sing, Zootopia

Todd’s Prediction: Zootopia

Analysis: Kubo has a shot and you can never dismiss Disney with Moana. However, there’s another acclaimed Mouse Factory title in the mix and I believe Zootopia gets in.

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: Divines, Elle, Neruda, The Salesman, Toni Erdmann

Todd’s Prediction: Toni Erdmann

Analysis: Elle could absolutely win here (and perhaps The Salesman), but I’ll go with Academy favorite Erdmann.

And that does it, folks! I’ll have a post up Sunday night letting you know how well (or poorly) I did. Until then…

Trolls Box Office Prediction

Viral intrigue hits multiplexes as Trolls, a timely thriller about Internet irritants, debuts next weekend. OK, the 3D animated musical kiddie pic is actually about those dolls with the funky spiked up hair and it hopes to capture a sizable family audience.

The Dreamworks effort comes with a reported $120 million budget and features the voices (both spoken and in song) of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, and James Corden. The soundtrack has already yielded Timberlake’s summer smash “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”. Reviews thus far have been surprisingly quite positive and it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Early November has been fertile ground for animated fare in recent years past. Some of the original titles and their opening grosses include: 2007’s Bee Movie ($38M), 2010’s Masterminds ($46M), 2012’s Wreck-It-Ralph ($49M), 2014’s Big Hero 6 ($56M), and last year’s The Peanuts Movie ($44M). There is one significant factor standing in the way of Trolls potentially achieving those numbers and that would be Marvel’s Doctor Strange, which debuts directly against it. While the wild haired characters of this may be looking to siphon off an even younger audience (and their parents), Strange should undoubtedly succeed in bringing in families as well.

That said, I expect Trolls to manage a mid-30s roll out and likely play well into the month of November.

Trolls opening weekend prediction: $34.6 million

For my Doctor Strange prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/10/25/doctor-strange-box-office-prediction/

For my Hacksaw Ridge prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/10/26/hacksaw-ridge-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)

Oscar History: 2010

In my ongoing series of Oscar History posts, we arrive at what happened during the year 2010. This was quite a strong year for movies and, unlike other years, I can’t really quibble with the ten pictures that were nominated.

I can, however, differ with what won: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. While this was a very solid and entertaining picture, I would have definitely put at least three of the other nominees above it: Black Swan, Inception, and my favorite of the year, The Social Network. Other nominees were 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. 

Picture/Director matched up as Tom Hooper’s work in King’s Speech would win over Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), and David O. Russell (The Fighter). I may have found a spot for Christopher Nolan’s visually striking work in Inception. 

The love for The King’s Speech continued in Best Actor as Colin Firth was honored for his portrayal as King George VI. He triumphed over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and James Franco (127 Hours). It’s worth noting that Franco co-hosted the Oscars that year with Anne Hathaway. It wasn’t too memorable.

While his supporting players were showered with love, Mark Wahlberg was snubbed for his anchoring performance in The Fighter. Others worthy of mention: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island and Robert Duvall for Get Low.

Natalie Portman was a bit of a no-brainer pick for her tour de force work in Black Swan in the Actress race, beating out Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

I was a little surprised to see Bening’s Kids lead costar Julianne Moore left out. Franco’s co-host Anne Hathaway would’ve been a solid choice for her fine work in Love and Other Drugs. The Oscar voters rarely honor comedy, but they could have here with Emma Stone in her hit Easy A, as well.

Supporting Actor honored Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother in The Fighter. The other nominees were John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech).

I might have found room for either Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And keeping the snubbed comedy theme going, here’s an outside the box mention: Rob Corddry for his hilarious work in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Fighter also won in Supporting Actress with Melissa Leo, who edged out her co-star Amy Adams. The other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. The voters could have certainly nominated either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for their roles in Black Swan.

And that’s your Oscar History of 2010, my friends. We’ll get to 2011 soon…

Runner Runner Movie Review

There is probably a fascinating motion picture to be made about the seedy underworld of online gambling (a thriving multi-billion dollar industry), but Brad Furman’s Runner Runner isn’t it. To add to the disappointment, we have two lead actors involved that clearly have better things to do and have spent the last several years doing them. Runner Runner isn’t worth their time or ours.

Justin Timberlake plays Richie, a poker whiz who’s going for his Master’s Degree at Princeton when his financial woes lead to him to Costa Rica to seek out Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), who runs the largest online gaming site in the world. They become friends and business partners, but Richie soon learns his new glamorous life is a lot more dangerous than he thought. In short, Ivan is Gordon Gekko. Richie is Charlie Sheen’s character. In the Daryl Hannah role of the girl who’s caught between both men is Gemma Arterton of Quantum of Solace and Hansel&Gretel: Witch Hunters fame. And there’s Anthony Mackie as a FBI agent hot on Ivan’s trail.

The most memorable item about the pic is its lovely scenery with Puerto Rico doubling for Costa Rica. That’s about where my praise ends. The performances aren’t bad, but the actors aren’t given much to work with. Affleck is essentially recreating his character from a stronger effort, 2000’s Boiler Room. Timberlake is serviceable, but we’ve seen him much better in The Social Network when he has a character that’s more fully developed. Arterton’s thinly written love triangle with the two principles is perfunctory.

Runner Runner‘s main failure is the director and writers utter failure to generate any suspense. Ivan Block is a bad guy, but the audience never feels that Richie’s life is truly in danger. As mentioned, the picture’s subject is ripe for examination but you won’t find it in this by the numbers and lazy effort. 2008’s 21, with Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey, focused more on blackjack and it’s nothing special either, but at least it was directed with energy.

The good news is that Mr. Timberlake and Mr. Affleck have been doing remarkable work over the last few years, in their respective musical and directorial careers. Runner Runner is the type of movie that they don’t need to waste their time with anymore, but unfortunately they did. My advice is just to ignore it and pop in Argo or look forward to Gone Girl or cue up “Mirrors” and “Suit and Tie” to appreciate what they’re capable of.

** (out of four)

Top 25 Justin Timberlake Songs: Nos. 5-1

And now we’ve reached the best of the best when it comes to my personal favorite Justin Timberlake songs of all time! If you missed numbers 25-6, you can click the following links and find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/19/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/20/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/21/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-15-11/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/22/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-10-6/

Here’s the crème de la crème:

5. “SexyBack” from FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

The first single from his greatest album, JT’s label was worried about this club anthem being the #1 single. They needn’t worry. It spent seven weeks at #1.

4. “What Goes Around…Comes Around” from FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

The third single from FutureSex, this mid-tempo ballad is yet another triumph of production from JT’s partner Timbaland.

3. “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows” from FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

FutureSex‘s fourth single is a jam that would’ve fit Michael Jackson well. As is common with JT/Timbaland collaborations, the beat switches towards the end to a slower groove.

2. “Mirrors” from The 20/20 Experience (2013)

JT’s most romantic track to date is an absolutely beautifully composed ballad. The radio version is fantastic while the longer album version is flat out brilliant.

1. “Cry Me a River” from Justified (2002)

Maybe the greatest breakup track ever stands as JT’s biggest masterpiece. Timbaland’s production is exquisite. This isn’t just JT’s best pop song. It’s one of the best pop songs of all time.

And there’s my list! I’ll be hearing the vast majority of them in five days when I see JT in concert. But who’s counting?

 

Top 25 Justin Timberlake Songs: Nos. 10-6

We have breached the Top Ten of my personal Top 25 Justin Timberlake songs! We’ll get to the top five tomorrow. If you missed my first three posts covering numbers 25-11, peruse them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/19/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/20/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/21/top-25-justin-timberlake-songs-nos-15-11/

To the top 10 we go:

10. “Not a Bad Thing” from The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (2013)

JT’s current hit single closes out his newest album in grand fashion – a fabulous mid-tempo ballad that sounds more like his old N’Sync material than pretty much anything else he’s done. And that’s not a bad thing in this case.

9. “FutureSex/LoveSound” from FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

The influence of Prince is present on the title and opening track to his magnificent second album. At first listen, you knew he was moving in a different direction than Justified four years earlier.

8. “My Love” from FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

One of his biggest smash hits, the second single from FutureSex is a standout featuring rapper T.I.

7. “Rock Your Body” from Justified (2002)

If this sounds like the greatest track Michael Jackson never made, that’s no accident. This Neptunes produced pop classic was originally offered to the King of Pop.

6. “Pusher Love Girl” from The 20/20 Experience (2013)

With its edgy lyrics comparing his love life to a drug induced high, the first track off 20/20 is a glorious eight minute masterpiece of production from Timbaland and JT’s vocals. And those opening strings…

Alright, top five tomorrow! Until then…