J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry is back in theaters next weekend with the release of FantasticBeasts: TheCrimesofGrindelwald. It’s the second in a series of five planned features as it looks to conjure up huge box office dollars like predecessor FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem did.
Early reviews are out and the reaction is mixed at 56% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even the most acclaimed HarryPotter pics were ever considered awards contenders for major categories. However, down the line technical races are another story.
Two years ago, the first Beasts managed two Oscar nominations: Production Design and Costume Design. It won the latter. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be a factor in both of those categories again. That said, voters could feel they’ve already honored the franchise with part 1. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are in the realm of possibility, if unlikely.
Bottom line: the costumes especially could garner attention, but don’t expect Grindelwald to exceed (and maybe not match) the first movie.
The wizarding world of J.K. Rowling is back next weekend when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts. This is the follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which precedes the events of the massive Harry Potter franchise. David Yates (who made the last four Potter flicks and the first Beasts) is back directing. Returning cast members include Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, and Johnny Depp, whose role as the villainous title character will expand from his cameo in the predecessor. Jude Law joins the party as a younger Dumbledore.
There is no doubt that Grindelwald will easily top the charts upon its release, just as all Rowling universe titles have. The real question is how it opens in comparison to 2016’s effort, which premiered on the same November weekend. I believe there’s some solid historical data to consider.
In 2001, the first Potter film (The Sorcerer’s Stone) made $90 million out of the gate. One year later, follow-up Chamber of Secrets made just a tad less at $88 million. This seems like a likely scenario with Grindewald.
The first Beasts took in $74.4 million for its start two years ago and I’ll put the sequel right under that for a low 70s beginning.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening weekend prediction: $70.1 million
Jonah Hill has two Oscar nominations to his credit in Supporting Actor for 2011’s Moneyball and 2013’s TheWolfofWallStreet. Now the actor broadens his horizons this fall with Mid90s, his directorial debut which he also wrote. It has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
Based on early reactions from critics, Hill has made an impressive first feature behind the camera. The coming of age dramedy stars Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges (who’s everywhere this awards season with BoyErased and BenIsBack), and Katherine Waterston.
While reviews are solid, Mid90s doesn’t look like Best Picture kind of material for Academy voters. It’s best chance could be recognition for Hill in the Original Screenplay race.
Bottom line: while this looks poised to kickstart a second career for its maker, Oscar chatter could be hard to come by.
The film opens October 19 domestically. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Ridley Scott is now nearly 40 years into his Alien franchise which started with his 1979 classic and preceded Alien: Covenant with the often confounding Prometheus from 2012. Scott has now made half of the six series entries. In many ways, this latest one is the least effective of all. It’s not bad and I’d say none of them have been (middling, yes). Covenant, however, lies in a strange place. The dark visual splendor and occasional jump horror scares are present at times. Memorable characters are not and that’s different than when we were rolling with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and others. The film is indeed a sequel to Prometheus, which was more of an existential exercise about where we come from and not a traditional xenomorph flick. Covenant wants to cover that territory, as well as bringing H.R. Geiger’s famed creature more in the frame.
There’s another crew in deep space and they’re on a colonization mission occurring a decade after the events of Prometheus. The membership of this crew (the Covenant) differs from previous ones in that they’re married couples. When a malfunction on the ship wakes them from their long slumber, they must deal with that quickly. A longer term problem is an unexpected xenomorph presence onboard which soon causes a growing widow population.
Katherine Waterston is Daniels and she’s basically new Ripley, but not as interesting. Danny McBride brings a little gravitas to the party as Tennessee, the ship’s pilot. Billy Crudup is the anointed captain. Yet it’s a Prometheus holdover that gets the most attention. Michael Fassbender is back as David, the android who stood out in the predecessor. When the crew must land on a planet they weren’t supposed to, they find him. Finding out what he’s been up to since the end of Prometheus takes up plenty of screen time. Fassbender doubles his time as he also plays Walter, a newer model droid that part of the Covenant crew. Their dynamic is somewhat intriguing in moments, but I never got over one big issue. I simply wasn’t begging for the unanswered Prometheus questions to be filled in, as that picture didn’t ultimately warrant the curiosity.
The talented Mr. Ridley never struggles to master production design and visuals. True here. And he strives to bring the gory action that we previously expected from this franchise. It’s here, but the mayhem is inflicted upon characters we won’t remember for long and with a xenomorph who’s popped out of better written people before.
Now that Harry Potter’s wand has been cinematically retired (at least until Warner Bros figures out how to eventually resuscitate him), it’s J.K. Rowling to the rescue with FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem. This is the first entry in the wizardry world with a screenplay directly from the famed author who created it. This expands greatly on her 2001 novel (which is when Harry debuted onscreen) to create another franchise meant to draw youngsters into its spell, as well as Potter fans of all ages.
In order to achieve that goal, David Yates is back directing. He’s responsible for the last four features in the Potterverse. Our central character this time around is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist from London who comes to New York City circa 1926 with a briefcase full of creatures. It’s not clear immediately why he’s in the Big Apple, but his back story tells us of his time at a little school called Hogwarts where he was expelled and was tutored by a much younger Dumbledore.
Wizards need to be registered stateside and Newt finds himself generating the skepticism of Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (obviously). She’s frustrated with her job, which is headed by its President (Carmen Ejogo) and enforced by Colin Farrell’s head of security. Newt and Tina team up to protect his various beasts and those who wish to destroy them. It’s not a two-person team as Newt befriends aspiring baker and World War I vet Jacob (Dan Fogler). Tina’s mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is also involved and is the apple of Jacob’s eye. Before we continue with the rest of the review, let me declare that the subplot of Jacob and Queenie’s flirtation and budding romance was my favorite thing about the movie. Fogler serves as the general comic relief here anyway and does so quite wonderfully. Sudol shines in her first role. Their chemistry has genuine magic and if there was ever a case for a rom com spin-off of a hoped for multi-billion dollar franchise, this is it.
Moving on, that’s a small but very winning part of the two-hour plus running time. I wish I could say the chemistry between Newt and Tina was as impressive, but it’s not. Tina is a bit of a blank slate in this first installment and it certainly remains to be seen whether Redmayne’s Newt will come anywhere close to being as beloved as you know who. He’s got a long way to go. Not even Harry Potter could have sold doing a “mating dance” with a titillated CG rhino and neither can Newt. On the other hand, Beasts has its own version of a StarWars-like cantina scene with Ron Perlman’s cool voicing of a nefarious creation and it’s a highlight.
There are other performances worthy of note, including Ezra Miller as an abused teen with mysterious powers and Samantha Morton as his wizard hating adopted mom doing the abuse. Our main villain Grindelwald is mostly just spoken of but not seen (kind of like Voldemort was for a bit), but we know he’ll play a bigger role as the series moves along.
FantasticBeasts is heavy on effects (most of them eye-catching) and creating the visually arresting template for sequels. I didn’t think it reached a Sorcerer’sStone level of quality as far as part 1’s, but Rowling is generally successful in making us curious about what comes next with this real and generated crop of characters.
On paper, The Current War certainly looks like a potential Oscar contender. It comes from the Weinstein Company, a studio that knows how to get their pictures nominated. It’s a period piece drama featuring previous nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, as well as other recognizable faces like Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, and Katherine Waterston. It’s director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 indie dramedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
War casts Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Shannon as George Westinghouse in their rivalry to determine whose electricity would power the world. Yet the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend has dimmed its chances at Academy attention. There’s a small number of reviews available, but most of them have been negative and it’s at just 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Unless the Weinstein group figures out a way to make some nominating magic happen, it’s unlikely Current will factor into the race at all. Mr. Shannon, on the bright side, could get Supporting Actor attention for the far more well-received The Shape of Water.
Blogger’s Note (08/17): I am revising my Logan Lucky prediction down to $10.5 million on the eve of its debut.
The eclectic Steven Soderbergh is back in theaters with heist comedy Logan Lucky, debuting next weekend. It marks the director’s first theatrical release in four and a half years since Side Effects and first picture altogether since 2013’s Behind the Candelabra which premiered on HBO.
Lucky is headlined by many familiar faces, including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig (getting raves for the role), Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, and Sebastian Stan. Reviews have been quite pleasing and it stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, being frequently compared to the Ocean‘s trilogy that Soderbergh made.
Even with the solid reviews and a NASCAR tie-in (the film’s heist takes place at a race), there could be some issues with this completely breaking out. There is direct competition in the form of The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and it’s more likely to debut a bit higher. The mid August release date is also not one that lends itself well to openings above $20 million.
I’ll predict Lucky‘s number falls in the low to possibly mid teens, as it will hope to leg out well in future weekends (and may well do so).
Logan Lucky opening weekend prediction: $10.5 million
For my The Hitman’s Bodyguard prediction, click here:
Five years after director Ridley Scott returned to the franchise that got his career going, he’s back behind the camera again for Alien: Covenant next weekend. This is the sixth installment in the series that Scott began 38 years ago with the beloved Alien.
That love did not quite extend to 2012’s Prometheus, which drew mixed audience and critical response. Michael Fassbender returns as android Walter with a cast including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, reported return appearances from Noomi Repace and Guy Pearce, and James Franco apparently.
Five years ago, Prometheus opened to $51 million but its so-so buzz meant a front loaded overall gross of $126M. Reviews for Covenant have been mostly solid and it stands at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. One encouraging sign: several critics have noted this gets the franchise back to its horror roots unlike its predecessor.
It’s also said to be a direct sequel to Prometheus and one wonders if the bad taste it left in some mouths will prevent this from topping it. I’ll predict Covenant does not reach the $50M+ achieved half a decade ago and that mid 40s seems more feasible.
Alien: Covenant opening weekend prediction: $44.6 million
For my Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Long Haul prediction, click here:
The wildly popular fantasy world created by J.K. Rowling is back in theaters for the first time in five years as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them debuts next weekend. Based on a novel by the Harry Potter author, Beasts looks to create a new franchise for Warner Bros after that aforementioned wizard yielded the studio $2.3 billion dollars for the previous one. David Yates directs and he knows this universe well after making the last four Potter installments. Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne stars with a supporting cast that includes Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, and Jon Voight.
The reported $225 million production is intended as the first in a five-part series and it’s safe to say there’s a lot riding on this one. Seven of the eight Potter pics reside in the top 100 domestic earners of all time and even the lowest grossing one (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) made just under $250M.
So where does this first entry in a budding new franchise land? I don’t believe it’ll quite reach the $90 million that first Potter experience The Sorcerer’s Stone opened at 15 years ago. That said, a gross in low to mid $80s range out of the gate seems quite probable. I’ll predict it’ll do just that and we can expect to see plenty more wizards and muggles coming our way in the near future.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opening weekend prediction: $83.1 million
For my Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk prediction, click here:
Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs is a masterwork in editing, use of music, and fine performances doused with the dialogue that is unmistakably that of Aaron Sorkin. The man in the title, played by Michael Fassbender, is presented as he’s often said to have been: frustrating. There are certainly times in this picture where the audience will be angry at Mr. Jobs and Sorkin’s script doesn’t sugarcoat his considerable flaws, which include his inability to acknowledge his own daughter. At the same time, this is a work that appreciates its central character, imperfections and all.
The film is constructed much like a play and in three acts centered around the launch of the Apple Founder’s products. In 1984, it’s the Macintosh. In 1988, the failed NeXT computer after Steve had been dumped from his own company. In 1998, the iMac which helped lead to iEverything and market domination. Through this 14 year journey, we meet the people who populate this temperamental genius’s life. There’s his marketing exec Joanna (Kate Winslet), constantly by Steve’s side and witness to historical triumphs and her boss’s failures. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is the jilted company cofounder who kept Apple afloat for many years while Jobs got all the credit. John Sculley (a typically rock solid Jeff Daniels) is the CEO who is both an enemy and father figure. And the biggest through line comes from Lisa, the daughter that Steve can’t bring himself to properly father.
Steve Jobs eschews the conventional cliches of a biopic, just as the man who hated conventional may have preferred. While Fassbender doesn’t exactly resemble Steve, his performance is quite an accomplishment and succeeds in nailing down his complexities. The loyal yet often flustered Joanna is brought to life wonderfully by Winslet. Sorkin’s well known snappy dialogue should please his many admirers and the story structure is creative enough that you probably won’t quibble with reported historical inaccuracies. Truth be told, no two hour tale could properly nail presenting the enigmatic title subject, but Steve Jobs the film has a talented team doing their level best.
Love or hate him or (like most) appreciative and confounded by him, this picture fascinatingly is another puzzle piece of the man whose existence constantly is at our fingertips.