Oscar Watch: The Prom

Prior to its December 11th bow on Netflix, the musical romantic comedy The Prom has screened for critics and the general consensus is that it’s a crowd pleaser that should see plenty of streams in a few days. An adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical, super producer Ryan Murphy handles directorial duties with an impressive cast including Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, and Jo Ellen Pellman.

The current Rotten Tomatoes score sits at 75%. Plenty of reviews praise its feel good vibes and that could be especially welcome in this thing we call 2020. On the other hand, the negative reaction is quite negative and that includes some pretty high profile publications that include EW and The AV Club. Netflix has plenty of major Oscar contenders this year and I wonder how hard they’ll press for inclusion here. While it should nab some Golden Globe nods (including the Musical/Comedy Picture race), the Academy’s love is far less certain.

If audiences sing its praises and it’s a runaway hit, I believe The Prom has an outside shot at Picture. As for its performers, Streep should never be counted out and this would mark her 22nd nomination. I feel her chances in the final five are better than they were a couple weeks back, but I’m currently reluctant having her make the cut. Same goes for Nicole Kidman in Supporting Actress or anyone else.

The best shot could be in down the line categories such as Costume Design, Sound, or one of its songs (though the recently released “Wear Your Crown” with Streep rapping has drawn plenty of eye rolls). Bottom line: don’t discount The Prom‘s ability to make it into the dance in Picture or Actress, but it’ll need lots of goodwill to get there.

Playing with Fire Box Office Prediction

John Cena follows the career path of fellow grappler Dwayne Johnson with the release of Playing with Fire next weekend. The family comedy casts him as a firefighter caring for rambunctious kids along with his coworkers. Andy Fickman directs and the cast includes Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haysbert, and Judy Greer.

The Paramount release is essentially taking the studio’s Instant Family slot from last year. That pic scored a fairly decent $14.7 million for its start and legged out to a $67 million domestic gross. Cena hasn’t proven himself to be a player in this genre, however, and I’d say Mark Wahlberg’s star power is a bit brighter.

The best hope for Fire is that it develops small dips in subsequent weekends if word of mouth is solid, but I believe it’ll be fortunate to reach double digits in its premiere.

Playing with Fire opening weekend prediction: $7.9 million

For my Doctor Sleep prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/29/doctor-sleep-box-office-prediction/

For my Last Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/30/last-christmas-box-office-prediction/

For my Midway prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/midway-box-office-prediction/

Dolemite Is My Name Movie Review

There are plentiful amounts of F bombs thrown out in Dolemite Is My Name. They are the kind that you associated with Eddie Murphy years ago. The F no longer stands for the family fare he starred in that bombed at the box office. Think Pluto Nash. Or Meet Dave. Or Imagine That. No, this belongs in a small sub genre of pictures where some of the players here have had involvement before. Dolemite tells the true story of a man breaking into the movie business with wide eyed spirit and contagious tenacity. The quality of the material produced is secondary.

Murphy is Rudy Ray Moore, who’s working at a record shop in L.A. when we begin. He has dreams of stardom, but the general consensus is that his time has passed. Rudy just won’t let that happen as he develops a comic persona that is one part rhyming (he ended up being a huge influence in the hip hop community), one part glorious 70s outfits of the era, and all parts raunchy as hell.

He achieves success in the underground comedy world where his records sell, but a screening of the Billy Wilder pic The Front Page gives him another idea. Rudy doesn’t see humorous material on the screen for the black audience and he’s going to be the one to give it to them. Obtaining financing (even at the height of the blaxploitation genre) is next to impossible so he’s creative in his methods.

Surrounding Rudy is a colorful (especially the clothes) and eclectic group of collaborators who aren’t entirely sure what they’ve gotten themselves into. They include actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes, having a ball). He never fails to remind others that he had a big part in Rosemary’s Baby and only joins the picture when he’s allowed to direct. Keegan-Michael Key is the screenwriter who thinks he’s making the kind of serious drama he writes for the stage. When kung fu and set shattering sex scenes take precedence, that notion is dispelled. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a scene stealer as Lady Reed, Rudy’s stand-up partner plucked out of a Southern bar.

Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander have travelled this road before with Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Murphy gave one of his finest performances 20 years ago in Bowfinger, where his costar Steve Martin was a director with unbridled and naive enthusiasm. The Disaster Artist with James Franco mined similar territory. So while Dolemite does feel familiar in its beats, it has its own brand of passion for its unlikely star.

We have the headliner to thank for it. This is Live From Netflix and is indeed Eddie Murphy’s show. The performer seems more inspired than he has in some time. It might help if you’re a Dolemite devotee (Murphy and many of the cast members are). Yet this is an entertaining watch either way as we watch a legend in his element.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Dolemite Is My Name

Ahead of its October 25 Netflix release, Dolemite Is My Name introduced itself to critics this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Seen as a comeback role for Eddie Murphy, early reviews suggest it’s just that. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who was instrumental to ushering in the blaxploitation genre of the 1970s with his title character. Craig Brewer, best known for helming Hustle & Flow, directs with a supporting cast including Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg, and T.I.

In 2006, Eddie was seen as the front runner in Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls. He was upset by Alan Arkin’s work in Little Miss Sunshine. This has been eyed as his first chance at Academy attention since. The issue could be significant competition in a Best Actor derby that appears stacked already.

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote the original screenplay and they’ve specialized in highlighting colorful entertainment figures in Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. Once again, they could face trouble nabbing nods as that writing race is jam packed.

So while Dolemite should succeed in garnering the kind of praise its star hasn’t seen for some time, awards chatter might be elusive. There could be one noteworthy exception. Ruth Carter’s costume design has been noted in numerous write ups. Just last year, she became the first African-American to win that category for Black Panther. She could find herself in the mix again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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/

The Predator Movie Review

There are moments in The Predator where it feels like the franchise went the route of 80s slasher series when Freddy, Jason, and Michael ruled the day. With the alien creatures roaming the suburbs for a brief stretch and with some deliriously gory bits and extreme profanity, I could imagine this is as the fifth installment when the well is running dry. This could maybe be Predator V following Predator In Harlem or something. It’s a time in the series when ridiculous and probably offensive characters like an autistic kid who’s actually deemed an enhancement in human evolution is introduced. The main protagonist would be dull and boring, not close to matching Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 original or even Danny Glover’s overburdened LAPD officer in the 1990 sequel. And the one-liners would harken back to the rock solid first one but generally be lamer.

Strangely enough, it’s some of that which makes the 2018 edition mindless fun in the first half. This isn’t anything of quality, but it serves as an occasional guilty pleasure VHS throwback that would have filled the shelves of those defunct rental institutions. I think director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker know that. Black has turned into a fine filmmaker with action comedies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. He’s known mostly for his behind the scenes work, but he memorably played the role of Hawkins in Predator’s big screen debut 31 years ago.

The screenplay makes some downright bizarre choices. Jacob Tremblay’s aforementioned autistic kid is one of them. His Special Forces dad Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) is that forgettable head alien battler. Holbrook discovers a title character on a mission and ships some evidence of its existence to his boy. That leads the extraterrestrial to the ‘burbs to retrieve his property. Quinn finds himself detained by the government led by shady Sterling K. Brown and in the company of a motley crew of PTSD soldiers. They include Trevante Rhodes (whose primary character trait is that he smokes), Thomas Jane (he has Tourette’s), and Keegan-Michael Key (yo mama jokes). They’re the guys, along with Olivia Munn’s biologist, who fight not only two Predators, but the space dogs that accompany them. That’s another odd visual choice.

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by Black and Dekker’s outright nuttiness with their take on The Predator. However, it doesn’t last. By the third act, the pic moves to a jungle looking setting with some dodgy effects. We’re hammered with familiarity. That’s what made famous predators like Freddy and Jason and Michael grow stale, but their countless sequels were punctuated with an inspired sequence here and there. We see that early in this reboot and then not really again.

** (out of four)

The Predator Box Office Prediction

Over three decades ago, Shane Black costarred in the classic sci-fi adventure tale Predator. Like most cast members, he didn’t manage to survive the proceedings like Arnold Schwarzenegger did. He did go on to an impressive writing and directing career that includes the screenplays for Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight and serving double duty for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys. Things come full circle next weekend for Black as he directs and co-writes The Predator, the latest iteration of the long running franchise.

Not counting the two Alien vs. Predator extravaganzas, this is the fourth traditional entry in the series behind the 1987’s original, its 1990 sequel, and the 2010 reboot Predators. Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Wonder star Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, and Thomas Jane populate the human troupe battling the deadly creatures.

It’s actually the first teaming of this franchise with the Alien series that resulted in the largest debut featuring the title character in 2004 – to the tune of a $38.2 million. Predators set the high mark over parts 1 and 2 (due to inflation) with a $24.7 million start. Its overall gross was very front-loaded as it ended up with $52 million.

The eight year inflation should allow The Predator to exceed that, but I don’t see it coming close to the high 30s number that AVP achieved. I would say high 20s is the more reasonable expectation and that should allow it to place #1 at the box office (something Predators couldn’t manage in the heat of significant summer competition). As a comp for 2018, I’ve got this earning a similar debut to this spring’s Pacific Rim Uprising. 

The Predator opening weekend prediction: $27.4 million

For my A Simple Favor prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/a-simple-favor-box-office-prediction/

For my White Boy Rick prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/white-boy-rick-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation Box Office Prediction

Adam Sandler’s animated franchise is back in theaters next weekend when Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation debuts. The Sony Pictures series moves to the summer season after its first two entries managed to set records in the month of September. While its star’s live-action efforts have gone the Netflix route, part 3 looks to score with family audiences in a more crowded marketplace than the parts I and II went up against.

Genndy Tartakovsky is back in the director’s chair. Besides Sandler, returning voices include Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Mel Brooks and newcomers Kathryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan.

As mentioned, kids and their parents have been receptive to this 3D monster mash on two occasions. In September 2012, the original premiered to $42.5 million with eventual domestic earnings of $148 million. That set the all-time largest debut for that month. Three years later, Hotel Transylvania 2 opened in September 2015 and made $48.4 out of the gate to break the month’s record held by its predecessor. It ended up at $169 million. The series held the 1-2 September spot until last year when It obliterated the record.

When it comes to competition for eyeballs, Incredibles 2 should be winding down though still grossing in the mid to possibly high teens. Marvel’s AntMan and the Wasp will only be in its second weekend and likely going strong. That said, Transylvania has proven itself before and I imagine it too will manage a low to mid 40s start even with the change of seasons. By doing so, that should put it in line for the #1 spot over AntMan and the debut of Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation opening weekend prediction: $43.6 million

For my Skyscraper prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/03/skyscraper-box-office-prediction/

The Star Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping family and faith-based audiences make the journey to The Star next weekend. The animated tale is centered around some talking animals and their adventures as the first Christmas is occurring. Some familiar faces in both the film and music world provide voices including Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key, Tyler Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Zachary Levi, Tracy Morgan, Anthony Anderson, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Patricia Heaton, and even Oprah Winfrey.

Made for a small reported budget of just $18 million, The Star will hope to shine brightly with its intended audience before Pixar’s Coco arrives just five days later for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Prognosticating for this one is a little tricky. I could certainly see it exceeding expectations with a gross high in the teens. However, I believe a more likely scenario is an opening weekend in the lower double digits to maybe lower teens with hope that it holds over well the following holiday weekend (even with the Coco competition).

The Star opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million

For my Justice League prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/07/justice-league-box-office-prediction/

For my Wonder prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/08/wonder-box-office-prediction/