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/

Why Him? Movie Review

John Hamburg’s Why Him? borrows a bit from the Meet the Parents formula and no wonder because it was Hamburg who wrote that picture. He also cowrote that blockbuster’s two sequels, which dwindled in quality with each entry. Him? keeps the downward spiral going. That’s a shame because Mr. Hamburg’s two previous efforts behind the camera, Along Came Polly and I Love You, Man, were both pretty decent. This one never finds its rhythm.

Bryan Cranston is middle class Michigan man Ned Fleming, who travels with his wife (Megan Mullaly) and teenage son (Griffin Gluck) to visit college age daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) over the Christmas holiday. She’s got a new serious boyfriend in the form of Laird Mayhew (James Franco). He’s a super eccentric and ultra foul-mouthed tech gazillionaire with attachment issues. Naturally (and totally understandably), Ned doesn’t approve of the situation.

Why Him? is a cartoon with a hard R rating. There’s drug humor, toilet gags, and lots of sex talk. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before save for a gag involving a moose encased in urine (first time writing that sentence!). Franco is a performer that can be solid and also grating and the latter applies here. Cranston is a fantastic actor saddled with the straight man role. Part of the problem is I think we’re supposed to sympathize with Laird, but he’s such a bizarrely creepy dude that we never really do. The rare laughs come from supporting players. Keegan-Michael Key has a moment or two as Laird’s sidekick, as does Kaley Cuoco doing voiceover work as a Siri like assistant who watches all.

Overall, however, this is just a substandard example of a storyline we’ve seen done better… and from the same guy no less.

*1/2 (out of four)