Oscar Predictions: Lightyear

The buzz for Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear is just fine, but it’s not in the stratosphere of some of the studio’s other efforts. The origin story for the co-lead of the Toy Story franchise (voiced by Tim Allen for those four pics and by Chris Evans here) is at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

If Onward at 88% or Brave at 78% nabbed nominations in the Best Animated Feature Oscar derby, this should manage to do so as well pretty easily. However, let’s see how the competition plays out in the second half of the season. Pixar’s spring title Turning Red has probably reserved a spot and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio looms. Other hopefuls include Apollo 10 1/2 and Wendell & Wild. 

In the 22 years of its existence, Pixar has taken home exactly half of the Academy’s animation trophies (with Disney traditional picking up four more). Two of them were the third and fourth Toy Story sagas. The category wasn’t around for parts one and two and I bet both would’ve won. That bodes well for Lightyear though the somewhat mixed chatter could complicate matters. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Lightyear Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/16): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my Lightyear estimate down again – from $95.5M to $85.5M

Blogger’s Note (06/15): Revising my estimate down from $101.8M to $95.5M

Disney-Pixar is banking that the buzz for Lightyear will propel it to a nine figure opening orbit on June 17th. Serving as an origin story for one half of the beloved Toy Story duo, Angus MacLane makes his feature-length directorial debut. Captain America himself Chris Evans takes over vocal duties as the title character, replacing Tim Allen (who was heard in the four TS blockbusters). Additional actors providing the sounds are Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Uzo Aduba, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

The Mouse Factory is moving onward with theatrical only outputs for its Pixar brand after Soul, Luca, and Turning Red all hit the streaming circuit on Disney+. The last big screen studio offering was over two years ago with… Onward. 

For over a quarter century, the Toy Story franchise has been a gold mine. In 2010, part 3 premiered with $110 million and eventually earned $415 million domestically. The fourth entry in 2019 built upon that with respective numbers of $120 million and $434 million. They also both took home the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Lightyear may not quite reach those stratospheric heights since it’s a spin-off, but I don’t think it’ll come in with a whole lot less. I do believe a launch of just under $100 million is feasible.

Lightyear opening weekend prediction: $85.5 million

Hustlers Movie Review

Designer clothes and designer drugs fill the screen in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, inspired by a true story adapted from a New York magazine article. Focusing on a group of strippers who must figure out creative ways to make money after the 2008 financial crisis, this is a crime saga that often feels like a Mob movie trading tailored suits for Juicy Couture  and exotic heels. There are dramatic drawbacks and a lack of character depth in the director’s screenplay. It also features a dynamite performance from Jennifer Lopez and a pounding music score that renders this mostly gratifying.

Constance Wu is Destiny, who’s just nabbed a gig at NYC strip club Moves. She’s a novice in her new trade, but life perks up when she falls under the mentorship of fellow dancer Ramona (Lopez). They form a strong bond (Ramona is a mother figure that Destiny never had) and are a financial force among the Wall Street types that frequent the establishment. This turns out short-lived as the bottom drops out of the economy within a few months.

Destiny leaves the business and has a child from an unhealthy relationship. A lack of income brings her back to Ramona. However, the dollars aren’t rolling in like they used and Ramona is singularly focused on ways to keep the coffers filled. That’s when the duo enlist fellow employees Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and the weak stomached Annabelle (Lili Reinhart). The quartet takes on scores away from Moves and it involves drugging deep pocketed gentlemen and running up those black cards.

Hustlers is told in flashback as a journalist (Julia Stiles) interviews Destiny, who’s conflicted and guilt ridden about her actions. That trait does not apply to Ramona as she feels little sympathy for their marks. The picture is filled with energy when Lopez is onscreen, even if the script shies away from what motivates her (beyond the obvious monetary considerations). Destiny’s story and Wu’s portrayal is less captivating.

It is rather refreshing to watch something that has a Scorsese influence, but filled with much different looking glamorous law breakers. There’s no traditional score in Hustlers as the soundtrack is turned up loudly with primarily pop and hip hip hits from 2007 to 2014. A woozy sequence set to Scott Walker’s late 60s track “Next” turns out to be the musical highlight. We also hear a lot of Janet Jackson, who Lopez herself used to dance for. Other than some occasionally effective bits extolling the virtues of this odd family, don’t look for too much substance here other than the ones up a patron’s nose or mixed in their drink. Yet this is undeniably a pleasurable experience while it lasts.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Hustlers

I didn’t assume I’d be writing an Oscar Watch post for Hustlers, but it’s emerged out of Toronto with that distinct possibility in one category. Based on a 2015 New York magazine piece about a group of strippers who embezzle money from Wall Street types, the dramedy from director Lorene Scafaria is being called a wildly entertaining crowd pleaser.

Hustlers debuts next weekend and the critical reaction points to potent box office returns. Constance Wu of Crazy Rich Asians gets top billing, but it’s Jennifer Lopez who’s said to steal the show. I wouldn’t be surprised to see STXfilms mount a serious campaign for her in Supporting Actress.

The actress and singer has never been nominated for an Academy Award. Early in her career, she received raves for Selena and Out of Sight. Hollywood loves a big comeback role and Hustlers could fit the bill for voters to solidify it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hustlers Box Office Prediction

A group of actresses, many also known for their musical talents, play exotic dancers who take on wealthy Wall Street men in the dramedy Hustlers next weekend. Lorene Scafaria directs a cast led by Constance Wu (in his first big film role since breakout Crazy Rich Asians), Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, and Lizzo.

Based on a 2015 New York magazine article, Hustlers looks to tap into an often undeserved audience of minorities and women. It could be well positioned to do so. Wu and Lopez have their followers and I certainly wouldn’t underestimate the participation of Cardi B and Lizzo, who have consistently been producing Top 40 hits over the past few months.

The budget for the pic is reported to be between $20-$30 million and I believe that’s where the opening weekend should fall. If Hustlers tops $23 million, it would give Lopez her largest life action start ever (ahead of 2005’s MonsterinLaw). I’ll say it does and that would give it an impressive #2 debut behind the second frame of It Chapter Two.

Hustlers opening weekend prediction: $31.5 million

For my The Goldfinch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/09/05/the-goldfinch-box-office-prediction/