Oscar Watch: Frozen II

One week ahead of its massive launch, the review embargo has lifted for Disney’s Frozen II, the sequel to the 2013 animated smash that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Financial expectations are understandably enormous and a big question was whether it matches the quality of the original.

Early critical reaction suggests… not quite. Frozen achieved a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating while the follow-up is currently at 81%. Part 1 was nominated for two Oscars and won both – Animated Feature and Best Original Song for the omnipresent “Let It Go” as sung by Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta called her at the Academy ceremony).

Frozen II is very likely to be nominated in both races like its predecessor. The tune is likely to be the ballad “Into the Unknown”. However, unlike the original, it may not be the favorite to win in either category. The biggest competition in Animated Feature comes from another Mouse Factory sequel with this summer’s Toy Story 4 (which I still believe to be the frontrunner). Another non-Disney sequel, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, could also be a factor – albeit less so than Woody and Buzz. In Original Song, there’s serious competitors in the form of Elton John and Taylor Swift tracks from Rocketman and Cats, respectively.

Bottom line: Frozen II should nab the same nods that Frozen did. Victories are another story. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Frozen II Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/16): I’ve upgraded my estimate from $113.7M to $126.7M

Today, frozen is the word described by many as what they’re experiencing when they attempt to view Disney Plus on its first day of launch. Next weekend, Frozen II looks to heat up a sleepy box office and continue the Mouse Factory’s stellar year. This is the sequel to the 2013 smash hit that earned over a billion dollars worldwide. The computer animated musical fantasy has Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad returning to voice their known characters along with newbies Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Marsha Plimpton, and Jason Ritter. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee make a return engagement behind the camera.

Six years ago in November, part 1 turned into a phenomenon. Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the critically hailed Oscar winner took in $93 million and legged out impressively to a domestic haul of $400 million. This time around, expectations are understandably sky high. A gross north of $100 million out of the gate is anticipated.

With its rather short span between entries, Frozen II should achieve that status. I suspect earnings in the neighborhood of what Toy Story 4 ($120.9 million) took in this summer is the range. I’ll put it a few million over that mark.

Frozen II opening weekend prediction: $126.7 million

For my A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/13/a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-box-office-prediction/

For my 21 Bridges prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/11/15/21-bridges-box-office-prediction/

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist begins with filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Kevin Smith and actors Adam Scott, Danny McBride, and Kristen Bell extolling the strange virtues of The Room. That terrible movie became one of the most unlikely cult hits of the 21st century. The rest of the picture details its strange maker Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and the process to bring it to a midnight theater showing near you.

Just as The Room was Wiseau’s warped vision all his own, this is clearly a passion project for Franco. I suspect many of the other well-known actors who turn up in parts large and small are devotees of the unintentionally hilarious 2003 film that Franco is recounting. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, this is a good movie about a bad director. Not as good, but it’s an entertaining watch that doesn’t probe too far into its subject’s real story. Truth be told, maybe we don’t really wanna know.

Tommy Wiseau wouldn’t want it any other way. We first meet him in San Francisco circa 1998 as he pours his heart into Marlon Brando’s monologue from A Streetcar Named Desire at an acting class. His rendering is quite awful, but it’s his devil-may-care attitude and blind commitment that gets the attention of Greg (Dave Franco). He’s a fellow student who’s more reserved. Tommy is too, but in a much different way. His age is a mystery and he’s not about to tell it. A European accent (where in that continent… who knows?) counters his contention that he hails from New Orleans. Most interestingly, Tommy seems to have a limitless supply of money and no one knows why.

His new pal Greg manages to ignore those puzzling personal aspects and they road trip it to L.A. to move in together and pursue their dreams. Although he seems to have some prospects, Greg can’t catch a break. Tommy’s overall bizarre vibe is an immediate red X to casting agents. The only solution is to finance his own feature.

And The Room is birthed throughout a long shooting process with a director who has no clue what he’s really doing. We see Wiseau torment his cast and crew because he read somewhere that’s how Alfred Hitchcock did it. Those who know The Room will revel in revisiting Wiseau (who casts himself as the romantic lead) and his humorously questionable line readings. There’s his screenplay that inexplicably brings up cancer subplots that go nowhere and sex scenes that would be deemed too horrible for 2am Cinemax play.

Franco, who also serves behind the camera, is obviously enamored with getting his portrayal of Tommy’s mannerisms and his journey to make this project as accurate as possible. Even if you’re not familiar with Wiseau’s cinematic opus, one YouTube viewing of an interview with him and you’ll know Franco nails it. The star/director, in addition to casting his brother, finds roles for Dave’s real life wife Alison Brie and his frequent costar Seth Rogen as a perpetually bemused script supervisor. Yet just as the real Tommy made his personal relationships and the shooting experience all about him, so is the case with The Disaster Artist.

That devotion from Franco is enough to make this a worthwhile experience. If you’re looking for any insight into what really made Tommy who he is, you won’t find it here. The ultimate irony is that Wiseau did end up succeeding in a town where that’s nearly an impossible feat. He didn’t know that the earnest drama he thought he was making would result in Rocky Horror Picture Show style late night screening madness. What kind of man could achieve this? We may never know, but it’s a fun question for Franco and others to ponder.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Teen Titans! Go To the Movies

This Friday, Warner Bros animation is out with Teen Titans! Go To the Movies based on the Cartoon Network series. It’s a superhero spoof blending the characters of the show with notable icons from their catalog, including Nicolas Cage voicing Superman and Jimmy Kimmel as the Caped Crusader.

Early reviews are quite encouraging and it currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has the potential to be a summer sleeper that could appeal to kids and their parents. Will  Oscar take note?

That could be a reach. Warner Bros has had a critically acclaimed output recently with their Lego series. However, The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, and The Lego Ninjago Movie all failed to garner recognition in the Best Animated Feature category.

We can pretty safely say that two 2018 releases are already in for nods: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and Pixar’s superhero toon Incredibles 2. And there’s plenty more animated material to come. Despite positive buzz, that could mean Academy voters could fail to remember the Titans in a few months.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Box Office Prediction

***Blogger’s Note II (07/26): On the eve of its premiere, I’m bumping my estimate back up from $13.4M to $16.4M

**Blogger’s Note (07/20): My estimate for Titans has dwindled from $17.4M to just $13.4M. That could mean a debut in the lower rungs of the top 5.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies attempts to be the next animated hit of the summer when it debuts next weekend. This is a big screen version of the Cartoon Network’s series that debuted five years ago focusing on some fresh DC Comics superheroes. The cast of the show is here to voice their characters including Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, and Hynden Walch. And we have some familiar faces joining the voice over party including Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, James Corden, Halsey, and Lil Yachty. Nicolas Cage, who was supposed to play the Man of Steel in a scrapped live-action Tim Burton pic nearly two decades ago, finally gets to be Superman.

Fans of the series won’t propel this to the heights of other animated efforts this season like Incredibles 2 or Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. While Mission: Impossible – Fallout will undoubtedly dominate the charts next weekend, Titans will make a go for the #2 spot over holdovers Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and The Equalizer 2. 

A mid to high teens gross might be enough to achieve it and that’s the ballpark where I have this landing.

Teens Titans Go! To The Movies opening weekend prediction: $16.4 million

For my Mission: Impossible – Fallout prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/17/mission-impossible-fallout-box-office-prediction/

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

2016’s Bad Moms took its concept of three frazzled matriarchs letting loose and rode that wave to high box office bucks. As far as its quality, I felt it was a rather mediocre exercise that often unsuccessfully blended raunchy with pathos. Yet moviegoers turned out so now we have A Bad Moms Christmas, in which it turns out the bad moms from part 1 all have questionable ones themselves.

Our original trio is feeling the natural stress that comes from holiday planning. Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) decide to throw caution to the wind and not go crazy with the season’s headaches… other than the ones that their drunken mall trip hangovers might induce. Circumstances are altered when their mamas turn up. Christine Baranski is Amy’s control freak mom, Cheryl Hines is Kiki’s super clingy mom, and Susan Sarandon is Carla’s wild and distant mom.

The week leading to Christmas gives all three subplots time for arguments and making up, as well as Santa stripping shows and bonding over butthole waxing. That’s about as deep as we get from writer/directors Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, who are once again tasked with creating a shallow and surface level comedic dive into the female psyche.

A Bad Moms Christmas doesn’t go full throttle with its cartoonish aspects and doesn’t earn the attempted sentimentality it tries toward the end. What’s left is a sequel with less laughs than the first and the bar wasn’t exactly high. Among the cast, Hines comes off the best because she’s at least convincing as she apes daughter Bell’s look and mannerisms.

It’s tough for comedy sequels to succeed because most of them aren’t planned and feel rushed to capitalize on the success of what came before. This is yet another example.

*1/2 (out of four)

A Bad Moms Christmas Box Office Prediction

Last summer, Bad Moms was a breakout comedy that earned $23 million in its first weekend and went on to gross $113 million domestically. STXfilms has wasted no time in capitalizing with holiday themed sequel A Bad Moms Christmas, which opens next Wednesday. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn are back and this time around it’s their moms joining the mix in the form of Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are back handling directorial duties.

The quick turn-around on this follow-up likely means sequelitis will not creep in. Christmas could well serve as smart counter programming for females to the weekend’s giant release that is Thor: Ragnarok. The Wednesday debut will also give it a bit of a head start.

Due to the five-day roll out, the sequel may not quite match the $23 million achieved in its predecessor’s opening weekend. Yet it may get over that number in the Wednesday to Sunday earnings. I’ll estimate a high teens to low 20s premiere for the traditional weekend with mid to high 20s for the entire frame.

A Bad Moms Christmas opening weekend prediction: $18.7 million (Friday to Monday), $26.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Thor: Ragnarok prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/24/thor-ragnarok-box-office-prediction/

 

 

How to Be a Latin Lover Box Office Prediction

How to Be a Latin Lover hits stateside screens next weekend and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could be a decent sleeper hit. The rom com stars Eugenio Derbez, who’s a massive movie star in Latin America. Lover boasts a supporting cast of recognizable faces including Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Raquel Welch, and Rob Riggle.

In 2013, Derbez directed and starred in Instructions Not Included, which shocked domestic box office prognosticators when it made nearly $8 million on only 347 screens. It eventually made $44M in the U.S. Lover is bound to be a huge hit in Mexico when it premieres on May 5.

I don’t quite expect Instructions numbers here. Then again, no one saw Instructions coming either. I’ll say it manages between $5-possibly $7 million for a respectable showing.

How to Be a Latin Lover opening weekend prediction: $6.3 million

For my The Circle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/19/the-circle-box-office-prediction/

CHiPs Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (03/23): I am revising down my box office estimate to $8.4 million names on putrid reviews and lowered expectations.

A film that has challenged my ability to properly use capital and lower case letters in its title, CHiPs opens in theaters next weekend. The buddy cop comedy is a more humorous take on the 1970s-80s TV series that starred Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. Taking over their roles as California highway patrolmen are Dax Shepard (who also directs) and Michael Pena. Costars include Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, and Shepard’s real-life spouse Kristen Bell.

Warner Bros. originally had this pegged as a late summer release before bumping it to March. I don’t foresee this approaching, say, Starsky and Hutch numbers from 2004. That was also based on a buddy cop series from the same era, but its headliners Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson had considerably more drawing power at the time than Shepard and Pena.

The good news for the studio: CHiPs comes with a reported budget of just $25 million. I believe this vehicle could achieve over half of that in its opening weekend. That would put it behind other newbies Power Rangers and Life, but it’s not too shabby.

CHiPs opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million (prediction changed from $13.2M)

For my Power Rangers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/15/power-rangers-box-office-prediction/

For my Life prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/15/life-box-office-prediction/

The Boss Movie Review

There’s a through line that’s marked a number of Melissa McCarthy vehicles since her Oscar-nominated turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Take the greatly talented comedic actress, give her a mostly unpleasant character, establish a backstory that makes her somewhat sympathetic, and hope audiences eat it up. These rules have generally applied to Identity Thief, The Heat, and Tammy. None of them have been terribly impressive due to weak material. This applies to The Boss as well.

Reuniting with her Tammy director Ben Falcone (who’s also her husband), McCarthy is self-made mogul Michelle Darnell. She’s a ruthless investor who sells out arenas with her take no prisoners business advice. Kristen Bell is Claire, her overloaded executive assistant who isn’t even allowed that lofty sounding title. When Michelle’s actions land her a short stint in Club Fed for insider trading, she’s back to square one and dependent on her old subordinate for lodging. That means crashing on the sofa in a crowded apartment with Claire’s young daughter (Ella Anderson). A trip with that child to a Girl Scout type meeting gives Michelle her first post felony money making idea: take Claire’s delicious brownie making skills, market them with a team of cute kids selling them, and work her way back up the corporate ladder.

Along the way, Michelle clashes with some of her new minions parents (most humorously with Annie Mumolo’s tightly wound Mom). These clashes even lead to an Anchorman style no holds barred brawl (Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are producers). The title character also deals with some of her own movie backstory demons. When she was young, Michelle bounced from one unhappy foster home to the next and has no sense or need in her view for family. Claire and daughter threaten to upset that apple cart.

There’s also the matter of her business rival  Renault, former lover and wannabe samurai Renault (Peter Dinklage) trying to shut her burgeoning brownie enterprise down. His character is as bizarre as he sounds, but the “Game of Thrones” star does throw himself into it with gusto. A superfluous subplot involves Claire trying to get her groove back with a kind co-worker (Tyler Lapine).

The Boss veers between wildly broad characters and physical comedy (which McCarthy and her stunt double are quite good at) and attempts at heart string pulling that falls flat. McCarthy’s abilities were proven nearly six years ago in one Bridesmaids scene where she told Kristin Wiig to get her act together. It was a brilliant scene that I suspect is responsible for that Oscar nod. Unfortunately, by now, McCarthy’s act is getting disappointingly familiar and the material she’s giving herself is forgettable.

** (out of four)