In 2017, comedian Kumail Nanjiani had a breakout hit with The Big Sick, a dramedy based on his real life experiences with his wife. An unexpected box office success, the pic even managed buzz for a Best Picture nomination and for Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress. Neither nod materialized and the film’s sole nomination was for its Original Screenplay.
The rom com/murder mystery The Lovebirds teams Nanjiani with his Sick director Michael Showalter once again. It’s out on Netflix today after Paramount moved it to streaming service from an April theatrical date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pic is generating fairly decent reviews (66% on Rotten Tomatoes) and praise for the chemistry between leads Nanjiani and Issa Rae, the critical reaction doesn’t approach that of Sick (with its 98% Tomato meter). Bottom line: don’t expect the Lovebirds to gather any passion to fly before the radar screen of awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.
A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.
So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.
With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.
My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!
Let me start by stating the obvious – with COVID-19 or the Coronavirus dominating the worldwide news cycle, its impact on the moviegoing public is very far from the most important story. However, this is a blog focused on the world of film and especially the box office.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has touched the cinematic universe this week and beyond. The major news in this space began a couple of days back when the latest James Bond pic No Time to Die was delayed from April 10th until November. Producers made no secret that Coronavirus was the reason. For a tentpole release of this stature to get delayed opens up the real possibility of others that could follow. On a smaller scale, the Dave Bautista comedy My Spy was pushed from next Friday to mid April.
News continued yesterday as the South by Southwest Festival in Austin was canceled. Scheduled to begin on March 16, SXSW serves as a launching pad for dozens of features and documentaries. In 2020, this included such high profile titles as David Lowery’s The Green Knight, Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson, and Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick follow-up The Lovebirds starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae.
We will see what the future brings as outside factors are certainly influencing how studios and festival organizers make decisions.
Blogger’s Update (01/15): Revising prediction down to $22.3 million
Robert Downey Jr. can speak to animals in Dolittle, but will the film speak to family audiences when it opens next weekend? The pic takes the well known character (previously played by Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy) and places him in a pricey $175 million budgeted adventure. Stephen Gaghan, known for directing the 2005 political thriller Syriana, is the rather surprising choice for behind the camera duties. Our marvelous cinematic Iron Man leads the human cast that also includes Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jessie Buckley, and Jim Broadbent. Many familiar faces are responsible for voicing the animal cast. That list includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, and Marion Cotillard (four Oscar winners among them!).
Dolittle was slated to be released last spring before it underwent reportedly extensive reshoots. The release of a property like this with its budget and leading man in late January is a bit curious and perhaps concerning.
Opening over the long MLK weekend, Dolittle will be in a battle for first place with Bad Boys for Life. Gauging the box office prowess of Downey is tricky nowadays since he’s pretty much only been Tony Stark over the past several years (those movies sell themselves).
Family audiences have had plenty of titles to choose from in the past month including Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Spies in Disguise, and Jumanji: The Next Level. All three should bring in decent amounts of cash over the long frame. However, even with shaky buzz, Dolittle should hit mid to high 20s over the four days and north of $30 million is feasible. That puts it in second position based on my Bad Boys forecast or perhaps even third behind the second frame of 1917.
Dolittle opening weekend prediction: $22.3 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
From the directors of the BadMoms pics, Jexi dials into theaters next weekend and is hoping for a decent reception. The comedy stars Adam DeVine as a loner obsessed with his phone. When he gets an upgrade that includes Rose Byrne voicing the title character/feature, life begins to improve until the artificially intelligent being develops an obsession with him. Costars include Alexandra Shipp, Michael Pena, Justin Hartley, and Wanda Sykes.
I have a hunch Jexi will have a tough time connecting with filmgoers. As far as its effectiveness via trailer and TV spots, I’m getting a bit of a Stuber vibe. That comedy with Kumail Nanjiani stalled over the summer with just an $8.2 million opening weekend. And one could argue Nanjiani has more drawing ability than DeVine.
Considering that, I’ll say this will be lucky to reach that number and won’t do so.
You won’t need one of those neuralyzer doohickeys to forget MeninBlack: International, which extends the rust developed from part two of the franchise on. Will Smith has moved on from this series to dealing with aliens in Netflix pics and being the man in blue in Disney remakes. Tommy Lee Jones has retired as well. So the Marvel Cinematic duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok don the sunglasses in this reboot. Their chemistry was better with the MCU team and that movie had a funnier alien in the guise of Jeff Goldblum.
Hemsworth is the hunky Agent H, top operative at the U.K. MiB branch run by Liam Neeson’s High T. Thompson is essentially a fangirl of the super secretive force who’s been aware of their existence since childhood. She recruits herself to the suit and is assigned by Emma Thompson’s Agent O (reprising her MeninBlack3 part) to travel overseas and partner with her Thor. The plot involves stopping a nasty species that goes by the Hive. One of the baddies is an arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson that had an inter species love affair with H. Some of the other villains are kept secret for most of the running time, though you’ll see it coming from a galactic mile away. And there’s Kumail Nanjiani voicing the CG creation Pawny. He gets in a few mildly amusing lines.
F. Gary Gray has taken over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld and he doesn’t have to top a high bar of its predecessors. 1997’s original was a fun summer blockbuster melding science fiction and comedy with genuine chemistry from the two leads. I struggle to recall anything about the first sequel. #3 was a slight improvement if only for Josh Brolin’s uncanny impression of a young Tommy Lee Jones.
I doubt many have much of an affinity for this franchise beyond what came 22 years ago. And while International does indeed trot the globe from Paris to London and Morocco and New York to Italy, it mostly feels flat.
Arriving two years following his breakout theatrical role in TheBigSick, Kumail Nanjiani stars in Stuber next week. He plays an Uber driver who picks up a detective (Dave Bautista) and becomes embroiled in action comedy shenanigans. Michael Dowse directs with a supporting cast including Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Mira Sorvino, and Karen Gillan.
Stuber premiered at the South by Southwest Festival back in March to mixed reaction. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is a middling 47%. That leaves it without the positive word of mouth that greeted Nanjiani’s Sick.
I don’t believe the rather generic looking trailers and TV spots will make this is a must see among many moviegoers. I’ll predict this struggles to even reach low teens.
The Men in Black are back onscreen for the first time in seven years, but they look a lot different this time around. Subtitled International, this is a sequel/reboot of the franchise that ruled the summer 22 years ago. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are nowhere to be found. Instead it’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles with F. Gary Gray taking over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Liam Neeson, and Emma Thompson (reprising her role from 2012’s MIB3).
Despite its two stars being part of this season’s behemoth Avengers: Endgame, audiences might be skeptical to revisit a two decade old series that they identified with Smith (currently headlining the hit Aladdin). Comparing the opening grosses of the MIB trilogy that preceded it is tricky. All three opened over holiday weekends with the first two over July 4th and the third over Memorial Day weekend. Their traditional Friday to Sunday grosses were consistent in the low to mid 50s. When factoring in the extra holiday additions, parts one and two got into the 80s with #3 nearing $70 million. It’s worth mentioning that each entry earned less domestically overall than the previous one.
MeninBlack: International, holiday or no holiday, looks bound for the lowest premiere yet in the franchise. I’ll say low 30s.
MeninBlack: International opening weekend prediction: $30.7 million
Like yesterday’s Year of 2017 honoree Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish started 2017 as a stand-up comic not known to a large swath of the American public. Yet as the year draws to its close, Haddish is now quite well-known due to her scene stealing performance in the summer’s comedic sleeper hit.
Alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith, it was Haddish who garnered the most buzz in GirlsTrip, which surprised all prognosticators when it grossed $115 million. It was 2016’s Keanu that gave Haddish her first notable role, but that picture was largely ignored. Yet her raw, profane and outlandish Dina character gave the actress a showcase filled with standout moments.
Critics groups and Hollywood have certainly taken notice. Haddish became the first African American comic to host “Saturday Night Live” this fall. In 2018, she will reunite with Trip director Malcolm D. Lee for NightSchool with Kevin Hart.
Expect to see lots of Haddish in the coming years and 2017 was unquestionably her breakout.
It was early in 2017 when The Big Sick started garnering buzz from its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Nearly one year later, the unique rom com was a smashing box office success and established its star/co-writer as a fresh and exciting new voice on the big screen.
Kumail Nanjiani was best known for his role on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and stand-up. He had appeared in numerous supporting roles in comedies such as Central Intelligence and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but The Big Sick was something else entirely.
The Pakistani born performer penned the screenplay with wife Emily V. Gordon. Loosely based on their relationship and their dealings with her illness and cultural issues, the pic resonated with critics and audiences. The reported $5 million production took in $43 million stateside with a sizzling 98% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sick could soon attract Oscar attention, especially for Best Original Screenplay and Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress.
For Nanjiani, the year began with a festival screening that turned his movie into an audience favorite throughout the year. 2017 ends with his many new fans eager to see his next move.