Oscar Watch: Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton is a thrice Oscar nominated actor (two supporting for Primal Fear and Birdman and lead in American History X) and he’s brought his latest feature to the Telluride Film Festival. In the 1950s set crime thriller Motherless Brooklyn, Norton not only stars but directs. It’s his second feature behind the camera (at least that he’s credited for). His first was the largely forgotten rom com Keeping the Faith with Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman. The supporting cast for Brooklyn is an impressive one with Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Leslie Mann, Willem Dafoe, and Alec Baldwin.

However, reviews out of Colorado hint that this will largely be forgotten as well. Despite praise for its ambition, the general consensus seems to be that Motherless is a bit of a misfire. While several other pictures from Telluride and Venice have solidified their standings, this would appear to an example of one that will not be a factor with awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Welcome to Marwen

Nearly a quarter century ago, Robert Zemeckis was the toast of Oscar night with Forrest Gump, famously beating out now classic works including Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. With the release of Welcome to Marwen this Friday, it’s clear that things have changed.

The true life drama (based on the acclaimed 2010 documentary Marwencol) casts Steve Carell as a victim of violence who develops amnesia and invents his own fantasy world. From the release of its first trailer, the film failed to garner any awards buzz. We are now seeing reviews only two days before it release. That’s rarely a positive sign. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently a troubling 21%. Box office estimates are low.

Bottom line: Welcome to Marwen never developed as a contender and the buzz out today shows why. There is one caveat. The pic did make the shortlist of ten possible nominees for Best Visual Effects. However, my current projections show Avengers: Infinity War, First Man, Black Panther, Ready Player One, and Mary Poppins Returns as the ones that will elevate. My weekly picks will be released early tomorrow and (spoiler alert!) Marwen will place 8th. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Welcome to Marwen Box Office Prediction

It’s looking to be a rough road ahead for Welcome to Marwen, which debuts next weekend and could get lost in the holiday shuffle. It casts Steve Carell in this based on a true story drama of an assault victim who develops amnesia and develops his own fantasy world. Robert Zemeckis, the man behind Back to the Future and Forrest Gump and most recently Allied, directs. Costars include Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae, and Gwendoline Christie.

Marwen simply hasn’t managed to generate any heat. It’s been the subject of zero awards chatter and we have a slew of real Oscar contenders populating multiplexes. If it performs poorly, it would be Carell’s second dramatic flop in a row this season after Beautiful Boy.

This film is reminding me a lot of last year’s Downsizing, which also opened Christmas weekend. It also had recognizable stars, a known director, genre similarities, and precious little buzz. The result? An opening of just over $5 million. I’m putting this even lower.

Welcome to Marwen opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

Blockers Movie Review

Perhaps Emoji decoding will be a term that is looked upon as a dated reference years from now when one views Blockers with fresh eyes. However, it’s one that’s used to humorous effect in 2018 in a comedy that lands more comedic punches than it misses. This is a raunchy confection laced with an often surprising amount of sweetness. Director Kay Cannon, making her directorial debut after writing the Pitch Perfect franchise, is careful to mix them well and she’s got a game cast along the way.

The plot is straightforward: three high school seniors make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. In the 1980s when these types of flicks were more prevalent, it would usually be just the boys plotting these actions. In Blockers, it’s the girls. Julie (Kathryn Newton) is ready to do the deed with her beau and she’s got ultra clingy single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) constantly breathing down her neck. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) has overprotective pops Mitchell (John Cena) and a date who amusingly uses his culinary skills for mind expanding purposes. Sam (Gideon Adlon) has a strained relationship with her party boy dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) and a fedora clad prom partner that doesn’t match her personal preferences.

When the trio of parents discover their daughters plans, they set out to disrupt the deflowering scheme and go to humiliating lengths to do just that. At one point, that means butt chugging at an after party for a certain wrestler turned thespian. Not exactly high brow stuff, but a funny sight gag nonetheless.

At other junctures, Blockers deftly portrays its teens as both naive due to their age and occasionally more intelligent than their over reactive folks. They’re not bad kids solely focused on sex, even though their elders focus is centered on stopping that for varying reasons. The whole coddling storyline with Mann and Cena’s characters is a well-worn one. However, both performers shine in their sometimes familiar scenarios. Barinholtz’s arch with his daughter is little more unique and a bit fresher – and he winningly avoids making his character one-dimensional. Of the three young women, Viswanathan is an actress to keep an eye on in the future.

There’s sex, drugs, and Hailee Steinfeld songs in Blockers, where sin and sentiment manage to coincide well most of the time. The thumbs up emoji applies.

*** (out of four)

Blockers Box Office Prediction

Like its direct competitor A Quiet Place that also opens next weekend, Blockers made quite an impression with journalists and festival goers when it debuted at South by Southwest earlier this month. The raunchy comedy about parents trying to prevent their daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night marks the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, best known for penning the Pitch Perfect franchise. The cast includes John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Graham Phillips, and Hannibal Buress.

Its festival premiere caused some buzz and it now stands at 91% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The Universal release has now been pegged as a potential sleeper at the box office. Competition is light in the genre and the solid reviews should help. As I see it, the ceiling for Blockers is likely the $17 million achieved in February by Game Night, another comedy that received kudos from the critical community.

I’m not sure it will reach quite that high. I’ll project an opening in the low to mid teens and it could continue to play in subsequent weekends, just as Game Night has.

Blockers opening weekend prediction: $15.2 million

For my A Quiet Place prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/27/a-quiet-place-box-office-prediction/

For my The Miracle Season prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/30/the-miracle-season-box-office-prediction/

For my Chappaquiddick prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/30/chappaquiddick-box-office-prediction/

How to Be Single Movie Review

How to Be Single is about four single gals finding their way in the Big Apple and if that sounds like “Sex and the City”, you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s Alice (Dakota Johnson), our central Carrie character. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the inappropriate Samantha like friend. Lucy (Alison Brie) is the Charlotte-ish hopeless romantic who’s constantly trolling dating sites for true love. And Meg (Leslie Mann) is the career woman (and Alice’s older sister) whose got it together, but realizes she needs a baby. Kind of like Miranda.

Alice is just embarking on her first dip into the single pool when she breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and sees what NYC has to offer. It includes a bartender (Anders Holm) that has the playa life down cold and a sweet widower and dad (Damon Wayans Jr.) still getting over his wife’s death. There’s also the ex-flame (Nicholas Braun) who keeps turning up. Truth be told, none of these relationships are terribly interesting or well-written and Dakota Johnson still seems to be struggling to infuse much personality into her performances. This is also a problem that plagued Fifty Shades of Grey, which was far more dreadful than this.

If anything, How to Be Single is just kind of dull and conventional. It sold itself as a raunch fest, but it’s not. My favorite moments involved Mann and her earnest younger boyfriend (a funny Jake Lacy), yet the script never succeeds in juggling its separate plot lines. More of those characters might have worked. Maybe. The screenwriters might have figured out a way to make them tiresome, too.

** (out of four)

 

How to Be Single Box Office Prediction

One year ago, Dakota Johnson became a huge star over President’s Day Weekend when Fifty Shades of Grey made an astounding $85 million over the Friday to Sunday portion of that frame. Now she’s back on screen on the same weekend with raunchy rom com How to Be Single alongside costars Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann.

The film hopes to capitalize on Johnson and Wilson’s drawing power and ushering in a sizable female audience (while their male counterparts could be distracted with Deadpool or Zoolander No. 2). It also doesn’t hurt that Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday and it could perform well that day.

Single will still be lucky to gross a fourth of the business that Grey did when it spanked all competition last year. That said, I believe it could actually challenge the Zoolander follow-up for #2 (while Deadpool rules the charts). I’m putting it just slightly below what I believe that comedy sequel will do.

How to Be Single opening weekend prediction: $18.7 million

***Please note this prediction is for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and not the full Friday to Monday President’s Day Weekend

For my Deadpool prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/02/03/deadpool-box-office-prediction/

For my Zoolander No. 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/02/03/zoolander-no-2-box-office-prediction/

Vacation Movie Review

The reboot of Vacation may make you long for the days of European Vacation, which came 30 years before it. Not the original Vacation from 1983, which this pic is most inspired by. Not Christmas Vacation from 1989. This new entry doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those two franchise highlights. I’m saying this is substandard to the Griswolds overseas adventure, which was certainly nothing special and this is more on the level of 1997’s unfortunate Vegas Vacation when the series ran out of steam.

Our fifth flick concentrates on grown up Rusty (Ed Helms) and his bored wife (Christina Applegate) taking their two boys to Walley World, the famed amusement park from the original. What follows is an R rated celebration of sex jokes, poop jokes, and pedophilia jokes (yep) that does little to capture the spirit of when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo took their brood from Chicago to California the first time around. There’s plentiful nods to the ’83 pic and even Clark and Ellen show up for a surprisingly unfunny cameo where Chevy essentially bumbles around for five minutes. Sister Audrey appears in the form of Leslie Mann, now married to weatherman hunk Chris Hemsworth (who does manage to provide a few weak laughs). Cousin Eddie is nowhere to be found (let’s assume he went to Canada).

Vacation isn’t terrible but the majority of its jokes are obvious lowbrow and tired ones mixed in with intermittent genuine laughs. The new Griswolds incarnation is uninspired and this is not a Vacation we need.

** (out of four)

Vacation Box Office Prediction

A new generation of Griswolds comes to the big screen as Vacation hits theaters this Wednesday. It’s been 32 years since Clark, Ellen, and the kids starred in the now classic original and 18 years since the last installment, the poorly received Vegas Vacation.

Our reboot finds Ed Helms as the grown up Rusty Griswold with Christina Applegate as his wife. Leslie Mann costars as sister Audrey with Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day among the supporting cast. And as you’ve likely seen from the trailers and TV spots, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do return once again.

The name brand and nostalgia factor alone should be enough to get this Vacation off to a pretty healthy start. There is some comedy competition in the form of Trainwreck‘s third weekend, but that shouldn’t be a huge factor. With its five-day roll out, the pic looks poised for a likely second place showing behind the weekend’s other newcomer, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. I’ll say it manages to reach mid 20s over the five day frame.

Vacation opening weekend prediction: $17.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $24.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/07/23/mission-impossible-rogue-nation-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s 15 Most Anticipated 2015 Summer Movies: Nos. 15-11

In less than one month, the Summer 2015 Movie Season will be upon us! That means studios will be bringing out their big wannabe blockbusters with sequels, reboots, animated tales, comic book heroes, and a surprisingly robust group of potentially intriguing comedies.

Therefore, I am bringing you my personal 15 most anticipated summer movies for the year. Let me talk briefly about some pictures that didn’t quite make the cut. I left off animated fare such as Pixar’s Inside Out and Despicable Me spin-off Minions. Same goes for Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL and the film version of HBO’s Entourage. And then there’s a film I figured would make the cut: Terminator: Genisys that marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to his iconic role after 12 years. Why? Quite frankly, I wasn’t crazy about the trailer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still highly curious to watch it.

I will be breaking up my list in three installments and we begin this evening with numbers 15-11. Subsequent posts covering the top ten will arrive Friday and Saturday.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

15. Spy

Release Date: June 5

Originally, I probably wouldn’t have figured Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy would make the cut. That’s until reviews from screenings at South by Southwest came out and they indicate this is the star’s best feature so far. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Feig, director of McCarthy’s Bridesmaids and The Heat is behind the camera. Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham co-star.

14. Masterminds

Release Date: August 14

From the director of Napoleon Dynamite comes this heist comedy with a killer cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis. The trailer inspires hope.

13. Vacation

Release Date: July 31

Yes, they’re rebooting the Vacation franchise with Ed Helms and Leslie Mann as grown-up Rusty and Audrey and Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back as Clark and Ellen. Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlie Day round out the cast. Here’s to hoping this is more like the original and Christmas Vacation than Vegas Vacation. No trailer has been released at press time.

12. Southpaw

Release Date: July 24

Jake Gyllenhall has been on a roll lately choosing his projects, including last year’s terrific Nightcrawler. This sports drama sees him playing a boxer with serious family issues. It also sees him heavily bulked up in a pic that could get awards attention, like 2010’s The Fighter. Antoine Fuqua directs (he made Training Day and The Equalizer) and Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker co-star.

11. Fantastic Four

Released Date: August 7

The first two installments of the famed Marvel comic books (the ones with Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis) were decent size hits, however critics didn’t approve. This reboot comes from Chronicle director Josh Trank with a cast that includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan and it will attempt to begin the franchise anew.

And that’s all for now! Numbers 10-6 coming at you tomorrow…