Annabelle: Creation Movie Review

The 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle didn’t exactly leave me clamoring for an origin story of the motionless demonic doll, but here we are with Annabelle: Creation. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, this prequel manages to be a slight improvement. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much.

A prologue documents toy maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically losing their young daughter. Dad’s profession reveals that he’s the creator of the doll that first appeared in 2013’s The Conjuring. We suspect his child’s demise will later tie into Annabelle’s evil ways.

We skip ahead to a dozen years later in the mid 1950s as six orphans and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman) are looking for a home. They are taken in by the Mullins family on their sprawling country property. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is crippled by polio and quickly stricken by a feeling that something isn’t right with the creepy doll she finds at the house.

Those familiar with the franchise know the technicians involved in the film’s making pretty much take it from there. Creation wishes to generate its suspense through sounds and lighting reveals. David F. Sandberg, who last directed Lights Out, is behind the camera.

The original Annabelle felt like what it was – a quick cash grab to build on the success of The Conjuring. It also looked a little cheap. This doesn’t. It’s just not very scary. If you add up all the time throughout several pictures where the camera lingers on its title character, you might have enough screen time for a fifth entry in the series.

The makers of Creation succeed occasionally at putting together a fast scare, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime seems drawn out and routine. All the camera tricks and sound works cannot ultimately make Annabelle seem more than a mostly dull ploy to keep the franchise rolling.

** (out of four)

Annabelle: Creation Box Office Prediction

The demented doll made famous four summers ago is back in Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to 2014’s original, which itself was a spin-off of 2013’s breakout horror smash The Conjuring. This follow-up is from director David F. Sandberg, who made last summer’s well-received Lights Out. Stars include Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto.

There is one major difference between the 2014 spin-off and its sequel. While Annabelle only obtained a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this one is surprisingly at 100% and is obviously said to be a marked improvement.

How will that translate to box office dollars? Annabelle opened to a better than anticipated $37.1 million and was front loaded in its business with an eventual $84 million domestic gross. The Conjuring 2 from last summer couldn’t quite match its original’s debut (though it was awfully close at $41 million vs. $40 million).

Competition is relatively light, but even with the solid reviews, I don’t expect Creation to quite match the premiere of its predecessor. However, it may leg out better. I’ll say a high 20s to low 30s debut is most probable.

Annabelle: Creation opening weekend prediction: $31.4 million

For my The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature prediction, click here:

For my The Glass Castle prediction, click here:

Lights Out Movie Review

The low-budget horror pic Lights Out comes from producer James Wan, who’s mastered the art of using sound effects to max effect in his Conjuring franchise. Here, director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer leave it to their production crew as well to generate the vast majority of scares. In something named Lights Out, you could correctly surmise that the lighting technicians are of key value here. Their work is often impressive.

If only there were a compelling story to match the occasionally nifty crew contributions. The pic opens with an effective intro where a textile warehouse owner meets his demise due to a shadowy female figure who appears only in the darkness. Flash forward to the man’s widow (Maria Bello) living with her grade school age son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) and trying to cope with his death. Her grieving patterns are a bit off kilter as she seems to be conversing with that same otherworldly creature who took her husband away. This overall creepiness leads Martin to seek out his half sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer). She left years ago due to her own father’s abandonment and Mom’s strange behavior. Together, the siblings uncover a lot of backstory to explain what is happening. Tagging along is Rebecca’s boyfriend (Alexander DiPersia), who gets a gold star for sticking around when the going gets rough.

I give Lights Out some credit for attempting to fashion a narrative that goes out of its way to justify its character’s behavior, particularly with Bello. She veers between pharmaceutically chill and understandably freaked out. It helps that the performances are uniformly solid. A problem here is that once the existence of Diana (she’s the spirit wreaking all this havoc) is addressed, Lights sort of lumbers on with the same scare tactics repeatedly. There’s only so many times the flick of a lighting switch and the boo moment that follows doesn’t become redundant. It’s an issue that plagued the Conjuring sequel with its familiar sound effects jump moments from the original. In the plus column is that director Sandberg keeps it brisk at just 81 minutes. For a horror flick freaky Friday night, you could do a lot worse than this. Still, there’s plenty else that illuminates the genre in superior ways.

**1/2 (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: August 5-7

The first weekend of August at theaters brings us two new films. One is among the most eagerly anticipated movies of the summer. The other finds Kevin Spacey reincarnated into the body of a cat.

They are Suicide Squad, the DC Comics gathering of super villains (including Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as The Joker) that looks to be a box office juggernaut and Nine Lives, the aforementioned Spacey/kitty cat pic. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

Warner Bros. has to be feeling pretty confident with their Squad goals. My prediction for it puts it at the 15th highest domestic opening of all time and it has a legit chance at ruling the box office charts for the entire month of August.

As for Nine Lives, I’m predicting it falls just under double digits for a sixth place showing. As for holdovers, Jason Bourne will likely lose more than half its audience in weekend #2 while the drop for Bad Moms may not be quite as pronounced. Moms may stay put at third with Star Trek Beyond slipping to fourth and The Secret Life of Pets rounding out the top five (though those two could swap spots).

And with that, a top 6 predictions for the weekend:

  1. Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $144.3 million

2. Jason Bourne

Predicted Gross: $27.1 million

3. Bad Moms

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

4. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million

5. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

6. Nine Lives

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million

**At press time, here are the results for my poll on the newbies:

Suicide Squad

52% believe my prediction is “Just About Right”

37% believe my prediction is “Too High”

11% believe my prediction is “Too Low”

Nine Lives

43% believe my prediction is “Just About Right”

37% believe my prediction is “Too High”

20% believe my prediction is “Too Low”

Box Office Results (July 29-31)

Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne brought audiences in to the tune of $59.2 million – a solid opening that didn’t match my estimate of $67.6M. While the star’s last turn as the title hero in 2007 performed better with $69M out of the gate, this is still a hefty enough debut to warrant further franchise entries.

Star Trek Beyond fell precipitously in its sophomore frame with $24.7 million for second, under my $28.5M prediction for a two-week take of $106M. The third Trek pic in this particular franchise will easily be the lowest grosser thus far and puts into question its viability going forward (and… beyond).

Bad Moms had a good start in third with $23.8 million, a bit below my $26M projection. As mentioned above, it may not fall too hard next weekend to remain in third.

The Secret Life of Pets was fourth with $18.9 million (above my $16.4M forecast) for a $296M total. A less successful animated feature – Ice Age: Collision Course – was fifth in weekend 2 with $10.9 million (I said $10.1M) for an overall gross of $42 million. Sleeper horror hit Lights Out was sixth, earning $10.8 million in its second weekend (I said $10.6M). It has also made $42 million so far. Ghostbusters was seventh in its third weekend with $10.1 million (a touch under my $11.2M projection) for a $106M total.

YA tech thriller Nerve performed fairly well in an 8th place debut with $9.4 million over the traditional weekend and $15.4 million since its Wednesday roll out – slightly below my respective estimates of $10.8M and $16.3M.

Rounding out the top ten: Finding Dory in ninth with $4.3 million (I said $4.5M) for a $469M haul and The Legend of Tarzan in tenth with $2.4 million (I was over with $3.6M) for a $121M total.

Outside the top ten, Woody Allen’s Cafe Society expanded nationwide and placed 12th with $2.3 million. I said $2.3M! So we’ll end on that high note!

That’s all for now – until next time…

Box Office Predictions: July 29-31

**Blogger’s Note: Mid-week numbers for NERVE has significantly upgraded my estimate to $10.8M for Friday to Sunday and $16.3M for Wednesday to Sunday. These changes are reflected in the breakdown for the top 10 below. – TT

***Blogger’s note 2 (07/28/16) Cafe Society opening on less screens that I anticipated. My $3.8M Estimate now revised down to $2.3M, outside of top ten.

The final weekend of July comes at us with three new debuts: Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne, raunchy comedy Bad Moms, and techno thriller Nerve. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

As I see it, Mr. Bourne should have no trouble ruling the charts and I have the fifth franchise entry (and first with Damon in nearly a decade) falling just short of the series high debut of $69 million for 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. 

It’s after that where things get a little more interesting. The battle for second place could be a close one as I have Bad Moms posting a very solid debut that may put it in close proximity to the second weekend of current champ Star Trek Beyond. 

As for the rest of the top five, The Secret Life of Pets should easily hold the fourth spot while a three-way battle for #5 should be fought between Ghostbusters, Lights Out, and Ice Age: Collision Course (all of which posted similar grosses this past weekend). I’m estimating Ghostbusters will have the smallest decline of the trio and manage to stay put at the five spot.

Then there’s Nerve, which opens Wednesday. I’m not expecting much out of it – so much so that I’m placing it ninth after Finding Dory in 8th.

AND we have another title that count enter the top ten this weekend as Woody Allen’s Cafe Society expands nationwide. It’s been performing well in limited release and could have a decent roll out elsewhere. There’s no theater count yet, which makes this estimate a bit tricky – but if it opens on around 900 screens (par for the course for Woody pics), I’ll put it at $3.8 million. That would be good for 10th place just ahead of The Legend of Tarzan. 

So we shall expand my typical top 5 predictions and go with a top 10 for this weekend:

  1. Jason Bourne

Predicted Gross: $67.6 million

2. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $28.5 million

3. Bad Moms

Predicted Gross: $26 million

4. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

5. Ghostbusters

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million

6. Nerve

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $16.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

7. Lights Out

Predicted Gross: $10.6 million

8. Ice Age: Collision Course

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

9. Finding Dory

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

10. The Legend of Tarzan

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24)

As expected, Star Trek Beyond easily topped the box office with $59.2 million, reaching beyond my $53.4M prediction. Both its predecessors in the current iteration of the franchise made over $70M for their starts, but this is still a respectable showing and should be enough to see the series chugging along.

The Secret Life of Pets slipped to second after two weeks on top with $29.6 million, above my $24.9M projection. The smash hit animated feature has amassed $260M so far and surprised all by accomplishing more in weekend 3 than Ice Age: Collision Course in weekend 1 (more on that below).

Perhaps the brightest spot of the weekend belonged to third place Lights Out, the critically acclaimed micro budgeted horror flick which earned $21.6 million. That’s a quadrupling of its $5 million price tag and a doubling of my meager $10.2 million projection. Good reviews and James Wan’s participation clearly helped.

The aforementioned Ice Age: Collision Course proved to be a franchise on thin ice as family audiences mostly rejected it. It grossed $21.3 million for fourth place (below my $28.3M estimate) for an embarrassing franchise low by a lot – the previous low was the 2002 original’s $46.3M. Ouch.

Ghostbusters rounded out the top five in its sophomore frame with $21 million (just above my $19.8M forecast) for an $86 million total.

And that’ll do it for now, friends! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: July 22-24

Three new titles hit screens this weekend as sequels Star Trek Beyond and Ice Age: Collision Course look to battle for the top spot with low-budget horror pic Lights Out opening as well. You can peruse my detailed predictions posts on each here:

My estimates have both sequels not bringing in what their predecessors managed. I have Beyond slated to debut about 25% lower than 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness with Collision Course premiering a bit below 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift. That would give Beyond the edge to open at #1 with Course placing second. My just over double digits projections for Lights Out would put it in fifth.

As for holdovers, two-week champ The Secret Life of Pets should dip to third. Many eyes will be on the second weekend of Ghostbusters, which pretty much debuted in line with expectations (more on that below). However, it may be its second week performance that helps determine its true viability as a budding franchise. I have it losing more than half its audience.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the weekend:

  1. Star Trek Beyond

Predicted Gross: $53.4 million

2. Ice Age: Collision Course

Predicted Gross: $28.3 million

3. The Secret Life of Pets

Predicted Gross: $24.9 million

4. Ghostbusters

Predicted Gross: $19.8 million

5. Lights Out

Predicted Gross: $10.2 million

Box Office Results (July 15-17)

Moviegoers called up The Secret Life of Pets and not the Ghostbusters for their most favored title this weekend as the animated mega-hit took in $50.8 million (under my $57.6M prediction) for a ten-day tally of $203M.

The Ghostbusters, as mentioned, premiered in line with most expectations at $46 million – not quite reaching my $47.3M projection. The reboot of the beloved 80s franchise may need a solid second weekend to justify its existence as a franchise. I have my doubts.

The Legend of Tarzan was third, grossing $11.4 million (I was close with $11.1M) and crossing the century mark for a $103M total.

Finding Dory took fourth with $11.2 million. My guess? $11.2M! The Pixar smash and biggest hit of the year thus far has amassed $445M.

Sophomoric comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates rounded out the top five in its sophomore weekend with $7.6 million (a bit under my $8.9M estimate) for a total of $31M.

Finally, the Bryan Cranston crime thriller The Infiltrator landed in seventh place – debuting with $5.3 million over the traditional weekend and $6.7 million since its Wednesday. This just outpaced my respective predictions of $4.6M and $6.1M.

And that’ll do it for now, folks! Until next time…

Lights Out Box Office Prediction

With its tiny budget of just a reported $5 million, horror pic Lights Out looks to make a tidy profit for Warner Bros when it debuts next Friday. It may star Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke and Maria Bello, but the biggest name involved is James Wan. He serves as a producer and is the man behind the Conjuring and Insidious franchises.

The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last month to positive notices and it currently stands at an illuminating 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critical praise does not equal potent box office returns in this genre, but Lights Out should still manage double digits for its start and that’s enough for its studio to see a decent return.

Lights Out opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

For my Star Trek Beyond prediction, click here:

For my Ice Age: Collision Course prediction, click here: