Apple TV and a new production company are hoping luck comes their way this Friday with the release of the animated fantasy comedy Luck. From director Peggy Holmes, the inaugural offering from Skydance Animation comes with a reported eye popping budget of $140 million. Featuring the voices of Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Lil Rel Howery, and Pixar vet John Ratzenberger, this was originally slated for theaters last summer before going the streaming route.
Reviews might indicate the reasoning. Luck stands at a jeopardous 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. That kind of reaction indicates it could struggle to find eyeballs on Apple. And it certainly confirms that it will not find any luck finding its way into the Best Animated Feature conversation. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
After giving us well-regarded erotic thrillers in the 1980s (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction), 90s (Indecent Proposal), and 00s (Unfaithful), Adrian Lyne is back in genre form after 22 years with Deep Water. Unfortunately it’s often as lifeless as the marriage it portrays and even when its central relationship gathers steam in the third act, I still found myself mostly unsatisfied.
Based on a 1957 by Patricia Highsmith (who wrote the novels that became Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley), Water is certainly a cinematic step-down from those pictures. Vic Van Allen (Ben Affleck) doesn’t have much to do in his sleepy small Louisiana town. He’s an early retiree after inventing a chip that powers drones. The political ramifications of his former occupation are glossed over though it seems like the screenwriters wanted to explore it further. He spends his days tending to his pet snails and his precocious daughter (adorably played by Grace Jenkins who gives the most memorable performance).
Her mom is Melinda (Ana de Armas), who is not content being a soccer mom. Vic and Melinda spend their evenings at endless gatherings of their well to do neighbors that include Lil Rel Howery and his muted comic relief and Don (Tracy Letts), a screenwriter looking for inspiration. He may have found it with the Van Allens. Melinda is not shy about flaunting her flirtations and likely sexual dalliances with a string of hunks like the surfer looking Joel (Brendan C. Miller) and ivory tickling Charlie (Jacob Elordi). A previous hookup turned up dead and the townspeople whisper about Vic’s possible involvement. The chatter intensifies when Melinda’s latest conquests follow similar fates.
There’s perhaps some deeper meaning to glean about the nature of suburban marriages and jealousy and my hunch is that it’s found in Highsmith’s source material. It generally isn’t on the screen (or stream in this case since it’s a Hulu release). Instead we get a film where’s little joy in the repetition. Deep Water never quite finds the balance of being a kooky guilty pleasure and an engrossing sexual nail-biter. Occasionally it comes close with the former as Vic bizarrely explains the nutritional dangers of those snails.
Part of the problem is that the leads aren’t given compelling characters to play. Affleck does portray his general malaise with the desired effect while de Armas is saddled with a one-note femme fatale. If she’s supposed to be sympathetic, the writers failed to accomplish that mission. There is a cute moment when their adorable offspring belts out Leo Sayer’s mid 70s tune “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”. As for Deep Water, it made me feel wistful of an era when these types of exercises were better. Lyne made some of them and this recent proposal falls short of being a decent one.
Adrian Lyne’s erotic thriller Deep Water was supposed to surface in theaters way back in November 2020 before its COVID delays. It marks the director’s first feature in 20 years since Unfaithful. The multiplex release was scrapped and a year and a half later, it’s slated for a Hulu streaming debut on Friday. The cast includes former couple Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas along with Tracy Letts, Lil Rel Howery, Dash Mihok, Finn Wittrock, and Kristen Connolly.
The embargo is up. Some critics have called it a worthy throwback to 80s/90s era psychosexual dramas. Others aren’t as kind as evidenced by the 47% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Lyne’s previous efforts have yielded awards attention. 1983’s Flashdance garnered 4 down the line nominations with a win for that title song. 1987’s Fatal Attraction nabbed six including Picture, Actress (Glenn Close), and Supporting Actress (Anne Archer). Diane Lane received a Best Actress mention for the aforementioned Unfaithful two decades back.
So it’s not unreasonable to think of Lyne’s work as Oscar bait. It just won’t happen here as Water‘s critical reaction won’t give this any oxygen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
**Blogger’s Note (12/09): National Champions is only being released on approximately 1100 screens. I am revising my projection from $3.2 million to $1.6 million.
Director Ric Roman Waugh switches from Gerard Butler action flicks to an inspirational sports drama with National Champions on December 10th. The basketball tale stars Stephan James, J.K. Simmons, Alexander Ludwig, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Blake Nelson, Andrew Bachelor, Jeffrey Donovan, David Koechner, Kristin Chenoweth, Timothy Olyphant, and Uzo Aduba.
Mr. Waugh most recently was behind the camera for Butler fests Angel Has Fallen and Greenland. His latest comes with a meager budget (a reported $9 million) and minimal buzz surrounding it. Originally slated for Thanksgiving weekend, it was pushed back two weeks.
If something like King Richard couldn’t swing a victory at the box office, that probably doesn’t bode well for this. I’ll project Champions struggles to make half its budget back (or even a third) in the opening weekend.
National Champions opening weekend prediction: $1.6 million
Three years ago, the video game extravaganza Ready Player One from Steven Spielberg was enough of an eyeball feast to earn a Visual Effects nod at the Oscars. Could the same logic apply to Free Guy, out next week?
Shawn Levy’s sci-fi action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds had its review embargo lifted today. Early word indicates a lightweight but highly entertaining and heartwarming experience. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is at a better than anticipated 85%.
Yet its visual effects may well be too lightweight compared to heavy hitters coming this fall including Dune, The Matrix 4, Nightmare Alley, Eternals, and more. The VE category does sometimes produce surprises and Free Guy could make the shortlist and then who knows? I wouldn’t expect it to play though. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Ryan Reynolds doesn’t know his life exists inside a video game in Free Guy, out August 13th. The sci-fi comedy comes from director Shawn Levy, best known for the Night at the Museum franchise. Costars include Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Joe Keery.
Originally slated for release during the July 4th holiday weekend in 2020, Free has seen numerous COVID related delays. Early word-of-mouth (the official review embargo is still in place as of this post) is pretty positive. Reynolds has had a mixed box office showing lately since Deadpool became his signature character. Just earlier this summer, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard struggled a bit and sits below $40 million domestic.
Several family pics have exceeded projections this season with Space Jam: A New Legacy and Jungle Cruise hitting debuts of over $30 million. Free Guy has the disadvantage of not being a sequel or based on a known property. And, of course, there’s also the Delta variant uncertainty.
This isn’t the first foray into video game based features for Reynolds. Two summers ago, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu amassed a $50 million plus start. Due to the aforementioned challenges (and let’s not forget Pokemon is a huge brand too), Free Guy is unlikely to accomplish a gross of $30 million or over. Low to mid 20s is my take.
Free Guy opening weekend prediction: $21.3 million
An age old cat and mouse contest is widening the eyeballs of box office prognosticators and theater owners courtesy of Tom & Jerry. The mix of live-action and animation reboot of a cartoon dating back to 1940 premiered simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO Max yesterday. This is how Warner Bros. is handling all their product in 2021 as we have already witnessed with The Little Things and Judas and the Black Messiah (and soon Godzilla vs. Kong). Reviews for the pic are certainly not rosy with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 23%. And with the uncertainty of the box office for nearly a year, expectations weren’t much either.
Let’s be clear: in non COVID times, Tom & Jerry heading toward a $13-$14 million opening would be considered pretty disappointing. How times have changed. When considering that millions of subscribers could simply cue it up from the comfort of home and with around half of theaters still shuttered, an estimated $12 million start is impressive. Should this number hold, it would mark the second biggest opening gross of the Coronavirus era (behind only Wonder Woman 1984).
That’s more than The Croods: A New Age managed over Thanksgiving and it legged out to over $50 million domestically. There’s no reason to think the iconic cat and mouse won’t do the same. This is also music to the ears of Disney as they prepare to release their animated Raya and the Last Dragon next weekend (along with a Disney Plus rollout).
However, this news really must be encouraging to theaters chains and owners. This is a sign that family audiences in particular will turn up for new product even if it’s available on the couch. As for material outside of that genre, the jury is still out and lots of attention should turn to the aforementioned battle of two other famous creatures (Godzilla vs. Kong) in one month. One thing seems clearer today: the outlook for theaters, while still in flux, got a little rosier.
Looking to bring in viewers for the four-day Valentine’s Day/President’s Day frame, the romantic drama The Photograph debuts in theaters this coming weekend. From director Stella Meghie, the pic features Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Chelsea Peretti, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lil Rel Howery, and Courtney B. Vance.
The Photograph comes from Will Packer Productions, which has had a series of lower budget hits that include thrillers like No Good Deed and comedies such as Girls Trip and Night School. This genre is somewhat new territory to them.
Three years back, Meghie directed Everything, Everything – a younger skewing romantic tale which took in $11.7 million over three days. I believe a strong African-American audience could get this over that given the extra day of grosses.
The Photograph opening weekend prediction: $17.4 million
Yes, there’s an apt comparison to be made between Good Boys and 2007’s Superbad. This is kind of the middle school version of that movie from over a decade ago. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the latter and they serve as producers here. Both involve young boys with their dirty minds trying to make it to a party that they view as potentially life changing (all events are greatly elevated in status at these ages).
What both get right is portraying the naïveté of their central characters. They may talk a good game in their minds, but there’s a whole lot about sex and drugs that they simply don’t understand yet. There’s inherent humor in that. Plenty of raunchy youth comedies are simply in it for the gross out humor. Another layer exists here and it’s one of sweetness to occasionally balance out the R rated aspects.
Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have just entered the wild world of middle school. Their curiosity level when it comes to girls, beer, and after school get togethers is in peak form. They christen themselves The Beanbag Boys since a good chunk of their lives are spent playing games and conversing while sitting on them. Max has a crush on a fellow student and might have an opportunity to make his move at a party that the cool kids invite him to. Thor is more interested in excelling at the school musical (an ill conceived pint size rendering of Rock of Ages), but struggles with that since the cool kids don’t think that’s cool. Lucas has a happy life that’s disrupted by parental divorce. He’s unlikely to ever be the cool kid and doesn’t quite know that yet.
The boys friendship is tested over a long day where they skip school, steal Max’s dad’s fancy drone, and turn into amateur ecstasy dealers so they don’t get in deeper trouble (it all makes sense in context). The laugh ratio here is pretty high as the trio must learn about kissing (the porn sites they go don’t help much) and dealing with college kids to score drugs.
Tremblay is the famous kid of the bunch as he’s known for his impressive serious work in Room and Wonder. He gets to drop some F bombs for the first time and he looks precocious doing it. I would say it’s Williams, however, that shines the brightest. The couple scenes with his splitting parents are comedic highlights. They display what makes Good Boys work best. It’s funny, but with an undertone of these kids learning the real world for the first time. Like Superbad, the central figures come to discover life will exist beyond their childhood friendships. It takes plenty of crass jokes to get them there, but those gags work more often than they don’t.
Perhaps this is more of a Golden Globes Watch when it comes to the new comedy BrittanyRunsaMarathon. The pic features Jillian Bell as a hard partying single lady whose life is altered when she competes for the NYC Marathon. It screened at the Sundance Film Festival back in January to solid buzz. The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 93% ahead of its release this weekend.
Bell has been a scene stealer on TV’s “Workaholics” and features such as 22JumpStreet. This appears to be her breakout starring role and some reviews have suggested it could be a minor hit if Amazon handles marketing correctly. While this holds little chance at Oscar recognition, it will be interesting to see if the studio mounts a campaign for Bell for Best Actress in Musical/Comedy at the Globes. She could follow in the footsteps of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck for a similar part that got nominated. That said, Brittany is definitely lower profile. My Oscar (or GG) Watch posts will continue…