It’s become significant. 1917 might be the strongest example of the nine nominees for perfect timing. The World War I epic from director Sam Mendes came to the attention of awards voters just as it was opening to better than expected box office and sterling reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 89%. Mendes is a known quantity whose American Beauty won Best Picture (and Director) twenty years ago. The precursor love has been impressive with a Golden Globes victory for Best Drama and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) top prize. 13 out of the last 19 PGA winners went on to win Best Picture. The ten Academy nominations is tied for second along with The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Case Against 1917
If it wins Best Picture, it would be the first to do so without any acting nomination since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire (SAG ignored it as well). Additionally, it would be the extremely rare recipient to win without an Editing nod. A case could be made that the Parasite fans are more rabid.
Despite missing some recognition in key races, there is no doubt that 1917 could absolutely take the biggest race. It could even be called the soft front runner.
Up next in my Case of posts… Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!
Blogger’s Note (01/05): The film’s victory for Best Drama at the Golden Globes is pushing my estimate up… from $26.8 million to $31.8 million
1917 blasts onto screens next weekend and hopes to generate its awards buzz into a rousing first frame at multiplexes. The World War I epic comes from Sam Mendes, Oscar winning director of American Beauty who’s been busy with the Bond franchise lately with Skyfall and Spectre. Cast members include George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Critics have been on its side as 1917 currently sports a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score. The film is expected to nab several Oscar nods (including possibly Picture and Director and tech nods) on the Monday following its wide release. In the limited rollout over the holidays, it held a sturdy per theater average of over $50,000.
War movies have done well in January over the past few years. The high water mark is American Sniper, which made nearly $90 million out of the gate five years ago. This isn’t anticipated to be anywhere near that, but there are other decent comps to consider. In 2013, Zero Dark Thirty took in $24 million in its expansion.
This is right in the range where I see 1917 landing in the mid 20s (SEE BLOGGER’S NOTE ABOVE).
Twenty years ago, Sam Mendes made American Beauty and it dominated the 1999 Oscars, with the filmmaker taking Best Director and the movie being named Best Picture. Lately, Mendes has been known more as the Bond director behind past two installments Skyfall and Spectre.
His World War I epic 1917 has held its initial screenings prior to its Christmas release. Early word of mouth suggests the saga about The Great War is a great picture and that Oscar is likely to pay attention. Most of the buzz thus far has centered on its making as a one camera take experience. Before today’s reviews, this seemed like a probable contender for multiple tech awards already. That includes Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and both Sound races. All of that still holds true. The legendary Roger Deakins is responsible for the cinematography. After many nominations, he won his first gold statue just two years back for Blade Runner 2049. He could pick up a second here.
Similarly, composer Thomas Newman (a frequent Mendes collaborator) has heard his name called 14 times by Oscar, but has yet to be the victor. That, too, could change as the score is getting numerous mentions.
The cast includes George McKay, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I don’t expect any acting nods due to the packed nature of those categories. However, I do expect Picture and Director (and maybe Original Screenplay) attention. I’ve had the film itself and Mendes in my guesstimates for some time. When my weekly predictions come Monday, I anticipate both will be ranked higher than ever before. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Mixing the typical comic book movie issues with a little Big and even a touch of the recent InstantFamily, the DC Comics adaptation of Shazam! is able to produce crowd pleasing results. As the DCU must turn to their less iconic characters for feature attention, I would say the title hero here is somewhat equivalent to the MCU’s Ant-Man. He’s sarcastic. He’s not as serious. In fact, if the knock on this overall universe is that it’s too dark (think BatmanvSuperman: DawnofJustice or JusticeLeague), Shazam! is practically translucent.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid jumping between temporary dwellings after being separated from his mom as a toddler. The young teen seems to find a decent home with five other children and kindly caregivers. Yet he’s still searching from mom.
In a prologue circa 1974, we meet another youngster by way of Thaddeus Sivana. He experiences a mystical meetup with Shazam in the form of Djimon Hounsou in heavy old age makeup. Trying to find a human worthy of inheriting his considerable superpowers, he deems him not properly pure of heart. Sivana grows up to be Mark Strong with a myopic focus on battling the eventual Shazam.
That turns out to be Billy. When he is called for his own encounter with Hounsou, he gets the job. This means when he utters “Shazam!”, he turns into Zachary Levi (who could have been cast as Superman). He’s still a teen embodying a comic book strongman and that takes a lot of learning. One of his foster siblings (Jack Dylan Grazer) is in on the secret.
A lot of exposition must be established here and Shazam! probably doesn’t need to be over two hours long. The mommy and daddy issues explored are quite familiar to genre fans. The film does manage to find slightly different angles. Just as InstantFamily showed the true heroism of foster parents, so does this. Levi is a hoot as our crime fighting man child. Strong is fine, but he doesn’t exactly alter the general rule that the villains in many of these pics aren’t as interesting as they should be.
Shazam! works best when it’s focused on Billy/Shazam while he works with his new family and not while grappling with Savani and his monstrous CGI creatures that represent The Seven Deadly Sins. Director David F. Sandberg has crafted an origin story with a lot of heart among the usual action and it fosters enough appreciation to make this rewarding.
Blogger’s Note (04/04): On the eve of its premiere, my estimate has changed from $59.5 million to $52.5 million
The DC Extended Universe adds another cinematic hero to its stable with the release of Shazam! next weekend. The tale of a teenager who morphs into a superhero was first introduced in comic book pages nearly 80 years ago. David F. Sandberg directs with Zachary Levi as the title character and Asher Angel as his younger self. Costars include Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, and Grace Fulton.
Said to heartfelt and funny, Shazam! is already a winner with critics and sporting a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. DC, while not quite up to MCU levels, has been hitting its stride lately with mega performers like WonderWoman and Aquaman. There were previews of this that surprisingly managed to outdo what Jason Momoa’s creation did late last year. However, that was during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
The range expected is $40-$60 million. I have a hunch its good word of mouth will propel it to the upper reaches of those expectations. It’s feasible the range could be surpassed, but I’ll say high 50s.
The DC Extended Universe branches out to lesser known source material on April 5 with the release of Shazam! The superhero tale puts a teenage boy in the body of an adult crime fighter with David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) directing and Zachary Levi in the title role.
The character has been around since 1940 and this big screen treatment is receiving praise based on its early screenings. Critics are calling this sweet and funny and continuing in the more lighthearted vein that DC has employed lately with hits like WonderWoman and Aquaman.
With a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could Shazam! resonate with Oscar voters? It’s doubtful. If the aforementioned DC efforts couldn’t land a single nod, it’s tough to envision any for this.
Bottom line: Shazam! should be another box office success for the revitalized franchise, but don’t expect awards chatter to follow. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
British spies join forces with their American counterparts in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2015 action/comedy hit Kingsman: The Secret Service. Matthew Vaughn is back directing with returning stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, and Mark Strong. We also have some new but very familiar faces that include Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and even Elton John!
Two and a half years ago, the original hit its mark with both critics and moviegoers. Opening to $36 million, The Secret Service went on to gross $128M overall domestically. With the relatively small gap between the sequel and its predecessor, I don’t see sequelitis kicking in here.
Circle could find itself in a real battle for the #1 spot with The Lego Ninjago Movie. Both pictures are expected to post debuts in the low to mid 40s. There’s also the third weekend of It to consider, as it still should be raking in plenty of cash.
I’ll project that the second go-round for the Kingsman (and now the Statesman) debuts about $7 million above the first.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle opening weekend prediction: $43.6 million
For my The Lego Ninjajo Movie prediction, click here:
Audiences get a chance to get acquainted with MissSloane when it opens wide next weekend. The political drama stars Jessica Chastain as an influential DC lobbyist who takes on the powerful gun lobby. John Madden (director of ShakespeareinLove and the two MarigoldHotel pics) is behind the camera with a supporting cast that includes Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow and Sam Waterston.
Sloane is getting a bit of attention due to Chastain’s performance. Reviews have singled out her work and she may be in line for an Oscar nomination (though that is a highly competitive race this year and she could be on the outside looking in). That said, critical reaction has been mixed and it stands at 62% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Political movies always face an uphill struggle with moviegoers and this may especially hold true in a year where the subject is everywhere around us.
Debuting on approximately 1600 screens, Sloane may just get to mid single digits.
MissSloane opening weekend prediction: $4.6 million
For my OfficeChristmasParty prediction, click here:
Yet another piece of the Oscar puzzle revealed itself last night when MissSloane premiered at the AFI Film Festival. This comes from director John Madden (who helmed the 1998 Best Picture winner ShakespeareinLove) and focuses on the issues of gun control and Washington lobbyists.
Some of the early reviews have been positive but others have been mixed (it sits at 60% at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes). This looked like a potential long shot contender for Picture and Director recognition and the buzz out of AFI suggests it won’t happen.
There’s a sterling supporting cast that includes Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy, and Sam Waterston. Don’t look for their names, however, to garner any Academy attention. And there’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who’s been singled out in some notices and could be a dark horse contender in Supporting Actress (though that probably won’t happen).
No, where MissSloane could factor into awards season is the way it’s always thought to have been and that’s with the lead performance from Jessica Chastain. She’s been nominated twice before – in Supporting for 2011’s TheHelp and lead in 2012’s ZeroDarkThirty. Initial reviews have praised her work and remarked that she carries the movie.
In a normal year, Chastain might be a shoo-in for a nomination. Not in 2016 and that’s because Actress is incredibly competitive this year. The trio of Annette Bening (20thCenturyWomen), Natalie Portman (Jackie), and Emma Stone (LaLaLand) all look poised for nods. The final two slots look to be filled by a combo of any of the following: Chastain, Meryl Streep (FlorenceFosterJenkins), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Amy Adams (Arrival). Upset entries could include Isabelle Huppert (Elle) or Rebecca Hall (Christine). And we are still waiting on Taraji P. Henson (HiddenFigures) and Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers).
See what I mean by competition? That said, Chastain (while no threat to win) solidified her name into this busy race with the Sloane screening.
Sacha Baron Cohen is back in his first starring role in nearly four years with action comedy The Brothers Grimsby and the effort looks to be a real test of his drawing power. From Now You See Me director Louis Leterrier and costarring Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane, Isla Fisher, and Gabourey Sidibe – Grimsby may represent a low mark for Cohen’s headlining output.
He burst onto the film scene in 2006 with Borat to the tune of a $26 million opening and improved those numbers with Bruno‘s $30 million premiere three years. His last vehicle, 2012’s The Dictator, managed $17 million out of the gate. That number would probably be on the higher end of expectations for this, which is managing an OK 50% on Rotten Tomaotes and looks unlikely to be a breakout hit like he’s experienced in years past.
While Grimsby should reach double digits, I believe it may not get much beyond that for a disappointing haul.
The Brothers Grimsby opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million
For my 10 Cloverfield Lane prediction, click here: