2021: The Year of Jodie Comer

My fourth and final post regarding actors who had a memorable 2021 on the big screen brings us to the only performer that wasn’t in Spider-Man: No Way Home and that’s Jodie Comer.

Prior to this year, the English actress was primarily known for her small screen leading role on the BBC’s Killing Eve (for which she’s won an Emmy). While that work continues, she made waves with audiences and critics alike in the multiplexes.

While box office success did not greet Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Comer earned raves as Marguerite de Carrouges in the historical yet timely drama. In a cast that included Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, Comer garnered the lion’s share of awards buzz and deservedly so.

A couple of months before Duel, she was widely seen alongside Ryan Reynolds in the family friendly action comedy Free Guy (which took in over $300 million worldwide). A sequel is already being planned.

For Comer, 2021 succeeded in transitioning her success from TV to film. This concludes my Year Of write-ups and here’s to 2022!

The Last Duel Review

Sword fights abound literally and figuratively in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which finds the legendary director covering familiar red stained territory in a unique storytelling format. Based on a true incident that transpired in late 14th century France, Good Will Hunting scribes Matt Damon and Ben Affleck collaborate with Nicole Holofcener for this three tiered tale of a tragic crime mixed with a touch of black comedy. It explores the horrors of machismo at a time when women were seen as property by the standards of thought and law. The most fascinating aspect of the film (and most appalling) is that the three principals may truly believe they’re the victim, including two that should not.

Shot in gray with a focus on grey areas, Duel is fashioned into triangular chapters (from a novel by Eric Jager). Each outlines the plot from these perspectives: Jean de Carrouges (Damon), who fancies himself a brave and noble knight; the philandering squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) who has the ear of the authoritative and even more philandering Count Pierre d’Alencon (Affleck); and Jean’s educated and strong wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer). Jean and Marguerite’s marriage is one of convenience and real estate opportunities for the former. He also desires a male heir that Marguerite has yet to produce. Jacques, meanwhile, has access to influence that Jean doesn’t possess. When he becomes smitten with his friend’s bride, the power dynamic turns more dangerous.

An accusation of rape is made in an era when most women didn’t dare do so (made clear in a potent monologue by Jean’s emotionally barren mother played by Harriet Walter). 600 plus years ago, that meant Jean and Jacques would participate in the picture’s title if a trial permitted it (and allow for Scott to play in some Gladiator type set pieces). Where the screenplay derives some humor is that the two leading men seem convinced that they are the aggrieved party and are oblivious to the damage inflicted on Marguerite. As nearly every male character is given a chance to bask in his laurels, we detect plenty of side eyes from the women around them. I suspect those sharp edges come courtesy of Holofcener’s script portions.

The Last Duel is fueled by Comer’s central performance as a victim who spoke up centuries before hashtags existed. The struggles to hold her perpetrator responsible are both centuries old and of today. Didn’t she remark that he was attractive? Maybe her no was a yes and she enjoyed it. Damon and especially Driver add sturdy support and Affleck commands the screen in his relatively brief runtime (once you get past the odd looking wigs).

The chaptered structure is occasionally repetitive. However, by the time the literal swordplay commences, the time spent with the trio builds a sense of genuine tension. Marguerite will be punished by a grisly death unless Jacques succeeds. In other words, her words mean little and she must rely on her husband to determine whether her time is up. That’s the wound that cuts the deepest as we await their fates.

***1/2 (out of four)

October 22-24 Box Office Predictions

Arriving a year after its COVID delay is Denis Villeneuve’s version of the sci-fi epic Dune along with the animated Ron’s Gone Wrong. The latter will try to keep the October box office hot streak rolling along with the latter attempting to bring in family audiences. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Dune Box Office Prediction

Ron’s Gone Wrong Box Office Prediction

We have had three weekends in a row with newcomers premiering at over $50 million or darn close. Dune could fall right in that range. A potential drawback could be its simultaneous availability on HBO Max. However, I do believe enough viewers are aware that it should be seen on the biggest screen possible. I have it in the low 40s, but as Venom and Halloween Kills have shown us, the chance of over performing is certainly there for the taking.

As for Ron’s Gone Wrong, it has the disadvantage of not being based on known IP. Reviews are decent yet I have it placing fifth and under $10 million.

Halloween Kills exceeded most estimates (more on that below). Its 2018 predecessor fell 59% in its sophomore frame with a B+ Cinemascore average. The sequel has a B- and I envision it dropping in the high 60s range. No Time to Die could see around 50% decline in its third outing while Venom: Let There Be Carnage may see only a dip in the low 40s to mid 40s.

And with that, my top 5 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Dune

Predicted Gross: $42.8 million

2. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $15.4 million

3. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million

4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $9.5 million

5. Ron’s Gone Wrong

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million

Box Office Results (October 15-17)

Haddonfield wasn’t the only place where Michael Myers made a killing over the weekend as Halloween Kills premiered at the highest end of projections. The $49.4 million start slashed my $41.2 million prediction. Its simultaneous release on Peacock didn’t appear to make much of a difference. That’s no huge surprise considering the streamer’s membership is minuscule compared to Netflix, HBO Max, and others. While the Kills gross is far under the $76 million achieved by Halloween in 2018, this is still a big win for Universal.

No Time to Die slipped to second with $23.7 million, a bit below my $25.8 million take. The 25th Bond adventure stands at $99 million. While its overseas earnings are pleasing, Daniel Craig’s swan song isn’t quite hitting the anticipated target stateside.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was third with $16.5 million (I said $14.1 million) and it’s up to $168 million.

The Addams Family 2 had the best hold of all in fourth with $7 million, in range with my $6.6 million projection for $42 million total.

Finally, despite mostly solid reviews, Ridley Scott’s medieval tale The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver received little good will from moviegoers. It bombed hard with only $4.7 million in fifth. That’s a far cry from my estimate of $10.4 million. Duel is further proof that adult themed product is having a difficult time getting the intended demographic to the multiplex.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

October 15-17 Box Office Predictions

Jamie Lee Curtis is back battling Michael Myers in Halloween Kills while Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver also debuts. These are the new offerings in the mid October frame as No Time to Die enters its sophomore frame following a less than expected start. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the fresh offerings here:

Halloween Kills Box Office Prediction

The Last Duel Box Office Prediction

It has been two straight weeks of me either grossly underestimating (Venom) or significantly overestimating (Die) the newbies. So let’s see what happens with Halloween, shall we? I’m going with a low to mid 40s take and that would be well under the $70M+ that its 2018 predecessor made (Kills is curiously available for streaming on Peacock). Of course, given my October track record, watch it make $60 million or more. I gotta get something on the money in October though… right??

As for The Last Duel, the less than anticipated haul for 007 was further evidence that pictures geared toward older viewers continue to struggle. With scant awards buzz, I’m projecting Duel barely gets to double digits and that should mean a fourth place showing.

Back to Bond. 2015’s Spectre dropped 52% in its second frame and I see no reason why Craig’s finale wouldn’t dip about the same. Venom may fall in the mid 50s in weekend 3 with The Addams Family 2 rounding out the top five with the smallest decline (mid to high 30s) of the bunch.

Here’s how I see the top 5 looking:

1. Halloween Kills

Predicted Gross: $41.2 million

2. No Time to Die

Predicted Gross: $25.8 million

3. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Predicted Gross: $14.1 million

4. The Last Duel

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million

5. The Addams Family 2

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

Box Office Results (October 8-10)

Well, we all get carried away sometimes. The fantastic premiere for Venom and the hoopla surrounding Craig’s swan song got me thinking No Time to Die was capable of achieving a COVID era best start of $94.1 million. I was dead wrong. Die managed just the fourth best output of its star’s five features. The $55.2 million debut didn’t approach the vicinity of Skyfall ($88 million), Spectre ($70 million), or Quantum of Solace ($67 million). Only Casino Royale‘s $40 million fell under it. Theories will abound. Was six years (COVID delays were abundant) too long a break? Perhaps. As mentioned, it likely didn’t help that older moviegoers are still seemingly reluctant for a multiplex engagement. Die‘s saving grace is overseas grosses in line with expectations. Yet it’s hard to spin the fact that the 25th 007 adventure came in at the absolute lowest range numbers that prognosticators foresaw.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was second with $31.7 million, not quite hitting my $33.7 million estimate. The $141 million ten-day tally is very impressive as it looks to reach $200 million by the end of its domestic run.

The Addams Family 2 took in $10.1 million in its second weekend, ahead of my $9.2 million projection for $31 million overall.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was fourth with $4.3 million (I said $3.4 million) and it’s up to $212 million.

Finally, The Many Saints of Newark crumbled after its weak beginning. The $1.4 million gross (I went with $1.8 million) brought its puny earnings to $7 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Last Duel Box Office Prediction

Had The Last Duel come out, say 15 years ago, it probably would be looking at a debut north of $20 million. That’s when director Ridley Scott was not far removed from his Oscar winning Gladiator and at a time when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had more drawing power. In 2021, I’m not so sure. The 14th century set historical drama features the two Good Will Hunting stars as well as Jodie Comer and Adam Driver.

Originally slated for Christmas 2020 before its COVID delay, this is now the first of two Ridley Scott efforts hitting multiplexes this fall (the next being November’s House of Gucci). Early reviews indicate this will not be much of an awards player. With a 67% Rotten Tomatoes score, the bulk of the praise has come to Killing Eve actress Comer (who was recently widely seen in Free Guy). She could score a Best Actress nod, but don’t look for Duel to compete anywhere else.

The pic is hoping for an adult audience and many of those titles have struggled during this era. Additionally, competition is steep. Halloween Kills opens on the same day with No Time to Die in its sophomore frame. If it was garnering legit Oscar buzz, I might be more optimistic. However, I suspect Duel might arrive at a standstill next weekend. That could mean a premiere that just gets past double digits.

The Last Duel opening weekend prediction: $10.4 million

For my Halloween Kills prediction, click here:

Halloween Kills Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Last Duel

The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up and it has done so with a big debut in Ridley Scott’s medieval drama The Last Duel. The first of two Oscar contenders from Scott in 2021 (the other is the forthcoming House of Gucci), Duel was seen as the lesser of the duo when it comes to awards prospects.

That has turned out to be accurate based on the Italian buzz. Duel stands at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. As generally expected, I wouldn’t anticipate Scott’s epic (out October 15) to factor into Best Picture, Director, or its Adapted Screenplay from Nicole Holofcener. Nor do I believe much attention will be paid to its trio of male leads (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver). The latter will have another at bat for Gucci or possibly Annette in the lead Actor derby.

Jodie Comer, an Emmy winner for Killing Eve and recently seen in the hit Free Guy, has always been looked at as the real hopeful in Actress. Comer is getting the best reviews of the cast. She could sneak in, but I suspect her race could be quite competitive and she’s probably on the outside looking in. One of her strongest competitors might be Lady Gaga from (you guessed it) Gucci. That’s in addition to the already in Kristin Stewart (Spencer) and numerous others.

Duel could play in some technical races like Production and Costume Design or Sound. However, any hopes of a Gladiator like run at the Oscars (Scott’s 2000 Best Picture winning epic) has been thwarted in Venice. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Venice Film Festival: A Preview

The Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday this week. For this blogger, it means my Oscar speculation will kick into overdrive. You can anticipate a flurry of Oscar Watch posts starting September 1st and continuing throughout the month as the Telluride fest transpires over Labor Day weekend. Toronto is right behind beginning September 9th.

To put it all in perspective, the eventual Best Picture winner has premiered at this trio of festivals more often than not lately. Nomadland (last year’s victor) started off in Venice and won the Golden Lion, which is the equivalent to BP. The same narrative holds true for 2017’s The Shape of Water. 2018’s Green Book debuted at Toronto. 2016’s Moonlight premiered at Telluride. 2015’s Spotlight rolled out at Venice and 2014’s Birdman opened that festival. You get the idea.

So what are the highest profile titles jockeying for position? What are the movies that could become instant hopefuls for the Academy’s attention? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Power of the Dog

In 1993, director Jane Campion had her last major Oscar contender with The Piano. It won Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Original Screenplay for Campion. She became the first female ever to be nominated for Best Director (losing that race and Picture to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List).

Her latest is The Power of the Dog and it will be a mainstay on the festival circuit before its theatrical release in November that’s followed by an early December Netflix bow. Dog is, on paper, the film that prognosticators like me are looking at as an early favorite.

In my previous weekly rankings, I have Dog listed at #1 in Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), and Adapted Screenplay. Dunst and Plemons are, respectively, ranked second in Supporting Actress and Actor.

We will know quite soon whether it lives up to the hype.

Parallel Mothers

Pedro Almodovar’s latest will open the proceedings on Tuesday. The Spanish language drama stars Penelope Cruz and she could be a factor in what appears to be a potentially crowded Best Actress derby. Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film could also be races where it contends. Just two years back, the auteur’s previous work Pain and Glory was nominated in the international competition and it nabbed Antonio Banderas a Best Actor nod.

Additionally, Cruz and Banderas star in the comedy Official Competition, which is also premiering here. It may also be one to keep an eye on.

Spencer

Speaking of that Best Actress race which features numerous players, that holds true with Spencer. Pablo Larrain’s biopic about Princess Diana may propel Kristen Stewart to her first nomination. Larrain directed Natalie Portman and she made the final five as Jackie from 2016. Will Stewart break through on the awards front after a series of post Twilight acclaimed roles? The answer is coming.

The Hand of God

Another Netflix property is this Italian drama from Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 effort The Great Beauty dominated the foreign language races at the Oscars and Globes. His latest could be another contender and I will be keeping an eye on whether it could branch out to Best Picture (like Roma and Parasite recently did).

The Card Counter

Paul Schrader’s last pic First Reformed received an Original Screenplay nod for its filmmaker. His latest crime drama features Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Willem Dafoe. I haven’t had this featured at all in my weekly predictions, but a splashy Venice rollout could alter that.

Dune

The Card Counter cannot claim the title of being Oscar Isaac’s most breathlessly awaited arrival. That would be Dune from Denis Villeneuve as the sci-fi epic is debuting out of competition. Originally slated for 2020, Dune could be a major awards threat in lots of categories (especially the technical ones). Whether it is Best Picture material will soon be established.

The Lost Daughter

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Colman in the Netflix drama slated for late December. Colman has been nominated in two out of the three years at the big show. She won in 2018 for The Favourite in Best Actress and got a mention in supporting last year for The Father. 

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright psychological horror experience features Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (coming off her heralded role on The Queen’s Gambit). The genre is not one usually geared to Oscar love, but you never know.

The Last Duel

Ridley Scott has not one, but two competitors seeking awards attention in 2021. The most obvious is House of Gucci. The other is this historical drama with Jodie Comer (another possibility in Actress), Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. We will soon know whether Scott has two pics in the mix.

And that’s just some of what I’m watching out for, folks! Get ready as the Oscar picture should become clearer in the coming days and I’ll be here to cover it…

2021 Oscar Predictions: August 5th Edition

As we await film festivals that will shed light on many of the pictures mentioned below, today brings us my second weekly outlook on the major Oscar categories.

So what’s happened since last Thursday? That House of Gucci trailer came out and it didn’t do anything to dissuade my feeling that it’s a contender. In fact, while I shouldn’t use trailers to judge, it was enough for me to put Jared Leto in my final five (taking out Idris Elba for The Harder They Fall).

In other developments:

    • A Hero is in my top 10 for Best Picture over Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. The film also is in my projections for Original Screenplay to the detriment of Blue Bayou.
    • CODA (which I was very tempted this week to put in BP) makes the Adapted Screenplay cut over Dune. 
    • The Director, Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actress fields remain the same – with some movement in the rankings.

By this time next week, we should have a good idea of where Jennifer Hudson’s performance in Respect stands since it releases next week. It remains in my five at spot four.

Finally, I didn’t have Matt Damon in Stillwater listed in my top 15 possibilities last week. Based on the film’s subpar box office performance and some comments that landed Damon in hot water, I don’t anticipate him surfacing at any point.

Check out all the activity below!

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees:

1. House of Gucci (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Dune (PR: 5)

6. Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

8. Mass (PR: 7)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. A Hero (PR: 11)

Other Possibilities:

11. CODA (PR: 12)

12. Belfast (PR: 9)

13. The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

14. Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Cyrano (PR: 17)

16. King Richard (PR: 20)

17. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 16)

18. Flee (PR: 13)

19. The Humans (PR: 18)

20. Blue Bayou (PR: 19)

21. The Last Duel (PR: 21)

22. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

23. Being the Ricardos (PR: Not Ranked)

24. In the Heights (PR: 23)

25. Annette (PR: 25)

Dropped Out:

Dear Evan Hansen

Last Night in Soho

Best Director

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ridley Scott, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Denis Villeneuve, Dune (PR: 2)

4. Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Paul Thomas Anderson, Soggy Bottom (PR: 6)

7. Asghar Farhadi, A Hero (PR: 7)

8. Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

9. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story (PR: 9)

10. Fran Kranz, Mass (PR: 11)

11. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch (PR: 14)

12. Kenneth Branagh, Belfast (PR: 8)

13. Sian Heder, CODA (PR: 12)

14. Pablo Larrain, Spencer (PR: 15)

15. Joe Wright, Cyrano (PR: Not Ranked)

Dropped Out:

Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Lady Gaga, House of Gucci (PR: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 3)

3. Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 2)

4. Jennifer Hudson, Respect (PR: 4)

5. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Kristen Stewart, Spencer (PR: 7)

7. Emilia Jones, CODA (PR: 8)

8. Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

9. Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers (PR: 6)

10. Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos (PR: 12)

11. Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World (PR: 11)

12. Jodie Comer, The Last Duel (PR: 13)

13. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story (PR: 9)

14. Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter (PR: 15)

15. Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up (PR: 14)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 1)

2. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Will Smith, King Richard (PR: 3)

4. Adam Driver, House of Gucci (PR: 4)

5. Amir Jadidi, A Hero (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up (PR: 10)

7. Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 6)

8. Peter Dinklage, Cyrano (PR: 8)

9. Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley (PR: 9)

10. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 11)

11. Clifton Collins, Jr., Jockey (PR: 7)

12. Adam Driver, Annette (PR: 13)

13. Nicolas Cage, Pig (PR: 15)

14. Michael B. Jordan, A Journal for Jordan (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Cooper Hoffman, Soggy Bottom (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 1)

2. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 2)

3. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 4)

4. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 5)

5. Martha Plimpton, Mass (PR: 3)

Other Possibilities:

6. Toni Collette, Nightmare Alley (PR: 10)

7. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

8. Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley (PR: Not Ranked)

9. Olga Merediz, In the Heights (PR: 7)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, The Power of the Dog (PR: 9)

11. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: 13)

12. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 11)

13. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: Not Ranked)

14. Audra McDonald, Respect (PR: 14)

15. Anya Taylor-Joy, Last Night in Soho (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Regina King, The Harder They Fall

Sally Hawkins, Spencer

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees:

1. Bradley Cooper, Soggy Bottom (PR: 1)

2. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Jason Isaacs, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Richard Jenkins, The Humans (PR: 4)

5. Jared Leto, House of Gucci (PR: 8)

Other Possibilities:

6. Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 6)

7. Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PR: 7)

8. Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall (PR: 5)

9. Mark Rylance, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Reed Birney, Mass (PR: 9)

11. Bradley Whitford, Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: Not Ranked)

12. Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano (PR: 10)

13. Adam Driver, The Last Duel (PR: 12)

14. Simon Helberg, Annette (PR: Not Ranked)

15. Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Jamie Dornan, Belfast

Al Pacino, House of Gucci

David Alvarez, West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. Soggy Bottom (PR: 2)

2. Mass (PR: 1)

3. Don’t Look Up (PR: 3)

4. The French Dispatch (PR: 4)

5. A Hero (PR: Not Ranked)

Other Possibilities:

6. C’Mon C’Mon (PR: 8)

7. Being the Ricardos (PR: 10)

8. Spencer (PR: 7)

9. The Worst Person in the World (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Last Night in Soho (PR: 9)

11. Blue Bayou (PR: 5)

12. Belfast (PR: 6)

13. Parallel Mothers (PR: Not Ranked)

14. King Richard (PR: Not Ranked – moved from Adapted Screenplay)

15. Annette (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

The Harder They Fall

After Yang

Nine Days

Red Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

2. House of Gucci (PR: 1)

3. The Tragedy of Macbeth (PR: 3)

4. Nightmare Alley (PR: 4)

5. CODA (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. The Humans (PR: 7)

7. Dune (PR: 5)

8. Cyrano (PR: 9)

9. West Side Story (PR: 8)

10. The Last Duel (PR: 12)

11. Tick Tick… Boom! (PR: 10)

12. Passing (PR: Not Ranked)

13. The Lost Daughter (PR: 13)

14. A Journal for Jordan (PR: 15)

15. Dear Evan Hansen (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

King Richard (moved to Original Screenplay)

Back at it next week!

August 6-8 Box Office Predictions

James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max streaming this Friday and it’s got surprisingly terrific reviews as a bonus feature to bring viewers out. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

The Suicide Squad Box Office Prediction

The first Squad from 2016 (the one without the THE in front of the title) landed just a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score while THE reboot is perched at an unexpectedly lofty 96%. However, with the Delta variant in play and the availability to HBO subscribers, I have this Squad achieving a low to possibly mid 40s start.

Margot Robbie and her devious friends represent the only newcomer. Jungle Cruise opened a bit above most projections (including mine). The question is whether its Disney Plus simultaneous debut will cause it to drop precipitously like Black Widow and other recent titles. I suspect the sophomore frame dip may not be quite as severe and mid 50s is my forecast.

The holdover battle for the #3 spot could be close between M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, critical favorite The Green Knight, and Black Widow. I actually think Widow could rise from 4th to 3rd with the smallest drop (assuming Old falls about 50%). Knight, despite the laudatory reviews and a larger than expected debut, only nabbed a C+ Cinemascore grade and that could mean a 60% range dip is in the cards.

And with that, my top 5 take on the frame ahead:

1. The Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $40.8 million

2. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $15.5 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $3.7 million

4. Old

Predicted Gross: $3.5 million

5. The Green Knight

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

Box Office Results (July 30-August 1)

Disney had reason to celebrate over the weekend as Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt opened at the high end of projections. The theme ride based adventure, sporting mostly positive reviews, landed with $35 million (ahead of my $28.4 million estimate). Additionally, the studio’s streamer Disney Plus reported $30 million in rental action. That’s about as rosy as scenario possible given the continuing complications for theaters.

Old dropped to second with a near 60% plummet at $6.8 million, in line with my $6.6 million take. It’s earned $30 million so far and that’s decent considering the small budget.

The Mouse Factory wasn’t the only studio that exceeded projections as The Green Knight was third with $6.7 million – well beyond my meager $3.4 million guesstimate. As mentioned above, the middling audience reaction could halt its momentum in weekend #2, but that’s certainly a better start than anticipated.

Black Widow was fourth with $6.4 million (I said $5.6 million) to bring its tally to $167 million.

Matt Damon’s Stillwater premiered in fifth with a muted $5.1 million. That’s right in line with my $5.2 million estimate as mostly solid reviews couldn’t bring adult moviegoers out in substantial fashion.

Space Jam: A New Legacy was sixth with $4.2 million (I was close with $4.5 million) for a three week $60 million total.

Lastly, Snake Eyes nosedived in its second outing after a disastrous opening with $4 million (I said $4.7 million). The ill-fated G.I. Joe reboot has amassed just $22 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Stillwater Review

Let me finish this page.

It’s a line uttered in a humorous way early on in Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater to Bill Baker (Matt Damon) by his mother-in-law trying to read her novel. He’s an Oklahoma oil rig worker living a mundane existence punctuated by extraordinary overseas excursions. Bill’s family circumstances are high-profile for such a low-profile man. Daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is in a French prison for the murder of her lover and roommate. Mom is tragically no longer in the picture. Mom-in-law seems to be footing most of the bill for Allison’s defense which appears hopeless after half a decade.

Bill is a stranger in a strange land each time he visits Allison, who steadfastly maintains her innocence. He’s searching for answers to free her and he has very few of them. They’re certainly not in French. Part of the struggle is his unwillingness to learn the language across the pond. Yet he also cannot seem to communicate well with his captive daughter and they both speak perfect English.

Stillwater attempts to be many things in its 140 minutes. It works best as a character study for Bill as he becomes more accustomed to his surroundings. This is especially true when he meets theater actress Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her adorable daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). His relationship with Maya gives him a chance to be the father figure that he wasn’t before.

The screenplay makes a wise decision by presenting Bill as a deeply flawed, but determined seeker of truth. The unwise decisions that strained his relationship with Allison don’t stop in America. This isn’t Liam Neeson pulverizing European henchman on his way to saving the day. The script here has taken a far different route.

Where the picture occasionally struggles is with the thriller aspects. For a solid portion of the runtime, the case of Allison is an interesting enough one. There are obviously shades of the Amanda Knox international trial and imprisonment. Plot contrivances, especially in the third act, arise and they are familiar language for the genre. They serve somewhat as a barrier to Stillwater‘s overall success. Not every little twist and turn feels necessary. Perhaps some pages in this screenplay didn’t need to be finished.

Damon’s sturdy performance as Bill slowly moving towards a meaningful life keep this afloat – even if the procedural aspects of finding the real killers feels almost incidental.

*** (out of four)