Wonder Park Box Office Prediction

It’s been a bumpy ride for Nickelodeon’s animated feature Wonder Park, but it finally hits screens this Friday. Originally titled Amusement Park and scheduled for release last summer, the pic comes with a reported $100 million price tag. The film’s director Dylan Brown was fired by the studio in early 2018 due to various sexual harassment claims. Newcomer Brianna Denski provides the lead voiceover role along with familiar faces such as Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, and John Oliver.

The box office grosses for Park, considering its hefty price tag, might not be amusing at all. It doesn’t help that Captain Marvel will be in its sophomore frame as it also appeals to family crowds. I believe this will make low double digits for its start and that would amount to a costly flop for Paramount.

Wonder Park opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million

For my Five Feet Apart prediction, click here:


For my Captive State prediction, click here:


Rules Don’t Apply Movie Review

A film focusing on a meticulous and eccentric legend who’s bedded scores of women would seem to be right up Warren Beatty’s alley, but Rules Don’t Apply is a rather big letdown for the director’s first effort in nearly two decades. It’s a passion project for Mr. Beatty that partially focuses on the life of reclusive aviation and movie making billionaire Howard Hughes. Unlike the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio biopic The Aviator, however, Rules isn’t nearly as concerned with historical accuracy and is as much an old-fashioned Hollywood romance.

Beatty plays Hughes circa 1958-1964, a time where his OCD and reliance on pharmaceutical relief had reached massive levels. He’s still running RKO Pictures and flying girls in from all over the country for screen tests. One such prospect is Marla (Lily Collins), a devout Baptist from Virginia who flies into La La Land with her equally proper mother (Beatty’s spouse Annette Bening). She’s never had a drink, never “gone all the way” (as is the common term in this screenplay), and certainly never met a character like Mr. Hughes. Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) is one of Hughes’s many chauffeurs who’s actually yet to meet the man himself. He’s tasked with driving Marla around and they soon begin a courtship, even though Frank is engaged to his childhood sweetheart.

Further complications arise when Hughes (who strictly forbids such interaction between his many employees) gets to know Marla better. The screenplay (by Beatty and his longtime collaborator Bo Goldman) juggles the romance with some of Howard’s business and government dealings as his abnormal behavior continues to increase. We do not see the grotesque and totally shut off character that DiCaprio showed us a dozen years ago in his Oscar nominated role. Rules is much lighter stuff and feels considerably less consequential.

Some welcome comedic hey is made of the many people who wait on Hughes hand and foot, including Matthew Broderick’s assistant and Candice Bergen’s secretary. There’s many familiar faces who pop up in smaller roles (most of them likely just wanted to work with Beatty) and they include Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Platt.

Part of the problem is that while Collins and Ehrenreich are perfectly fine in their performances, their chemistry is adequate at best. A bigger issue is that Rules feels a bit all over the map in plot and tone. The arc of Howard’s disintegration into madness is an odd mix of humor and drama that never gels despite Beatty’s best efforts. It’s also hard to ignore that he’s about 20 years older than Hughes at this particular point in his life, but if anyone can pull that off…

For a director who’s known to be incredibly particular, this one contains only fleeting moments that you’ll remember. The rest, sadly, don’t apply.

** (out of four)

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Blogger’s Note: It is difficult to properly review Manchester by the Sea without some spoilers. If you wish to go into the movie completely fresh, I would suggest waiting until post viewing to read.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan knows that sometimes the most effective and emotional moments in film come from hearing what is not said. Sometimes the interactions between characters aren’t most dramatic when everything is laid on the table, but when they can’t find the words to express their feelings. We witness that in his latest picture Manchester by the Sea. This is a subtle tale of grief with some truly fine acting. Most pleasingly, Lonergan doesn’t over do it with subject matter  and that would’ve been the easy route to go. The New England residents he writes of are experiencing unimaginable sadness, yet they grieve in their own way that rings authentic.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a Massachusetts janitor who seems to keep to himself. Even the everyday banter of his clients is a chore for him to listen and respond to. His dull existence is interrupted by news that his brother (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart attack. He returns home to the title town with the task of informing his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) of his father’s death. The mom (Gretchen Mol) is out of the picture – miles away and apparently an unreliable alcoholic. To Lee’s rather unpleasant surprise, he is named guardian to Patrick.

The pic alternates between flashbacks and present day as we see that Lee once had a fun loving relationship with his nephew. We also see his own family existence with wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and three young children. It’s far from perfect but it seems relatively happy. Lee does drink too much and it’s an error on his part that causes their home to burn down. Randi survives. The children do not. With their world turned upside down, the marriage dissolves and Lee relocates.

His return years later finds him alternating between semi-parenting Patrick through his own tragedy and being ambivalent. This is not with long and drawn out passages of dialogue about feelings and death, but through observing both of their journeys as they process their losses. Some of it is done through humor, as Lee navigates how to respond to Patrick’s two girlfriends.

As mentioned, the Big Scene moments that other more heart string tugging screenplays might dwell on are absent here. The camera hangs back when Patrick is delivered the news of his dad’s passing. His mother’s substance abuse problems are handled in a single shot. We don’t see the chaos that ensued with Lee and Randi’s divorce. Most powerfully, the eventual confrontation between them isn’t lengthy, but it packs a gut punch by what isn’t said.

Lonergan makes us care about these people, flaws and all. The actors playing them accentuate it tremendously. This is probably the best performance of Affleck’s career. Hedges is completely believable as the teen dealing with all the drama in his own way. Williams has limited screen time but makes the most of it, especially in the aforementioned scene with Lee.

Manchester by the Sea holds us in its grip as we take in its lovely East Coast scenery. They say New Englanders aren’t the type to be overtly expressive in their emotions and that’s the case here. We may not always hear what they’re thinking, but this script and these performers convey it. And that’s says a lot.

***1/2 (out of four)

Rules Don’t Apply Box Office Prediction

There’s directors and actors who take time between projects and then there’s those that really do. Warren Beatty belongs in that category and Rules Don’t Apply (out Thanksgiving weekend) marks his first turn behind the camera in 18 years and first time in front of the camera in over 15 years.

The legendary star is notoriously slow-paced when it comes to perfecting his works and Apply was actually wrapped for the most part about two and a half years ago. The old school Hollywood tale set in the 1950s casts Beatty as famed reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes with a romantic plot between costars Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich (soon to be the next Han Solo in that Star Wars spin-off). The supporting cast is filled with familiar faces that include Warren’s wife Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Oliver Platt, Haley Bennett, Candice Bergen, Steve Coogan, and Dabney Coleman.

As mentioned, the last pic Beatty directed was 1998’s Bulworth, which made $26 million. His last appearance in any film was 2001’s Town & Country, which faltered with just $6.7 million. Reviews have been mixed and it sits at 62% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

Rules Don’t Apply could face a tough time breaking out in any way. The critical notices have taken it out of the running as a true Oscar contender. Adult moviegoers may be preoccupied with Allied, which opens against it. That leads me to a belief that this could only manage mid single digits for both the three-day and five-day weekend.

Rules Don’t Apply opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $6.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Moana prediction, click here:


For my Allied prediction, click here:


For my Bad Santa 2 prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: Rules Don’t Apply

The AFI Film Festival is happening in Los Angeles and that gives us an opportunity to hear about more 2016 Oscar hopefuls. This includes the fest’s premiere and it’s an eagerly awaited one – Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply.

This is the Hollywood legend’s first directorial effort in 18 years (since 1998’s well-regarded Bulworth) and first appearance on screen at all in 15 years (since 2001’s less regarded Town & Country). Anything involving Beatty is going to quickly raise questions as to its awards possibilities and this long gestating project where he portrays Howard Hughes is no exception.

It was thought for months that Mr. Beatty would compete in the Supporting Actor race until recently where a switch to Actor was announced. Reviews for Rules have been a bit mixed and even the most positive haven’t been raves. It’s at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and chances of a Picture or Director nod seem highly unlikely. Same goes for anyone in the supporting cast that includes Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening (she’ll get recognized anyway this year for 20th Century Women), Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, and others.

As for Beatty in the Best Actor category, it’s certainly no guarantee he will get nominated, but that particular race is a bit weak this year (once you get past Denzel Washington for Fences and Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea). I would anticipate Beatty will be in the mix over the next several weeks, but whether he makes my final cut for the final five is a question mark.