Oscar Watch: Luca

Two days ahead of its streaming debut on Disney Plus, Pixar’s latest comedic fantasy Luca has seen its review embargo lifted. It marks the feature-length directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa (who’s done story artist work on some of the studio’s pics) and has a cast voice cast that includes Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan.

Set in the Italian Riviera, the coming-of-age tale is taking the same distribution route as last year’s Soul by passing multiplexes for home viewing. In 2020, Soul was seen as the sturdy frontrunner for Best Animated Feature and that narrative never changed. That Pixar effort sported a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score and ended up winning gold at the Oscars. The path for Luca could be trickier.

Its Tomato meter currently sits at 89% and while that’s quite good, many critics are saying Luca is not in the upper echelon of Pixar fare. I would say the question is not whether Luca gets nominated (it will), but whether it wins. The score by Dan Romer also has a shot in that race. Disney already has another entry from this spring that could make the final five in Animated Feature (Raya and the Last Dragon), but Luca would have an edge. However, there’s also The Mitchells vs. the Machines from Netflix and it should serve as major competition for the top prize. This is in addition to films slated for the second half of 2021 (remember the names Flee and the Mouse Factory’s own Encanto).

Bottom line: You can never count out Pixar. Luca will likely hear its name included when the Animated Features contenders are named. Its victory presents a more challenging path than Soul experienced. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

As we wait to hear the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards this Sunday evening (hint: it’s Soul), we have a fresh possibility for the competition next year. Formerly titled Connected, Netflix premieres The Mitchells vs. the Machines on April 30. The computer animated sci-fi comedy comes from director Michael Rianda and is produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the team behind 2019’s Oscar recipient Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Lego Movie franchise). Actors doing voice work include Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O’Brien, and Olivia Colman.

The Sony Pictures release was originally slated for theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic switched it to streaming. Reviews out today are nearly across the board positive with a current 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. It is early in the year and there’s eight more months of animated hopefuls to come. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is already out and could easily make the final cut. Pixar’s Luca (out this summer) is certainly one to keep an eye on. However, Mitchells has already established itself as a contender in the 2021 mix.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hubie Halloween Movie Review

Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems. 

Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).

As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.

Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.

The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.

** (out of four)

Top 25 SNL Alumni Performances: Numbers 10-6

We have reached the top ten in my personal favorite performances from the dozens of Saturday Night Live alumni. Today’s list covers numbers 10-6 and if you missed my previous editions, you may find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/21/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-25-21/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/22/top-25-snl-alumni-movie-performances-numbers-20-16/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/06/24/top-25-snl-alumni-performances-numbers-15-11/

Let’s get to it!

10. Randy Quaid, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Ahhh, Cousin Eddie. One of the funniest supporting characters in film history with Quaid’s performance as the black sheep of the Griswald family. He was great in Vacation as well, but his work in the Yuletide classic gets the nod. Quaid only appeared in one ill-fated season of the show from 1985-86.

9. Kristin Wiig, Bridesmaids (2011)

Wiig is one of the greatest SNL performers period and her first starring role was a blockbuster showcase for her immense talents. Her costar Maya Rudolph deserves a shout out for her performance as well.

8. Eddie Murphy, The Nutty Professor (1996)

Beyond his terrific work as Sherman Klump and Buddy Love, this update of the Jerry Lewis tale also finds the versatile star hilariously playing nearly every member of the Klump clan under Rick Baker’s amazing makeup work. This was deservedly a major comeback vehicle for Murphy.

7. Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man (2008)

People tend to forget that Downey was a cast member in the forgettable 1985-86 season that Quaid was a part of. There’s other performances that I could have included here (including other Avengers work), but I’ll give his first appearance in his signature role the attention it warrants.

6. John Belushi, National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

This is the first breakout role for a SNL cast member and it’s absolutely one of the best with Belushi’s iconic performance as John Blutarsky (or Bluto). You can still find his photo chugging Jack Daniels in many a college dorm across the country.

We will reach the top 5 in short order! Stat tuned…

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Box Office Prediction

Those animated and ill tempered fowls based on the video game you were obsessed with on your smart phone are back next week with The Angry Birds Movie 2. Our first Birds flew into theaters in the summer of 2016 and the sequel returns the vocal stylings of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage. Newcomers include Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, and Eugenio Derbez. Thurop Van Orman makes his directorial debut.

Three years ago, Birds kicked off to a solid $38 million. Unlike many other animated offerings, it didn’t leg out particularly well with a final gross of $107 million. Surprisingly, critical reaction to this follow-up is stronger than what transpired before. This stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 44% for its predecessor.

That said, I don’t see the sequel outdoing part 1. It opens on a Tuesday – perhaps in an effort to nab more kid business before schools start. A premiere of mid to high teens to over the traditional Friday to Sunday frame and low to possibly mid 20s for the six day is where I’m at.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $25.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Good Boys prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/07/good-boys-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

The Lego Movie Collapse

This was a weekend where The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was expected to easily nab the #1 spot at the box office. That mission was accomplished, but it did so with much less money than any prognosticator figured. The sequel to the 2014 original took in $34 million and that was about $20 million less than expected. I had a feeling it would under perform and forecasted a $48 million debut. However, I never figured a mid 30s premiere.

For some context, the first Lego experience five years ago made $69 million out of the gate and eventually earned $257 million domestically. In 2017, first franchise spin-off The Lego Batman Movie debuted to $53 million ($175 million total). The first sign of trouble came a few months later when The Lego Ninjago Movie came in far under estimates with $20 million in its opening weekend and a lowly $59 million stateside. Yet some attributed the poor Ninjago performance to its limited niche audience.

The Second Part marked a hopeful return to form for Warner Bros considering it was a direct sequel to a picture that made over $250 million. There is no doubt that the number produced this weekend could block future plans for the series. Its best hope ahead could be the President’s Day weekend as the studio hopes it will have a small decline. Any way you cut it, though, part two will seriously come in under its predecessor. We now have two Lego Movie collapses in a row and it will be interesting to see how Warner handles it.

Oscar Watch – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Lego franchise has made nearly half a billion dollars at the domestic box office for Warner Bros since 2014 and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part will add to those coffers next weekend. It’s money hauls, however, have not translated to success with Oscar voters.

The Lego Movie was critically acclaimed and seemed assured an Academy nod in Animated Feature four years ago. It was one of the most surprising snubs when it didn’t make the cut. There were two Lego pics in 2017 (The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie). Neither of them managed to make the race that year.

While reviews for The Second Part are strong, several critics have said it doesn’t quite match the first part. Competition from animated sequels alone in 2019 (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Frozen 2, Toy Story 4) is serious. Therefore it appears highly unlikely that this will be the year where Lego builds any standing with the awards crowd.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Box Office Prediction

The Warner Animation Group hopes to build back up its near half billion dollar domestic franchise next weekend with the release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. This direct sequel arrives five years after its hit predecessor, though there’s been two spin-offs in the meantime. Mike Mitchell, who made Shrek Forever After and Trolls, takes over directing duties from Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (they wrote the screenplay). Returning voices include Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett (he’s Batman), Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and Will Ferrell. Familiar faces joining the voiceover party are aplenty. They include Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Brooklyn Prince, and thespians from the DC Cinematic Universe (Gal Gadot, Margot Robbie, Jason Momoa).

In February of 2014, The Lego Movie earned $69 million out of the gate with an eventual stateside take of $257 million. Our first spin-off, 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie, achieved $53 million for its start and $175 million total. A few months later, The Lego Ninjago Movie was a legitimate disappointment. It premiered with only $20 million and didn’t leg out well ($59 million).

As they were with the first part, reviews are positive as this stands at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics, however, have noted it doesn’t quite match up to the original. While this should easily debut at #1, I’ll project that it falls short of the 2014 earnings. Topping $50 million is certainly possible, but I’ll go just shy of that number.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part opening weekend prediction: $48.6 million

For my What Men Want prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/30/what-men-want-box-office-prediction/

For my Cold Pursuit prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/30/cold-pursuit-box-office-prediction/

For my The Prodigy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/01/31/the-prodigy-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Love, Gilda

In a year filled with documentaries focused on legendary figures, Friday sees the limited release of Love, Gilda. The pic recounts the life of original SNL cast member Gilda Radner, including her time on that landmark show, her marriage to Gene Wilder, and her battle with cancer. It features interviews with her contemporaries and admirers including Chevy Chase, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader.

Gilda first screened last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival to positive, if not overly praising reviews. It sits at 83% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. As mentioned, from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? to Quincy to RBG to Jane Fonda in Five Acts to McQueen, 2018 has been loaded with high-profile docs.

Bottom line: while Gilda may well please her many fans, I don’t see this making the cut in this year’s loaded race.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Happytime Murders Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/18/18): I am revising my estimate from $17.8 million down to $13.8 million

The Happytime Murders drops in theaters next weekend with a very simple concept to draw moviegoers in: Puppets Gone Wild! The very R-rated comic crime tale imagines a world where humans and puppets coexist. It comes from Brian Henson (son of Jim), who made the more family oriented Muppet pics The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island in the 1990s. Melissa McCarthy headlines the human cast along with Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, and Joel McHale. Bill Barretta is the puppet detective who used to work with McCarthy’s character.

The film’s tagline – “All Sesame, No Street” – resulted in a lawsuit from the makers of the long-running PBS program. As you could correctly guess from the red-band trailers, they had no involvement in this particular project.

Happytime should rise or fall at the box office based on audience curiosity in its gimmick. Finding reasonable comparisons for this is a tricky proposition. Two summers ago, the animated Sausage Party rode a wave of good buzz to a fantastic $34 million debut. However, this doesn’t seem to be generating similar chatter as of yet. If we want to go back in dirty puppet history, Team America: World Police earned just over $12 million in the fall of 2004.

The participation of McCarthy could help, but this is not the type of material her fans may typically rush to see. I’ll say Murders manages a debut in the mid to high teens and its word-of-mouth (positive or negative) will determine what transpires in the weeks following.

The Happytime Murders opening weekend prediction: $14.8 million

For my A.X.L. prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/14/a-x-l-box-office-prediction/