Eternals Review

When the core group of Avengers assembled in their climactic battle for that classic shot from the 2012 film, it held power because we’d come to know them in previous MCU entries. By the time we got to 2019 as seemingly half of Hollywood was ready to take on Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, the same emotions were present. The mere fact that we were witnessing many members of Marvel’s extensive roster ready for action via high quality predecessors was impressive.

That’s a testament to what Kevin Feige and team had pulled off. For all the nitpicking about the franchise, it’s easy to forget the monumental achievement in bringing these heroes to life in 20 plus pictures and getting us back to care about them. That’s not an easy assignment and they pulled it off.

This brings us to Eternals, the 26th entry in the series. And it often feels like we are meant to feel the same sentiments that I’ve described above. There’s a problem with that. Chloe Zhao’s immersion into the MCU is tasked with introducing us to a brand new team of heroes in its 156 minutes. Most of them, quite frankly, aren’t very compelling. Comic book lovers may be familiar, but the masses aren’t. When Iron Man got the gang together nearly a decade ago, we knew the gang. Eternals, which loves it landscapes and sunsets silhouetting its protagonists, strains to properly introduce them. For a movie that feels long, it’s still short on character development and getting us to care about this team in ways we previously did. I admired plenty about this latest adventure, but it still stands as one of the MCU’s overall weakest experiences.

A prologue set in 5000 B.C. establishes the players. The Eternals are a group of immortals tasked with saving planets from Deviants, a lot of monstrous CGI creations. Their leader is Ajak (Salma Hayek), who takes her orders from the almighty Arishem. Each Eternal has their own set of powers. Sersi (Gemma Chan) can transform matter. Her love interest Ikaris (Richard Madden) can shoot freakin lasers from his eyeballs (think Cyclops). Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) is the science nerd capable of advancing technology centuries ahead of time. And… we’re gonna be here all day if I keep this up, but a couple more. Sprite (Lia McHugh) can create illusions, but can’t hide the fact that she’ll look like a 12-year-old girl for eternity. Thena (Angelina Jolie) is capable of creating weapons from thin air. Yet she’s a weapon herself because she has a condition that causes her to turn against her counterparts and try to kill them.

The Eternals spend centuries on Earth taking on the Deviants and appear to achieve their mission in 1521. The band breaks up and they’re free to roam free on our Earthly soil, which Nomadland director Zhao frames in loving travelogue mode. Importantly, Ajak orders them not to interfere with the many conflicts that will transpire over the coming centuries. That means the Eternals are not involved when Thanos wipes out half the population in Avengers: Infinity War. They’re not showing up for house calls with Doctor Strange or assisting Hulk smash anything.

In present day, the Deviants resurface and they must assemble (!) again. Some have taken on unexpected careers. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Bollywood leading man with a trusty assistant (Harish Patel). He’s been a superstar for decades with the public believing his dad, granddad, and so on were different people. The real function for Nanjiani is to provide some comic relief in a story that needs it.. The actor and the superb Patel are up to the assignment. They might be the two characters I’d be excited to see return in future MCU tales.

On the flip side, the failed romance between Sersi and Ikaris is a yawner. And familiar faces like Hayek and Jolie aren’t given enough screen time to register. Barry Keoghan, always a compelling actor to watch, is Druig. He can manipulate minds and his superpower runs counter to his orders. Druig has the potential for a fascinating character arc yet, once again, the packed nature of the screenplay prevents it.

The look of Eternals is undoubtedly different than the MCU sheen we’re accustomed to. It has more of a real location feel as opposed to video game extravaganza. Some of the action sequences are well constructed. Others fall into the confused CGI jumble that’s hampered even some of the finest franchise flicks.

Here’s the bottom line – Eternals is by no means bad (even the middling stories in this series are quite watchable). It feels unnecessary because it never fully succeeds at making us understand why we need to be invested. Ajak’s hideaway in the present day is in South Dakota. Nothing that happens here made me think any Eternal will be carved into the Mt. Rushmore of Marvel’s cinematic universe.

**1/2 (out of four)

January 7-9 Box Office Predictions

2022 should look a lot like the final two weekends of 2021 at the box office with Spider-Man: No Way Home and Sing 2 easily in the top two positions.

There is only one newbie entering the marketplace – the female led spy thriller The 355 with Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, and Penelope Cruz. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

The 355 Box Office Prediction

My $3.8 million estimate doesn’t inspire much confidence in its potency and I’ve got it pegged for a third place showing.

Holdovers Spidey and Sing 2 should maintain their chart rankings with the former in mid 20s to possibly $30 million and the latter still above double digits and perhaps reaching low teens. The King’s Man and American Underdog, meanwhile, should round out the top five with both in the $2-3 million range.

Overall it’s a rather quiet frame as we await Scream hitting next weekend and this is how I see it:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $29.5 million

2. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $11.9 million

3. The 355

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

4. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $2.6 million

5. American Underdog

Predicted Gross: $2.1 million

Box Office Results (December 31-January 2)

Spider-Man: No Way Home easily closed out 2021 and began 2022 in first place with $56 million, a bit ahead of my $52.5 million forecast. In three weeks, the MCU mega blockbuster is up to $613 million and that’s already good for 10th domestically all-time.

Sing 2 held the runner-up spot again with $20.1 million – in range with my $19.6 million estimate. The animated sequel has taken in $90 million during its two weeks and should join the century club in short order.

The King’s Man jumped from #4 to #3 with $4.5 million (an estimate since 20th Century Studios hasn’t released a final gross). I said $4.5 million (!) and it’s made $19 million in two weeks of action.

Fourth place belonged to American Underdog in its sophomore outing with $3.9 million, not matching my take of $5.7 million. Total is $14 million.

Finally, The Matrix Resurrections plunged a steep 64% in its second weekend with $3.8 million compared to my $4.8 million projection. The fourth entry in the sci-fi saga has downloaded a weak $30 million thus far.

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

December 31-January 2 Box Office Predictions

As 2021 transitions into 2022, the top five on the box office charts should look similar to as it did over Christmas with Spider-Man: No Way Home easily on top and Sing 2 firmly in the runner-up spot. There are no new wide releases this weekend as New Year’s Eve falls on Friday and holdovers should all experience fairly small drops.

One in particular – the football drama American Underdog with its A+ Cinemascore grade – could even gain viewers and rise to the third spot. That’s assuming The Matrix Resurrections, after its subpar debut and mixed audience reaction, has the steepest fall of the leftovers. The King’s Man should round out the top five in its sophomore frame.

And with that – here’s I foresee the year closing out and the new one beginning at multiplexes:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $52.8 million

2. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $19.6 million

3. American Underdog

Predicted Gross: $5.7 million

4. The Matrix Resurrections

Predicted Gross: $4.8 million

5. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

Box Office Results (December 24-26)

Let’s start with this caveat – some studios (namely Sony and Warner Bros) are apparently taking a holiday break and haven’t reported final box numbers from the Christmas weekend. So some of these tallies are estimates…

As anticipated, Spider-Man: No Way Home dominated the holiday with a reported take of $84.5 million in weekend 2. That brings its total to approximately $470 million through December 26th. The 68% drop is considerably larger than I anticipated and I had it making $125.2 million over the three days. Regardless – this movie is setting pandemic records right and left.

Sing 2 was second with $22.3 million from Friday to Sunday and $37.9 million when counting its Wednesday and Thursday opening grosses. I went a bit higher at $31.3 million and $46.8 million, respectively, but you can expect the Illumination Entertainment animated sequel to play well into the next few weeks.

The Matrix Resurrections, as mentioned, disappointed. Perhaps the HBO Max simultaneous release didn’t help, but there’s no way to spin the fourth franchise entry (arriving 18 years after the last) simply failed to meet expectations. It took in an estimated $12 million from Friday to Sunday and $22.5 million since Wednesday for third place. I was far more generous at $26.7 million and $40.3 million.

Sequelitis also struck down The King’s Man. The Kingsman prequel was fourth with $5.9 million (Friday to Sunday) and $9.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday) compared to my projections of $8.8 million and $13.1 million.

American Underdog debuted on Christmas Day for a two-day haul of $5.8 million. I said $7.2 million. As discussed above, I look for this to stick around and rise from fifth to third.

West Side Story was sixth with $2.8 million, outpacing my $2 million prediction for $23 million total.

A Journal for Jordan also started on Saturday and made $2.2 million over two days. I was a tad higher at $2.9 million.

Eighth place belonged to the expansion of Licorice Pizza with $1.9 million, right on target with my $1.8 million estimate. It’s made just over $3 million overall.

Sing 2 took a big bite out of Encanto‘s audience (plus it became available on Disney Plus). It was ninth with $1.8 million and I overshot with $4.3 million. Total is $88 million.

Finally, Ghostbusters: Afterlife rounded out the top ten with $1.2 million (I went with $2 million) for $120 million total.

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

2021: The Year of Andrew Garfield

My third post covering actors who had a memorable 2021 reaches yet another one who appeared in (SPOILER ALERT)…

Spider-Man: No Way Home, the MCU juggernaut that jumpstarted a box office suffering from nearly two years in the COVID era. It started with Benedict Cumberbatch and continued with Zendaya. Now we’re at Andrew Garfield.

His reprisal of his web slinging part is garnering retribution comments for his two stint as the superhero which drew mixed audience and critical reaction. Yet that’s not the primary reason for Garfield’s inclusion.

As playwright Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix musical drama Tick, Tick… Boom!, Garfield looks to nab his second Oscar nomination five years after Hacksaw Ridge. He will vie for the prize along with Mr. Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Will Smith for King Richard. 

As televangelist Jim Bakker alongside Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Garfield earned further kudos for his embodiment of a real life figure.

Another Spidey actor whose work in other projects accuentated the 2021 output. My Year Of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Zendaya

Going into 2021, Zendaya had already collected an Emmy for her leading role on HBO’s Euphoria and was known to moviegoers for her parts in the Spider-Man franchise and The Greatest Showman. She is the subject of my second write-up for performers who had a meaningful 2021 and it’s no coincidence that she’s the second that appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently breaking all pandemic era box office records). The first was Benedict Cumberbatch… and we might not be done yet with Home costars.

Her inclusion isn’t just due to her onscreen (and apparently offscreen) pairing with Spidey himself, Tom Holland. The actress/singer began the year garnering Oscar chatter for the Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington. While she didn’t ultimately nab an Academy mention, she was on the Critics Choice Awards radar for her acclaimed performance.

By summertime, she lent her voice to Space Jam: A New Legacy (voicing Lola Bunny). Her involvement with Warner Bros/HBO Max continued in the fall with the long awaited sci-fi epic Dune. It looks to be her first picture that will achieve plenty of award nominations and the sequel is already lined up for 2023.

And, of course, she capped it all off with her third appearance as MJ in the massive MCU series. Zendaya expanded her reach in 2021 as her films reached plenty of homes this year. My Year of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Benedict Cumberbatch

As has become a late December tradition on the blog, I will highlight some performers who had a fruitful year either at the box office or in terms of awards contention. Our first entry fits the description for both.

Benedict Cumberbatch is at the top of the Oscar conversation for Best Actor for his work in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. The Netflix drama has already earned him some critics prizes and it appears he will vie for the gold statue along with Will Smith in King Richard or Andrew Garfield in Tick Tick… Boom! It will most certainly mark his second Academy nomination seven years after The Imitation Game. 

The actor’s second streaming picture was The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. While the Amazon Prime pic drew mixed reactions, most write-ups praised Cumberbatch’s lead work as the kitten drawing artist.

And though his spy thriller The Courier (which opened last spring) flew under the radar, it generated solid reviews.

The box office potency, of course, comes from Spider-Man: No Way Home in which he reprises his role as Doctor Strange. The Marvel property scored the second largest domestic opening in history and has reignited a sleepy pandemic era marketplace. His appearance in Home should help with crowd anticipation for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the sequel to the 2016 original that hits multiplexes in March of next year.

Whether with Oscar voters or mass audiences, Cumberbatch had a visible presence in 2021. My Year Of posts will continue…

December 24-26 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (12/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising down Resurrections prediction from $30.7 million for the three-day and $47.2 million for the five-day to $26.7 million and $40.3 million for the five-day. This puts Sing 2 in the 2 spot.

The Christmas box office weekend is nearly upon us as a quintet of newcomers are presented either Wednesday or Saturday. We have the return of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix Resurrections, animated sequel Sing 2, Kingsman prequel The King’s Man, true life gridiron tale American Underdog, and the Denzel Washington directed romantic drama A Journal for Jordan. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

The Matrix Resurrections Box Office Prediction

Sing 2 Box Office Prediction

The King’s Man Box Office Prediction

American Underdog Box Office Prediction

A Journal for Jordan Box Office Prediction

None of the newcomers stand a chance at dethroning the reign of Spider-Man atop the charts after it achieved the second largest opening of all-time (more on that below). No Way Home should dominate yet again and the question is how much it falls in weekend #2. The MCU juggernaut scored a rare A+ Cinemascore average meaning audiences are loving what they see.

One potential comp could be Star Wars: The Force Awakens which dropped 40% in its sophomore holiday frame. I’ll say Spidey falls a bit more than that (more in the 50-55% percent range).

With the webslinger secure in first position, there could be a real fight for the runner-up spot. I have Matrix barely getting by Sing 2 (though the latter will almost certainly leg out stronger in subsequent weekends). I’m only forecasting a $400k difference between them.

The King’s Man could be the odd sequel/prequel out as far as interest in concerned. I have it falling under double digits for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend. That should be good enough for fourth place.

Underdog and Journal both premiere on Christmas Day and will only have two days tallied toward their grosses. I have the former at just over $6 million and the latter a tad shy of $3 million.

Holdovers not named Spider-Man should experience declines in the 40s and up range (this appears to be case when Christmas falls on a Saturday and Christmas Eve is a somewhat smaller day for earnings). Encanto could be an outlier and probably suffers the smallest drop.

Finally, Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed awards contender Licorice Pizza expands and could deliver a $1-2 million showing (I’ll skew toward the middle of the range as it’s out on approximately 750 screens).

With all this Yuletide activity, I’m expanding my normal top 5 to a top 10 and here’s how I see it:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $125.2 million

2. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $31.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $46.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. The Matrix Resurrections

Predicted Gross: $26.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $40.3 million

4. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $13.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

5. American Underdog

Predicted Gross: $7.2 million

6. Encanto

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million

7. A Journal for Jordan

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

8. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Predicted Gross: $2 million

9. West Side Story

Predicted Gross: $2 million

10. Licorice Pizza

Predicted Gross: $1.8 million

Box Office Results (December 17-19)

Spider-Man: No Way Home swung to unprecedented heights (regardless of pandemic times) as it demolished box office records and accomplished the #2 highest domestic opening of all-time (behind only the MCU’s Avengers: Endgame). Coming in just ahead of previous runner-up Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Spidey sequel made $260.1 million (laying my estimate of $213.7 million to waste). While other pics are struggling in the marketplace, audiences were clearly primed for the event flick.

Encanto took second with $6.4 million, in range with my $6 million for projection and the Disney toon is up to $81 million.

West Side Story plummeted a troubling 65% for third in its sophomore outing with $3.6 million (below my $5.5 million take). Steven Spielberg’s musical has managed only $18 million in its ten days of release.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was fourth with $3.4 million (I said $3.6 million) for $117 million overall.

Finally, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley struggled to find a crowd preoccupied with Spider-Man. Despite star power and its Oscar winning filmmaker, the noir thriller debuted in fifth with a measly $2.8 million compared to my $3.3 million prediction.

And that does it for now, folks! Have a Happy Holidays!

Oscar Predictions – Spider-Man: No Way Home

When Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy kicked off nearly 20 years ago, it managed to nab a Best Visual Effects nod (losing to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). Two years later, the 2004 sequel won the prize. Since then, the five Spidey features that followed (Maguire’s third, both Andrew Garfield iterations, and the first two Tom Holland MCU flicks) didn’t show up in the race. Will Spider-Man: No Way Home change that?

The 27th entry (and fourth this year) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts Friday and I have it pegged for the fourth best domestic opening of all time (behind Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The review embargo lifted early this morning and it stands at an impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

While nearly all critical notices are positive, I don’t think this will be the second MCU title to nab a Best Picture nomination behind Black Panther. While Best Sound is feasible, Home‘s best hope at Academy inclusion is in Visual Effects. MCU movies vying for that prize is not unusual. The inaugural pic in the biggest franchise of all (2008’s Iron Man) made the cut. So have Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Infinity War, and Endgame. None have won.

So despite the last quintet of web slinger sagas not being honored for their effects, Home should have no problem? I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There are two Warner Bros sci-fi extravaganzas (Dune and The Matrix Resurrections) that should get in. That leaves three slots. Warner has another hopeful with Godzilla vs. Kong. Marvel itself has Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals (and Black Widow to a lesser degree) vying for spots. Shang-Chi especially could get in (the Critics Choice Awards included it on their ballot). Don’t Look Up, Finch, and No Time to Die are other possibilities. It’s worth noting that whether Home makes the five, Dune is the very heavy favorite to take gold.

Here’s my hunch: by the time Academy voters cast their final votes, Home appears bound to have heightened box office numbers to their highest achievements in the pandemic era. That fact alone might get it some recognition from the Oscars and that would be for its visuals. Another interesting stat: of the ten current largest stateside premieres ever, only two (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World) didn’t score at least one nomination from the Academy. That puts this in a decent position. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of December 17-19

**Blogger’s Note (12/14): After elevating my Spidey prediction from $193.7M to $223.7M – I’m reverting down to $188.7M… (12/16) – Spidey revised to $213.7M and Alley down to $3.3M

Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home looks to demolish pandemic era records and possibly double the opening weekend record of these COVID times and then some. We also have Guillermo del Toro’s noir thriller Nightmare Alley with Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, and plenty of other Oscar winners and nominees out. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newbies right here:

Spider-Man: No Way Home Box Office Prediction

Nightmare Alley Box Office Prediction

Spidey is poised for numbers not seen since 2019. Some prognostications have this as high as $250 million. I’m going with a $223.7 million haul, but I must say I do so with some trepidation due to these continuing uncertain times. If it achieves my mark, that would be good for the 4th largest domestic debut of all time (right behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and just ahead of its sequel The Last Jedi).

There’s obviously no question as to what will be #1. Home will do that by outgrossing the rest of the top five combined with possibly $200 million to spare. What’s #2 is a legitimate question. West Side Story had a disappointing debut and will hope to leg out well over the coming holiday frames. It may have a soft sophomore dip due to being counter programming to Spidey. Yet I’ll peg it for a 40% drop as it hopes to rebound over Christmas and with ongoing awards buzz. That could put it in a fierce battle for the runner-up position with Encanto.

Or… Nightmare Alley could open in second. I’m skeptical. Despite an all-star cast and coming from an acclaimed director, Alley is starting out at a distinct disadvantage with the web slinger siphoning away much of its intended crowd. I’ll say it kicks off with a subdued 4th place start. Ghostbusters: Afterlife should round out the top five.

And with that, my take on what should be a record breaking weekend:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $213.7 million

2. Encanto

Predicted Gross: $6 million

3. West Side Story

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

5. Nightmare Alley

Predicted Gross: $3.3 million

Box Office Results (December 10-12)

There likely wasn’t a whole lot of celebratory dancing at 20th Century Studios as West Side Story struggled out of the gate. Its $10.5 million barely managed a #1 showing and came in under my $14.8 million call. As mentioned, the story may not be over as audiences could find it over the holidays. Its studio is certainly hoping so.

Encanto slipped to second with $9.9 million, above my $8.5 million take for $71 million overall.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was third at $7.1 million (ahead of my $5.8 million prediction) for $112 million total.

Fourth place was House of Gucci with $4.1 million. My projection was on the money at $4 million. Tally is $41 million.

Eternals was in the five spot with $3.1 million (I said $2.8 million) as it’s up to $161 million.

Last and least, the football drama National Champions fumbled terribly. I thought it might manage $1.6 million. Not so much. It was an unlucky 13th with $321,000. Oof.

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

Spider-Man: No Way Home Box Office Prediction

Bloggers Update (12/16): revising prediction up to $213.7M The Marvel Cinematic Universe is poised for the largest opening weekend of the pandemic era with Spider-Man: No Way Home out December 17th. In fact, it could debut higher than the current two record holders (Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Black Widow) combined. The 27th feature in the massive MCU franchise, this is officially the third entry in this Spider-Verse starring Tom Holland as the web-slinger (though he’s appeared in Avengers tales too). Jon Watts directs again and returning faces include Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, and J.B. Smoove. That’s not all. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is in on the action and villains of previous Spidey series come to the party. They include Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, Thomas Haden Church, and Rhys Ifans. There’s also the possibility of other Spider-Men turning up.

This has led to No Way Home having the distinction of being the event film of the year with the most moneymaking potential. It might be the fourth MCU title in 2021 (after Widow, Shang-Chi, and Eternals), but it’s easily the most breathlessly anticipated. Early ticket sales indicate we’ll see grosses not witnessed since 2019. Two and a half years ago, Spider-Man: Far From Home kicked off during the long July 4th weekend and earned $185 million. 2017’s Homecoming made $117 million over a traditional Friday to Sunday rollout.

The pre-Christmas unveiling should prove to be shrewd timing. Some estimates having this going north of $200 million. That would be music to the ears of an industry that needs it after almost two long years. I’m not quite ready to declare $200 million and I’ll hedge with just under it.

Spider-Man: No Way Home opening weekend prediction: $213.7 million

For my Nightmare Alley prediction, click here:

Nightmare Alley Box Office Prediction