Memory Box Office Prediction

Can Memory reverse the string of forgettable Liam Neeson pics we’ve seen lately or will it fall in line with his recent underwhelming performers? Slated for April 29th, this casts him as an assassin dealing with cognitive lapses. Martin Campbell (who kicked off the Brosnan and Craig 007 eras with Goldeneye and Casino Royale) directs. He most recently helmed the lackluster The Protege with Maggie Q and Michael Keaton.  Costars include Guy Pearce (who starred in the acclaimed Memento which covered similar themes) and Monica Bellucci.

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since Neeson resurged his career with Taken. This second life as an action star resulted in some hits, but there’s been more misses recently. The Marksman and Blacklight took in $3.7 and $3.5 million, respectively, in the COVID era. I see no reason why Memory wouldn’t suffer a similar fate and the gross may even dip a bit.

Memory opening weekend prediction: $3.3 million

22 for ’22: Oscars Early Look

It’s been an entire week since The Slap… check that, the 94th Academy Awards where CODA parlayed its Sundance buzz from January 2021 all the way to a Best Picture victory.

That also means I’ve managed to wait a whole week without speculation for the next Academy Awards which will hopefully be a slap free zone. So what are some titles that could be vying for attention?

On May 27th and after numerous delays, Top Gun: Maverick will find Tom Cruise returning to his iconic role some 36 years after the original. There’s a decent chance it could be up for similar prizes that its predecessor landed like Sound, Film Editing, and Song (courtesy of Lady Gaga apparently). Visual Effects is a possibility as well.

My weekly Oscar prediction posts won’t begin until mid to late August. In the meantime, you’ll get individualized write-ups for pics that open or screen at festivals.

Yet for today – I feel the need. The need to identify 21 other 2022 titles that might end up on the Academy’s radar. Enjoy!

Armageddon Time

Despite acclaimed movies like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra, James Gray has yet to connect with awards voters. This drama, rumored to be centered on his Queens upbringing, is the next hopeful and features a stellar cast including Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Release Date: TBD

Avatar 2

The 2009 original amassed nine nominations and won took home three. The first sequel (there’s three more on the way) arrives in December from James Cameron. Will it capture the critical and box office magic of part one? That’s impossible to know at this juncture, but one can safely assume it’ll be up for some tech categories like Sound and Visual Effects. Release Date: December 16th

Babylon

Damien Chazelle is no stranger to the big dance. Whiplash was a BP nominee and J.K. Simmons won Supporting Actor. Chazelle took Director for his follow-up La La Land along with Emma Stone’s Actress victory and it almost famously took BP. First Man nabbed four nominations, but missed the top of the line races. Babylon is a period drama focused on Hollywood’s Golden Age and should be right up the Academy’s alley. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Tobey Maguire. Release Date: December 25th

Canterbury Glass

Robbie also turns up in David O. Russell’s latest ensemble piece. Anytime he’s behind the camera, Oscar nods typically follow (think The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Slated for November, the dramedy also features Christian Bale, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, and… Chris Rock. Release Date: November 4th

Elvis

Arriving in June but with a Cannes unveiling in May, Baz Luhrmann’s musical bio of The King stars Austin Butler in the title role and Tom Hanks as The Colonel. If this doesn’t contend for the major awards, I would still anticipate potential tech recognition (Production Design, Sound, etc…). Release Date: June 24th

Empire of Light

Sam Mendes was likely in the runner-up position in 2019 for Picture and Director (behind Parasite) with 1917. His follow-up is an English set romance starring Olivia Colman (who would be going for her fourth nomination in five years), Michael Ward, and Colin Firth. Release Date: TBD

Everything Everywhere All at Once

From two filmmakers known collectively as Daniels, Once is already out in limited release with spectacular reviews (97% on RT). The sci-fi action comedy might be too bizarre for the Academy, but I wouldn’t count it out as its admirers are vocal. Picture, Director, Actress (Michelle Yeoh), and Original Screenplay are all on the table. Release Date: out in limited release, opens wide April 8th

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical tale and cowrites with his Lincoln and West Side Story scribe Tony Kushner. The cast includes Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Paul Dano. Needless to say, this is a major contender on paper. Release Date: November 23rd

Killers of the Flower Moon

Alongside The Fabelmans, this might be the most obvious nominee from a personnel standpoint. Martin Scorsese helms this western crime drama featuring Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and his two frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Apple TV just became the first streamer to get a BP victory with CODA. This could be the second in a row. Release Date: November

Poor Things

In 2018, The Favourite scored a whopping ten nominations. Based on an acclaimed 1992 novel, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up and it reunites him with Emma Stone along with Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo. The plot sounds bizarre but it could also be an Oscar bait role for Stone and others. Release Date: TBD

Rustin

One of Netflix’s contenders is George C. Wolfe’s profile of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo). In 2020, Wolfe directed Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman to nods for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Look for Domingo to be a competitor and the supporting cast includes Chris Rock (maybe he will be back at the show), Glynn Turman, and Audra McDonald. Release Date: TBD

See How They Run

The 1950s set murder mystery could provide 27-year-old Saoirse Ronan with an opportunity to land her fifth nomination. Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and Ruth Wilson are among the supporting players. Tom George directs. Release Date: TBD

She Said

Five years after the scandal rocked Hollywood, She Said from Maria Schrader recounts the New York Times sexual misconduct investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, and Patricia Clarkson lead the cast. Release Date: November 18th

The Son

Florian Zeller won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 for The Father along with Anthony Hopkins taking Best Actor. This follow-up (based on the director’s play) finds Hopkins reprising his Oscar-winning part in supporting fashion. Other cast members seeking awards attention include Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. Release Date: TBD

TAR

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Todd Field behind the camera. Previous efforts In the Bedroom and Little Children received 8 nominations between them. A decade and a half following Children comes this Berlin set drama with Cate Blanchett, Noemie Merlant, and Mark Strong. Release Date: October 7th

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Scheduled for a Cannes bow in May, Longing is a fantasy romance from the legendary mind of George Miller (who last made Mad Max: Fury Road which won six tech Oscars). Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star. Release Date: TBD

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky directed Mickey Rourke to a comeback narrative nod for 2008’s The Wrestler. Two years later, his follow-up Black Swan earned Natalie Portman a statue. Brendan Fraser is hoping for the same treatment with The Whale as he plays a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter. Costars include Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. I’d expect Makeup and Hairstyling could also be in play with this. Release Date: TBD

White Noise

Not a remake of the Michael Keaton supernatural thriller from 2005, this is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Marriage Story. Based on a 1985 novel, it’s the filmmaker’s first picture based on other source material. Marriage landed three acting nods (with Laura Dern winning Supporting Actress). The cast here includes frequent Baumbach collaborator Adam Driver, real-life partner Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola, and Don Cheadle. This could be Netflix’s strongest contender. Release Date: TBD

The Woman King

Expect this West Afrian set historical epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood to be heavily touted by Sony with awards bait roles for leads Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu. The supporting cast includes John Boyega and Lashana Lynch. Release Date: September 16th

Women Talking

Based on a 2018 novel, Sarah Polley writes and directs this drama focused on eight Mennonite women and their story of abuse. The sterling cast includes Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara. Release Date: TBD

And that’s just a small preview of the features that could materialize for the 95th Academy Awards! As always, the speculation on this site will continue throughout the year and into the next. Stay tuned…

Morbius Box Office Prediction

Sony and Marvel are hoping there’s plenty of buyers in the Morbius club as the dark superhero tale finally premieres on April 1st. Led by Jared Leto in the title vampiric role, Daniel Espinosa directs with a supporting cast including Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson.

This is the third entry in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe after the two Venom flicks from 2018 and last year. Both of them were massive hits and, of course, we are on the heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home being the third largest domestic earner in history.

Morbius was originally set for release all the way back in summer of 2020 before its numerous COVID related delays. Shot for a reported $75 million, it should have no trouble making its money back (especially when including international grosses). Yet I’m skeptical it approaches the $80 million that Venom started with or $90 million that its sequel earned out of the gate a few months back.

Estimates are in the $40-$50 million range and my hunch is that projecting a debut in the middle end of that range is the call.

Morbius opening weekend prediction: $45.8 million

The Protege Review

For a not insignificant portion of The Protege‘s running time, the plot is incidental but also unclear. I found myself forgetting why assassin Anna (Maggie Q) was kicking the rear ends of the various henchmen of a shady and mysterious rich guy. There’s two of them actually as the main villain shifts from time to time. The more constant presence is Rembrandt (Michael Keaton), who also works for the crime syndicate but doesn’t fall victim to Anna’s skull crushing skills. She seems to want him around.

The interplay between them indicates a screenplay flirting with a desire to branch beyond its pulverizing 90s era action tropes. This feels like more of a direct to video title than a direct to streaming affair. Because of its similarities to that time period three decades ago, it only feels right that Samuel L. Jackson participates. He’s Moody and in a 1991 prologue, he rescues young Anna after her family is brutally murdered in her native Vietnam. Actually rescue is the wrong word. He finds her and becomes her mentor. It was Anna who exacted revenge on the killers.

Moody is an assassin for hire and since this is a movie, he generally only offs really evil people. Anna is a chip off the old block and they form a lucrative business exterminating such vermin. She masquerades as a rare book store owner in London and that’s when she first encounters Rembrandt. He’s mysteriously connected to a former mark of Moody’s. Just the mention of his name (Edward Davis) causes holes in people’s heads and it leads Anna back to ‘Nam to investigate.

The Protege is quick, violent, and nicely cast. Q is a convincing action heroine and the familiar faces of Keaton and Jackson are welcome… to a point. The Anna/Rembrandt dynamic feels alternately fascinating (there’s a nice little Heat restaurant type of sequence between them) or tiresome depending on which act we’ve reached. The “twists” aren’t too twisty when considering the actors playing the roles and the expected amount of screen time they’d be granted. Martin Campbell (best known for kicking off 007 eras with Goldeneye and Casino Royale) knows what he’s doing with action sequences though he’s absolutely done better.

This is a generic shoot-em-up that should partly satisfy cravings of genre enthusiasts who like it lean, mean, and rather dumb. With Keaton quipping, I kept expecting The Protege to enter self parody territory. It never does and if it had, we might be entering a guilty pleasure experience that hit harder. I wouldn’t call this bad by any means, but it’s not a blast either.

**1/2 (out of four)

Worth Review

Sara Colangelo’s Worth tells the true story of a man tasked with the impossible – assigning a price tag to the thousands of individuals who perished on 09/11. That’s Ken Feinberg (Michael Keaton), an expert numbers cruncher. He’s a former Chief of Staff to Senator Ted Kennedy, but his own political skills are lacking. Feinberg approaches the assignment of creating the Victims Compensation Fund with a lawyerly precision that doesn’t match the emotional toll and anger of its survivors. That’s until he begins to listen.

In the wake of that horrific Tuesday, the Congress passed the measure which allows Feinberg to get to work. The kicker is that 80% of respondents must agree to sign up and therefore waive the ability to sue the airlines and they must do so within two years. That’s a tall order as Feinberg and his team, including Amy Ryan’s second in command, pore through each case. How much should the family of the cleaning crew at the World Trade Center be paid as compared to the CEO’s widow in the corner office? Can there ever be a satisfactory formula for an unprecedented situation?

The screenplay from Max Borenstein gives us specific case files to ponder. There’s the wife (Laura Benanti) of a firefighter who had a secret family. The long-time partner of a man whose parents won’t acknowledge their relationship (therefore cutting him out as a beneficiary). And there’s the widowed Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) and the blog he starts that points out the unfairness and inequities of the Fund. Wolf’s civil interactions with Feinberg (and the fine performances of Keaton and Tucci) provide the film’s most involving dramatic moments. They occasionally punctuate a somewhat repetitive watch.

I got the feeling that a documentary where the actual survivors talked about their own decision making process with the Fund would have been far more worthy of attention. This dramatized version does a commendable job setting up the premise and is so-so at the execution. President Bush phones Feinberg to josh him that no one would want this job. The lawyer must navigate opaque meetings with Attorney General John Ashcroft (Victor Slezak) and airline lobbyists whose bottom line is not to go bankrupt. Yet most of the running time centers on Feinberg’s growing sympathy for those left behind. Each case is important, but the script does little to elevate any of them beyond a different kind of formulaic treatment.

**1/2 (out of four)

August 20-22 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (08/18): I am revising my PAW Patrol: The Movie estimate up from $7.9M to $10.8M.

The dog days of summer continues with four new offerings in the marketplace and they could all fall short of the second weekend of Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds. Speaking of dogs, we have PAW Patrol: The Movie as well as three more adult oriented offerings: Hugh Jackman’s sci-fi thriller Reminiscence, action flick The Protege with Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, and Samuel L. Jackson and horror pic The Night House. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Reminiscence Box Office Prediction

The Protege Box Office Prediction

PAW Patrol: The Movie Box Office Prediction

The Night House Box Office Prediction

I don’t have any of the features from the fresh quartet (not a sequel in the bunch!) topping $10 million. That means Free Guy, after a better than anticipated bow, should manage to remain #1 in its sophomore outing. I’m assuming it will dip in the low to mid 50s like Jungle Cruise did a couple of weeks back.

As for those newcomers, the one I’m most conflicted about is PAW Patrol: The Movie. It certainly has a built-in fan base of youngsters who may drag their parents to see it. Rather unexpectedly, it’s generating quite decent reviews. However, my hunch is that some families may wait for it to be on the small screen and I’m projecting third place.

That’s behind Reminiscence which could approach double digits. Jackman’s latest is also available on HBO Max. It will be competing for eyeballs with The Protege, which I have pegged for mid single digits (if anything, I think it could go lower). In fact, it could be in a battle for fifth with Jungle Cruise in its fourth weekend.

The Night House comes at the tale end of a season packed with horror titles and I believe it’s bound to get lost in the shuffle. My meager $3.1 million estimate leaves it well outside the top five.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $13.9 million

2. PAW Patrol: The Movie

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million

3. Reminiscence

Predicted Gross: $6.8 million

4. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

5. The Protege

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

Box Office Results (August 13-15)

Friday the 13th wasn’t so unlucky for Ryan Reynolds and Free Guy. The Fox (and therefore Disney) property opened on the higher end of forecasts with $28.3 million, topping my $21.3 million estimate. With an A Cinemascore grade, audiences liked what they saw and it sounds as if a sequel will happen. The near $30 million start might have been called slightly disappointing in different times. All things considered, it’s rather strong.

Horror sequel (I’ve been saying that a lot lately) Don’t Breathe 2 debuted with $10.6 million, just under my $11.2 million take. That’s miles away from the $26 million that the 2016 predecessor took in, but generally in line with most predictions. At a cost of just $15 million, it should turn a nice profit for Sony Pictures.

Jungle Cruise was third in its third weekend with $9.1 million – right on pace with my $8.9 million estimate. The Disney adventure is at $82 million with $100 million in its sights.

The Aretha Franklin biopic Respect with Jennifer Hudson also hit its anticipated mark in fourth with $8.8 million. That’s a tad ahead of my $8.5 million call. Reviews were only so-so though its lead could be on her way to a Best Actress nomination.

And, finally, the bad news for The Suicide Squad continued. Following a disastrous opening, the reboot/sequel plunged an equally disturbing 71% to fifth with $7.4 million. I was more optimistic at $10.1 million. The ten-day tally is a lowly $42 million.

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

The Protege Box Office Prediction

Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, and Samuel L. Jackson star in the action thriller The Protege next weekend and it will attempt to carve its place into the typically limp late summer box office. Martin Campbell, director of Casino Royale, is behind the camera.

The Lionsgate release is only available in theaters and it will face serious competition for the same audience from Hugh Jackman’s Reminiscence. In this challenged marketplace, The Protege going straight to pay streaming wouldn’t have been much of a shocker.

I’ll give the studio credit for giving it a shot, but I’m guessing Jackman will propel his effort to slightly higher earnings. I only have Reminiscence at just under $7 million and I’ll say this gets just under $5 million.

The Protege opening weekend prediction: $4.7 million

For my PAW Patrol: The Movie prediction, click here:

PAW Patrol: The Movie Box Office Prediction

For my Reminiscence prediction, click here:

Reminiscence Box Office Prediction

For my The Night House prediction, click here:

The Night House Box Office Prediction

Reminiscence Box Office Prediction

Hugh Jackman makes a return to sci-fi next weekend with Reminiscence. The film (reportedly budgeted at just under $70 million) is the rare summer feature in this genre not based on a known property. It marks the directorial debut of Lisa Joy, best known for co-creating HBO’s Westworld. Costars include Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, and Marina de Tavira.

The Home Box Office connections are strong. Since this a Warner Bros property, the pic will simultaneously have its 30 day HBO Max availability. Originally slated for April before it traded with Mortal Kombat, the film faces some challenges. This might seem minor, but the title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. More importantly, Reminiscence opens against the Michael Keaton/Maggie Q/Samuel L. Jackson thriller The Protege and they’ll be battling for the same audience. Both may suffer as a result.

Add in the Delta variant concerns and I really question whether this gets past $10 million. My gut says to put it under.

Reminiscence opening weekend prediction: $6.8 million

For my PAW Patrol: The Movie prediction, click here:

PAW Patrol: The Movie Box Office Prediction

For my The Protege prediction, click here:

The Protege Box Office Prediction

For my The Night House prediction, click here:

The Night House Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: Worth

Sara Colangelo’s Worth debuted all the way back in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival, but is finally being released by Netflix on September 3rd of this year. The fact based drama centers on the activities around the 09/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Its cast is led by a trio of Oscar nominees in Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan. Colangelo is best known for The Kindergarten Teacher, her acclaimed second feature with Maggie Gyllenhaal that didn’t gain traction with the Academy. Max Borenstein is the screenwriter and this is certainly a departure for him as he’s recognized for penning the 2014 Godzilla reboot and Kong: Skull Island.

The streaming debut arrives just prior to the 20th anniversary of the tragic day. Early reviews from Sundance were mixed and Worth currently has a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating. There have been numerous pictures centered around 09/11 and the War on Terrorism and few have become contenders come Oscar time. The Report and The Mauritanian are two recent examples.

With its so-so critical reaction, don’t expect Worth to prove itself worthy of awards chatter. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

2014 was an admittedly sturdy year in the Best Actor category with Eddie Redmayne winning the prize for The Theory of Everything. The other nominees were Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Michael Keaton (Birdman). However, one could argue that Carell could have fit into the Supporting Actor derby (and he probably would have been nominated over his costar Mark Ruffalo).

So while all five contenders above turned in fine performances, I still cannot fathom how Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler was left out. As a demented Los Angeles photojournalist, the actor (whose only Academy nod is for supporting in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain) turned in a career best performance. In fact, Nightcrawler itself is my favorite movie of its year and should’ve certainly been a Best Picture nominee too.

This was the second year in a row where I feel an obviously worthy turn was ignored. In 2013, it was Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Gyllenhaal’s exclusion is just as baffling and that’s especially true because he was nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards.