Oscar Watch: The Farewell

In January, the Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. The drama casts comedian Awkwafina as a Chinese American who travels across the ocean to care for her ailing grandmother. Drawing praise upon its screening, the film currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Farewell sparked a bidding war won by A24. They purchased it for $7 million and it’s scheduled for domestic release on July 12. There’s already a feeling that it could be a significant summer sleeper. Last summer, Awkwafina broke out on the silver screen in a major way with supporting roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Her work here has garnered raves and she could find herself in the mix for a Best Actress nod a little less than a year from now.

Furthermore, Ms. Wang could be considered for her direction and especially for her Original Screenplay. The pic has a large ensemble cast and Tzi Ma is a name to keep an eye on for Supporting Actor.

Bottom line: The Farewell, if it lands with audiences, could be greeted with affection from awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Widows Movie Review

Like Michael Mann’s Heat over two decades ago, Steve McQueen’s Widows is a heist movie more concerned with the personalities of the people planning them. The similarities don’t stop there. It’s got a sprawling cast with many familiar faces and an overall somber tone. This is a genre marked mostly by its entertainment value. Heists are fun onscreen with the numeric Ocean’s being the highest profile recent examples.

Unlike Heat, its central planner doesn’t pull these crimes because he’s great at it and doesn’t have a personal life. Here it’s the personal lives that lead to the planning in the first place. And in this one, it’s “she’s”. Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) works for the Chicago Teachers Union and is married to career thief Harry (Liam Neeson). What I’m about to write isn’t exactly a spoiler considering the title. Harry and his crew have a job go awry and they’re all killed. Besides Veronica, the widowed women include business owner Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), abused spouse Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and new mom Amanda (Carrie Coon).

Their mourning period is disrupted by their husband’s past illegal dealings. Windy City crime lord Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) was ripped off by them and he’s ready to collect. He’s running for an alderman spot against corrupt politico Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Mulligan fancies himself a man of the people and lives close to the dilapidated neighborhood he wishes to represent. He might as well live on another planet. Manning wants to enter government life to get away from a life of crime, but seems to understand that they go hand in hand in this transactional and blood soaked Chicago.

Veronica, Linda, and Alice are put in a desperate spot. A clue left behind by Harry leads them to plan a robbery of Mulligan’s dirty money while trying to keep his political opponent off their backs (Amanda chooses to not to participate). Mulligan and Manning have enforcers on their team. The former’s is his controlling and ruthless father (Robert Duvall). The latter’s is his henchman (Daniel Kaluuya), who’s sadistic and seems to genuinely enjoy his works of depravity.

There are many subplots in Widows and McQueen manages to pull it off in mostly satisfying fashion. Some work better than others. The relationship of Veronica and Harry is a complicated one that’s given emotional heft by a shared loss. The same can be said for Alice’s character. She’s been a victim her whole life it seems. There’s an empowerment element with her that makes her perhaps the easiest character to root for. Rodriguez’s story has less meat on the bones. They pick up another conspirator in Belle (a memorable Cynthia Erivo), a driven woman who serves as the driver.

You’ll not be surprised to find the performances are first-rate, particularly Davis, Debicki, and Kaluuya (there’s not a mediocre one in the bunch). The score, editing, and cinematography are also noteworthy. McQueen wrote the script along with Gillian Flynn, known for her twisty works like Gone Girl. She’s created compelling female characters there and elsewhere and she does so here. If there’s an issue, it’s that her proclivity for twists reaches a tad too far with one (which I won’t spoil). I found it unnecessary and you’ll likely recognize what I’m referring to upon viewing.

And Widows is worth viewing as it gives us some characters you want to follow. There’s nothing remarkable about the heist they’re trying to pull. The acting and technical work often does fit that description.

*** (out of four)

Todd’s Early 2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Popular Film

My extremely early Oscar predictions for 2018 bring us to something brand new and quite controversial. Yes, I’m talking the category that we will see for the first time at next year’s ceremony: Best Popular Film.

The announcement last month by the Academy of this new race was met with a whole lotta criticism. And even if you weren’t one of the voices on the negative side, the category has caused understandable confusion.

We still don’t know the criteria for a nomination here. Over $100 million at the box office? How wide was its release?

The Academy did clear up one big question. Movies nominated in this category can also be featured in the Best Picture race. It’s a legitimate question as to whether or not that will happen. For instance, A Star Is Born could be primed for the big race. Yet it seems likely to cross the century mark. How about Incredibles 2? It’s a shoo-in for a nod in Best Animated Feature, so will voters acknowledge it in both categories? For now, I’m saying no. Many prognosticators believe this could be the Academy’s way of honoring Black Panther. We shall see.

Bottom line… plenty of uncertainty here, but here’s my first take on the first year of Best Popular Film.

Best Director and then Picture are up next! If you missed my estimates for the four acting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/24/todds-early-2018-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/24/todds-early-2018-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/23/todds-early-2018-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/23/todds-early-2018-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

Todd’s Early Oscar Predictions: Best Popular Film

A Quiet Place

Black Panther

Crazy Rich Asians

Mary Poppins Returns

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Other Possibilities:

Aquaman

A Star Is Born

Avengers: Infinity War

Deadpool 2

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Incredibles 2

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Ocean’s 8

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Ready Player One

The Spy Who Dumped Me Box Office Prediction

Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon team up for the action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, out next weekend. As the title suggests, Kunis finds out her ex is a CIA agent and she (along with bff McKinnon) become embroiled in international intrigue. Susanna Fogel directs with a supporting cast including Justin Theroux and Sam Heughan.

Kunis has had plenty of successes at the box office over her career in both leading and supporting parts. Most recently, 2016’s Bad Moms was a sleeper hit ($113 million). However, sequel A Bad Moms Christmas couldn’t match it with a $16.7 million debut and $72 million overall tally.

The trailers for Spy struggle to make it look like anything special. Its best hope is for a sizable female audience (the kind that made Ocean’s 8 a big success last month). I’ll project a low to mid teens is the likely scenario here.

The Spy Who Dumped Me opening weekend prediction: $15.3 million

For my Christopher Robin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/24/christopher-robin-box-office-prediction/

For my The Darkest Minds prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/24/the-darkest-minds-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: July 6-8

The first full weekend of July kicks off with the release of a sequel and a prequel: Marvel’s AntMan and the Wasp and Blumhouse’s The First Purge. You can peruse my detailed predictions on both of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/26/ant-man-and-the-wasp-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/27/the-first-purge-box-office-prediction/

The return of Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in the MCU’s 20th offering should easily dominate the charts. I have AntMan achieving the MCU’s 14th largest haul with a mid 80s premiere.

As for The First Purge, the prequel and fourth series entry in six summers debuts on Wednesday. This has been a sturdy franchise and each subsequent feature has actually managed to out gross the previous one. I foresee a low to mid 20s three-day traditional weekend gross and low 30s for the five-day total. That forecast places the fourth Purge in fourth.

That could be a battle for the two spot as I see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Incredibles 2 experiencing similar earnings in their third and fourth weekends, respectively.

And in keeping with the all sequels/prequels theme, Sicario: Day of the Soldado should round out the top five. Here are my projections for the high-five:

1. AntMan and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $86.4 million

2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $28.2 million

3. Incredibles 2 

Predicted Gross: $27.8 million

4. The First Purge

Predicted Gross: $22.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $31.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Predicted Gross: $10.1 million

Box Office Results (June 29-July 1)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom had no trouble ruling the box office for a second weekend with $60.9 million in receipts (in line with my $62.1 million estimate). The dino sequel’s ten-day tally stands at $265 million.

Incredibles 2 continued its remarkable run in second with $46.4 million (I was lower at $42.8 million) for $440 million overall. The Pixar sequel is already the 2nd highest grossing picture from the studio and it should shortly surpass the $486 million earned by Finding Dory to become #1.

The good news for sequels kept on coming as Sicario: Day of the Soldado performed on the very high-end of expectations with $19 million, well exceeding my $13.8 million prediction.

Basketball comedy Uncle Drew opened in fourth with $15.2 million, just below my $16.4 million estimate. This debut was pretty much right in line with its tracking.

Ocean’s 8 rounded out the top five and continued its meager decline from week to week. It grossed $8.3 million (topping my $7 million projection) for $115 million total.

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

Box Office Predictions: June 29-July 1

The basketball themed comedy Uncle Drew and crime thriller sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado debut in theaters this weekend and they could battle it out for the third spot behind returning blockbusters Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Incredibles 2. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the two newbies right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/19/uncle-drew-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/19/sicario-day-of-the-soldado-box-office-prediction/

Of the two newcomers, I am giving Drew the slight edge over Sicario. I also believe that if one of them over performs my estimate, it will be the former. My low to mid teens projections on both means Jurassic and Incredibles should easily maintain their 1-2 slots on the charts.

Kingdom came in on the higher end of expectations this weekend (more on that below) and now we move to how far it will drop. Its predecessor dipped just 49% in its sophomore frame after its (at the time) record-breaking $208 million opening. Kingdom should fall farther and I foresee a mid-high 50s decline.

The percentage drop for Incredibles 2 was more pronounced than I projected in weekend #2 and that should subside a bit this weekend (I’ll say 46%).

The women of Ocean’s 8 should round out the top five. And with that, those 5 estimates for the frame ahead:

1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $62.1 million

2. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $42.8 million

3. Uncle Drew

Predicted Gross: $16.4 million

4. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Predicted Gross: $13.8 million

5. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $7 million

Box Office Results (June 22-24)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom easily ruled the box office grossing $148 million out of the gate. I was a bit lower at $140.4 million. The dino sequel, as mentioned, performed on the higher end of expectations while earning $60 million less for its start than Jurassic World in 2015. Its debut gives it the fourth largest in 2018 behind Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Incredibles 2.

Speaking of Incredibles 2, it fell to second with $80.3 million and didn’t reach my forecast of $94.9 million. Its two-week total sits at an incredible $349 million.

Ocean’s 8 held up nicely in third with $11.5 million to bring its tally to a cool $100 million. I was a tad lower at $9.8 million.

Tag was fourth with $8.2 million (I said $7.7 million) for $30 million in two weeks.

Deadpool 2 took the five-spot with $5.2 million (I said $4.9 million) to hit the triple century mark at $304 million.

Solo: A Star Wars Story was sixth at $4.5 million (I said $5.4 million) for $202 million overall.

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

Box Office Predictions: June 22-24

There’s only one new wide release this weekend, but it’s a big one as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stomps into multiplexes. The sequel to the 2015 record breaker hopes to hold onto a large chunk of its predecessor’s audience. You can peruse my detailed prediction post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/12/jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-box-office-prediction/

Jurassic World took in an astonishing $208 million three summers ago (which set the opening weekend record until Star Wars: The Force Awakens snatched it away six months later). Kingdom is not expected to match that performance. My estimate has decreased from an initial prediction of just over $155 million last week to just over $140 million.

Incredibles 2 broke its own records this past weekend by smashing the all-time animated feature debut (more on that below). With an A+ Cinemascore grade, the sequel to the 2004 Pixar superhero tale has turned into quite the event film. How much it dips in weekend #2 is an intriguing question. Looking at past sequels from the studio, 2010’s Toy Story 3 and 2016’s Finding Dory (the previous animated record holder) both fell 46%. Last summer’s Cars 3, which was a rare Pixar disappointment, fell a steeper 55%. It’s a legit question as to how front loaded Incredibles 2 is and whether it had a must-see factor in weekend #1. That said, repeat business could be strong even with the considerable dino competition. I’ll project a 48% drop, similar to 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. 

Kingdom and Incredibles 2 will surely dominate the charts this weekend as Ocean’s 8 and Tag should be third and fourth, respectively. The five-spot could be a battle between Solo and Deadpool 2 and I’ll give Han a slight edge. And with that, my top 6 predictions for the frame ahead:

1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $140.4 million

2. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $94.9 million

3. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $9.8 million

4. Tag

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million

5. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $5.4 million

6. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $4.9 million

Box Office Results (June 15-17)

As mentioned, Incredibles 2 was indeed incredible this weekend as it obliterated the all-time animated feature record. The well-reviewed sequel took in $182.6 million, smashing the numbers of Finding Dory by nearly $50 million. That figure is good for the 8th largest domestic debut in history and that ranks third for 2018 (behind Marvel behemoths Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther). It, um, did a little better than my $138.1 million forecast… oops.

Ocean’s 8 was second in its sophomore outing with $18.9 million, coming in below my $21.2 million estimate. The heist caper has made $78 million thus far.

Newcomer comedy Tag was third with $14.9 million, faring slightly better than my $13.4 million projection. The Warner Bros pic performed right in line with expectations.

Solo: A Star Wars Story placed fourth with $10 million (above my $8.4 million prediction) for $193 million total.

Deadpool 2 rounded out the top five with $8.6 million (I said $8.2 million) for $294 million overall.

Superfly debuted in sixth with $6.8 million and $9 million since its Wednesday roll out, managing to outpace my respective calls of $5.3 million and $7.2 million. I’d look for the crime remake to fade quickly.

Hereditary was seventh and it held up well for a horror release with $6.8 million (I said $6.3 million) to bring its two-week earnings to $27 million.

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