Oscar Watch: The Biggest Little Farm

After playing the festival circuit last fall and early this year, The Biggest Little Farm cultivated a decent limited release debut this weekend. The documentary follows a married couple who move from Los Angeles to agricultural country in SoCal to pursue farming. John Chester, whose short docs on Oprah Winfrey’s network has earned him Emmys, directs.

The film has garnered praise from critics (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and environmentalists.  As mentioned, Farm first screened last fall in Toronto and has played at multiple fests since including Telluride and Sundance. Neon picked up distribution rights and a theater count expansion is planned for Friday.

If this manages to stay on the radar screen for Academy voters, it stands an outside shot at a Documentary Feature nod. That could be a tall order if competition heats up as the year rolls along, which is probable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Wrinkle in Time Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (03/07): I am revising my estimate from $42.8 million to $37.8 million, meaning I have it debuting at #2

What film could knock Disney’s Black Panther off its perch atop the box office charts after its momentous performance? Well, it should be another Disney property as A Wrinkle in Time debuts next Friday. Based on the famed and acclaimed 1962 novel from Madeleine L’Engle, the sci-fi fantasy comes from Selma director Ana DuVernay and marks the biggest budgeted feature ever (a reported $103 million) from an African-American female director. The cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu-Mbatha Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena, and Storm Reid.

The Disney marketing machine is certainly a formidable one and familiarity with the source material and high-profile actors should serve as a benefit. One potential hindrance: while reviews are embargoed until March 7, initial word-of-mouth from screenings has been mixed.

On the low end, Wrinkle could see a debut in the mid 30s. However, I feel it will manage to climb higher with low 40s gross that could certainly reach as a high as $50 million. I don’t see it hitting the high 60s grosses that Disney’s live-action adaptations like Maleficent or Cinderella managed. That should be enough to allow the Mouse Factory to hold the 1-2 position next weekend with this and Panther.

A Wrinkle in Time opening weekend prediction: $37.8 million

For my The Strangers: Prey at Night prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/28/the-strangers-prey-at-night/

For my The Hurricane Heist prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/01/the-hurricane-heist-box-office-prediction/

For my Gringo prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/01/gringo-box-office-prediction/

The Star Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is hoping family and faith-based audiences make the journey to The Star next weekend. The animated tale is centered around some talking animals and their adventures as the first Christmas is occurring. Some familiar faces in both the film and music world provide voices including Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key, Tyler Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Zachary Levi, Tracy Morgan, Anthony Anderson, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Patricia Heaton, and even Oprah Winfrey.

Made for a small reported budget of just $18 million, The Star will hope to shine brightly with its intended audience before Pixar’s Coco arrives just five days later for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Prognosticating for this one is a little tricky. I could certainly see it exceeding expectations with a gross high in the teens. However, I believe a more likely scenario is an opening weekend in the lower double digits to maybe lower teens with hope that it holds over well the following holiday weekend (even with the Coco competition).

The Star opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million

For my Justice League prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/07/justice-league-box-office-prediction/

For my Wonder prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/11/08/wonder-box-office-prediction/

Selma Movie Review

Like Spielberg’s Lincoln that preceded it two years prior, Ana DuVernay’s Selma sidesteps the idea of a biopic and rather focuses on a short but integral passage of time in its subject’s life. The focus is on Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 Voting Rights marches in Selma, Alabama. The film provides a history lesson that takes strides to not portray its central figure purely as a saint – nor does its perspective shy away from criticism of President Lyndon B. Johnson, while also acknowledging his achievements.

The film opens with King (David Oyelowo) and wife Coretta (Carmen Ejojo) in Norway circa 1964 to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. They speak of an alternative lifestyle in the opening scene that doesn’t involve the constant threat of death and his constant search for equal rights and justice. The couple seems to know that this is only talk and it is not what he’s destined for. Back home, the recent signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) has done little in the South to allow African Americans the right to vote. And this sets off a decision by King to organize a march in Selma that is met with Johnson’s objections, though not near to the level of Alabama Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth).

Director DuVernay and screenwriter Paul Webb do not shy away from showing us the brutality that took place in this era in the South. We also witness the goodness of people of many faiths and races who come to lend their support to Dr. King in his efforts. It is not one march on Selma – it’s three. The first ends in violent resistance from the police. The second time it’s halted is due to a more surprising manner of resistance. The third is history. The filmmakers also tackle the Kings marital status, including Dr. King’s infidelities.

His political skills are shown as well and they are often as powerful as his oratory abilities. The scenes with King and LBJ have been challenged by some for inaccuracy, but this is not a documentary and I won’t judge it as such. My only drawback to these sequences are Wilkinson, a fine actor that’s simply not the right choice for the 36th POTUS.

The flaws don’t stop there. The complex relationship between King and Malcolm X is touched upon so briefly that it begs for further fleshing out. Adding familiar faces like Martin Sheen and Cuba Gooding Jr. for cameos threaten to take you out of the story than involve you more.

Where it delivers is its willingness to tell this important story as a real one. A human one. King is a great man, but is written as experiencing the doubts and insecurities that he must have had. Oyelowo nails the role and he excels at embodying MLK’s mannerisms and spirit.

Selma tells the story of imperfect men fighting for a more perfect union. The film is imperfect as well but it’s worthy of its important subject matter that might have occurred a half century ago, but still resonates on many levels today.

*** (out of four)

David Letterman’s Goodbye Begins

This evening brings the beginning of the end for the longest tenured late night host in the history of the television medium. After 33 legendary years, David Letterman’s final run of programs kicks off tonight with five and a half weeks and 28 shows left.

A CBS press release confirmed what many suspected: the final Dave shows will be a very star studded affair. Many Letterman regulars will make their pilgrimage over the next month and change (his swan song is Wednesday, May 20).

That impressive list includes Bill Murray, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Howard Stern, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Don Rickles, Ray Romano, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson, Will Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Jack Hanna, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Tina Fey and Billy Crystal, among others. Not too shabby. Musical guests include Elvis Costello, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band.

The press release promises more names not yet revealed over the last 28 hours of Letterman’s TV existence. Who could that be? Let’s start with the easy. Foo Fighters are Dave’s favorite band and it is likely they could be the final musical performance. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Dave’s late night brothers come to pay their respects. That list includes Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Letterman’s successor Stephen Colbert. I also anticipate an appearance by Jay Leno – something that would truly be an event after their over 20 year history of being rivals and their battle for The Tonight Show after Dave’s idol Johnny Carson retired in 1992.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me to see politicos such as Hillary or Bill Clinton or even President Obama appear. I will have one more post timed to Letterman’s departure to pontificate on what his show has meant to me and, frankly, my sense of humor. It’s not insignificant.

Until then, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks of Dave bidding America farewell.

Selma Box Office Prediction

A serious Oscar hopeful expands nationwide this Friday as Selma opens. Focusing on the 1965 voting rights marches, the film casts David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King and the supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Carmen Ejogo and Oprah Winfrey, who also serves as a producer.

Selma is considered to be at the top of the list for potential Oscar winners. Director Ana DuVernay is likely to be the first African American woman to receive a nomination. Reviews have been strong and its Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 100%.

It’s easy to see where they’d be a wide interest and I expect Selma’s debut to be strong. My main challenge here: I’ve yet to see a count of screens for its expansion Friday. For now, I’ll assume a roll out of around 2000 screens. If that’s the case, I look for a per screen average similar to the last picture that Oprah was involved with, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. 

That would get in the high teens for its opening a week before Oscar nominations are revealed.

Selma opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million

For my Taken 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/01/03/taken-3-box-office-prediction/

For my Inherent Vice prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/01/03/inherent-vice-box-office-prediction/

The Hundred-Foot Journey Box Office Prediction

Oscar winner Helen Mirren stars in the comedy/drama The Hundred-Foot Journey from Lasse Hallstrom, director of The Cider House Rules. Focusing on an Indian family who relocate to France to open a restaurant only to be met with opposition from Mirren’s nearby restaurateur, it’s based on a 2010 novel and its TV ads have promoted its producers as much as the award winning star.

That’s because the producers include Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey and ads have featured both extolling the film’s virtues. Journey is certainly attempting to appeal to adults tired of blockbusters and fans of the Oprah brand, which certainly isn’t insignificant. Strong reviews would be needed to propel this to hit status and, so far, they seem to be mixed. Opening on approximately 2000 screens – I’ll predict it will find slight counterprogramming success which should allow an opening gross just above double digits.

The Hundred-Foot Journey opening weekend prediction: $10.7 million

For my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/08/03/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-box-office-prediction/

For my Into the Storm prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/08/03/into-the-storm-box-office-prediction/

For my Step Up: All In prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/08/03/step-up-all-in-box-office-prediction/