The Secret Life of Pets 2 Box Office Prediction

Illumination Entertainment is back in the summer blockbuster animation game next weekend with the release of The Secret Life of Pets 2. The follow-up to the 2016 smash has Chris Renaud back in the director’s chair. Returning voices include Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, and  Jenny Slate. Patton Oswalt takes over the lead role of Max after Louis C.K. was dropped after recent controversies. Other familiar faces providing new voiceover work to the franchise include Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, and Harrison Ford.

Three summers ago, the first Pets had a scorching start with a $104 million start and $368 million eventual domestic gross. It’s worth noting that competition on its opening weekend wasn’t as strong as Dark Phoenix will premiere against this. This sequel is garnering reviews in line with its predecessor. Part 1 ended up with a 73% Rotten Tomatoes score while this is at 68%.

I look for this to perform similarly to Illumination’s last two efforts. Despicable Me 3 earned $72 million for its beginning two summers ago and Dr. SeussThe Grinch made $67 million and perhaps a bit under.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 opening weekend prediction: $65.2 million

For my Dark Phoenix prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/05/30/dark-phoenix-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Secret Life of Pets 2

2019 is shaping up to be a year where the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars could be dominated by sequels. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World already opened to raves and seems destined for a nod just like its two predecessors. Disney has Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2 on deck.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is Universal’s shot at Academy recognition. It’s out on June 7, following up on the 2016 animal tale smash hit. Early reviews indicate part deux is an overall improvement in quality. The first Pets achieved a 73% Rotten Tomatoes rating while this currently sits at 91%.

This puts the likely mega blockbuster in contention, but it’ll need to stick around in a competition where the three previously mentioned sequels may well garner more votes. Only time will tell if that’s feasible. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Sorry to Bother You Movie Review

In one sense, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is conventional with its pro-labor and anti-corporate message. How it gets there is wildly unconventional, often original, occasionally hilarious, and clearly from a new filmmaker making his voice and views heard. Riley comes from the world of hip hop and his political perspectives are unmistakable in short tracks. With nearly two hours to work with here, his words can’t possibly be as tight and controlled. This film is messy, but rarely a mess. Like the best music in the genre, it’s not easily forgotten. Similar to a bass line or lyric that won’t escape you, moments here have the same effect.

LaKeith Stanfield is Oakland native Cassius Green, who’s struggling to find a job that pays the bills. He lives in a garage with his artsy girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He owes lots of back rent to his uncle (Terry Crews) that owns the property. While the Golden State area looks current, the picture is set in an alternate reality. There’s a massive conglomerate that goes by WorryFree. We see ads on TV that promote a life of not paying bills and free housing. The catch? A lifetime contract of servitude. It’s absolutely an allegory for the director’s view of today’s workforce. While WorryFree seemingly appeals to many, this is not so for Cassius, Detroit, and lots of protesters.

Instead, Cassius finds work as a telemarketer and he initially finds it mundane and challenging. That is until a coworker (Danny Glover) imparts his secret of success. That recipe is using his “white voice”. Those voices are provided by recognizable faces for main characters including David Cross, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt. Cassius suddenly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder once the modulation happens. It leads him to gain the designation of “Power Caller”. That means moving to a swanky floor where only the Caucasian voice is allowed to be used. This also means he becomes a scab to his fellow workers and to Detroit. His financial rise soon puts him in touch with the leaders of WorryFree and its CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).

Once that partnership is forged, Sorry to Bother You veers into genuinely unexpected directions (trust me on this one). Riley, however, never strays too far from the overall message. He’s got a fine cast to deliver it. Stanfield (best known for his supporting role in Get Out) is terrific and we’ve certainly never seen Hammer like this before. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments. One involves a passive aggressive argument Cassius has with friend and coworker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). Another pertains to Steve’s unexpected reaction to Cassius’s reaction when a key plot point is revealed.

When we get to the third act, its unconventional tone gallops into an entirely new gear. It’s not totally successful, but I found myself admiring Riley’s kitchen sink approach to it. For viewers looking for something that’s often remarkably different, Bother hits those notes with enough frequency for a solid recommendation.

***1/2 (out of four)

Young Adult and Tully Movie Review

Two films this decade have combined the talents of director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody, and star Charlize Theron. Both have given Theron, who won a deserved Oscar 15 years ago for Monster another opportunity to step out of action heroine mode. That’s where she’s resided a lot recently and Reitman’s camera and Cody’s words have given her a chance to stretch.

Young Adult from 2011 is more rough around the edges, more uncomfortable, and ultimately more memorable. Theron is Mavis, who spends a little time ghost writing YA novels and the rest of her life in an aimless haze of alcohol and unreachable fantasy. She grew up in the small town of Mercury, Minnesota and moved on up to Minneapolis. When Mavis receives an email announcing the arrival of her high school sweetheart’s baby, it triggers a road trip. Her heart is set on getting Buddy (Patrick Wilson) back. Mavis seems blissfully (and often drunkenly) oblivious that his Buddy’s wife (Elizabeth Reaser) is a pretty cool mom, special ed instructor, and part-time band drummer.

Patton Oswalt’s Matt becomes Mavis’s drinking buddy and earpiece to her plans. Matt was badly assaulted in school in a sort of hate crime. They form a sad and occasionally sweet partnership accentuated by two fine performers playing them.

The title of this picture doesn’t only apply to the genre of novels that Mavis authors. She may be 37, but her mind is stuck in two decades old reversal. You may hear her bragging about leaving her small town roots, but she’s never fully escaped those prom queen days. Cody deserves kudos for making the central character a complicated one. You’ll cringe at her and sympathize with her moments later.

Tully from the spring of this year finds Theron in a different mode. She’s Marlo, a frazzled mother of two youngsters (one of whom has special needs). She’s extremely pregnant with a third when we meet her. While Mavis was the small town gal who made it out, Marlo made it to New York City in her youth and returned to the burbs. She finds her existence mundane with her little ones and slightly dull hubby (Ron Livingston). Her well off brother offers to foot the bill for a night nanny with the hope of restoring some balance to her long days and sleep deprived evenings.

This is when the free-spirited Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives. She doesn’t just help out with the new infant, but provides a sounding board to Marlo’s issues. Theron’s character here is more sympathetic while still maintaining some of the quirks (a word that gets some humorous play here) that we expect from Cody’s writing.

Theron’s award winning turn in Monster found her shedding her outward beauty. You find that in both projects here to varying degrees. Tully is more deliberate in its pacing and an act three revelation doesn’t feel as profound as it wants to be. It’s still worth your time for Theron’s work and some incisive commentary about the joys and sorrows of parenthood.

Young Adult is a bit more brave in its script and overall execution. You may not have any clue how Mavis will end up in life when the credits roll, but the time spent with her is even more rewarding on a cinematic level.

Young Adult

***1/2 (out of four)

Tully

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Sorry to Bother You

This Friday, the satire Sorry to Bother You debuts in limited release after receiving many raves at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The pic is written and directed by hip hop musician Boots Riley with a cast led by Lakeith Stanfield (best known for TV’s “Atlanta” and last year’s Get Out), Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, and Armie Hammer.

Bother has the potential to be a sleeper this summer. As mentioned, reviews are strong and it stands at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could Oscar voters notice it? It could be a long shot but Stanfield and Hammer in particular were acknowledged by critics. Many feel the latter was slighted last year for his supporting work in Call Me by Your Name.

Where the film could stand a legitimate chance for a nod could be in Original Screenplay- an award Jordan Peele won months ago for Get Out.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Circle Box Office Prediction

Next weekend brings the techno thriller The Circle, based on a 2013 bestseller by Dave Eggers. The pic casts Emma Watson as an employee at a powerful Internet corporation where everything is not as it seems. There’s some other heavy hitters among the cast: Tom Hanks, John Boyega of the new Star Wars trilogy, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton in his final film appearance.

The source material in which it’s based has its fans. It also doesn’t hurt that Watson is fresh off the mega blockbuster Beauty and the Beast (and Hanks never hurts either). The Fate of the Furious should still manage a three-peat in this final April weekend, but I have a feeling The Circle has a better chance of over performing than underperforming.

I’ll predict a mid teens to high teens debut is likely.

The Circle opening weekend prediction: $16.3 million

For my How to Be a Latin Lover prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/21/how-to-be-a-latin-lover-box-office-prediction/

Keeping Up with the Joneses Movie Review

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are two performers that made themselves known to the moviegoing masses with some outlandish roles where they got to let their freak flags fly in The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, respectively. So it’s a bit disconcerting to see them playing the typical dull suburban married couple in Keeping Up with the Joneses. Typical is a word that can be applied to a lot of what we see here. The film isn’t bad. It’s just ordinary. The leads aren’t bad either. They’re just more boring than we’re used to and a by the numbers screenplay doesn’t help them any.

The aforementioned actors play Jeff and Karen. He is a Human Resources manager whose daily routine consists of handing out stress balls and initiating trust exercises. She is mostly obsessed with the home decor of their lovely abode in a cul-de-sac, including the chic installation of a urinal. Some needed excitement comes to them when new neighbors move across the way and they’re the interesting and impossibly good looking Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gil Gadot). Tim is the handsome travel writer. Natalie is the gorgeous cooking blogger/social media consultant who also rescues orphans (her LinkedIn page wins).

It’s not long before Karen’s nosiness has her thinking maybe they didn’t quite hit the neighbor jackpot. Turns out she’s right as the Joneses are actually secret government agents investigating nefarious happenings at Jeff’s workplace.

The Joneses real careers means we’re treated to a threadbare subplot involving tracking an arms dealer and some rather tepid action sequences. Yet this is mostly about the chemistry between the four leads as their marriages and friendships develop. It’s just too bad this is contained in a completely unimaginative formulaic manner.

The PG-13 rating does leave the raunch factor to a surprising minimum. This is a script where the sight of two women kissing (oh my!) is treated as a big punchline. Gadot does manage to hold her own playing against these three others known a bit more for the genre (as anyone who’s watched Hamm on SNL can attest to). We see some potential in moments as the bromance between Galifianakis and Hamm grows, but not enough. Greg Mottola, who’s made some fine comedic efforts with Superbad and the underrated Adventureland, is not at the top of his game here. This is the type of picture that the content yet slightly bored suburbanites depicted here might view with some contentment but mostly be bored. And not talk about it much afterwards.

** (out of four)