Daily Streaming Guide: March 15th Edition

Just as our collective world has changed around us in the past few days and will continue for the foreseeable future, so will this little movie blog of mine. Simply put – a lot of us (myself included) are going to be home for awhile. Therefore, the best use of this blog at the moment is shifting away from box office predictions and Oscar speculation.

Beginning right now, I’m going to post a Daily Streaming Guide recommending movies currently streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It’s likely that I’ll throw in Disney+ and HBO in from time to time. Hopefully this will assist my readers in identifying some worthy pictures to view at home. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Netflix

1984’s Purple Rain turned Prince into a global musical superstar. The soundtrack that accompanied it is a nine-track masterpiece in which every song demands repeat listens. Here’s a fair warning – the film itself is of its time. This is a kind way of saying that there’s some dialogue and attitudes that wouldn’t pass muster in 2020. That said, I would recommend it as a time capsule to witness a genius at a juncture of his creative peak. The performances alone with his band The Revolution that include the title tune, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Darling Nikki”, and more are worth the price of streaming.

Hulu

Keeping with the musical theme, Cameron Crowe’s 1989 teen romance Say Anything… is known mostly for a shot of John Cusack holding up a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. It’s an iconic scene, but the picture itself is among the most intelligent and insightful experiences dealing with young love. Just as 80s icon John Hughes wrote teens as human beings as opposed to walking hormones, Crowe’s screenplay accomplishes the same.

Amazon Prime

For something more recent, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor from 2018 belongs more in the guilty pleasure space. A charcoal black comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, this twisty thriller knows it’s ridiculous and is simply a whole lot of fun. This might be best enjoyed with a dry martini or two on standby.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow, folks! Until then – be well and stay safe!

Last Christmas Box Office Prediction

The Yuletide rom com Last Christmas presents itself in theaters next weekend from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. If you’re hoping it features the classic Wham! holiday track in its soundtrack, you’re in luck as it plays (as well as some unreleased songs by the late lead singer George Michael). Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame headline. Costars include Golding’s Rich mother Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson (who co-wrote the script).

While its two leads don’t really have a track record opening a film, this should succeed in bringing in a female audience (and perhaps some fans of Mr. Michael). Even though the genres are different, this could premiere with similar numbers to Feig’s previous effort A Simple Favor ($16.1 million).

I’ll say that range is likely as Christmas hopes to leg out solidly in the weeks ahead.

Last Christmas opening weekend prediction: $16.9 million

For my Doctor Sleep prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/29/doctor-sleep-box-office-prediction/

For my Midway prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/midway-box-office-prediction/

For my Playing with Fire prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/playing-with-fire-box-office-prediction/

A Simple Favor Movie Review

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is the type of character who would be in the book club that reads something like A Simple Favor. Yet the cyclone level of twists in the story might only be thought up by someone like Emily (Blake Lively) after drinking too many of her patented mid afternoon dry martinis. Paul Feig’s satiric thriller is, alas, based on a novel by Darcey Bell that probably has been read in those clubs.

This takes the issues of female empowerment found in Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train (also from literary works) and casts a black comedic cloud over it. It occasionally risks collapsing under its sheer volume of plot turns. And somehow it rarely ceases to be a hoot with two dynamic lead performances.

We meet Stephanie on her daily vlog filled with cooking tips and child rearing tips. She’s a single mom whose husband died in a car accident along with her brother. Her instinct is to do it all, including hoarding over school parenting projects. She doesn’t blink when Emily, whose kid attends school with Stephanie’s, starts asking her to be an unpaid nanny. Emily has a hectic job as PR manager for a fashion designer, the already mentioned drinking problem, and has-been writer turned professor husband Sean (Henry Golding from summer smash Crazy Rich Asians). The two end up bonding with Stephanie deeming Emily her “best friend” (there’s a bracelet involved).

Then one day Emily vanishes and Stephanie’s daily posts become a darker (though always humorous) search for a missing person. Her protective nature draws her close to Sean, so much so that the authorities begin to question their motives. What follows is a relentless stream of genre clichés: insurance claims, alternate identities, unknown twins, and love triangles, just to name some. This is kitchen sink level stuff. It’s borderline exhausting, but you get the feeling that Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer know it and are furiously winking. The director is known for his straight up comedies such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. While this does venture into paperback adapted material, it does it with tongue in cheek planted wit. This is more in tone with 1998’s under appreciated Wild Things than something like Gone Girl.

Kendrick and Lively are the show here and their chemistry makes it work. Stephanie’s desperation for companionship is sold by Kendrick, who thinks she’s found someone special beyond her unseen blog watchers. She’s done so with Emily, whose back story is filled with too many secrets to keep track of (you will lose count). Lively has a ball revealing them. So do we once we realize keeping up with it all is secondary to its ridiculous and fun nature.

*** (out of four)

A Simple Favor Box Office Prediction

Director Paul Feig is best known for his comedies featuring Melissa McCarthy like Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters. He changes things up next weekend with the release of thriller A Simple Favor. It’s based on the debut novel from Darcey Bell released last year. The cast is headlined by Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding (fresh off his breakthrough role in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians).

Favor could have the benefit of appealing to a female audience in the midst of more male-driven fare such as The Predator and White Boy Rick, which both open the same day. The current forecast is in the $12-$15 million area. I feel that Kendrick, Lively, and the intended demographic could cause this to debut on the high-end of that range and perhaps exceed it.

A Simple Favor opening weekend prediction: $17.9 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

For my White Boy Rick prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/white-boy-rick-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

Ghostbusters Movie Review

After over a quarter century of dormancy, the Ghostbusters have been rebooted with a female team and an appreciation for what came before it. Maybe too much appreciation. The 2016 iteration may not be ‘fraid of no ghosts, but perhaps it is of its own 1984 shadow and what followed it.

The concept here isn’t much different. Take a talented director (Paul Feig) and fill the leading roles with SNL related stars. Here it’s Melissa McCarthy (a favorite SNL host) along with former cast member Kristin Wiig and current ones Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. They’re the new Ghostbusters and the New York City setting is the same. Wiig is a Columbia professor who once cowrote a paranormal related book that she’s trying to forget about. McCarthy is her coauthor who’s now stuck in a dead-end job at a technical college along with McKinnon (she handles gadgets). Jones is an MTA employee who finds that ghosts are real in the bowels of the city’s subway. The NYC setting provides one of the most abnormal moments here when the team chows down on Papa Johns pizza. In New York City?!?!?! Product placement is vital, people…

Ghouls and goblins begin to sprout up in the Big Apple and soon the foursome find themselves in business, even if the city’s leaders don’t wish to acknowledge the presence of them or those they’re hunting. The Annie Potts secretarial duties are handled by a game Chris Hemsworth, showing off the same occasional comedic abilities he showed in another subpar 80s relaunch last summer, Vacation.

And there’s cameos by way of the franchise before it – both in human and special effects form. They serve more to make us nod in knowing appreciation than actually laugh. As for the Ghostbusters themselves? McCarthy and Wiig acquit themselves fine and have their strong moments, as does Jones. The weakest link is McKinnon, whose over the top antics work well in five minute SNL sketch bursts but seem out of place and rather annoying here.

Perhaps what hinders Ghostbusters from being a satisfactory experience is the fact that the melding of science fiction and comedy felt fresh over 30 years ago with Ivan Reitman’s original. Since then, we’ve seen everything from Men in Black to more obvious (and less pleasing) knock offs like Evolution and The Watch to name just a couple. The injection of a gender change isn’t enough to make this feel new and the CG effects add nothing out of the ordinary either. It is the ghosts of genre past that ultimately haunts what we see here.

** (out of four)

Ghostbusters Box Office Prediction

One of the biggest summer 2016 mysteries will be answered next weekend when the Ghostbusters reboot hits theaters. 32 years after the original became a smash hit (with a less beloved sequel that followed five years later), the Columbia Pictures property is a hopeful franchise yet again. This follows years (decades in fact) of rumors about the comedic paranormal team making a return to the big screen. A third go round with the original cast never materialized, so the series has undergone a makeover with Paul Feig taking over directorial duties and a female ghostbustin’ cast donning the iconic uniforms.

Like they did in 1984 – the Ghostbusters have a strong “Saturday Night Live” connection consisting of frequent host Melissa McCarthy and current and former cast members Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Chris Hemsworth takes over secretarial duties in the part made famous by Annie Potts. OG ‘Busters Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson (along with Sigourney Weaver and Potts) are said to cameo.

This is the fourth collaboration between Feig/McCarthy. They’re previous pics (Bridesmaids, Heat, Spy) have grossed $169M, $159M, and $110M, respectively. This is a whole new ball game that comes with a different set of expectations, however. For starters – the budget is a reported $154 million with a studio likely hoping for a domestic haul in the $200 million range.

That could be a challenge. The word of mouth for Ghostbusters has not been overwhelmingly positive and underwhelming trailers had a little something to do with it.  The first trailer even earned headlines for being the most disliked trailer in YouTube’s history. Buzz aside, it’s been marketed relentlessly in recent weeks.

The release poses a whole bunch of questions that won’t be answered until its opening: will younger viewers turn out for a franchise that’s laid dormant for nearly 30 years? Will the negative trailer reaction greatly hinder its potential? If and when the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man returns, is it the same one from the original or his offspring?

Ghostbusters, even with the lengthy time passed between entries, is still a massive brand name and the name alone should get it to a $40 million opening. How much above that number seems to be the real question. I’ll predict that it falls just under $50M in the opening weekend. How it plays out in subsequent weekends will answer the question for the studio as to whether those grosses make them feel good.

Ghostbusters opening weekend prediction: $47.3 million

For my The Infiltrator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/07/06/the-infiltrator-box-office-prediction/

 

Spy Movie Review

After her terrific breakout role in 2011’s Bridesmaids, the filmography of Melissa McCarthy has nagged at me in one significant way. While her character in Bridesmaids was hilariously rough around the edges, what stood out was her innate likability. It’s a trait that was lacking in varying degrees in all her follow up work – Identity Thief, The Heat, and Tammy.

This situation is rectified in Spy, which teams McCarthy up for the third time with director Paul Feig after Bridesmaids and The Heat (they’ll collabo again next summer in the Ghostbusters reboot). Spy finds McCarthy playing more to her strengths and it’s a welcome sight. Yet it doesn’t totally mask that this effort is a fairly generic 007 genre spoof where the laughs are hit or miss.

McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst whose job consists mostly of assisting debonair agent Bradley Fine (a game Jude Law) by talking in his earpiece and helping him out of international intrigue jams. She’s head over heels for her assigned agent as well, which leads to a humorous fancy dinner scene with him where she’s a bit out of her element. Circumstances soon lead to Susan becoming a field agent responsible for tracking Rayna (Rose Byrne), who’s in possession of a nuke. Our newly minted spy must also work with rough and tumble agent Ford (Jason Statham, showcasing real comedic chops) who is far worse at his profession than he believes. His anecdotes about previous missions provide some of the larger laughs, such as when he had to reattach his arm with his other arm.

Spy follows the playbook of Bond spoof to a tee – various exotic locations, big and complicated action sequences, etc… McCarthy’s character, who gets to don various disguises, gives the actress the most she’s had to work with in a bit. The pic fits the bill as a lazy afternoon couch viewing experience and not much more.

One problem is that Feig has learned one unenviable trait from former colleague Judd Apatow. His movies are about 20 minutes too long and Spy’s premise doesn’t deserve the padded two hour running time. There is filler mixed with genuinely solid set pieces. Flaws aside, it’s nice to see McCarthy shine in a manner she’s not been afforded since her Oscar nomination for her standout part four years ago. I hope her material continues to improve.

**1/2 (out of four)

Spy Box Office Prediction

Ever since Bridesmaids some four years ago, Melissa McCarthy has become a potent box office force and while her comedies have yielded financially pleasing returns, critics haven’t always been on her side – see last summer’s Tammy. This Friday’s Spy is a notable exception as it boasts a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. The action comedy pairs her yet again with her Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig. The supporting cast includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law and Allison Janney.

McCarthy’s star power plus the critical love should lead to a very nice debut for Spy. As I see it, the question is whether or not it manages to top the $39 million earned by The Heat to create McCarthy’s largest domestic opening of all time. I am predicting it’ll just manage to get there and its solid word of mouth should continue its healthy run forward for the weeks to come.

Spy opening weekend prediction: $42.1 million

For my Entourage prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/05/31/entourage-box-office-prediction/

For my Insidious: Chapter 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/05/31/insidious-chapter-3-box-office-prediction/

Ghostbusters and Superheroes

Four was the magic number today in movie news. Four as in this morning, the first trailer for the reboot of this summer’s The Fantastic Four was unveiled. You may recall when 20th Century Fox released two movies based on the iconic comic book in 2005 and 2007 with a cast that included Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis. They did decent business at the box office but critics and fans mostly disapproved. The reboot’s cast includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell. Josh Trank, who burst upon the scene with his sleeper hit Chronicle, handles directing duties. The trailer certainly indicates a more serious tone than what we saw a decade ago. The picture is out August 7.

Four is also a significant number based on news we’ve been waiting to hear for some time. Ghostbusters is finally working its way back to the big screen with a highly comedically talented group of women being the ones who got the call. Paul Feig, maker of Bridesmaids and The Heat, directs and he’s enlisted previous collaborators Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as part of the quartet. Obviously this marks a Wiig-McCarthy reunion and Feig’s fourth pic with McCarthy (their third feature Spy is out this summer). The other two Busters are current SNL cast members: Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

At one time it was thought that a traditional third pic in the franchise would eventually see the light of day. However it never materialized partly due to Bill Murray’s reported reluctance to return. By the time of Harold Ramis’s untimely passing year, director of the original two Ivan Reitman made it clear he had no interest in exploring a continuation. The new Ghostbusters is expected for release in summer 2016.

It will certainly be fascinating to watch how these two new rebooted foursomes resonate with moviegoers in the near future.