Black Adam Review

In 1993, NBA superstar Charles Barkley famously told the world in a commercial that he was not a role model. Nearly three decades later, cinematic superstar Dwayne Johnson tells us repeatedly in Black Adam that he is not a hero. This latest offering from the DC Extended Universe kind of has a mid 90s vibe when it comes to comic book adaptations. That was a weak time for the genre prior to its explosion in the 21st century. As far as quality, this has more in common with 1996’s Kazaam, which starred Barkley’s Inside the NBA colleague Shaquille O’Neal. Adam may have a connection to 2019’s Shazam!, but shares little of its entertainment value.

A prologue in 2600 B.C. introduces us to the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. A young boy enslaved by an evil ruler chooses to take a stand against the oppression (even as his elders discourage it). He is rewarded by the Council of Wizards – hence that Shazam! tie-in as he’s given the immense powers of that character.

Flash forward 5000 years and Kahndaq is under a different kind of oppression from a crime syndicated known as Intergang. Archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) is in search of the Crown of Sabbac, which turns its wearer into a demonic being. Intergang is looking for it as well. When they clash, she manages to awaken Teth-Adam. He’s believed to be that heroic rebel from 50 centuries ago. Dwayne Johnson is the awoken being. Adam insists that’s he not a hero and keeps saying it.

The presence of this superhuman relic attracts the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who you may remember as The Suicide Squad‘s recruiter. Adam is looked at as a potential threat. The Squad doesn’t intervene. Neither does Superman or Batman or The Flash (though they’re glimpsed on the bedroom wall of Adrianna’s teenage son). Instead the Justice Society books passage to Kahndaq to investigate just how dangerous Adam is. Pierce Brosnan is the clairvoyant Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge is Hawkman, Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher (think Ant-Man but he can only grow big), and Quintessa Swindell is the twirling Cyclone. If this sounds like the B list of the DC pages, that’s certainly how it feels. That superficiality extends to the villain (Marwan Kenzari), the Intergang leader who dons the devilish crown. He might be more forgettable than Justice League‘s baddie Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and that’s saying a lot.

Jaume Collet-Serra directed Johnson in the pretty enjoyable Jungle Cruise. That collaboration was a better ride than this. Johnson is saddled with a hero (wait… NOT a hero!!!) who’s often a sullen bore. Very little of the actor’s dynamic personality comes through. It break through on occasion but not nearly enough. We’re cooking at a low boil. Everything in Black Adam has been done with more pizzazz in other DCEU and especially MCU pictures. Dwayne Johnson (and Tina Turner) are right in this case. We don’t need another hero.

*1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Black Adam

Of the ten 10 previous films making up the DC Extended Universe, there’s only one Oscar nomination to be found. That’s the third film in the franchise – 2016’s Suicide Squad – and it’s a win in the Makeup and Hairstyling race.

Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson represents a new chapter in the DCEU as Warner Bros hopes the character becomes a fixture in future installments. Out Friday, the review embargo has lifted and critical reaction is certainly in the mixed variety. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 54%.

From Man of Steel up through last summer’s new version of The Suicide Squad, even the competitions where comic book adaptations can contend have escaped awards attention. That includes Best Sound and Visual Effects (where numerous MCU titles have been nominated though never won). From what I’ve seen reaction wise, there’s no reason to think Black Adam would be contending for a second DCEU nod. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Black Adam Box Office Prediction

Dwayne Johnson looks to bring his often rock solid box office bonafides to the DC Extended Universe with Black Adam on October 21st. The 11th feature in the franchise that began with Man of Steel nearly a decade ago is a spinoff of 2019’s Shazam! Like that pic, it is centered on a less widely known hero in the DC arsenal. Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Johnson recently in Jungle Cruise) directs. The supporting cast includes Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Viola Davis, and Pierce Brosnan.

It’s somewhat surprising that we’ve waited this long to see the live-action comic book genre and this leading man hook up. While this should perform well, Adam is unlikely to approach the opening grosses of the DCEU’s earlier titles like Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. They all made over $100 million (or close to it) out of the gate. Yet this should top the $53 million earned by Shazam! The best comp I see is Aquaman, which made $67 million during its traditional Friday to Sunday rollout. I’ll say it makes a little less.

Black Adam opening weekend prediction: $64.7 million

For my Ticket to Paradise prediction, click here:

Ticket to Paradise Box Office Prediction

Fall Box Office Prediction

The survival thriller Fall opens on approximately 1200 screens on August 12th. Directed by Scott Mann (best known for the Dave Bautista/Pierce Brosnan 2018 action flick Final Score), the climbing tale’s cast includes Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Mason Gooding, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

A Lionsgate release, Fall‘s promotion seems to be non-existent. This is a prime example of a mid-August release where the studio seems to have zero confidence. I’m a little surprised it’s even hitting theaters.

The aforementioned Score couldn’t even clear a million dollars at the box office though it never approached 1200 venues. Fall may struggle to average over $1,000 per screen upon release. This may not reach $1 million in the first three days, but I’ll put it just past that.

Fall opening weekend prediction: $1.2 million

For my Bodies Bodies Bodies prediction, click here:

Bodies Bodies Bodies Box Office Prediction

For my Mack & Rita prediction, click here:

Mack & Rita Box Office Prediction

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

January 28-30 Box Office Predictions

January should close out very quietly at the box office as we await more high profiles releases in February. There’s no newcomers this weekend as the trio of S sequels – Spider-Man: No Way Home, Scream, Sing 2 – should easily maintain the 1-2-3 positions. In fact, the top 5 is likely to remain unaltered with Redeeming Love in fourth and The King’s Man rounding out the top five.

I’m projecting drops in the 20s for Spidey, Sing and King’s while Scream and Love could lose around half of their previous haul.

Quite simply, not a whole lot to ponder this time around and here’s how I see the top 5 shaking out:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

2. Scream

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

3. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $4.2 million

4. Redeeming Love

Predicted Gross: $1.8 million

5. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $1.3 million

Box Office Results (January 21-23)

Two newcomers couldn’t make a dent in multiplexes as MCU’s behemoth took back the top spot from Ghostface. No Way Home made $14 million in its sixth frame, ending out my $13 million estimate. It’s up to $720 million and perched 4th all-time domestically.

Scream dropped to second with $12.2 million (in line with my $12.7 million projection) for $51 million in its two weeks. The 59% fall is similar to Scream 4‘s 62% sophomore dip.

Sing 2 was third with $5.7 million (I said $5.3 million) for a five-week tally of $128 million.

The historical romance Redeeming Love premiered in fourth with $3.5 million. That’s certainly unimpressive, but it did manage to exceed my $2.4 million prediction.

The King’s Man rounded out the top five with $1.7 million (I went with $1.6 million) for $31 million overall.

Last and least, the long delayed The King’s Daughter (featuring Pierce Brosnan and a mermaid) should have stayed on the shelf. The fantasy adventure debuted in 8th with $750,000. I thought it might make $1 million and my generosity clearly got the best of me.

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

The King’s Daughter Box Office Prediction

Over the past two years, we’ve become accustomed to movies experiencing significant delays. The King’s Daughter takes the crown. Not to be confused with the recently out The King’s Man, this was actually filmed before the first Kingsman was released. The principal photography was done during the early part of the fifth year of the Obama administration.

You didn’t read that incorrectly. The adventure fantasy from director Sean McNamara was completed in the spring of 2014 and has set on the shelf since. Pierce Brosnan plays King Louis XIV and the plot involves him stealing a mermaid’s life force to become immortal (you did read that correctly). Costars include Kara Scodelario, Benjamin Walker, William Hurt, Rachel Griffiths, Fan Bingbing, and Julie Andrews (who narrates).

The fact that Gravitas Ventures is even putting this out theatrically is surprising as the distributor usually goes the PVOD route. It’s reportedly not much of a release with an output of around 1000 screens. I certainly wouldn’t anticipate this making a splash. I’ll say it gets to a million bucks and that might be generous.

The King’s Daughter opening weekend prediction: $1 million

For my Redeeming Love prediction, click here:

Redeeming Love Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Cinderella

Critics don’t seem overly charmed with the latest version of Cinderella, which hits Amazon Prime this weekend after slipping out of a theatrical release. The musical rom com casts singer Camila Cabello in the title role with a supporting cast including Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan. Kay Cannon writes and directs.

The Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 45%. However, the would-be princess’s new iteration could at least make a case for some awards chatter. That would be in the category of Costume Design (where critical reaction doesn’t mean a whole lot). The better reviewed Disney live-action retelling from 2015 scored a nod there. However, I would say it’s chances are fairly slim. Cruella already has a reserved spot in all likelihood. And then there’s hopefuls such as The French Dispatch, House of Gucci, West Side Story, Dune, and The Last Duel (to name a handful).

Cinderella‘s shots don’t quite end there. Cabello recently debuted an original song “Million to One” for the soundtrack (which mostly consists of contemporary covers of tracks such as Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love”). This is another race where the level of forthcoming competition could determine its viability.

Bottom line: Cinderella could find its way into two categories, but I wouldn’t bet on it. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

James Bond: An Oscar History

Of the six actors to have played the most famous spy in cinematic history, only one of them has ever been nominated for an Oscar. That would be, of course, Sean Connery and he was victorious in 1987 for his supporting work in The Untouchables. It is worth noting that the last two Bonds (Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) have Golden Globes nods in the Musical/Comedy category for The Matador and Knives Out, respectively.

With the recent death of Sir Connery, this got me thinking… how many actors from the nearly 60 year old franchise have been recognized by the Academy? And how much Oscar attention has the series itself received? For the first question, it was rather limited until Craig took over the role. For the second question, 9 out of the 24 official 007 entries have managed to get on awards voters radar screens. So let’s break it down, shall we?

Goldfinger (1964) was the third feature in the franchise and it marked the first nomination and win for the Bond catalogue. The pic took the Best Sound Effects trophy. One year later, Thunderball won for its Visual Effects. Connery’s final official appearance in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever resulted in a nod for its sound.

When Roger Moore took over the part, his debut saw the first theme song nominated courtesy of Paul McCartney’s title track to 1973’s Live and Let Die. There would also be song nods for both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and For Your Eyes Only in 1981. Spy would mark the first Bond flick to score multiple mentions with its score and art direction. And Moore’s 1979 space opus Moonraker was nominated for its visual effects.

George Lazenby’s one-off appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Timothy Dalton’s two 1980s pictures, and the 1990s-early 2000s four film Pierce Brosnan run yielded zero Oscar mentions. Same goes for Craig’s first two outings Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. 

So it had been over 30 years since a Bond adventure had been recognized on Oscar night when 2012’s Skyfall landed a franchise record 5 nominations. It won two with Adele’s theme song and its sound editing. The other nods were Score, Sound Mixing, and Cinematography. The song love would continue with 2015’s Spectre when Sam Smith won for his tune.

Add that up and we have 15 total nominations for the series and 5 wins.

We move to the thespians and their fortune at the big show. As mentioned, before the recent run of Craig titles, it was a bit limited. In fact, the number of actors who are Oscar nominees from the Craig run nearly equals everything that came before it. Giancarlo Giannini appeared in Casino and Quantum and he was a Best Actor nominee in 1975 for Seven Beauties. Ralph Fiennes (otherwise known as M) is a double nominee for Schindler’s List and The English Patient. Naomie Harris (or Moneypenny) achieved a Supporting Actress mention for 2016’s Moonlight. Albert Finney showed up in Skyfall and he was nominated five times in his long career. Craig’s original “M” was Judi Dench and she dates back to the Brosnan era. She’s a one-time winner with 6 other nominations.

That’s just the good guys. In the Craig era, the villains come with serious awards cred. Javier Bardem from Skyfall had taken Supporting Actor five years earlier in No Country for Old Men and is a two-time Best Actor nominee for Before Nights Falls and Biutiful. Christoph Waltz (Spectre) is a double Supporting Actor winner with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. And the next pic – the oft delayed No Time to Die – has Rami Malek as its main baddie. In 2018, he gave his acceptance speech for Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Going back to the beginning, From Russia with Love featured Lotte Lenye (a 1961 nominee for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) and Robert Shaw (nominated three years after Russia for A Man for All Seasons). And that’s actually the extent of performers from the Connery era nominated for Oscars… sort of. The legend did return to the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, though it is not considered part of the “official” catalogue. It does boast three Academy players with Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa), Max Von Sydow (Pelle the Conquerer and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and Kim Basinger (Supporting Actress recipient for 1997’s L.A. Confidential).

Telly Savalas costarred with Lazenby in Secret Service and he was nominated seven years earlier for his work in Birdman of Alcatraz. In the Moore era, there’s just Topol. He’s best known his nominated work in Fiddler on the Roof and he costarred in For Your Eyes Only. In the Dalton double feature, we have Benicio del Toro as he was a henchman in Licence to Kill. Over a decade later, he would win Supporting Actor for Traffic and get another nod for 21 Grams. Things picked up a bit with Brosnan. In addition to Dench, a trio of actresses were on their way or had already achieved nominations. Halle Berry co-headlined Die Another Day one year after winning Actress for Monster’s Ball. Minnie Driver had a small role in Goldeneye and would have her breakout part (along with Supporting Actress inclusion) two years later with Good Will Hunting. And Rosamund Pike was also in Die Another Day a decade plus before her Actress nod for Gone Girl. 

A final word. Not one of the 24 released 007 features has achieved any acting, directing, writing, or picture nominations of its own. Skyfall probably came the closest as some prognosticators wondered whether it could be the first to nab a Picture nod. It didn’t materialize, but its five nominations indicate it might have come the closest. Indeed, Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has seen him costar with the most Academy friendly costars. Let’s see if the next performer to play the iconic spy gets to act alongside that same kind of pedigree.

James Bond and the U.S. Presidency: A History

A fascinating factoid is out now that the U.S. Presidential Election of 2020 is in the rearview. As fans of the James Bond franchise are aware, we are now approaching the 60th anniversary of the series in 2022. The release of No Time to Die will mark the 25th official feature in the 007 canon when it (hopefully) debuts in 2021. As you are likely aware, the fifth and final Daniel Craig appearance as the British super spy was originally slated for April 2020 before its COVID-19 related delay.

Why am I saying all of this as it relates to the election that just happened? Well, it turns out that the Trump presidency will be the first since the series began in which no James Bond picture was released. That means there have been 10 U.S. Presidencies in a row where 007 appeared on the silver screen… from Kennedy to Obama. Until now. This will clearly resume when No Time is released in plenty of time for when Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office.

Based on this interesting little nugget of trivia info, I thought it might be fun to run through the movies that were released under each former POTUS and take stock with how their administrations matched up with Bond’s adventures onscreen:

The Presidency of John F. Kennedy

The Bond Pictures: Dr. No (1962)

It seems more than appropriate that this franchise started under JFK’s tenure. President Kennedy was a self-professed fan of the Ian Fleming novels. The producers of Bond actually chose From Russia with Love to be the second in the series because JFK singled it out as a favorite book. Sadly, the last movie the President ever watched at the White House was From Russia (months before its actual US release, though it was out in the UK). That was on November 20. Two days later is when Kennedy took the fateful trip to Dallas.

The Presidency of Lyndon Johnson

The Bond Pictures: From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967)

I would say it’s hard to argue that Johnson’s time in the White House isn’t the most impressive when it comes to the 007 catalogue. This was, of course, the heyday of Sean Connery’s time in the role which turned him into an international superstar. The first two titles on the board are often cited as the greatest of the bunch (my personal favorite is Russia).

The Presidency of Richard Nixon

The Bond Pictures: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973)

Nixon wins having the most Bonds during his time in office. There were three as his Presidency marked George Lazenby’s one off in Service, Connery’s return in Diamonds, and Roger Moore’s first outing with Live. I would also say the trio is all somewhat underwhelming to a degree (though I know the Service diehards will not appreciate that statement).

The Presidency of Gerald Ford

The Bond Pictures: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Pretty slim picking for Mr. Ford with Moore’s second go-round as 007. This is deservedly considered one of the weakest in the franchise.

The Presidency of Jimmy Carter

The Bond Pictures: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979)

The best of times and worst of times for Roger Moore matched with the Carter Administration. I would easily call Spy the finest Moore pic in his run while Moonraker is the low point.

The Presidency of Ronald Reagan

The Bond Pictures: For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987)

It’s appropriate that some of the titles here incorporate the Cold War activities happening in Reagan’s 1980s era. The list here includes two solid Moore outings (yes, I think Octopussy is quite good) and the middling finale of View. It also marks Timothy Dalton’s fairly pleasing debut in Daylights. As a side note, while not considered an official Bond pic in the canon sense, Sean Connery returned to his signature part with 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

The Presidency of George H.W. Bush

The Bond Pictures: Licence to Kill (1989)

The last one term President until now had just one 007 flick. I maintain that Licence may be just the most underrated one of the whole series. It was Dalton’s swan song for his brief tenure.

The Presidency of Bill Clinton

The Bond Pictures: Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The Clinton Era matches with the Pierce Brosnan era as the franchise was revitalized financially with these three blockbusters which were all decent in quality.

The Presidency of George W. Bush

The Bond Pictures: Die Another Day (2002), Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008)

A mixed bag. I consider Brosnan’s finale of Day to be the worst James Bond adventure of all time. On the other hand, Daniel Craig’s emergence in Royale is second only to From Russia with Love in my opinion. Quantum was just OK and the weakest of the Craig pics.

The Presidency of Barack Obama

The Bond Pictures: Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015)

Bond reached a billion dollars in the Obama era with Skyfall, rightfully considered one of the strongest of the two dozen pictures. Spectre didn’t match its quality, but was still pretty good.

The Presidency of Donald Trump

As I said… nada. No Time to Die would have been the one Trump time release if not for the pandemic. It will instead be unveiled when President Biden is in office and there could be even be a new 007 under his Presidency depending on how quickly the studio casts a new spy.