Oscar Watch: Doctor Sleep

When it was released nearly 40 years ago in theaters, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not considered the landmark horror classic that it is today. In fact, the film received zero Oscar nominations. It did score two Razzie nods. That ceremony celebrates the worst in moviemaking each year. Both Kubrick and Shelley Duvall as the terrified wife of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance were singled out for their (apparently) subpar work.

That seems hard to fathom these days with its standing as one of the genre’s best. This weekend comes Doctor Sleep, the sequel to both Stephen King’s 1977 novel and Kubrick’s picture. Reviews are mostly solid, but not across the board and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.

Truth be told, Sleep was never expected to be an awards player and reaction so far hasn’t done anything to alter that. There is one potential, if unlikely, exception. Critical buzz has heaped praise on the supporting work of Rebecca Ferguson, who’s said to steal the show as a cult leader with psychic powers.

A performance being recognized in the horror space is quite rare. Just last year, there were numerous calls for Toni Collette to get Best Actress attention in Hereditary. It never happened. Ferguson absolutely needs critics groups to bestow her with wins in order to get anywhere on Academy voters radar. If that occurs, she may have a small shot. If so, she would be the sixth performer Oscar nominated from a King adaptation: Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in Carrie, Kathy Bates (who won for Misery), Morgan Freeman for The Shawshank Redemption, and Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile.

Bottom line: Ferguson needs a whole lot of outside help to be a factor in the Supporting Actress derby and I wouldn’t count on it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

White Boy Rick Box Office Prediction

After a debut at the Telluride Film Festival that garnered mixed reactions, White Boy Rick is out in theaters next weekend. Directed by Yann Demange, it tells the true crime story of 14-year-old Richard Wersche Jr. (Richie Merritt) who became a FBI informant and drug kingpin in Detroit in the 1980s. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley, Bryan Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie.

As mentioned, festival reaction wasn’t overwhelmingly positive and Rick currently stands at 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Had the film managed to generate awards buzz, my estimate might be slightly higher than it is. I believe this could struggle to hit double digits out of the gate for a so-so debut.

White Boy Rick opening weekend prediction: $8.7 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:


For my A Simple Favor prediction, click here:


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


Oscar Watch: White Boy Rick

Ahead of its stateside bow in just two weeks, White Boy Rick has premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. The 1980s set crime pic tells the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (played by newcomer Richie Merritt), who became a drug kingpin and FBI informant at age 14 in Detroit. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with French director Yann Demange (maker of the acclaimed 2014 indie ‘71) behind the camera.

White Boy Rick was never exactly looked at as a major Oscar contender, but it was a curiosity as to whether its two main actors could receive attention. McConaughey is just five years removed from a gold statue for Dallas Buyers Club. While some early reviews have commended him and Merritt, there’s been an overall mixed to negative vibe from critics.

Bottom line: This should be a total non-factor when it comes to Academy Awards chatter.

The film opens September 14. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Carrie (2013) Movie Review

When Stephen King heard of a new remake for Carrie, his reaction was this: “The real question is why, when the original was so good?”

Right you are Mr. King and he’s pretty much written my movie review of Kimberly Peirce’s rehashing of the 1976 Brian De Palma classic with Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, based on King’s first published novel. It’s not that the 2013 version is terrible. It’s not that Chloe Grace Moretz doesn’t deliver a solid performance as the telekinetic teenager who has a very tragic prom. And Julianne Moore is incapable of giving a bad performance and manages respectably taking on the supremely creepy mother role that Piper Laurie perfected nearly three decades ago.

It’s just that this feels so unnecessary. Since De Palma’s work 27 years ago, an unwanted sequel came out in 1999 and an unwanted NBC TV remake was released in 2002. Now this. None of them performed too well and that’s easy to understand. 1976’s Carrie holds up remarkably well and any generation can simply revisit it.

There are tweaks here and there in the remake, but none of them add much of anything. The basic story is intact and the most famous lines from the original remain. The biggest difference is the ending which is a bit surprising because the ’76 version had a terrific one. For those unfamiliar with the plot, I’ll save you some trouble. Just go watch the De Palma flick. It’s worth your time and this version isn’t. I can’t put it any better than the source material’s author. So listen to Stephen King, kids!

** (out of four)

This Day in Movie History: January 22

32 years ago Today in Movie History – January 22 – On Golden Pond opened wide in theaters on its way to a number of Oscars. It had a limited opening in late 1981 to qualify for Oscar consideration. Pond would be the final film role for legendary actor Henry Fonda and he would win Best Actor for the part. Too sick to accept the award, his daughter and costar Jane spoke for him. Fonda would die just months later. His counterpart in the picture, Katherine Hepburn, would win her fourth Oscar as Best Actress – setting a record that’s yet to be surpassed. Pond would earn a fantastic $119 million domestically and ranked as the second top grosser of 1981 behind Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As for birthdays, two actresses known primarily for their roles in classic horror flicks celebrate today. Piper Laurie is 84. She received an Oscar nomination as the title character’s crazy mother in 1976’s Carrie. She had been nominated 15 years prior as Paul Newman’s girlfriend in the classic The Hustler. Laurie received a third nomination in 1986 for Children of a Lesser God.

And Linda Blair is 55 today. She received an Oscar nomination in 1973 as demonic child Regan in The Exorcist, perhaps the greatest horror title of all time. She would also appear in Airport 1975 and reprise her famous role in the 1977 Exorcist sequel. In more recent history, she had a cameo role in 1996’s Scream.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the scream queens:

Piper Laurie was in Carrie with John Travolta

John Travolta was in Face/Off with Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage was in The Wicker Man with Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn was in The Exorcist with Linda Blair

And that’s today – January 22 – in Movie History!