Oscar Watch: Blackbird

The family drama Blackbird has screened at the Toronto Film Festival to fairly decent critical reaction so far. It’s a remake of the 2014 Danish pic Silent Heart from director Billie August. Roger Michell (he made Notting Hill and directed Peter O’Toole to his final Academy nod in Venus) is behind the camera.

Playing a dying woman who gathers her brood for a weekend gathering, it appears Susan Sarandon has the showcase role here over costars Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neil, and Rainn Wilson. She’s been Oscar nominated five times and her last inclusion was the one year she won all the way back in 1995 for Dead Man Walking.

Blackbird is still seeking stateside 2019 distribution. If it gets that, I’ll predict this flies under the radar for awards voters and that includes Sarandon’s work. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Meg Movie Review

There’s not a whole lot to add to the finned villain genre some 43 years after Jaws, but The Meg tries to do so in the form of size. The title refers to a megalodon. That’s a creature long thought to be extinct. It’s so big that it can eat normal sharks as a light snack. Size matters in this movie. We actually have two gargantuan megs that a crew must contend with. The human group of potential chum is led by Jason Statham, his massive biceps, and that voice that sounds as if he gargles gravel.

Statham plays Jonas and he’s still reeling from an incident five years ago in which he lost a group of sailors on a submarine. Jonas is convinced that an unknown and large ocean dweller caused that tragedy. As a side note, it’s interesting that the screenplay portrays him as despondent over that loss. Other characters later on seem to develop a process of rapid grieving for people they actually know.

Yet we don’t watch these pictures for lessons on dealing with death. We watch to see inventive ways for it to happen. Jonas is lured back into the water when his ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) and her mates are trapped deep underwater with that big fish lurking. She’s an employee of Mana One, a cool looking research facility looking for new species. The corporation is headed by an eccentric (is there any other kind?) billionaire played by Rainn Wilson. Li Bingbing is an oceanographer with a precocious young daughter who also serves as Jonas’s immediate love interest. Recognizable faces like Cliff Curtis and Ruby Rose are also along for the ride.

The Meg never quite develops a satisfying identity. The PG-13 rating eliminates the opportunity for gory delights. There’s winking humor and even some of it lands. And there’s also dramatic moments that seem to want to be taken seriously. It spills its creative guts early on and essentially repeats itself. A third act that finally lets the monster expose himself to the beach going masses feels truncated.

Statham throws himself into the role and it’s admirable. We do see a couple of man vs. beast exchanges that I hadn’t seen before. However, this doesn’t rise to the level of genuine guilty pleasure or generate enough suspense, humor, or horror. They’re too infrequent to completely excuse the sizable gaps of mediocrity.

** (out of four)

The Meg Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/08/18): On the eve of its premiere, I am bumping my estimate up from $19.7 million to $22.7 million

The second weekend of August is one that Warner Bros hopes is their Shark Week when The Meg opens. Focused on a group of scientists tracking a 75-foot creature sporting massive jaws, the film stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis. Jon Turteltaub, whose had a lengthy directorial career including the National Treasure pics, is behind the camera.

Other than the giant shark itself, the most eye-popping thing about The Meg is its reported $150 million budget. This is an American/Chinese co-production and it better hope for generous earnings overseas.

As for its stateside expectations, it can be dangerous to underestimate audiences shark love. Two summers ago, The Shallows debuted to a better than anticipated $16.8 million. Last summer, 47 Meters Down (which was originally slated for a TV premiere) took in $11.2 million for its start.

There’s always breakout potential in this genre, but I’m looking at The Meg managing to hit Shallows numbers and a bit more.

The Meg opening weekend prediction: $22.7 million

For my Slender Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/31/slender-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Dog Days prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/31/dog-days-box-office-prediction/

For my BlacKkKlansman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/blackkklansman-box-office-prediction/

Smurfs: The Lost Village Box Office Prediction

Columbia Pictures hopes that moviegoers have the blues in a good way next weekend when Smurfs: The Lost Village debuts. This is the third pic in the franchise based on the 1980s cartoon and the studio has made a change-up. While 2011’s The Smurfs and its 2013 sequel were a mix of live-action and animation, The Lost Village cuts the human aspect and is of the fully drawn variety. That means Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria are nowhere to be seen, unlike the first two.

Voice over work is provided by familiar faces that include Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodgriguez, Jack McBrayer, Ellie Kemper, Danny Pudi, Ariel Winter, and Julia Roberts. Kelly Asbury, who handled directorial duties on Shrek 2, is behind the camera.

The 2011 Smurfs was a hit, opening to $35 million with an eventual $142M domestic haul. Part two did not fare as well, premiering to $17 million and $71M overall.

Competition for family audiences is considerable. Beauty and the Beast will still be bringing in the bucks in weekend #4, Powers Rangers will be in its third frame, and The Boss Baby will be entering its sophomore weekend.

That said, I expect The Lost Village to outdo what the second movie did out of the gate. I anticipate an opening in the high teens to low 20s. That likely means a third place showing behind Baby and Beauty. Whether or not that’s enough to push forward with planned sequel Smurf & Turf (in which the characters become embroiled in a vicious gangland war) remains to be seen.

Smurfs: The Lost Village opening weekend prediction: $20.4 million

For my Going in Style prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/29/going-in-style-box-office-prediction/

For my The Case for the Christ prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/03/the-case-for-christ-box-office-prediction/

This Day in Movie History: January 20

Rarely does politics blend in on my blog but today we’ll make a rare exception. On This Day in Movie (and Political) History 34 years ago, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States. He’s the one and only POTUS who happened to be a movie star as well. 43 years prior to becoming the most powerful man in the world and the conservative icon that he is today, Reagan had his first film role in 1937’s Love Is on the Air. He would costar with Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis in Dark Victory. Perhaps his most iconic role came as George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All-American. It was this picture that gave President Reagan one of his most enduring nicknames – “The Gipper”. His final film role came in 1964’s The Killers. Two years later he would be elected Governor of California and the rest was history.

As for birthdays, Rainn Wilson is 48 today. Known best for his role as Dwight Schrute on NBC’s “The Office”, Wilson starred in the 2008 comedy The Rocker, in addition to parts in Galaxy Quest, Sahara, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Juno, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Stacey Dash in 47 today. You may know her best from her costarring role in 1995’s hit Clueless or alongside Damon Wayans in Mo’ Money. Other credits include Renaissance Man and View from the Top.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between the birthdays stars:

Rainn Wilson was in My Super Ex-Girlfriend with Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman was in Be Cool with Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito was in Renaissance Man with Stacey Dash

And that’s today – January 20 – in Movie History!