Oscar Predictions: Stars at Noon

From acclaimed French titles like 1999’s Beau Travail to the recent Robert Pattinson horror pic High Life, filmmaker Claire Denis has her ardent admirers. Based on the 1986 novel by Denis Johnson, her latest is Stars at Noon. It has made its premiere at Cannes.

The romantic thriller features Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn in the lead roles with Danny Ramirez, Benny Safdie, and John C. Reilly providing support. The reviews are decent though not overwhelmingly positive and the Rotten Tomatoes rating is 78%.

I suspect the stars won’t align for this to receive any sort of significant awards push in the coming months. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

March 25-27 Box Office Predictions

**Blogger’s Update (03/24): The Indian period adventure RRR is slated for a release on over 1100 screens and it could be a sleeper hit for the weekend based on buzz and pre-sales. I’m adding it in the mix for a third place debut.

Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, and Daniel Radcliffe will try to dislodge The Batman from its three-week perch atop the charts when The Lost City debuts this Friday. It’s the only newcomer this weekend and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on the comedic adventure here:

The Lost City Box Office Prediction

My mid to high 20s estimate for the well reviewed City gets it to first place as long as The Batman sees a drop in the high 30s to low 40s range. It could end up being a close race, but I’m giving Bullock and company the benefit of the doubt.

As for the rest of the top 5, current #2 Jujutsu Kaisen 0 easily surpassed expectations in its debut (more on that below), but the sophomore drop should be steep (similar to the 70% fall of animated manga tale Demon Slayer). That would leave Uncharted in third with Kaisen fourth. In the five spot, Dog (also with Channing Tatum) may have a slighter dip than in what might be a tight race for that position.

And with that, here’s my take on this Oscar frame’s top 7 performers:

1. The Lost City

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. The Batman 

Predicted Gross: $21.6 million

3. RRR

Predicted Gross: $7.8 million

4. Uncharted

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

5. Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Predicted Gross: $5 million

6. Dog

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

7. X

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

 

Box Office Results (March 18-20)

While there were newbies to view, The Batman ruled the roost while Jujutsu had a terrific premiere. Robert Pattinson’s debut as the DCEU Crusader took in $36.7 million, below my projection of $42.1 million. The three-week tally sits at an impressive $300 million.

Jujutsu blew away prognostications with $17.6 million. The FUNimation entry (which was already a hit overseas) easily toppled my meager $9.8 million take. Like other genre fare, its opening frame should represent a large portion of the overall domestic gross.

Uncharted was third with $7.8 million. I was right on target at $7.7 million. Total earnings are $125 million.

Horror pic from A24 capitalized on solid reviews and came in fourth with a decent $4.4 million. That’s ahead of my $2.9 million estimate and it will hope for solid holds in coming weekends.

Dog rounded out the top five with $3.9 million, a touch below my $4.6 million prediction. It’s up to $54 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was sixth with $3.1 million (I said $3.7 million) and the massive haul is $797 million.

Finally, crime drama The Outfit with Mark Rylance started in 8th place with a muted $1.4 million. That is better than my $1 million forecast, however.

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

March 11-13 Box Office Predictions

With no new wide releases this weekend (or the next one), The Batman should easily maintain its perch atop the charts. The question is how much it drops in the sophomore frame.

I’m projecting a dip in the low to mid 50s range which would give it around $60-$65 million. Other holdovers should maintain their current rankings in the top five with smallish declines considering the lack of competition.

Here’s how I see it breaking down:

1. The Batman

Predicted Gross: $62.5 million

2. Uncharted

Predicted Gross: $6.7 million

3. Dog

Predicted Gross: $4.4 million

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

5. Death on the Nile

Predicted Gross: $1.9 million

Box Office Results (March 4-6)

As was widely expected, The Batman easily achieved the second best opening of the COVID era (behind Spidey). Robert Pattinson’s introduction as the Caped Crusader took in $134 million. That’s not near as high as my $155.2 million projection but it’s still a solid haul. With an A- Cinemascore grade and little competition, it will rule the month of March until The Lost City arrives on March 25th.

Uncharted dropped to second with $11.1 million, a tad ahead of my $10.5 million forecast. Tom Holland’s almost sure to be newest franchise sits at a cool $100 million.

Channing Tatum’s Dog was third with $6.1 million (I said $6.4 million) for a three-week take of $40 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was fourth at $4.5 million compared to my $3.8 million prediction. The massive tally is $786 million.

Death on the Nile rounded out the top five with $2.7 million (I went with $2.5 million). Total is $37 million.

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

Oscar Predictions: The Batman

You have to go back to 2008’s The Dark Knight to find the last Batfilm to receive an Oscar nomination. It landed the most of them. While famously missing Best Picture (it’s often called the flick that caused the Academy to expand beyond five nominees), it garnered eight nods and won Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Sound Editing. The other nominations were for Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup, Film Editing, and Visual Effects. 1989’s Batman was 1 for 1 in its nominations with Art Direction while follow-up Batman Returns was up for Makeup and Visual Effects and Batman Forever received a mention for Sound Effects Editing. Batman Begins from 2005 made the Cinematography final five. Batman and Robin, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League all failed to show up at the big show.

That history lesson is, of course, given to you because reboot The Batman  with Robert Pattinson opens Friday and the review embargo lifted today. Early critical reaction has resulted in an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far. Some write-ups are calling it masterful. Others are more mixed in the praise with some complaints of over length in particular.

So what are its Oscar prospects? As I see it, pretty strong in many of the races mentioned above. That includes Sound (now just one competition), Visual Effects, Production Design (what was Art Direction), Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematography, and even Original Score (from Michael Giacchino). Director Matt Reeves, taking over the franchise, has experience in the VE derby with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. 

Those down the line nods could be plentiful for The Batman. However, I don’t see it getting Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, or nominations for its actors. It won’t be for lack of social media chatter. We have seen numerous comic book adaptations receive fervent support online (from The Dark Knight to Deadpool to Avengers: Endgame to Spider-Man: No Way Home). Only Black Panther and Joker have made the BP cut. I don’t envision The Batman being the third, but tech nods should happen. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

March 4-6 Box Office Predictions

It’s an eagerly awaited weekend at the box office as The Batman looks to have the second highest debut of the COVID era (behind only Spider-Man: No Way Home). The DCEU reboot with Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader is the only new release of this weekend (and the majority of March) and my detailed prediction post on it can be found here:

The Batman Box Office Prediction

The range of possibility is wide (anywhere from $100 to $200 million depending on what you’re reading). I believe a gross just north of $150 million is most likely and my projection gives it the 20th largest domestic opening of all time.

Holdovers should experience heftier dips than this past weekend with Uncharted, Dog, Spider-Man, and Death on the Nile all sliding a spot. Here’s how I see it looking:

1. The Batman

Predicted Gross: $155.2 million

2. Uncharted

Predicted Gross: $10.5 million

3. Dog

Predicted Gross: $6.4 million

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $3.8 million

5. Death on the Nile

Predicted Gross: $2.5 million

Box Office Results (February 25-27)

The leftovers didn’t spoil during the last frame of February while the two newcomers didn’t prove appetizing to moviegoers.

Uncharted ruled the charts for the second frame with $23 million, just ahead of my $21.8 million forecast for a two-week total of $83 million. Tom Holland, as I mentioned last week, has himself another promising franchise.

Channing Tatum’s Dog was a good boy in its sophomore outing with $10.1 million, outpacing my $8.4 million take. The two-week haul is $30 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was third with $5.8 million (I said $6 million) for a gargantuan take of $779 million.

Death on the Nile was fourth with $4.4 million, edging my $3.7 million prediction for a stalled $32 million overall.

Jackass Forever rounded out the top five with $3.1 million (I went with $2.8 million). It’s up to $52 million.

The fresh product managed respective 8th and 9th place starts. Studio 666, the horror comedy from the Foo Fighters, made only $1.5 million compared to my $2.1 million estimate. Cyrano with Peter Dinklage fared even worse with $1.3 million (I said $1.8 million).

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

The Batman Box Office Prediction

Another chapter for the Caped Crusader flies into theaters March 4th with The Batman. The franchise reboot comes with high expectations and pent up anticipation as Robert Pattinson takes over the title role. Matt Reeves, best known for Cloverfield and the last two Planet of the Apes pics, directs. The supporting cast includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as the Penguin. Originally slated for summer 2021, it looks to rule the month of March after its COVID delay.

There is little competition in its way and its event picture status should propel it to huge numbers. How big? The Batman could be in line for a larger opening weekend than 2008’s The Dark Knight ($158 million) and 2012 follow-up The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million). And you may have forgotten that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actually holds the highest Bat premiere at $166 million.

Spider-Man: No Way Home showed that moviegoers were more than ready to turn out in force with the right product. Early IMAX offerings have already sold out for opening day. Estimates are wide. It could be as low as $100 million or approach $200 million. I’m thinking $145-$165 million is the likeliest range.

The Batman opening weekend prediction: $155.2 million

Tenet Review

What time is it?

It’s an often asked question that usually elicits a clear and simple answer. Not in Christopher Nolan’s movies. The answers in his movies are complicated, often maddening, and frequently grandly entertaining. We’ve seen it in Memento, Inception, and Interstellar with the latter being a mixed bag and the first two being pretty great. His latest is Tenet and it definitely falls more into the maddening territory with big and loud moments of thrills. You may wish you had a physics degree during it, but this is mostly an excuse for Nolan to play in the super spy genre with a bunch of quantum related gobbledygook thrown in. The director’s most ardent admirers may study it endlessly for Easter eggs and clues as to its true meaning. Upon first watch, I’m not so sure Tenet is worth the scrutiny. Yet there’s some car chases and battle scenes played to Nigel Tufnel levels of volume that land pleasingly on screens big and small. Weird science and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of action set pieces… this is Nolan’s rap and he frequently goes to eleven in this one.

John David Washington is (rather annoyingly) known only as The Protagonist. Let’s call him “Pro” for the duration of this review. A government agent who proves his bonafides to his superiors, he’s allowed into a secret organization known as the picture’s title. Pro’s new assignment tasks him with preventing something “worse” than nuclear holocaust in one example of some clunky dialogue. This is where the physics lessons are useful. You see, Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) is hellbent on destroying the past and future through the concept of “inversion”. Essentially this means playing with time travel concepts that can wipe out what occurred before or after. I’m not sure Doc Brown could properly provide sufficient exposition without multiple viewings and neither can Pro or his partner Neil (Robert Pattinson). You may want to look up “temporal pincer movements” before you watch.

In addition to Pro’s teaming with Neil, his mission to stop Sator also involves the villain’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). She’s quite good here and she’s really the only heroic figure that’s written with any layers. Washington and Pattinson are just fine, though their characters are quite dull on the page and screen. For Branagh, this is his chance to ham it up in true Bond baddie style and he relishes it. We have also get a bit of Michael Caine (common for a Nolan experience) and internationally known Hindi actress Dimple Kapadia as an arms trafficker.

Tenet does feature the aforementioned action set pieces that are impressive in scope and tech wizardry. The director doesn’t handle these sequences with half measures. If the scene calls for a 747 to be demolished, you best believe that plane was actually destroyed. The inversion concept lends to eye candy moments with backwards cars screeching on the highway and seagulls (!) even flying in reverse.

Very early on, a scientist is explaining the science behind Tenet to Pro with the following dialogue: “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” I wrote that piece of advice down immediately. I had a notion these words might aptly describe the next two hours plus. And they do. I certainly felt the decibel levels of Nolan and his crew choreographing expensive battles. They take place all over the globe in Norway, Italy, and Siberia. I did not, on the other hand, feel too invested in the complicated narrative mechanics that cause them. In fact, I wrote down something else I didn’t expect to while watching – “Austin Powers”. In that super spy’s second outing, The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin attempts to understand the highly confusing time travel plot in a conversation with his colleague Basil. After twisting his brain into a knot discussing it, Basil smartly replies “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.” He then turns to the camera and says to us – “That goes for all of you, too.” It’s a funnier way of asking us to feel it whether we understand it or not. That request succeeds only intermittently with Tenet.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Devil All the Time

The Gothic thriller The Devil All the Time, based on the 2011 bestseller by Donald Ray Pollock, is in theater this weekend in limited fashion before a Netflix release this coming Wednesday. Directed by Antonio Campos, the pic boasts an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson (who’s everywhere at the moment with Tenet and The Batman trailer out).

Reviews out are of the mixed variety as Devil holds a 64% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Some critics have gone out of their way to praise the performances of Holland and Pattinson. The latter, in particular, seems likely to find an awards friendly role sooner than later with his impressive post Twilight output.

However, this is highly unlikely to be it. In addition to the several negative reviews, Netflix is simply too busy this season to make this film a priority. The streamer looks to have several legitimate contenders on their hands in the near future with Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Hillbilly Elegy – all of which have actors that they’ll campaign for. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Tenet Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my estimate from $31.9 million to $36.9 million. Those adjustments are reflected in the numbers below.

Let’s start here – Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is maybe the most challenging box office prediction I’ve ever had to write. This is, of course, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet this isn’t the only reason.

After a series of coronavirus related delays that altered its planned July premiere, the epic spy thriller is set for an extended Labor Day weekend premiere. It marks the latest mega budget (north of $200 million) feature from one of the few directors whose name is the main attraction. The recognizable actors in front of the camera include John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is out tomorrow (August 26) in numerous territories including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The international rollout could provide clues as to how it will perform stateside. That occurs on Thursday, September 3rd and runs through the holiday weekend. Speaking of Labor Day, this is traditionally considered a slow weekend at the box office as the summer season draws to a close. Like everything else this year, 2020 is far different.

While Unhinged and this weekend’s The New Mutants are the first two wide releases post COVID, Tenet is by far the most eagerly awaited and high profile. There was never any doubt that this would open theatrically and on some IMAX venues. The VOD route was never explored. While a screen count is not yet available, I’m currently assuming it’ll be around 2500. If that changes, my prediction might too.

Reviews are mostly solid with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82%. That said, some critical reaction is a bit on the mixed side. Unlike 2017’s Dunkirk, this follow-up is not generating immediate awards buzz. As mentioned, Nolan is a bankable commodity with or without Oscar chatter. You have to go back to 2006’s The Prestige to find the last entry in his filmography to gross under $100 million domestically. Both Dunkirk and its predecessor Interstellar grossed close to $200 million overall in the States. His Batman trilogy and Inception all took in north of $200 million or far more.

So where does that leaves us? Looking at Interstellar and Dunkirk, both titles achieved per theater averages of just over $13,000 for respective starts of $47 million and $50 million. The difference is that Interstellar began on 3500+ plus screens and Dunkirk at 3700+.

Due to the lower availability of venues (especially in major markets like NYC and LA) and the ongoing uncertainty of major audience turnout, giving Tenet a $10,000 per screen average would equate to around $25 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of its five-day start. I’m choosing to ratchet that up to $25.7 million. Adding Thursday and Labor Day in, I’ll kick in another $11.2 million.

Let’s end here – I am still in severe guesstimating mode and Tenet is undoubtedly the first giant test case in this new cinematic reality. Over the next few days, it’s certainly feasible that I will update this estimate. We shall see, but here’s where I stand as of now.

Tenet opening weekend prediction (Thursday, September 3-Monday, September 7): $36.9 million

Oscar Watch: Tenet

If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.

Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.

So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.

When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.

In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.

However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.

Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…