Oscar Watch: Welcome to Marwen

Nearly a quarter century ago, Robert Zemeckis was the toast of Oscar night with Forrest Gump, famously beating out now classic works including Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. With the release of Welcome to Marwen this Friday, it’s clear that things have changed.

The true life drama (based on the acclaimed 2010 documentary Marwencol) casts Steve Carell as a victim of violence who develops amnesia and invents his own fantasy world. From the release of its first trailer, the film failed to garner any awards buzz. We are now seeing reviews only two days before it release. That’s rarely a positive sign. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently a troubling 21%. Box office estimates are low.

Bottom line: Welcome to Marwen never developed as a contender and the buzz out today shows why. There is one caveat. The pic did make the shortlist of ten possible nominees for Best Visual Effects. However, my current projections show Avengers: Infinity War, First Man, Black Panther, Ready Player One, and Mary Poppins Returns as the ones that will elevate. My weekly picks will be released early tomorrow and (spoiler alert!) Marwen will place 8th. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Welcome to Marwen Box Office Prediction

It’s looking to be a rough road ahead for Welcome to Marwen, which debuts next weekend and could get lost in the holiday shuffle. It casts Steve Carell in this based on a true story drama of an assault victim who develops amnesia and develops his own fantasy world. Robert Zemeckis, the man behind Back to the Future and Forrest Gump and most recently Allied, directs. Costars include Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae, and Gwendoline Christie.

Marwen simply hasn’t managed to generate any heat. It’s been the subject of zero awards chatter and we have a slew of real Oscar contenders populating multiplexes. If it performs poorly, it would be Carell’s second dramatic flop in a row this season after Beautiful Boy.

This film is reminding me a lot of last year’s Downsizing, which also opened Christmas weekend. It also had recognizable stars, a known director, genre similarities, and precious little buzz. The result? An opening of just over $5 million. I’m putting this even lower.

Welcome to Marwen opening weekend prediction: $3.8 million

For my Aquaman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/aquaman-box-office-prediction/

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/10/mary-poppins-returns-box-office-prediction/

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/11/bumblebee-box-office-prediction/

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/12/14/second-act-box-office-prediction/

Film Festival Season Approaches: The 2018 Hopefuls

We may be smack dab in the middle of the summer movie season, but Oscar season will be taking shape before we know it. This week, the organizers of the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals have unveiled lineups for the pictures that will be premiering at their events in a few weeks. Many of them are awards hopefuls.

To give you an idea of the importance of festivals when it comes to Oscar nominees, six of last year’s nine nominees premiered at some combination of Toronto, Venice, Telluride, New York, Sundance, or Cannes. Every Best Picture winner from this decade and beyond played at one of them. The last one that didn’t was The Departed back in 2006.

The months of September-December are the fertile ground for most nominated features. Last year, seven of the nine Picture nominees came out in that time frame. In 2016 – it was 8 out of 9.

Beginning in late August/early September, I will begin my weekly Oscar prediction columns. It works like this:

Late August/Early September – first posting of predictions in the categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

Months of September and October – weekly Oscar predictions column post covering those 6 categories, as well as Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-25. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-15.

Months of November through announcement of nominations – weekly Oscar predictions column covering every category involving feature films. For Best Picture, I will be ranking possibilities numbered 1-15. For other categories, it will be numbered 1-10.

While these posts are a month away, today I bring you 25 fall awards hopefuls that I suspect I’ll be mentioning frequently. Most of these are premiering at the high-profile quartet of upcoming fests (Venice, Toronto, New York, Telluride). Some aren’t, but could certainly be added to Telluride or New York especially (as they’re more known for surprise screenings).

Let’s get to it!

A Star is Born

The third remake of the musical drama marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and features a potential showcase role for his costar Lady Gaga. Early word of mouth is already strong.

At Eternity’s Gate

He received a nomination for his supporting work last year for The Florida Project and Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in what could be another awards bait role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Backseat

Expect Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short to receive plenty of attention. Christian Bale is Cheney with Amy Adams as wife Lynne and last year’s Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell plays the father of a meth addict played by Timothee Chalamet, who was nominated last year for Call Me by Your Name.

Ben is Back

Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts headline this family drama that premieres at Toronto.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Bohemian Rhapsody

Despite some behind the scenes drama in its filming, all eyes will be on Rami Malek’s work as Queen front man Freddie Mercury.

Boy Erased

Perhaps an even larger showcase role for Lucas Hedges is this drama where he plays a homosexual sent to conversion camp. Joel Edgerton directs and costars along with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy received an Academy Award nomination with her breakthrough role in Bridesmaids. This drama about writer Lee Israel could muster attention for her yet again.

First Man

Director Damien Chazelle has seen both of his efforts (Whiplash, La La Land) nominated for Best Picture and he’s the youngest filmmaker to ever win Best Director. His third pic is a Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling. It opens the Venice Film Festival.

If Beale Street Could Talk

The follow-up to his Oscar winning Moonlight, Barry Jenkins directs this drama set in 1970s Harlem.

July 22

United 93 and Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass brings his latest to Netflix and it focuses on the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

Life Itself

Premiering at Toronto, this ensemble drama includes Oscar Isaac, Olivia Munn, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.

Mary Poppins Returns

She’s already a contender for A Quiet Place and Emily Blunt could face competition from herself with Disney’s expected monster hit.

Mary Queen of Scots

They were both nominated for Best Actress last year and now Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie star in this historical drama about the title character and Queen Elizabeth I.

Old Man & The Gun

David Lowery directs Robert Redford in the true life tale of a prison escape artist. Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck costar.

On the Basis of Sex

The documentary RBG could get noticed by the Documentary branch, as could this biopic which casts Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Peterloo

Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh returns with this historical 19th century drama.

Roma

This Mexican family drama is Alfonso Cuaron’s first directorial effort since his acclaimed Gravity.

Suspiria

Call Me by Your Name maker Luca Guadagnino shifts gears for this remake of the 1970s horror classic. Don’t be surprised if this receives attention in some technical categories.

The Favourite

The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos is behind this historical drama featuring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

The Front Runner

Jason Reitman directs this biopic of failed Presidential candidate Gary Hart with Hugh Jackman cast in the role.

**NO TRAILER AT PRESS TIME

The Sisters Brothers

John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal are among the cast in this Western from acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard.

Welcome to Marwen

Steve Carell stars in this unique looking drama from Forrest Gump maker Robert Zemeckis.

Widows

It’s been five years between projects for Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. This heist thriller stars recent winner Viola Davis.

And there’s your very early preview of some titles to keep an eye on over the coming months. Those Oscar posts will start rolling out weekly in about a month! Stay tuned…

Summer 1988: The Top 10 Hits and More

We are in the midst of the blockbuster summer season of 2018. As I do every year on the blog, I’m recounting the summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago with the top 10 moneymakers and other notable features and flops. We begin with 1988 and unlike the current 2018 crop that is dominated by big-budget sequels, it was surprising to find that there were a host of follow-up flops three decades ago. Sequels make up just 20% of the top ten here.

The seasons of 1998 and 2008 will be posted shortly, but here’s what what was happening 30 years ago at the cinema:

10. Bull Durham

Domestic Gross: $50 million

Writer/director Ron Shelton’s sports comedy came as Kevin Costner was experiencing a string of hits in the late 80s and early 90s. Considered one of the finest sports films ever made, it also featured showcase roles for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

9. Rambo III

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The third go-round for Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo earned only a third of what Rambo: First Blood Part II achieved three summers prior and received mostly negative reviews. The star would revise the character 20 years later in Rambo.

8. Willow

Domestic Gross: $57 million

Ron Howard’s fantasy adventure (with a story conceived by George Lucas) was considered only a moderate success at time of its release and critical notices were mixed. It has since gone on to garner cult status.

7. A Fish Called Wanda

Domestic Gross: $62 million

This acclaimed heist comedy was an unexpected critical and audience darling with a screenplay from the legendary John Cleese. Both he and “Monty Python” cohort Michael Palin starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, in a rare comedic role that won an Oscar for Supporting Actor. Nine years later, the cast reunited for the less regarded Fierce Creatures. 

6. Cocktail

Domestic Gross: $78 million

Coming off his iconic role in Top Gun two years earlier, Tom Cruise propelled this bartender tale to major success despite poor reviews (even Cruise admitted it wasn’t so good years later). It did provide The Beach Boys with a big comeback hit in the form of “Kokomo”.

5. Die Hard

Domestic Gross: $83 million

It might be #5 on the list, but Die Hard is easily the most influential film of the summer of ’88. Rightfully considered the quintessential action movie, it served as a springboard for Bruce Willis’s film career and gave us an unforgettable villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Four sequels and numerous knock-offs would follow.

4. Crocodile Dundee II

Domestic Gross: $109 million

Paul Hogan’s Aussie creation struck box office gold in 1986 when the first Dundee made $174 million and was an unexpected smash. The sequel didn’t measure up to the first commercially or critically, but it still managed to edge past the $100 million mark.

3. Big

Domestic Gross: $114 million

Tom Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination (several would follow) for Penny Marshall’s classic comedy about a teenager wanting to be an adult. It also earned an Original Screenplay nomination.

2. Coming to America

Domestic Gross: $128 million

Eddie Murphy was about the biggest box office draw in the world circa 1988 and this serves as one of his classics. There’s been long rumored plans for a sequel, but whether or not it ever materializes is a legit question three decades later.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Domestic Gross: $156 million

This landmark blending of live-action and animation from director Robert Zemeckis combined beloved characters from the Warner Bros and Disney catalogs, winning three technical Oscars. The title character would appear in some animated shorts in the following years, but a traditional sequel surprisingly never followed.

And now for some other notable features from the summer:

Young Guns

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This Western about Billy the Kid and his gang cast many of the hot young stars of the day, including Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.

Midnight Run

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Serving as Robert De Niro’s first major foray into comedy (blended with action), Midnight Run found him brilliantly cast alongside Charles Grodin in this effort from Beverly Hills Cop director Martin Brest. Its status has only grown in subsequent years.

And now we arrive at some of the pictures that didn’t fare so well and we have 5 sequels that couldn’t match the potency of what came before them:

The Dead Pool

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Clint Eastwood’s fifth and final appearance as Dirty Harry was met with mixed reviews and lackluster box office. It’s got perhaps the best supporting cast of the lot, however, including Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, and Jim Carrey a few years before he became a phenomenon.

Big Top Pee-Wee

Domestic Gross: $15 million

While Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure earned $40 million and introduced moviegoers to Tim Burton, this sequel underwhelmed. Star Paul Reubens would, um, pick up notoriety three years later for another experience in a movie theater.

Arthur 2: On the Rocks

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The 1981 original earned Academy Award nominations and a fantastic $95 million domestic haul. By the time the sequel followed seven years later, audiences weren’t interested in the comedy starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli.

Poltergeist III

Domestic Gross: $14 million

The franchise began in 1982 with acclaim and huge dollars. A sequel diminished those returns and by the time part 3 hit screens, crowds were tuned out. Tragically, Heather O’Rourke (who famously played Carol Anne) died months before its release at the age of 12.

Caddyshack II

Domestic Gross: $11 million

Part 1 was a comedy classic. Part 2 was anything but. Chevy Chase was the only returning cast member to return and there was no repeating the magic with Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Randy Quaid, and Dan Aykroyd.

And finally…

Mac and Me

Domestic Gross: $6 million

A notorious bomb, this E.T. rip-off received plenty of ink on account of its awfulness. There is a silver lining, however, as Paul Rudd has hilariously incorporated it into segments on Conan O’Brien’s show over the years.

And there you have the summer of 1988 in a nutshell! I’ll be back with 1998 soon…

Summer 1997: The Top 10 Hits and More

Put on your nostalgia goggles (or maybe the sunglasses that make you forget stuff if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones flash a light at you) because I’m recounting the summer of 1997 on the blog today!

This has become a seasonal tradition around here and I gave you the top 10 summer hits of 1987 and more earlier this week. If you missed that post, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/01/summer-1987-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This time around, we’re going back 20 years when Nicolas Cage accounted for 25% of the top 8 moneymakers and Batman crashed and burned.

We’ll begin with the top ten and then get to some other notable pics and flops:

10. Hercules

Domestic Gross: $99 million

Disney’s ‘toon couldn’t reach the century mark and that was considered a disappointment after early and mid 90s smashes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. 

9. Contact

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Robert Zemeckis’s follow-up to Forrest Gump (which ruled summer 1994) was a well-regarded science fiction drama with Jodie Foster and an emerging Matthew McConaughey.

8. Con Air

Domestic Gross: $101 million

This action thriller from the Bruckheimer factory is our first to feature Mr. Nicolas Cage (who was coming off a recent Oscar win), along with an all-star cast including John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames.

7. George of the Jungle

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Disney probably didn’t anticipate this remake of the  cartoon starring Brendan Fraser would manage to out perform Hercules, but that it did.

6. Batman and Robin

Domestic Gross: $107 million

This may have placed sixth for the summer, but Batman and Robin came in well below its three predecessors and director Joel Schumacher and new Caped Crusader George Clooney have been apologizing about it for the last 20 years. We’re still trying to block out those Arnold/Mr. Freeze bad puns.

5. Face/Off

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Mr. Cage teamed up for Mr. John Travolta for John Woo’s entertainingly over-the-top sci-fi and action mash-up.

4. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Domestic Gross: $127 million

Julia Roberts made a return to box office dominance in this rom com which featured stolen scenes from costar Rupert Everett.

3. Air Force One

Domestic Gross: $172 million

“Get off my plane!” became one of the season’s catchphrases with Harrison Ford as the butt kicking POTUS battling Russian terrorist Gary Oldman in the skies.

2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Domestic Gross: $229 million

Steven Spielberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1993’s Jurassic Park kicked off with the biggest opening weekend of all time (at that time). However, in the end, it couldn’t manage to top the gross of its predecessor. If you’d polled probably any box office analyst at the beginning of the year, they likely would have said it’d be #1 for the summer. Yet that honor ended up belonging to…

1. Men in Black

Domestic Gross: $250 million

A franchise was born and Will Smith made it two summers in a row with the top grossing picture (the previous year being Independence Day) with Barry Sonnenfeld’s megahit sci-fi action comedy.

And now for some other notable pics:

The Fifth Element

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Audiences and critics didn’t quite know what to make of Luc Besson’s visual feast featuring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker. Sound familiar? Same thing is happening 20 years later with Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Domestic Gross: $53 million

The Mike Myers 007 spoof performed well, but it wasn’t until home video that Powers turned into a genuine phenomenon spawning countless catchphrases. Its sequel two summers later would earn more in its opening weekend that part 1 did in its domestic total.

The Full Monty

Domestic Gross: $45 million

This British import about unconventional male strippers was the summer’s true sleeper and went on to earn a host of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Monty would earn over $250 million worldwide compared to its tiny $3.5 million budget.

Cop Land

Domestic Gross: $44 million

After appearing in a string of high-octane action flicks, Sylvester Stallone changed it up with this crime drama featuring an impressive supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Harvey Keitel.

And now for some of the season’s large belly flops:

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Domestic Gross: $48 million

Keanu Reeves didn’t want to touch it, but Sandra Bullock came back for this ridiculed sequel where Jason Patric was the new lead. Considered by many to be one of the worst follow-ups of all time.

Out to Sea

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau created comedic gold with The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple and reunited years later to box office fortune with the Grumpy Old Men movies. This one? Not so much.

Father’s Day

Domestic Gross: $28 million

Ivan Reitman directing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a high-profile comedy? Sounds like a good recipe, but the product was mediocre at best and audiences didn’t turn out.

Excess Baggage

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Two summers earlier, Alicia Silverstone had broken out with Clueless. The summer of 1997 was a breakdown. In addition to appearing as Batgirl in the already discussed Batman and Robin, this action comedy with Benicio del Toro bombed big time.

Steel

Domestic Gross: $1.7 million

People may have wanted to watch Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, but they had zero interest in watching him as the title superhero in this disaster.

And that does it for now, folks, but I’ll be back soon recounting 2007!

Allied Movie Review

Allied is director Robert Zemeckis’s throwback to old school romantic thrillers and especially if those features were allowed to be a bit more risqué and violent. In case you’re unclear about its influences, our two beautiful leads literally meet in Casablanca  in the year that landmark picture was released.

Those two leads are Brad Pitt’s Air Force commander Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard’s French Resistance agent Marianne  Beauséjour. When we open, the two are paired on a rather unconventional blind date. They’ve been set up from the get go to pretend they’re married. They are on a mission to assassinate Nazis officers. Marianne is of the belief that getting emotionally involved in her work is a necessity. Max disagrees. For a while at least. Soon, the pretend couple is a real couple and it leads to marriage and a child.

Mr. and Mrs. Vatan experience about a year of wedded bliss. His spy game is still going strong while she’s settled into motherhood. The bottom falls out when Max is told his wife is actually a German spy. He doesn’t believe it, but it initiates what’s referred to as a “blue dye” mission. P.S. – Blue Dye would have been a cooler title than Allied. The mission entails Max passing on false information to her and waiting a few days to see if it ends up in the enemy’s hands.

Steven Knight’s screenplay does a commendable job at keeping us guessing just who Marianne really is. The World War II look and feel is one that’s familiar, but the production design and other technical aspects are first-rate.

A pic like Blue Dye (err Allied) hinges on the chemistry of its leads. There are supporting characters here, but they’re relegated to smallish parts. Lizzy Caplan pops up as Max’s sister (whose sole character trait seems to be that she’s a lesbian) and Jared Harris is Max’s superior. Luckily, Pitt and Cotillard form a nice partnership. There’s a sensuous scene in a sandstorm that’s memorable.

Mr. Pitt is in leading man mode and is solid. Cotillard has the more challenging role and proves again her abilities. Zemeckis has certainly made some genuine classics. Allied isn’t. It’s content to be an homage to other classics. Yet it’s a well-made one that generates enough suspense to make it effective.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Allied

Yet another piece of the Oscar puzzle revealed itself this morning as reviews for this Wednesday’s Allied came out. The World War II romantic thriller is directed by Academy winner Robert Zemeckis and stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. With that pedigree, it certainly warranted mentions as a potential awards player and I’ve consistently listed it towards the bottom of the pack in my hopefuls for Best Picture (along with Cotillard in Actress).

Critical reaction today is mixed. It stands at 60% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics have admired its old-fashioned sensibilities and Cotillard has gotten some praise (more so than Mr. Pitt, who never really seemed like a contender for this). Other reviews haven’t been so kind (Hollywood Reporter was particularly negative).

Bottom line? Allied is basically out of the running for Picture or Director. It needed stronger reviews than what’s it getting. Cotillard seemed feasible at once, but Best Actress is far too jam packed for her inclusion.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…