Abominable Box Office Prediction

Dreamworks returns to the September animation game next weekend with Abominable. The kiddie adventure comes from director Jill Culton and features the voices of Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Sarah Paulson, and Eddie Izzard. It premiered days ago at the Toronto Film Festival to mostly solid reviews and sports a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 89%.

As mentioned, September (especially the later part of the month) has been fertile ground for animated features. While the Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs franchises have seen debuts above $30 and $40 million, there’s also been several with starts in the $20-$25 million range. This includes Open Season (which Culton also made), Storks, The Lego Ninjago Movie, and last year’s Smallfoot.

That’s precisely where I see Abominable landing and probably on the lower end of that scale.

Abominable opening weekend prediction: $20.7 million

Oscar Watch: The Goldfinch

John Crowley’s The Goldfinch looks like a picture made for Oscar consideration. It’s a prestige drama based on a well known novel (from Donna Tartt). This is the follow up to the filmmaker’s Brooklyn, which did receive a nod in the biggest race four years ago. Nicole Kidman is in it, as is Ansel Elgort in his first headlining role since Baby Driver.

Yet I found it curious that Warner Bros didn’t screen it last weekend in Venice or Telluride. After all, its Toronto screening today is a mere five days ahead of its stateside release. That’s not much time to build awards buzz.

Now we know why. The Goldfinch is being savaged by some critics and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 22%. So while numerous movies have increased their visibility on the voter circuit in the last few days, this would be a casualty. If anything, perhaps Roger Deakins (who at last won a gold statue two years ago for Blade Runner 2049) could see his cinematography noticed. That would be the extent of it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Abominable

Among a whole bunch of live action contenders vying for Oscar attention in Toronto, Dreamworks Animation’s Abominable made its debut today ahead of its September 27th release. The computer drawn adventure comes from director Jill Culton, who’s been involved in numerous genre pics including making 2006’s hit Open Season. Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson are some recognizable faces providing voice work

Early word is that this is fair to decent. That’s probably not enough to earn this a slot in the Best Animated Feature race. For starters, Dreamworks is likely to focus its attention on How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. It received far better critical ink and its two predecessors were nominated. There will also be Disney’s flicks like Toy Story 4 (the front runner) and the as yet unseen Frozen 2. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Goldfinch Box Office Prediction

Based on a 2013 novel by Donna Tartt that elicited mixed reaction, The Goldfinch arrives in theaters next weekend. The drama is director John Crowley’s follow up to his Oscar nominated 2015 effort Brooklyn. Ansel Elgort headlines with a supporting cast that includes Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard (currently also costarring in It Chapter Two), Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, and Nicole Kidman.

The film will have its premiere this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Interestingly, it skipped both Telluride and Venice. Those earlier screenings could have provided the opportunity for any awards chatter and I’m curious to see if Warner Bros knew that might not materialize.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, I’ve found the trailers to be a bit too mysterious and a tad lackluster. We’ll see if reviews this weekend could possibly change the dynamic, but I currently see The Goldfinch struggling to reach double digits. That unimpressive result would put it in third place behind the aforementioned It sequel and Hustlers.

The Goldfinch opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million

For my Hustlers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/09/04/hustlers-box-office-prediction/

Glass Movie Review

If nothing else, M. Night Shyamalan is audacious and I have always admired that. He likes to swing away at the cinematic fences and in Glass, he melds two of his pictures into a new universe. It’s ultimately not a very satisfying one, but the guy tries hard.

At the end of 2017’s Split, which returned the filmmaker to box office prominence, it was revealed that what we watched existed in the same realm of 2000’s Unbreakable. It did so by bringing in David Dunn (Bruce Willis). As you may recall, Dunn was the lone survivor of a train derailment who came to realize he was impervious to pain. Comic book store owner Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), suffering from a disease that cause his bones to break easily, surmised that David was a superhero. And Elijah was the arch nemesis as the 2000 flick revealed he was the evil mastermind behind the train going off the track.

In Split, we were introduced to James McAvoy’s Kevin and almost two dozen other characters that lived inside his head while he tormented teen girls that he kidnapped. From an annoying nine-year old boy to a OCD monster to a proper British dame, his personalities culminated with The Beast, who also possessed super human strength. The surprise ending suggested David will battle The Beast and low and behold – Split made more than enough money for that to occur.

This brings us to Glass. The first act allows this trio of characters to end up in the same mental institution with a psychiatrist (Sarah Paulson) attempting to dissuade them of their perceived powers. Dunn is sensitive to the possibility. The many voices of Kevin has his moments of doubt. Elijah, aka Mr. Glass, is so doped up that we’re not sure he knows what’s going on. However, fans of Unbreakable know the dude is a mastermind.

Glass brings back other characters from its double source material. Charlayne Woodard returns as Elijah’s supportive to a troubling degree mother. Spencer Treat Clark is back as David’s now grown son (Robin Wright skipped out as his wife). And Anya-Taylor Joy reprises her Split role as Kevin’s surviving kidnap victim. Her story arch here is easily the most inexplicable one in a movie filled with often strange choices.

My feelings with Unbreakable and Split are a bit against the grain from many others. I actually dug the former 19 years ago while many found out it to be a disappointing follow-up to The Sixth Sense. As for the latter, I enjoyed McAvoy’s bonkers performance greatly but found it as a whole to be a mixed bag. The melding of the two worlds also fits that description. It’s got everything we expect from Shyamalan, including a twist ending or two. This time around, they land with less impact than earlier efforts.

McAvoy is still impressive, but we’ve seen this show before. Unbreakable set itself up perfectly for a world building sequel. Quite frankly, Glass made me realize I wish it hadn’t taken Split for us to get it. More of the Dunn/Elijah dynamic could have been rewarding without these other personalities in the way. Shyamalan’s personality shines through as always as he tries to overwhelm us with style and suspense. Like Split, the result is some memorable sequences amid numerous questionable ones and not the more cohesive whole that I found Unbreakable to be.

**1/2 (out of four)

Glass Box Office Prediction

When it debuts over the MLK four-day holiday weekend, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass will easily break into the number one spot. Questions about its potential ceiling are very real. The superhero thriller mixes the casts of two of the filmmaker’s best known works – 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. That means James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark and Anya-Taylor Joy are along for the ride as well as Sarah Paulson joining this cinematic universe. No other movie opens wide against it.

Just over 18 years ago, Unbreakable was Night’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough smash hit The Sixth Sense. Audiences had a mixed reaction at the time, but it managed a five-day Thanksgiving haul of $46 million before a final domestic gross of $95 million. Its reputation has grown in many circles in time. Two years ago, Split served as a major comeback vehicle for the director with a $40 million start as it legged out to $138 million.

I believe the positive response for Split will earn this impressive results. It only helps that it’s still fresh in the minds of audiences, including the ending that set up this picture. Word-of-mouth will determine the rest.

Glass will not shatter this holiday weekend’s record, which is held by American Sniper at $107 million. Earning the #2 honors over MLK should be a breeze as that’s currently held by Ride Along at $48 million.

Prognostications have this nabbing anywhere between $50-75 million from Friday to Monday. I have a hunch the higher end of that range is the route to go.

*On the eve of its premiere, I’m downgrading from $72.1 million to $58.1 million

Glass opening weekend prediction: $58.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Bird Box Movie Review

Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, imagines a post apocalyptic world where we all must develop a blind side. How fitting, I suppose, that Sandra Bullock is the headliner. It is she and some of her cast mates that holds this concoction together, at least for a while.

We first meet Bullock’s Malorie as she instructs two young children that they are about to embark on a dangerous trip with her. She is soon rowing and rowing and rowing a boat not so gently down a choppy stream to an unknown destination. They’re all blindfolded.

A flashback to five years earlier finds the pregnant Malorie getting a checkup with her sister (Sarah Paulson). She seems none too excited about her impending delivery. Different complications arise as people start committing suicide suddenly all over the globe. It’s soon discovered opening your eyes and looking at some never seen creatures brings on the self violence.

Our soon to be parent manages to hole up with a group of strangers that includes the home’s boozy owner (John Malkovich), another expectant mom (Danielle Macdonald), and a war vet (Trevante Rhodes) who connects with Malorie. It’s in these initial scenes where Bird Box is at its most engrossing. There’s nothing terribly fresh here as the group figures out how to survive, but there’s some interesting characters and actors playing them to make it worthwhile. Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery, and rapper Machine Gun Kelly are part of the eclectic mix as well.

This gets about an hour’s worth of mileage from its premise and the wrinkle of the sighted having to go blind is a newish twist once they venture out (thank goodness for GPS). Eric Heisserer’s screenplay never concerns itself with what the heck really happened to cause this anyway. We do know birds can sense the monsters. The unexplained phenomena of what did happen isn’t all that important, but total ignorance is a tad surprising. Heisserer did significantly superior work with his adapted script for Arrival.

The picture is as much an allegory about motherhood than it is a science fiction horror thriller. There’s also elements of M. Night Shyamalan’s unfortunate The Happening. It had more unintentional laughs than this, but it also found cooler ways for spellbound victims to off themselves.

Bullock’s performance is committed and she certainly makes this watchable. The Oscar winner has played maternal instinct impressively before (the already mentioned The Blind Side, Gravity) and we see it here. Yet the true gravity of this whole situation never feels as suspenseful as it quite should. Maybe it’s the details left unseen or maybe it’s the familiar themes we’ve seen plenty of times already.

**1/2 (out of four)