The Young Messiah Box Office Prediction

Two weeks before the Easter holiday, faith based drama The Young Messiah rises in theaters next weekend hoping to take advantage of the season. Produced by Home Alone and Harry Potter helmer Chris Columbus, Messiah features Adam Greaves-Neal as a young Jesus with Sean Bean costarring.

Shot for a reported small budget of $16.8 million, this shouldn’t have much trouble recouping costs and then some (especially if it experiences meager declines in weekends two and three, which seems feasible). These Christian themed pics are typically tough to project and often do open larger than expected. Just in mid February, Risen (a similarly themed tale appealing to the same audience) took in $11.8 million. That seems a reasonable range for Messiah.

I’ll say it reaches just beyond that and, in doing so, I have it debuting even higher than Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Brothers Grimsby opening against it.

The Young Messiah opening weekend prediction: $12.7 million

For my 10 Cloverfield Lane prediction, click here:

For my The Brothers Grimsby prediction, click here:

For my The Perfect Match prediction, click here:

The Martian Movie Review

Matt Damon waits for one of the longest rides home in film history during Ridley Scott’s The Martian, both a love letter to the space program and the power of science and positive thinking. When we think of director Scott’s contributions to the science fiction genre, we normally think brilliantly grim (Alien, Blade Runner). More recently – mixed bag grim (Prometheus). Not the case here. The Martian is infused with laughter and an often amusing star turn role by its anchor.

We open in 2035 with Damon’s astronaut Mark part of a manned mission to the Red Planet along with colleagues that include the Commander (Jessica Chastain), Kate Mara, and Michael Pena. A massive dust storm wreaks havoc and leaves the crew believing Mark has perished and they are forced to leave the planet without his body. Of course he has survived and so begins Mark’s new solo mission: learning how to survive as the only inhabitant on a planet with little food or other necessities on his left behind vessel. Lucky for him, he’s a brilliant botanist who comes up with clever (sometimes disgusting) ways to harvest food.

NASA soon learns that Mark is alive and this sets off a furious effort to pick him up. This is no easy task to say the least and it involves the question of whether to inform his crew (on their way back to Earth) of his survival. There’s delicate involvement with the Chinese space program. Kristin Wiig (in a small but fascinating role) plays NASA’s media consultant, who must navigate the organization’s own land mines. And there’s the head of NASA, played winningly and by Jeff Daniels. Other familiar faces turning up as government scientists include Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean.

While Mark’s situation seems dire, he handles his circumstances with an often lighthearted touch (and occasional profanity laced tirade to his bosses). The Martian goes out of its way to explain the science behind rescuing our protagonist and it’s fascinating enough that it makes you ponder whether younger viewers may reconsider career choices. In short, it makes science look awfully cool and important.

Damon has shown real comedic talent before (see Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!) and he excels at it here, along with his more known ability at drama. Even with the welcome humor, this is by no means a straight up comedy (memo to the Golden Globes).

As Mark is a shining example of optimism under pressure, Jeff Daniels’ NASA chief is an example of calm under pressure. His performance is an example of strength and understatement. Damon may own this show, but Daniels earns marks for most interesting supporting player.

The visual look from Scott is the beautiful kind of feast we would anticipate from this visual auteur. Drew Goddard’s screenplay, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, keeps things moving along with quirky touches that include a disco heavy soundtrack. It is only in the final stretches of The Martian that we see how the world is captivated by Mark’s long hoped for journey back home. It’s not really a necessity to see it because we just assume. We are entertainingly captivated, too, with lots of smiles along the way.

***1/2 (out of four)

The Martian Box Office Prediction

Director Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about making science fiction movies and this Friday, The Martian is his latest. The lost in space pic is riding a wave of solid buzz (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and its all star cast includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

With a reported $108 million budget, 20th Century Fox is hoping for robust results. It should have no issue opening atop the charts, but how high it goes is an open question. For comparison sake, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity debuted to $55 million on the same weekend two years ago. Last year’s similarly themed Interstellar took in $47 million out of the gate. Scott’s last sci fi effort Prometheus made $51 million in the summer of 2012 for its start. Damon’s previous genre pic Elysium premiered to $29 million in August 2013.

That’s a rather wide range of grosses for The Martian to open in. I’m skeptical that it tops $50 million, though its positive reviews don’t hurt. I also don’t believe it’ll gross as low as Elysium did as that film’s buzz was far less solid. Add it all up and I believe the most probable scenario is a premier in the high 30s to low 40s.

The Martian opening weekend prediction: $40.3 million

For my Sicario prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: The Martian

Ridley Scott’s sci fi pic The Martian premiered at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend prior to its October 2 domestic release and the results are quite promising. With an all star cast including Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Martian has struck the fancy of critics to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

How will this translate to Oscar attention? Hard to say. Reviews have noted that this is a crowd pleaser and the more box office success it achieves, the better that bodes for a Best Picture nod. I’d still say it’s likely on the outside looking in, but that could certainly change if some future autumn releases don’t meet expectations. I could actually envision a somewhat long shot scenario of Scott receiving a directing nomination with the film itself left out.

As for actors, Damon has gotten strong notices and could find himself in contention, though I wouldn’t include him yet. Chastain has been singled out as well, but competition in Supporting Actress could leave her out. The Martian’s greatest chance at Academy focus is probably tech races like Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound categories. As far as the bigger ticket races, Toronto did prove that this is something worth keeping in mind as the months roll on.

Jupiter Ascending Box Office Prediction

With a gargantuan reported budget of $175 million, Jupiter Ascending hits theaters Friday and hopes to end the current three week reign of American Sniper. It might be a tall order. Written and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski who brought us the innovative Matrix in 1999 and its sequels, Jupiter’s science fiction roots could bring in fans of the directors’ work.

Yet that hasn’t worked out too well in the past decade. The Wachowskis follow up features both posted disappointing results domestically. 2008’s heavily hyped Speed Racer managed only $18.5 million in its premiere while 2012’s Cloud Atlas opened to just under $10 million.

I have found the trailers and TV spots for Jupiter a bit curious as it’s underplayed the fact that Channing Tatum is the star. Costars include Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, and Sean Bean. Reviews have yet to publish, but my guess would be mixed notices at best.

The question to me is whether Jupiter Ascending can clear $20 million out of the gate. It was originally planned for a summer 2014 opening, but pushed back with the typical excuse of needing more time for special effects shots. I do believe it will just surpass $20M, but not by much and that additional time away from a plum summer slot won’t make much difference.

Jupiter Ascending opening weekend prediction: $20.9 million

For my prediction on The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, click here:

For my Seventh Son prediction, click here: