Oscar Watch: An American Pickle

In another case of a comedic release going the streaming route due to the COVID-19 pandemic, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen hits HBO Max tomorrow. The pic finds its lead as immigrant Herschel Greenbaum in 1920, who falls into a vat of pickle juice that perfectly preserves him until he snaps out of his slumber in 2020. Rogen also plays the dual role of Greenbaum’s great grandson in the fish out of water flick.

Some of these Oscar Watch posts over the summer could better be termed as Golden Globe Watch. Pickle currently sports a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s not bad, but a number of the reviews are lukewarm with others downright non-complimentary. In other words, any Oscar consideration for this is wishful thinking. Yet the 2020 experience could open up the door for unexpected comedies to contend at the Globes in their separate Musical/Comedy categorization.

The odds are long for that as well. Based on the critical reaction, I would list the film and Rogen’s performance as behind that of two other streaming comedies released this year: The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson and Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg.

Bottom line: it would be quite a jarring development to see An American Pickle in any sort of awards contention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The King of Staten Island Movie Review

Pete Davidson is not your average Saturday Night Live cast member. He is less known for characters he plays and is more known for essentially portraying himself on Weekend Update sketches. That includes warts and all with his much publicized romantic life, struggles with mental health and drug issues, and tragic family history. It is no surprise that Judd Apatow is the director to bring his semi autobiographical story to the big screen in The King of State Island. And the Apatow treatment comes with the high points of his previous efforts. It also comes with the warts and all of his pics that includes an unnecessarily lengthy running time and subplots that don’t really pan out.

The big screen treatment ended up being a misnomer since Island went the Video on Demand route due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davidson is Scott Carlin, an aimless 24 year old living with his mom Margie (Marisa Tomei) in the borough where it is joked that New Jersey looks down upon. His little sister (Maude Apatow) is an achiever who is moving along to college. Scott’s longtime friend and sort of girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) is a glass half full type in contrast with his constantly half empty outlook. The similarities between Davidson and his character are hard to miss. Scott’s father was a firefighter who died in the line of duty and so did Davidson’s on 9/11. Substance abuse and effects of ADD are prevalent with Scott and, as mentioned, the actor hasn’t been shy about addressing those matters.

One key difference: Davidson has been a pop culture fixture on the famous sketch comedy show for a few years. The man he is playing isn’t accomplishing much of anything. His idea to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant is met with understandable skepticism. Scott’s arrested development is dealt a setback when Margie finds romance after 17 years of being a widow with fireman Ray (Bill Burr). Their courtship elevates his anxieties to a new level.

Apatow, over the past decade and half, has elevated numerous comedic performers to new heights. These include Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. The similarities here are most in line with the latter as Davidson’s known persona is put through the cinematic lens. As an avid SNL watcher, I have found his bits occasionally inspired and frequently a little grating. It is a credit to Apatow and Davidson that Island finds a balance that is primarily satisfying. However, that’s not to say there aren’t issues. Island is too long. A subplot regarding Scott and his buddies and a pharmaceutical heist could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. While it often deftly switches between humorous and serious segments, the tone shifts are not always consistent.

On the bright side, some scenes are quite well done. This includes a night out with Scott, Ray, and some fellow firefighters where his late dad’s angelic legacy is tarnished to his son’s delight. Every time romantic interest Kelsey (with a terrific performance by Powley) is around, it works. I actually found myself wishing Scott had more interest in her because she deserves more screen time.

Ultimately The King of Staten Island is vintage Apatow and that includes the glass being measured in both ways. Thankfully it is full for the most part.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The King of Staten Island

The latest dramedy from director Judd Apatow is receiving a lot of similar praise and a bit of the same criticism as other titles in his filmography. The King of Staten Island hits the VOD circuit this Friday after foregoing a theatrical release due to COVID-19. The pic is a showcase for Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson, who’s received as much press for his personal life as his SNL antics. This is a semi-autobiographical vehicle for him and reviews out today give high marks to his work.

Overall Island currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics are calling it Apatow’s most mature work. There are kudos for the supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, and Bel Pawley. On the flip side, there are some complaints about its 136 minute runtime. This is a common gripe for the director’s efforts.

While Oscar attention is unlikely, the pic could garner the attention of Golden Globes voters since it splits acting races between Drama and Musical/Comedy. In the latter, Davidson could be a contender for Actor. Yet the Apatow track record at the Globes is shaky. Neither Steve Carell (The 40 Yr. Old Virgin) or Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) made the final five. I would especially say that Carell was robbed in 2005. On the other hand, 2015’s Trainwreck nabbed Amy Schumer an Actress mention.

Bottom line: some awards chatter for Apatow’s latest stand-up star could happen, but I don’t think it would be at the biggest show of all. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Oscars Go Streaming

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.

A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.

So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.

With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.

My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!

Good Boys Movie Review

Yes, there’s an apt comparison to be made between Good Boys and 2007’s Superbad. This is kind of the middle school version of that movie from over a decade ago. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the latter and they serve as producers here. Both involve young boys with their dirty minds trying to make it to a party that they view as potentially life changing (all events are greatly elevated in status at these ages).

What both get right is portraying the naïveté of their central characters. They may talk a good game in their minds, but there’s a whole lot about sex and drugs that they simply don’t understand yet. There’s inherent humor in that. Plenty of raunchy youth comedies are simply in it for the gross out humor. Another layer exists here and it’s one of sweetness to occasionally balance out the R rated aspects.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have just entered the wild world of middle school. Their curiosity level when it comes to girls, beer, and after school get togethers is in peak form. They christen themselves The Beanbag Boys since a good chunk of their lives are spent playing games and conversing while sitting on them. Max has a crush on a fellow student and might have an opportunity to make his move at a party that the cool kids invite him to. Thor is more interested in excelling at the school musical (an ill conceived pint size rendering of Rock of Ages), but struggles with that since the cool kids don’t think that’s cool. Lucas has a happy life that’s disrupted by parental divorce. He’s unlikely to ever be the cool kid and doesn’t quite know that yet.

The boys friendship is tested over a long day where they skip school, steal Max’s dad’s fancy drone, and turn into amateur ecstasy dealers so they don’t get in deeper trouble (it all makes sense in context). The laugh ratio here is pretty high as the trio must learn about kissing (the porn sites they go don’t help much) and dealing with college kids to score drugs.

Tremblay is the famous kid of the bunch as he’s known for his impressive serious work in Room and Wonder. He gets to drop some F bombs for the first time and he looks precocious doing it. I would say it’s Williams, however, that shines the brightest. The couple scenes with his splitting parents are comedic highlights. They display what makes Good Boys work best. It’s funny, but with an undertone of these kids learning the real world for the first time. Like Superbad, the central figures come to discover life will exist beyond their childhood friendships. It takes plenty of crass jokes to get them there, but those gags work more often than they don’t.

*** (out of four)

Good Boys Box Office Prediction

Good Boys is looking to become this summer’s Superbad when the raunchy comedy debuts next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Gene Stupnitsky, the film centers on three preteens doing R rated shenanigans. The kids are played by Jacob Tremblay of Room and Wonder fame, as well as unknowns Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon. Costars include Will Forte, Molly Gordon, and Lil Rel Howery.

Keeping with the Superbad theme, Boys comes from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company, who wrote that 2007 hit. The pic was first unveiled in March at the South by Southwest Festival to positive reaction. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.

That said, the buzz for this doesn’t seem as high. The chance for this to over perform is there. Yet I’m skeptical this earns half of the $33 million achieved by Superbad, which premiered over the same late summer weekend a dozen years ago. In fact, its debut might be in the preteens just like its stars.

Good Boys opening weekend prediction: $14.3 million

For my The Angry Birds Movie 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/06/the-angry-birds-movie-2-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

Summer 2009: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today we continue with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. I’ve already covered 1989 and 1999 and if you missed them, you can find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/10/summer-1989-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/23/summer-1999-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

Looking over the 2009 list, it’s a reminder of how one thing in particular has changed in just a decade. In the summer of 2008, Iron Man came out and kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two seasons later, Iron Man 2 followed. In every summer since, there’s been a massive MCU title often ruling the charts. 2009 is the last year not to feature one.

Instead, one of the most indelible images from 10 years past is Mike Tyson belting out a Phil Collins classic.

As I’ve done with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits along with some other notable pics and flops. Let’s get to it!

10. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Domestic Gross: $150 million

Hasbro was kind of the MCU of this summer by bookending the top 10. Based on their popular set of action figures, Cobra spawned a sequel and introduced many moviegoers to Channing Tatum.

9. The Proposal

Domestic Gross: $163 million

What a year for Sandra Bullock. First she has this huge rom com with Ryan Reynolds and months later gets her Oscar winning turn in The Blind Side. Not to mention Betty White is in this!

8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Domestic Gross: $177 million

While it couldn’t match the $250 million earned by its 2006 predecessor, the Ben Stiller led  family adventure sequel still did enough for a part 3 to eventually follow.

7. XMen Origins: Wolverine

Domestic Gross: $179 million

The first of three spinoffs for Hugh Jackman’s iconic clawed character, this is generally considered the worst of them. It still made a pretty penny and gave us a first glimpse at Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool.

6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Domestic Gross: $196 million

The third of these five animated tales, Dinosaurs stands at the largest grosser by a mere $1 million over 2006 predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown.

5. Star Trek

Domestic Gross: $257 million

J.J. Abrams was able to bring this long running film and TV milestone to the next generation in a critically acclaimed way. His reboot remains the highest grossing entry in the canon of Trek. Two sequels so far have followed.

4. The Hangover

Domestic Gross: $277 million

The breakout comedy of the summer made stars out of Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis in particular and had the aforementioned Mike Tyson musical moment of glory. Two lesser regarded sequels followed.

3. Up

Domestic Gross: $293 million

Pixar had another smash hit with this tale of aging and wonder that contains my personal favorite sequence of any of their titles. The opening montage of a couple’s journey through life is simultaneously beautiful and devastating.

2. Harry Potter and the HalfBlood Prince

Domestic Gross: $301 million

This sixth Potter pic set up the two part franchise finale and it stands at the third biggest grosser behind the eighth and final entry and the first film in 2001.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Domestic Gross: $402 million

The follow-up to the 2007 original, Michael Bay’s metallic action extravaganza is the high point in terms of box office dollars overall and largest opening, even though critics mercilessly crucified it.

And now for some other notable flicks from the summer that was 10 years ago:

Angels & Demons

Domestic Gross: $133 million

The sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the return of Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon performed decently, but nowhere near the $217 million achieved by its predecessor. The next sequel Inferno bombed.

Inglourious Basterds

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist World War II saga become his best earning pic at the time and earned a slew of Oscar nods, including a win for scene stealer Christoph Waltz.

District 9

Domestic Gross: $115 million

Made for a mere $30 million, Neill Blomkamp announced himself a serious force of sci-fi nature with heralded work that nabbed a Best Picture nod.

Public Enemies

Domestic Gross: $97 million

This gangster tale from Michael Mann was headlined by Johnny Depp and Christian Bale as they took a break between their respective pirate and bat franchises. It was a slight box office disappointment as it couldn’t quite match its $100 million budget back domestically.

Julie & Julia

Domestic Gross: $94 million

Meryl Streep got her umpteenth Oscar nod playing famed chef Julia Child in this Nora Ephron dramedy that proved to be a nice August hit.

Bruno

Domestic Gross: $60 million

There was enough goodwill left over from Sacha Baron Cohen’s smash Borat to propel this satire about a fashion journalist to a $30 million opening weekend. It fell off quickly after that impressive start.

Drag Me to Hell

Domestic Gross: $42 million

Following on the heels of his SpiderMan trilogy, this horror comedy brought Sam Raimi back to his Evil Dead roots. Box office dollars were just ok, but critics appreciated it.

(500) Days of Summer

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Made for a tiny $7.5 million, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel charmed audiences with this rom com from Marc Webb. He would take over the Spidey franchise from Raimi shortly thereafter.

The Hurt Locker

Domestic Gross: $17 million

Kathryn Bigelow’s intense tale of bomb technicians in Iraq made a name for Jeremy Renner. While its box office earnings weren’t that potent, the real reward came later when it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Bigelow became the first female to be awarded Best Director.

We move to pictures that failed to meet expectations or were outright flops.

Terminator Salvation

Domestic Gross: $125 million

The Governor of California sat this one out and this McG directed franchise entry couldn’t match the opening of part 3 from six years prior. Today it’s perhaps best known for a secretly recorded onset argument between McG and star Christian Bale.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Domestic Gross: $65 million

A remake of a 1974 Walter Matthau action flick about hijacked subway cars, Tony Scott’s collaboration starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta fell short of anticipated blockbuster status.

Funny People

Domestic Gross: $51 million

Judd Apatow had made two huge comedies with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. This one centered on the world of stand-up with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. It was more personal and divided critics and crowds alike.

Land of the Lost

Domestic Gross: $49 million

Based on a loopy 1970s TV series, Will Ferrell had a rare bomb with this critically derided prehistoric pic. It didn’t earn half of its $100 million price tag back stateside.

Year One

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Yet another prehistoric comedic failure, the talents of director Harold Ramis and Jack Black and Michael Cena couldn’t get reviewers or audiences on its side.

Imagine That

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Families ignored this particular Eddie Murphy headliner that stands as one of his lowest grossing efforts.

And that does it for my seasonal summer recaps! A year from now… look for 1990, 2000, and 2010 coming your way.

Long Shot Movie Review

Charlize Theron deserves better. In Long Shot, I couldn’t fully escape the feeling that her character would be far more interesting outside of this familiar beauty and the beast rom com plot. The screenplay (from Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah) seems overly preoccupied with the idea that her U.S. Secretary of State Charlotte Field could fall in love with Seth Rogen’s schlubby journalist Fred Flarsky.

The Secretary of State is the one position in the federal government whose travel itinerary is similar to The Rolling Stones on a worldwide tour. Charlotte Field is an ambitious and bright politician with eyes on the Presidency and a focus on environmental issues. The current Commander in Chief (Bob Odenkirk) is in the Oval because he played the President on TV. He’s a dolt who sees his position as a springboard to breaking into movies (admittedly an amusing concept). She’s relying on his endorsement to bring her to highest office in the land.

At a swanky party, she comes into contact with Fred. He’s a recently fired journalist who is said to be a fine writer, but all we really see are his headlines filled with expletives. It turns out Charlotte was actually his babysitter in the early 90s where his early teenage hormones made an unfortunate impression. Charlotte’s staffers (June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel) believe her one weakness is lack of humor and Fred is brought on to punch up the funny in her speeches.

The two end up falling for each other in between country hopping, terrorist attacks, and a night dancing and tripping on Molly where she also must negotiate a hostage situation. Theron does a fine job here as she’s proven before that she’s adept at comedy. The idea that she must navigate the perception of basically dating Seth Rogen could have been mined for perceptive insights about how we look at our leaders. Long Shot really isn’t that movie. Instead we get Rogen doing his predictable man child thing. He’s just not very interesting and it’s tricky to root for him. O’Shea Jackson Jr. has a couple funny moments as Fred’s successful and conservative best bud. There’s bodily secretion humor and I’ll just say that stuff peaked over twenty years ago in There’s Something About Mary.

Director Jonathan Levine first teamed with Rogen in the decent dramedy 50/50. Lately he’s been doing material that’s barely passable or less so (The Night Before, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Snatched). This falls in that category too despite Theron’s sincere efforts to elevate it.

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Lion King

Disney’s live-action rendering of its 1994 classic The Lion King is out next weekend and it’s expected to make a killing at the box office. The computer generated saga from director Jon Favreau is among a quartet of Mouse Factory updates of their animated filmography out in 2019.

Reviews are out today and it’s a mixed bag. Even the majority of positive reviews essentially say it’s a carbon copy of the original. Even the majority of negative reviews seem impressed with its state of the art visuals.

The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 59% and that’s right in range with the 57% that Aladdin received two months ago. That certainly puts this out of Best Picture range. However, I look for this to be a serious player in Visual Effects. If so, it would follow Favreau’s 2016 smash The Jungle Book and it won the award. This has a shot at following suit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Lion King Box Office Prediction

Disney’s live action reimagining of The Lion King roars into theaters next weekend a quarter century after the classic animated tale. Jon Favreau, who has some experience in the genre with 2016’s $364 million grosser The Jungle Book, directs. The computer animated animal epic features the voices of many recognizable faces. They include Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa.

Expectations are sky high and it’s easy to see why. The Mouse Factory has achieved massive successes in this unique sub genre and have done so very recently. This May’s Aladdin now stands at over $321 million in domestic earnings. The high water mark is from 2017 with Beauty and the Beast. It opened to $174 million and topped out at $504 million total.

The 1994 original was a phenomenon, taking in $422 million. And that was 25 years ago and would be over $800 million when adjusted for inflation. It still stands as the fourth highest grossing animated feature of all time.

Considering those gaudy numbers, The Lion King is likely to make a killing and set a new record for the studio’s remakes. $200 million is reachable in my view, but I’ll put it a bit under that.

The Lion King opening weekend prediction: $192.7 million