Black Adam Review

In 1993, NBA superstar Charles Barkley famously told the world in a commercial that he was not a role model. Nearly three decades later, cinematic superstar Dwayne Johnson tells us repeatedly in Black Adam that he is not a hero. This latest offering from the DC Extended Universe kind of has a mid 90s vibe when it comes to comic book adaptations. That was a weak time for the genre prior to its explosion in the 21st century. As far as quality, this has more in common with 1996’s Kazaam, which starred Barkley’s Inside the NBA colleague Shaquille O’Neal. Adam may have a connection to 2019’s Shazam!, but shares little of its entertainment value.

A prologue in 2600 B.C. introduces us to the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. A young boy enslaved by an evil ruler chooses to take a stand against the oppression (even as his elders discourage it). He is rewarded by the Council of Wizards – hence that Shazam! tie-in as he’s given the immense powers of that character.

Flash forward 5000 years and Kahndaq is under a different kind of oppression from a crime syndicated known as Intergang. Archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) is in search of the Crown of Sabbac, which turns its wearer into a demonic being. Intergang is looking for it as well. When they clash, she manages to awaken Teth-Adam. He’s believed to be that heroic rebel from 50 centuries ago. Dwayne Johnson is the awoken being. Adam insists that’s he not a hero and keeps saying it.

The presence of this superhuman relic attracts the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who you may remember as The Suicide Squad‘s recruiter. Adam is looked at as a potential threat. The Squad doesn’t intervene. Neither does Superman or Batman or The Flash (though they’re glimpsed on the bedroom wall of Adrianna’s teenage son). Instead the Justice Society books passage to Kahndaq to investigate just how dangerous Adam is. Pierce Brosnan is the clairvoyant Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge is Hawkman, Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher (think Ant-Man but he can only grow big), and Quintessa Swindell is the twirling Cyclone. If this sounds like the B list of the DC pages, that’s certainly how it feels. That superficiality extends to the villain (Marwan Kenzari), the Intergang leader who dons the devilish crown. He might be more forgettable than Justice League‘s baddie Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and that’s saying a lot.

Jaume Collet-Serra directed Johnson in the pretty enjoyable Jungle Cruise. That collaboration was a better ride than this. Johnson is saddled with a hero (wait… NOT a hero!!!) who’s often a sullen bore. Very little of the actor’s dynamic personality comes through. It break through on occasion but not nearly enough. We’re cooking at a low boil. Everything in Black Adam has been done with more pizzazz in other DCEU and especially MCU pictures. Dwayne Johnson (and Tina Turner) are right in this case. We don’t need another hero.

*1/2 (out of four)

Hustle Review

There are so many cameos in the Adam Sandler hoops drama Hustle that it would’ve seemed appropriate for the funksters of the group Cameo to appear and belt out “Word Up!” during a scrimmage. That would’ve been kind of awesome. Not much activity of the awesome variety occurs in this Netflix offering beyond some sweet athletic moves, but it’s hard to dislike this love and basketball tale.

Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman spends much of his life overseas as an international scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s a grind of an existence constantly searching for that diamond in the rough that could put the team into championship contention. He’d like to see his wife (Queen Latifah) and about to depart for college daughter (Jordan Hull) more often. That opportunity presents itself when Robert Duvall’s team owner offers him an assistant coaching position. The promotion is short-lived when a bald capped Ben Foster (as Duvall’s son) interferes with it.

Back across the pond, Stanley stumbles upon Spanish prospect Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez) at a neighborhood pickup game. He clearly has incredible skills though his family circumstances (including having a young daughter) prevented his shot at professional glory.

In Philly, Stanley preps Bo for a potential draft selection through running up hills early in the morning and various other montages involving athletic drills. Considering the town this takes place in, you’d figure there needs to be a Rocky reference and there is.

Whether Bo’s viability in the big league is gonna fly now is complicated by a checkered past and how he responds to intense pressure. Anthony Edwards (star guard in real life for the Minnesota Timberwolves) plays the consensus #2 pick whose trash talk gets under Bo’s thin skin.

Naming all the actual NBA figures cycling in and out of Hustle would be quite an undertaking. Sandler is a die-hard fan and he had no trouble enlisting authentic figures to this fictional teacher-student story. I’ll point out an amusing one as Kenny Smith portrays a super agent who owes Stanley a favor due to their playing time together in college. His performance is perfectly adequate though any fan of the game might chuckle when we see the rest of the Inside the NBA crew (Ernie Johnson, Shaq, Sir Charles Barkley) minus their fourth member.

We have seen that Sandler can nail dramatic roles especially when high quality material accompanies it (Punch-Drunk Love and Uncut Gems for example). Hustle is nowhere in the league of those pictures. I must admit seeing Adam Sandler as a coach on the sidelines never seems like anything other than Adam Sandler as a coach on the sidelines. Hernangomez (currently playing for the Utah Jazz) has a breezy rapport with his costar who clearly loves this source material. It’s so earnestly presented that it’s easy to admire even if it’s never a slam dunk.

**1/2 (out of four)

Jackass Forever Box Office Prediction

Johnny Knoxville and his band of merry pranksters are back again in Jackass Forever, opening February 4th. It is the fourth theatrically released Jackass saga and it follows 2013’s successful spinoff Bad Grandpa. Jeff Tremaine is back in the director’s chair along with familiar pain enthusiasts Steve-O, Wee Man, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Danger Ehren, Preston Lacy, and Bam Margera (who was fired from production but remains onscreen). There’s celebrity cameos from Eric Andre, Shaquille O’Neal, Machine Gun Kelly, and Tyler, the Creator.

The boys aren’t boys anymore as Knoxville is 50 and Forever will be a test of the franchise’s durability. Back in 2002, part one (which stemmed from the smash MTV show) made $22 million for its start. The first sequel in 2006 made off with $29 million in its opening while 2010’s Jackass 3D easily hit the series high point with a $50 million debut. By 2013, any doubts about the Jackass bankability were wiped away when Bad Grandpa hit $32 million out of the gate.

Younger viewers, eight years after the last installment, may not be as familiar with the brand. However, I’m hesitant to bet against them. No Jackass tale has premiered with less than $20 million and my hunch is that this won’t either. Low to mid 20s sounds about right.

Jackass Forever opening weekend prediction: $21.8 million

For my Moonfall prediction, click here:

Moonfall Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch – Space Jam: A New Legacy

Lebron James will not become the first NBA superstar to score a Best Actor nomination and no, his former teammates Shaquille O’Neal (Kazaam) and Kyrie Irving (Uncle Drew) didn’t do so. #23 headlines the long in development sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy this Friday and reviews only have the live-action/animated mix at 42% on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is, however, one category where Oscar attention is at least feasible and that is Visual Effects. Even some of the negative critical posts mention the solid special effects. The original Jam 25 years ago couldn’t manage to get in the VFX derby. Back then, there were only three nominees and 1996’s winner was Independence Day over Dragonheart and Twister.

Could the expansion to five give LeBron’s iteration a shot? Doubtful. Warner Bros. already has three stronger hopefuls with Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, and the fourth Matrix and it’s questionable whether much of a campaign would be done here.

Bottom line: Legacy could make the shortlist of possibilities for inclusion at the end of 2021. I would be surprised if it makes the starting lineup. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Hubie Halloween Movie Review

Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems. 

Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).

As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.

Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.

The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.

** (out of four)

Uncle Drew Box Office Prediction

A convergence of current and former NBA stars and comedians gather for Uncle Drew, out next weekend. The sports comedy that comes with prosthetic makeup aplenty is based on a title character first seen in Pepsi commercials with Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving playing him. Other basketball notables in the cast include Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie. On the funny side – Lil Rel Howery, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, and Mike Epps. Charles Stone III, perhaps best known for making Drumline, directs.

Uncle Drew hopes to bring in a sizable African-American crowd and lovers of the game it humorously covers. The pic could certainly achieve sleeper status with a gross in the high teens. It actually has a somewhat similar opening weekend range as Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which debuts against it. The two newcomers should battle for third place between Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Incredibles 2.

For now, I’m giving Drew a slight edge with a forecast between $16-$17 million.

Uncle Drew opening weekend prediction: $16.4 million

For my Sicario: Day of the Soldado prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/19/sicario-day-of-the-soldado-box-office-prediction/

Show Dogs Box Office Prediction

Global Road Entertainment is hoping family audiences turn out for next weekend’s Show Dogs. The live-action comedy exists in a world where humans and canines communicate verbally. That means the voice-over cast includes Ludacris, Jordin Sparks, RuPaul, Gabriel Iglesias, Shaquille O’Neal, Stanley Tucci, and Alan Cumming alongside real cast members Will Arnett and Natasha Lyonne. The pic is directed by Raja Gosnell, who has experience with pup flicks including Scooby-Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (as well as the first two Smurfs entries).

Show Dogs doesn’t exactly seem to be generating much heat, but there isn’t much out there for kids who won’t be allowed to see Deadpool 2 (which opens against it). Family pics can always outdo projections, but I’ll say this falls a under double digits for its premiere. That would put it far from best in show and towards the bottom end of the top 5 for its weekend.

Show Dogs opening weekend prediction: $7.9 million

For my Deadpool 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/09/deadpool-2-box-office-prediction/

For my Book Club prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/09/book-club-box-office-prediction/

For my Pope Francis: A Man of His Word prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/13/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word-box-office-prediction/

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!

Blended Box Office Prediction

While many filmgoers will choose the X-Men for their Memorial Day weekend entertainment, Warner Bros. attempts some counterprogramming with the rom com Blended which reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The pair already has a couple of box office hits under their belt together with 1998’s The Wedding Singer ($80.2M domestic gross) and 2004’s 50 First Dates ($120.9M domestic gross).

Costarring Joel McHale, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, and Shazaam himself Shaquille O’Neal, Blended seems to be flying a bit under the radar with all the blockbusters such as Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past in the marketplace. Sandler’s pictures have been a mixed bag as of late. While last summer’s Grown Ups 2 was a hit with a $41.5M opening, recent pics Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy have disappointed with respective openings of $25M and $13.4M. The inclusion of Barrymore with Sandler could help, as both of their previous efforts are well-regarded. However, trailers and TV spots for Blended have been rather unimpressive in my view.

If Blended managed to reach what Sandler’s last romantic comedy opened at, Warner Bros. should consider that a success. That would be Just Go With It, which debuted with $30.5M in February 2011. Blended will have the advantage of a four day Memorial Day weekend tally and yet I feel it will struggle to gain major traction with audiences. I’m predicting a holiday opening in the quarter century range is the likeliest scenario.

Blended four day opening weekend prediction: $24.9 million

For my X-Men: Days of Future Past prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/05/18/x-men-days-of-future-past-box-office-prediction/