A year ago, Everything Everywhere All at Once premiered at the South by Southwest, therefore skipping the normal autumn film festivals in favor of the Austin event. It now appears on the precipice of winning Best Picture at the Oscars. We aren’t looking at the same storyline with SXSW in 2023 with its debut picture Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Could it have a role at all to play in next year’s awards mix?
It might. Based on the nearly half century old tabletop game that inspired many a filmmaker and writer, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who made 2018’s Game Night) direct. The cast includes Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, and Hugh Grant. Early fest reviews are encouraging as the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% based on the limited reaction. The critical takes indicate this will appeal to die-hards of the source material and neophytes.
I certainly don’t think we’re looking at two years in a row of the likely BP winner coming from SXSW. However, Dungeons (out stateside on March 31) is being particularly praised for its Visual Effects and Production Design. I wouldn’t completely count this out to be a contender in either category (especially the former). My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Another film version of the grim German fairy tale hits theaters next weekend with Gretel & Hansel. The fantasy horror flick comes from director Oz Perkins and he’s the son of Norman Bates himself – the late Psycho star Anthony Perkins. Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, and Alice Krige lead the cast.
This offering comes six years after Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton bowed in late January to a $19 million premiere. The inversely titled 2020 interpretation is not anticipated to get anywhere near that. For one thing, we just saw a version of the this in 2013. There’s also been plenty of horror pics for audiences to choose from recently.
Considering that, I believe double digits is highly unlikely and mid single digits is most probable.
Gretel & Hansel opening weekend prediction: $5.1 million
It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.
In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.
On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.
Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.
Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.
The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.
Two years ago, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel It broke box office records in the horror genre and became an instant audience favorite. Yet it didn’t end up registering with awards voters in any fashion… not even for Pennywise’s creepy makeup job.
This weekend, the eagerly awaited sequel arrives and the review embargo has floated away. ChapterTwo holds a decent 79% Rotten Tomatoes score, but that’s beneath the 86% achieved by its predecessor. A consistent theme in much of the critical reaction is that many parts work, but that it’s also overlong and doesn’t quite measure up to chapter one.
If It couldn’t garner Oscar attention, don’t expect this to. I will make make one further prediction. Another common factor in the reviews is praise for Bill Hader’s performance and he’s said to be a scene stealer. Don’t be surprised to see some chatter and wishful thinking for a Supporting Actor nod that will never come to pass. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
ItChapterTwo will no doubt float to the top of the charts next weekend when it’s unleashed in cinemas. The Stephen King adapted horror epic continues the story of the Losers Club battling demonic clown Pennywise and hopes to rake in similar earnings to its 2017 predecessor. Andy Muschietti returns in the director’s seat with Bill Skarsgard back as Pennywise. Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the youthful Losers Club. Part 2 also flashes forward in time and finds James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader (said to be a scene stealer), Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean portraying their adult versions. This is the only wide release of the weekend as other studios steered clear.
It was a genuine box office phenomenon when it came out during the same post Labor Day frame two years ago. Bursting out of the gate with $123.4 million, it ended its domestic gross at just over $327 million. That made It the largest September opening of all time and highest debuting and overall earning horror feature ever.
ChapterTwo stands a real chance at breaking those records. Unlike some sequels in 2019 that followed long after previous entries, chapter one is still fresh in the minds of audiences. There’s a desire to see how it wraps up. That said, I’ll say this falls under what that creepy clown and company accomplished in 2017.
ItChapterTwo opening weekend prediction: $109.7 million
It’s deeper and more relatable fears that allow It it’s most effective scares. That is the truth emanating from the Stephen King source material. Yes, clowns are creepy. Yet the other items that frighten our kid cast here are creepier – those of loss, innocence, bullying, and even free will to just be a young teen.
Andy Muschietti’s version of the King classic moves the book’s actions from the 1950s (when the author was a boy) to 1989, making those StrangerThings comparisons apt. It’s summer in Derry, Maine where the rate of missing persons – especially kids – is astronomical. The prologue shows us how poor little seven-year old Georgie earned his milk carton status. It involves a meeting with demented clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), luring the child into the sewer. Eight months later, Georgie’s older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is desperately trying to find him. He’s part of a group known as The Losers. They include Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who’s got an undeserved reputation at school for being loose but whose real circumstances are far more terrifying and sad. There’s Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the overweight new kid on the block who coincidentally and humorously is a fan of New Kids on the Block. Richie (Finn Wolfhard from StrangerThings) is the nerd who can’t keep his foul mouth shut. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a hypochondriac, Stan (Wyatt Oleff) is the doubter of the bunch, and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) is the homeschooled orphan. All of The Losers soon experience their own visions of Pennywise and come to realize they must defeat him since no one else seems willing to.
Pennywise’s reign of terror seems to occur every 27 years in Derry, but there’s other issues the kids must deal with each day. Sophia with her abusive dad. Eddie with his overprotective mom. A nasty bully named Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) who’s nearly as dangerous as the title character. Ben having to admit his affection for both Sophia and those five crooners from Boston. And so on. Pennywise (with credit to Skarsgard’s performance) does have his moments of heebie jeebie glory, but they usually come with a simple facial expression and most of them are early on. The clown loses a bit of luster when an over reliance on CGI with “It” comes into play. What remains is the genuine creepiness happening with some of the kids daily lives. That trumps the increasingly milder scares involving Pennywise.
It helps tremendously that the performances of the young actors are all first-rate. Sophia Lillis has a young Amy Adams vibe and Lieberher (who already showed his chops in St. Vincent and MidnightSpecial) is an effective Loser leader. Stephen King was able to subtly write a coming of age story filled with heart that just happened to have a demented circus freak in the mix. Muschietti and his screenwriters pick up on that with this adaptation to mostly satisfying results.
It’s been a rough stretch at the box office in recent weekends and Hollywood’s prescription seems to be… send in the clowns! That happens on September 8th when It unleashes itself into multiplexes. It could set some records along the way.
Based on Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, the Warner Bros pic has been building steady momentum through its creepily effective trailers and TV spots. There’s an entire generation of moviegoers who recall the 1990 miniseries where Tim Curry portrayed demented clown Pennywise. This time around, it’s Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard donning the makeup. Andy Muschietti, who made the well-regarded 2013 horror flick Mama, is behind the camera. The rest of the youthful cast deemed The Losers includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Finn Wolfhard (who you may recognize from Netflix’s Stranger Things).
As mentioned, the current rough stretch on the box office charts looks to demolished by this killer clown. Tracking has been rising in recent weeks with It, so much so that the following records could be done away with. The current all-time September best debut is 2015’s Hotel Transylvania 2 with $48 million. When it comes to horror titles in general, that record is held by 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3 at $52 million. If you throw 2001’s Hannibal into that category, that gets you to $58 million.
The current financial slumber in theaters should only help It break out in a major way. Genre enthusiasts should eat this up and crossover appeal based on buzz and solid early word-of-mouth should be significant. I’m predicting It will break all the records mentioned and float north of $60 million for its start.