Tag Archives: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

AFI Picks Favourites

The American Film Institute (AFI) unveiled their list of the top 10 pictures of the year and it’s often seen as a harbinger of potential things to come at the Oscars. Here are the films they selected as their finest:

BlacKkKlansman

Black Panther

Eight Grade

The Favourite

First Reformed

Green Book

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary Poppins Returns

A Quiet Place

A Star Is Born 

First off, we should keep in mind that this is the American Film Institute. Therefore Roma is nowhere to be found and not eligible. It has high probability to make the Academy’s Best Picture selections.

Taking a look at the last three years of AFI picks, 7 of their honorees in 2015 and 2016 scored a Best Picture nod at the big race. Last year, it was six. I would automatically say five films here seem safe for Oscar inclusion: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, and A Star Is Born.

AFI has a habit of occasionally honoring blockbusters that don’t make it to the golden dance. Over the past three cycles, that includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Straight Outta Compton, Inside Out, and Wonder Woman. That same rule could apply to Black Panther, Mary Poppins Returns, or A Quiet Place. That said, Panther and Poppins stand solid chances for Best Picture recognition. That gets us to seven.

First Reformed and Eighth Grade are far more questionable, though both have made strong showings in precursors (especially the former).

The glaring omissions are Vice and First Man – two films I have consistently projected for Academy nominations. I don’t see that changing yet. Three more that could have been boosted by AFI, but were not: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Crazy Rich Asians, and Widows. 

All in all, my aforementioned analysis indicates seven could end up being the number of nominees here that move onto Oscar glory.

The Oscars Go “Popular”: An Analysis

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dropped a rather big bombshell today with some announced changes to their Oscar telecast. First off, they’re claiming the show will now be just three hours (I’ll believe it when I see it). Additionally, some categories (I imagine numerous tech ones) will be announced live during commercial breaks and then edited into the show later. This probably won’t make the individuals in those races happy, but it should speed up the program.

However, the most noticeable and interesting change is the addition of a new category (something the Academy rarely does). The addition is described as “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film”. No other details have been provided, but this would appear to be an attempt by the Academy to include blockbusters that haven’t made the cut in Best Picture.

So what does that mean? What is the criteria? That was not announced today and it will be fascinating to see what such criteria is. Could it be a particular gross… say over $100 million domestically? Could it be the number of the theaters a movie is released in? Time will tell and hopefully these details will be revealed shortly. It isn’t even immediately clear that these changes will all be in effect for the 2019 telecast, but I imagine they will be.

Even though nothing is totally clear at press time, that won’t stop me from speculating and asking, “What if this category had been in effect in previous years?”

Before that, let’s start with this year. If there is a Best Popular Film category in 2018, that greatly increases the chances of Marvel’s Black Panther and horror smash A Quiet Place getting nods. There’s also Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the most acclaimed entry in the franchise) or perhaps Avengers: Infinity War. Pixar will certainly see Incredibles 2 nominated in Best Animated Feature, but it could make a play here as well. And we still have fall releases like Mary Poppins Returns and A Star Is Born out there.

There will be plenty of speculation as to whether Black Panther will be the first superhero pic to nab a Best Picture nomination. There is little doubt it would be recognized in this new category.

It’s been discussed on this blog previously about the 2008 Oscars which omitted The Dark Knight in the Best Picture derby. That development was likely responsible for the Academy changing its rule of five nominated films to anywhere between five and ten. Yet it would appear the Academy still isn’t satisfied with major hits being included.

Let’s consider last year. Of the nine Best Picture nominees, only two grossed over $100 million – Get Out and Dunkirk. If the Popular Film category had existed a year ago, I imagine both features would have achieved double nominations. Assuming this new category contains five nominees (something not revealed yet), what would the other three have been? There’s plenty of blockbusters to choose from: Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, It, Logan, Coco, The Greatest Showman, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder, and Baby Driver. 

Here’s my best guess of what a Best Popular Film slate would have looked like in 2017:

Dunkirk, Get Out, Logan, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

And I’m thinking Get Out would have won.

In 2016, you might have seen Deadpool and The Jungle Book as Popular picks.

In 2015, there could have been room for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Straight Outta Compton.

2014? Perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy and Gone Girl. 

Heck, let’s go way back. Would Jurassic Park have won Best Popular Film in 1993? I don’t think so. I bet it would have gone to The Fugitive, which nabbed an actual Best Picture nomination.

Of course, there would have been years where Best Picture and Best Popular Film match. 1994 with Forrest Gump. 1997’s Titanic. 2000’s Gladiator. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.

Back to today. I would say this new category seems tailor-made for Black Panther. Does that mean its chances for a Best Picture nod are now diminished because voters figure it runs away with this? Perhaps. And that’s why I’m not too wild about this change at the moment. This has the potential to look like a desperate play by the Academy. At the least, it’s an acknowledgment that audience favorites and Academy favorites don’t often match.

That said, let’s see what the criteria is and I’ll judge from there. It’s a new era at the Oscars… one where Bumblebee stands a shot (however remote) at Oscar glory!

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/15): I am revising my prediction down from $155.4 million to $140.4 million

Arriving three years after its predecessor set a series of box office records, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom looks to flex its dino might next weekend. The fifth picture in the massive franchise that just turned 25 years old, Kingdom is the sequel to Jurassic World and brings back Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Jeff Goldblum (for the first time since 1997’s The Lost World). New cast members include Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine. J.A. Bayona takes over directorial duties from Colin Trevorrow.

The history of this franchise setting opening weekend milestones is significant. Steven Spielberg’s original in 1993 had the largest debut ever at $47 million a quarter century ago. The Lost World would achieve the same honor four years later with $72 million. And, of course, Jurassic World stunned prognosticators in 2015 with $208 million out of the gate, which stood as the greatest premiere until Star Wars: The Force Awakens topped it six months later.

Fallen Kingdom will not and is not expected to break records. Jurassic World seemed to have its stars aligned for a spectacular opening. It had been nearly a decade and a half since the previous installment and the nostalgia factor was off the charts. Mostly positive reviews didn’t hurt and Mr. Pratt was coming off a star making role in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Critical reaction is mixed. The sequel currently sits at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes (World got to 71%). The film is already out in a number of foreign markets and it earned $151 million worldwide over the weekend (a bit above expectations).

The stateside tracking for Kingdom is between $130-$150 million. My general feeling is that this franchise has continually exceeded expectations and may do so here, albeit not by much. Jurassic World was a phenomenon while this is looked at as another summer sequel. It just happens to be one with a huge fan base who love returning to see these CG creatures.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opening weekend prediction: $140.4 million

Solo: A Star Wars Letdown

There aren’t a whole lot of films that could open to over $100 million at the box office and legitimately be considered a major disappointment. Those pictures generally belong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other massive franchises. For instance, if next month’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom only makes that figure, that would be bad news for Universal Pictures and the series long-term viability.

Of course, there is no franchise bigger than that of Star Wars. Spanning over four decades and now on its 10th feature, there had yet to be a true example of an entry coming in well below expectations. Until now. Solo: A Star Wars Story, just a week ago or so, was projected to set the Memorial Day weekend record by outpacing the $139 million earned in 2007 by another Disney property, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

It didn’t. Like… at all. The current four-day estimate (final numbers tomorrow) puts Solo at $103 million. I had pegged it at $151 million. Oops. That actually puts it at just #7 as far as the holiday goes. That’s not only behind Pirates, but after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, XMen: The Last Stand, Fast & Furious 6, XMen: Days of Future Past, and even The Hangover Part II. Ouch.

So the natural question… why? Predicting where the money earned by moviegoers at the box office is a tricky proposition… I try to estimate it every week. Sometimes I’m great at it and sometimes not (this would obviously be a case of the latter). Solo is the second stand-alone effort in the franchise behind 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While they’re not expected to make the coin that the official episodes take in, Rogue debuted to $155 million in three days just a year and a half ago.

This latest entry focuses on an iconic character that has more name recognition than all the people (with a notable exception or two) in Rogue One put together. Sure there’s backlash about an actor other than Harrison Ford playing him, but that wasn’t expected to spark a hugely worrisome backlash as far as box office numbers.

Could it be the reviews? That might be a bit of it. Solo stands at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s low for this franchise. Yet that rating isn’t terrible or anything. My own review used the word ambivalent for my overall reaction to it:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/27/solo-a-star-wars-story-movie-review/

And therein could lie the true key. Looking over the lengthy history of the series, Star Wars films have truly been Event Pictures. Ones that are breathlessly awaited and spawn endless speculation prior to their releases. The original trilogy saw three-year gaps between releases. It was then 16 years before the second and considerably less regarded trilogy arrived and they also saw three-year waits between servings. Those like me that remember the buildup to 1999’s The Phantom Menace (no matter how much it disappointed upon release) would argue it rivaled and probably exceeded that of The Force Awakens in 2015.

Since Disney took over the release reigns, we have been guaranteed a Star Wars pic a year. That tremendously dilutes the Event Picture status. Rogue One had the benefit of arriving a year after Force Awakens set every box office record. The Last Jedi didn’t match the grosses of Awakens… to the tune of $316 million less. That said, its $620 million haul is nothing to be too worried about.

Solo arriving only five months later and with so-so buzz left it as the least anticipated Star Wars experience to date. The barely nine figure gross out of the gate showed that audiences were a bit ambivalent about it.

Will that cause the Mouse Factory to rethink the release date pattern? It’s probably a good thing that Episode IX won’t be out until December 2019. The official episodes, by the way, will always have an anticipation factor that the stand-alone variety will not. And Disney might want to consider making those side projects feel a little more special or that ambivalence might continue to grow.

Oscar Watch – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Since Disney took over the Star Wars franchise, the three released pictures have combined for 11 Oscar nominations in the past three ceremonies. Let’s break them down, shall we?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Nominations: Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Visual Effects

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Nominations: Sound Mixing, Visual Effects

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Nominations: Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects

You will note 11 nods, but no wins for the multi-billion dollar series and that all recognition has been in technical races. This Memorial Day weekend, Solo: A Star Wars Story flies into theaters. So the question must be asked: will it manage to score some Academy love as well?

Solo has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating (71%) of the bunch. That could serve as a hindrance for even tech nods, especially with MCU heavy hitters like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War in the mix, among others.

Perhaps it could play in the Sound races and perhaps Visual Effects, but competition could potentially leave Solo as the solo entry in the franchise with no Oscar attention.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Solo: A Star Wars Story Box Office Prediction

The second stand-alone feature set in a galaxy far, far away – Solo: A Star Wars Story roars into multiplexes this Memorial Day Weekend. Alden Ehrenreich takes over the role of a young Han Solo in the part made iconic by Harrison Ford. Costars include Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover as Lando, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, and, of course, Chewbacca. Ron Howard serves behind the camera in a move that garnered much press attention when he took over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. They exited the project after creative differences with Disney after months on the job.

Reviews out today are mostly positive with 73% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, that’s the lowest meter of the four entries since the vaunted franchise came back in 2015. Our first spin-off, 2016’s Rogue One, debuted with $155 million one year after the record-breaking grosses of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These offshoots are not expected to reach the heights of the traditional “episodes”. Solo does certainly have the added bonus of returning a beloved character, even with the natural speculation and some cynicism about another actor playing him.

One thing seems fairly certain: Solo should have no trouble breaking the current Memorial Day record held by 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which made $139.8 million for its start. Given the extra day of grosses, Han and Chewie could exceed that by over $10 million.

Solo: A Star Wars Story opening weekend prediction: $151.3 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

Box Office Predictions: May 4-6

It’s gonna by May at the box office and there’s a trio of newcomers hitting screens: rom com remake Overboard with Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, critically acclaimed comedic drama Tully with Charlize Theron, and horror thriller Bad Samaritan. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/24/overboard-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/26/tully-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/28/bad-samaritan-box-office-prediction/

I have none of the trio of newcomers even breaking $10 million. Overboard should lead the pack and is likely to place second. Tully could get a 4th or 5th place showing, coming in behind A Quiet Place or a bit ahead or slightly behind I Feel Pretty. My $2.1 million estimate for Bad Samaritan leaves it outside the top 5.

This weekend will once again be all about the superheroes as Avengers: Infinity War enters its sophomore frame after its record shattering debut (more on that below). So how will Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and so many others hold up in weekend #2? 2012’s The Avengers dropped 50% in its sophomore outing with 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron falling 59%. I have this dropping somewhere in between. Let’s put it at 54%. That would be #2 as far as all-time second weekends (vaulting over Black Panther), but not as high as the $149 million achieved by Force Awakens (which had the benefit of its follow-up frame falling over the Christmas holiday).

**If you’d like to read my review of Infinity War (spoiler free), it can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/04/28/avengers-infinity-war-movie-review/

And with that, here’s my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $118.1 million

2. Overboard

Predicted Gross: $11.8 million

3. A Quiet Place

Predicted Gross: $7.3 million

4. I Feel Pretty

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

5. Tully

Predicted Gross: $5 million

Box Office Results (April 27-29)

Avengers: Infinity War made history at the box office this weekend. Not only did the Marvel gathering of its heroes have the biggest domestic debut of all time – it did so rather easily. War amassed $257.6 million, besting the previous high mark set by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens at $247.9 million. It blasted past my projection of $240.2 million. Will the fourth Avengers title coming in one year top this one? Time shall tell. One thing is for sure – Marvel/Disney is having an unbelievable year with this and Black Panther. 

A Quiet Place took the runner-up spot with $11 million, in line with my $11.8 million prediction for $148 million overall.

I Feel Pretty stayed in third place in weekend #2 with $8.1 million (I was close with $7.6 million) for a $29 million tally.

Rampage placed fourth with $7.2 million, below my $9.1 million forecast for a total of $78 million.

I gave Super Troopers 2 too much credit and had it in the top 5 at $5.6 million. It came in lower with $3.7 million for sixth place and has made $22 million thus far.

The aforementioned Black Panther ended up rounding out the top five with $4.7 million to bring its gross to $688 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…