In his first feature since dividing audiences and critics with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson has come up with a comedic whodunit in Knives Out. The pic debuted at the Toronto Film Festival back in September and critics have pointed it out as a winner. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 97%. Daniel Craig leads a cast of familiar faces including Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.
Rolling out over the long Thanksgiving holiday (with previews scheduled for this Friday to build anticipated word of mouth as an audience pleaser), Knives hopes to generate a #2 debut behind the second weekend of Frozen II. It will likely compete with the sophomore frame of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and perhaps Ford v Ferrari for that distinction.
I believe this should serve as a solid option for adults over the Turkey Day period. A start in the mid to high teens for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion and mid 20s for the five-day looks probable. That doesn’t get it near the $28 million earned two years ago in November by Murder on the Orient Express. However, if moviegoers enjoy what they see, Knives should succeed in avoiding sharp declines in the weekends ahead.
Knives Out opening weekend prediction: $16.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $24.9 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Good old fashioned whodunnits are rare on the silver screen, but Rian Johnson has one on deck with KnivesOut. It’s premiered in Toronto and early reaction indicates a major crowd favorite that has killer box office potential. The Looper and StarWars: TheLastJedi maker has apparently fashioned a laugh out loud comedy that makes fine use of its all-star cast led by Daniel Craig. We also have Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer onboard.
So when it comes to this genre, will Knives follow in the path of Robert Altman’s GosfordPark (multiple nominations) or Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 version of MurderontheOrientExpress (nada). The likelihood is that nods in the major categories could be elusive even if it strikes a chord with crowds. The best hope could be with Johnson’s original screenplay or supporting turns that have been singled out, like Evans and especially de Armas.
The better bet is a nomination for Production Design, which has been praised in every write up I’ve scanned. Bottom line: KnivesOut has announced itself as a probable hit and there’s at least a chance that Academy voters could notice. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
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 JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom 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 StarWars. 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: AStarWarsStory, 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, PiratesoftheCaribbean: AtWorld’sEnd.
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 IndianaJonesandtheKingdomoftheCrystalSkull, X–Men: TheLastStand, Fast & Furious6, X–Men: DaysofFuturePast, and even TheHangoverPartII. 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 RogueOne: AStarWarsStory. 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 RogueOne 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:
And therein could lie the true key. Looking over the lengthy history of the series, StarWars 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 ThePhantomMenace (no matter how much it disappointed upon release) would argue it rivaled and probably exceeded that of TheForceAwakens in 2015.
Since Disney took over the release reigns, we have been guaranteed a StarWars pic a year. That tremendously dilutes the Event Picture status. RogueOne had the benefit of arriving a year after ForceAwakens set every box office record. TheLastJedi 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 StarWars 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.
I have an ambivalent feeling about this. And there I am with Solo: AStarWarsStory, which is competently directed and acted, has the impressive battle scenes you expect in this franchise, and manages to be underwhelming at the same time. It is the first occurrence of Disney’s resurgence of the forty-year plus series seeming inconsequential, a feeling that didn’t permeate RogueOne (2016’s first stand-alone entry in the galaxy far far away).
Here is a franchise, more than any other, that elicits strong emotions from its legions of fans both positively and negatively. After all, the original episodes IV-VI trilogy has inspired generations of filmmakers and other blockbusters. Episode I-III sparked a backlash where its multitude of detractors still foam at the mouth speaking of it. Even last year’s TheLastJedi had vigorous supporters and naysayers extolling its virtues or pitfalls.
Solo shouldn’t be picked part in that manner. Oh, it probably will. Yet my reaction is it doesn’t really deserve that much scrutiny. This is basically a breezy heist flick transplanted into a familiar cinematic universe. The backlash of casting a younger actor to fill the shoes of a role Harrison Ford made iconic? It’s not a disaster by any means, but Alden Ehrenreich isn’t memorable either. No surprise but when you hear the words Han Solo after viewing this, you’ll think of the older one with fondness.
The picture shows us a youthful Han wishing to become a pilot and willing to team up with unsavory characters to do so. He has an insubordinate streak that naturally rejects the evil ways of the Empire, but he hardly considers himself a hero. We know better. The love of his current life is Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who he’s separated from and makes a vow to rescue from Imperial servitude from villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Han needs a ship to make that happen and that costs money. His mission leads him to partner with thief Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew. Oh and there’s a notable Wookie involved and a swagger filled Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). And that ship he finds… like you don’t know…
Han’s journeys take him to multiple galaxies with a second half that feels like one continuous action sequence. There are, of course, nods to the franchise lore. Solo, though, feels the most removed from everything we’ve seen before. If it often has the vibe of a cash grab to fill time between traditional episodes, that’s because it kind of is. Ron Howard took over the behind the camera duties after the well-publicized removal of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord months into production. I didn’t have a strange sense of competing visions while viewing it. If anything, Howard certainly seems like the filmmaker here with its workmanlike sensibilities and lack of genuine style.
The cast is filled with familiar faces putting in serviceable performances. Glover gets a couple of moments to shine, but my favorite supporting work came from the more unfamiliar Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the voice of sassy droid L3. Bettany is a decent villain in a series with previous monumental ones. As mentioned, the conventions of the heist genre are all present with double crosses aplenty.
The StarWars series is one in which the fans rarely forget a detail. Solo: AStarWarsStory is ultimately rather forgettable. Sure it’s an easy watch, but focusing deeply on it seems like giving it too much credit.
Since Disney took over the StarWars franchise, the three released pictures have combined for 11 Oscar nominations in the past three ceremonies. Let’s break them down, shall we?
StarWars: TheForceAwakens (2015)
Nominations: Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Visual Effects
RogueOne: AStarWarsStory (2016)
Nominations: Sound Mixing, Visual Effects
StarWars: TheLastJedi (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: AStarWarsStory 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 BlackPanther and Avengers: InfinityWar 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.
The second stand-alone feature set in a galaxy far, far away – Solo: AStarWarsStory 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 RogueOne, debuted with $155 million one year after the record-breaking grosses of StarWars: TheForceAwakens. 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 PiratesoftheCaribbean: AtWorld’sEnd 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: AStarWarsStory opening weekend prediction: $151.3 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
We are in the midst of the spring season currently, but in Hollywood it becomes summer this weekend as Avengers: Infinity War blasts into theaters. The Disney/Marvel property brings together the MCU superheroes of the past decade and looks to break numerous records. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
As my estimate outlines, I anticipate Infinity falling just short (about $7 million) of the all-time opening record achieved by Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December of 2015. That easily gives it the #2 premiere (well above the $220 million that Star Wars: The Last Jedi made this past December).
All of the oxygen in this late April frame should be sucked up by Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, and more. This means holdovers may experience some rather rough declines, including Rampage. I also have a feeling Super Troopers 2 (after an opening that exceeded all expectations) is an example of a front-loaded gross and its sophomore fall could be significant. A Quiet Place should drop to second while Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty may lose around half of its middling debut audience.
And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Predicted Gross: $240.2 million
2. A Quiet Place
Predicted Gross: $11.8 million
Predicted Gross: $9.1 million
4. I Feel Pretty
Predicted Gross: $7.6 million
5. Super Troopers 2
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million
Box Office Results (April 20-22)
A Quiet Place crept back up into the top spot as the acclaimed horror pic took in $20.9 million, on pace with my $21.6 million projection. Its three-week total stands at a terrific $131 million.
Rampage dropped to second and held up better than I figured in weekend #2 with $20 million compared to my $17 million forecast. The Dwayne Johnson adventure has made $65 million thus far. As mentioned, it could be in for a healthier drop this weekend considering the competition.
Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty debuted in third with a just OK $16 million, in line with my $16.2 million prediction. This is lower than the comedian’s previous outings, Trainwreck and Snatched.
While Pretty was a comedy that opened on the lower end of estimates, Super Troopers 2 was fourth and blew away most prognostications. The sequel to the 2002 cult hit made a strong $15.1 million, nearly tripling my $5.2 million estimate.
Truth or Dare rounded out the top five in its sophomore frame with $7.7 million. I was close at $7.9 million. The low-budget Blumhouse horror offering sits at $30 million in its first two weekends.
Due to my low ball take on Troopers, I incorrectly had Blockers fifth. It came in seventh with $6.8 million (I said $5.9 million) for $48 million overall. Ready Player One was sixth with $7.4 million and it’s up to $126 million.
Finally, the Paula Patton thriller Traffik opened in ninth with $3.9 million – a bit above my $3 million take.