Oscar Watch: The Report

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this weekend and feature films and documentaries are premiering that could factor into the Oscar race a year from now. One such effort is The Report, a true life political drama from director Scott Z. Burns. He’s best known as a screenwriter as he penned The Bourne Ultimatum and Steven Soderbergh’s pics The Informant!, Contagion, and Side Effects.

Adam Driver (currently nominated in Supporting Actor for BlacKkKlansman) stars as a Senate staffer investigating the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Annette Bening plays one of his superiors, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Others in the cast include Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Maura Tierney, Ted Levine, and Corey Stoll.

Early reviews are positive and suggest it’s a throwback to 1970s movies with a message. Driver and Bening are both enjoying kudos for their work. What’s currently unknown is whether this will register with audiences. Political works based on real and touchy events can often have a difficult time at the box office.

If The Report manages to become as high-profile as its subject matter, it might be worth keeping an eye on for awards consideration, especially for Driver and Bening. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

Summer 1998: The Top 10 Hits and More

Continuing with my recaps of the movie summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago – we arrive at 1998. If you missed my post recounting the 1988 season, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

1998 was a rather astonishingly sequel lite summer with only one making up the top ten moneymakers. And while 2018 will be known for its Avengers phenomenon, it was a much different story with Avengers two decades ago.

Behold my synopsis of the top 10 hits, along with other notables and flops:

10. The Mask of Zorro

Domestic Gross: $94 million

He may be playing Pablo Picasso on TV now, but Antonio Banderas had a significant hit (alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) in this tale of the famed swashbuckler. A less successful sequel would follow in 2005.

9. Mulan

Domestic Gross: $120 million

Disney’s 36th animated feature (with a voice assist from Eddie Murphy) didn’t reach the heights of titles like Aladdin or The Lion King, but the Mouse Factory has already commissioned a live-action version slated for 2020.

8. The Truman Show

Domestic Gross: $125 million

Jim Carrey’s first major big screen foray outside of zany comedy, Peter Weir’s reality show pic garnered critical acclaim for the film itself and the star’s performance.

7. Lethal Weapon 4

Domestic Gross: $130 million

The final teaming of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (with Chris Rock and Jet Li joining the mix) made slightly less than part 3 and was generally considered rather mediocre, especially considering the heights that the franchise started from.

6. Godzilla

Domestic Gross: $136 million

Coming off the massive success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s tale of the giant green monster was expected to possibly be summer’s biggest hit. It came in well below expectations with critics and audiences. A better regarded version arrived in 2014.

5. Deep Impact

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Our first asteroid disaster flick on the list came from Mimi Leder with a cast including Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, and Robert Duvall. Moviegoers loved their asteroids 20 years ago.

4. Dr. Dolittle

Domestic Gross: $144 million

Eddie Murphy was still in popular family guy mode with this remake of the Rex Harrison animal tale. A sequel would follow in 2001.

3. There’s Something About Mary

Domestic Gross: $176 million

The Farrelly Brothers had the comedic smash of the summer in this effort that made Ben Stiller a huge star and had a showcase role for Cameron Diaz’s talents.

2. Armageddon

Domestic Gross: $201 million

Our second asteroid pic (this one from Michael Bay) comes with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler… and an Aerosmith ballad that played all season long.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Domestic Gross: $216 million

Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II drama with Tom Hanks has one of the most intense first scenes in cinematic history. It was considered the Oscar front-runner until it lost in an upset to Shakespeare in Love. 

And now for some other notable films:

The X-Files

Domestic Gross: $83 million

Bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s alien themed FOX TV show to the big screen turned out to be a profitable venture. An ignored sequel would follow 10 years later.

Blade

Domestic Gross: $70 million

The vampire-centric Wesley Snipes flick spawned two sequels and major cult status.

Out of Sight

Domestic Gross: $37 million

Its box office performance was middling, but Steven Soderbergh’s romantic crime pic showed George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at their best. Critics dug it.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Domestic Gross: $10 million

Not a success at the time, but Terry Gilliam’s wild ride featuring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson created a serious following in subsequent years.

And now for some flops:

Six Days, Seven Nights

Domestic Gross: $74 million

Harrison Ford was flying high off the success of Air Force One one summer earlier, but audiences and reviewers weren’t as kind to this action comedy with Anne Heche.

Snake Eyes

Domestic Gross: $55 million

Likewise, Nicolas Cage experienced a trilogy of mega hits during the two previous summers with The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This one from Brian De Palma didn’t impress nearly as much.

The Avengers

Domestic Gross: $23 million

Not THOSE Avengers, ladies and gents. This big screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery landed with a thud in August. No sequels here.

54

Domestic Gross: $16 million

Mike Myers was coming off a little something called Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when this pic about the famed NYC nightclub opened. Critics weren’t kind and crowds didn’t turn up.

BASEketball

Domestic Gross: $7 million

Trey Parker and Matt Stone rarely create something that isn’t massively successful – like “South Park” and The Book of Mormon. This sports comedy is the rare exception, though it has developed a following since.

And there you have it – the summer of 1998! Look for 2008 shortly…

Unsane Movie Review

In Steven Soderbergh’s cinematic world, the mental health and pharmaceutical industries come with even more side effects than the lengthy list we hear following commercials. They come with frequent plot twists, relationships ending in blood spattered bursts, and the stylistic flourishes we’ve come to expect from the director. This was explored first in 2013’s Side Effects and it’s continued now with Unsane.

This is a nasty little low-budget psychological thriller that saves much of its venom toward the cure for wellness empire and insurance game that benefits from it. It’s also a traditional stalker tale unless that aspect is all in our lead’s head. Part of the mystery is finding that out, for a bit.

Claire Foy is Sawyer, a banker who left Boston in fear of a man she obtained a restraining order against. We briefly see her day-to-day activities in which she can’t escape his shadow and can’t seem to have normal interactions with dates or coworkers. Her issues bring her to Highland Creek Behavioral Center where she believes she’s had a healthy conversation with a counselor. Yet that brief errand on her way to work turns into another situation she can’t escape from.

Held at the facility against her will, the audience is left to decide whether she truly belongs there or if there’s truth or delusion to her surroundings. Sawyer maintains that her stalker is orderly David (Joshua Leonard) and that he’s tracked her down in an elaborate scheme to be with her. No one bothers to really listen to her with the exception of her mother (Amy Irving) and a fellow patient (Jay Pharoah) with access to a cell phone.

Unsane doesn’t keep the plot’s central mystery going for long. Approximately halfway through, we know what’s up. Soderbergh and screenwriters Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer are then tasked with holding our attention. They mostly succeed partly to, ahem, a committed performance from Foy and the director’s undeniable glee in shooting this gory B-movie (on an iPhone by the way).

Soderbegh, who’s made great pictures, is known for these occasional side excursions into genre fare. This one is mostly minor with its own side indictments of big business. Had those issues been explored with more focus, Unsane could have been more than its rather trivial (if skillfully made) vibe. The aforementioned Side Effects is a stronger example of Soderbergh working in this realm, but that pic had some third act letdowns itself. There’s some fun to be had in the first half, but Unsane is more of a curiosity than anything else.

**1/2 (out of four)

Ocean’s 8 Box Office Prediction

A franchise is reborn with a twist when Ocean’s 8 lands in theaters next weekend. It’s been over a decade since the Ocean’s 11-13 heist sagas with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and a bunch of other famous faces being directed by Steven Soderbergh. Each entry made a little less at the box office as they went along, but they all opened between $35-$40 million. Soderbergh just produces here with Gary Ross taking over the directorial duties. He’s had hits such as Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games, but his most recent was the Matthew McConaughey flop Free State of Jones. 

The aforementioned twist is that it’s the ladies getting in on the thievery this time around. Sandra Bullock plays the sister of Clooney’s character from the first trilogy and she’s the mastermind of a crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. Anne Hathaway is the target of the score with James Corden, Dakota Fanning, and host of celebrity cameos included among the cast.

Ocean’s 8 looks to bring in a sizable female audience and their male counterparts may not mind coming along for the ride. The high-profile cast, especially Bullock, certainly doesn’t hurt and this stands a real shot at having the highest Ocean’s debut of all. That’s not guaranteed as I could see the low bar being in the low 30s. That would fall under the previous low of $36 million by Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007.

However, I’m leaning more towards a high 30s to possibly mid 40s roll out for Sandra and company. I’ll estimate it somewhere in between.

Ocean’s 8 opening weekend prediction: $42.6 million

For my Hereditary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hereditary-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Unsane Box Office Prediction

Shot in secret last year, psychological thriller Unsane arrives on screens next weekend. It comes from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival recently. Claire Foy of “The Crown” fame stars alongside an eclectic supporting cast that includes Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple, SNL alum Jay Pharoah, Amy Irving, and paralympic athlete Aimee Mullins.

Reviews have been mostly positive as it currently sits at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. The low-budget enterprise was shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus and continues Soderbergh’s experimentation with the cinematic medium. The secrecy surrounding the project may contribute to a unawareness among the general public of its very existence.

Unsane will likely struggle to find an audience in theaters and hope for more eyeballs when it reaches the On Demand circuit.

Unsane opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million

For my Pacific Rim Uprising prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/13/pacific-rim-uprising-box-office-prediction/

For my Sherlock Gnomes prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/13/sherlock-gnomes-box-office-prediction/

For my Paul, Apostle of Christ prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/14/paul-apostle-of-christ-box-office-prediction/

For my Midnight Sun prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/16/midnight-sun-box-office-prediction/

Logan Lucky Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (08/17): I am revising my Logan Lucky prediction down to $10.5 million on the eve of its debut.

The eclectic Steven Soderbergh is back in theaters with heist comedy Logan Lucky, debuting next weekend. It marks the director’s first theatrical release in four and a half years since Side Effects and first picture altogether since 2013’s Behind the Candelabra which premiered on HBO.

Lucky is headlined by many familiar faces, including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig (getting raves for the role), Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, and Sebastian Stan. Reviews have been quite pleasing and it stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, being frequently compared to the Ocean‘s trilogy that Soderbergh made.

Even with the solid reviews and a NASCAR tie-in (the film’s heist takes place at a race), there could be some issues with this completely breaking out. There is direct competition in the form of The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and it’s more likely to debut a bit higher. The mid August release date is also not one that lends itself well to openings above $20 million.

I’ll predict Lucky‘s number falls in the low to possibly mid teens, as it will hope to leg out well in future weekends (and may well do so).

Logan Lucky opening weekend prediction: $10.5 million

For my The Hitman’s Bodyguard prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/08/09/the-hitmans-bodyguard-box-office-prediction/