Honest Thief Box Office Prediction

Liam Neeson is a notorious bank robber trying to go good in the aptly titled Honest Thief, one of the few major theatrical releases hitting screens this month (and 2020 for that matter). The action pic is directed by Mark Williams with a supporting cast including Kate Walsh, Robert Patrick, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, and Jai Courtney.

The Open Road production should see a decent number of screens (probably 2000+) as there’s just not much fresh product in the marketplace. Neeson, of course, began a run of similar genre fare over a decade ago with the release of the surprise hit Taken. The grosses have dwindled in recent years. 2019’s Cold Pursuit managed just $11 million for its start.

We are in different times with smaller expectations in this COVID world. For example, this weekend’s The War with Grandpa starring Robert De Niro appears headed for an opening weekend take in the $3-4 million range. I’m not sure Thief makes off with quite that amount, but it might be close.

Honest Thief opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million

Cold Pursuit Box Office Prediction

As they say, revenge is a film best served with Liam Neeson in it and Summit Entertainment hopes that holds true next weekend with Cold Pursuit. The action thriller casts Neeson as a snow plow driver avenging the murder of his son with his particular set of skills. Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland is behind the camera and costars include Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman, and William Forsythe.

We are a decade past the star’s career resurgence with the sleeper hit Taken and its two sequels. What followed were $20 million plus openers like Unknown and NonStop. The sub genre of Neeson tough guy flicks, however, has seen its grosses dwindle in recent years. A Walk Among the Tombstones, Run All Night, and last year’s The Commuter all debuted in the low double digits to low teens range.

Reviews have been surprisingly strong and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 93%. Several critics have praised an apparent well-placed sense of humor. Yet I’m skeptical that will give Cold Pursuit a hot premiere. I’ll predict this falls right in line with his later entries.

Cold Pursuit opening weekend prediction: $12.8 million

For my The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part prediction, click here:


For my What Men Want prediction, click here:


For my The Prodigy prediction, click here:


You Were Never Really Here Movie Review

When You Were Never Really Here ends, you may think you just witnessed a lot more gory violence than you actually did. That’s because the character of Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a universe drenched in depravity. Lynne Ramsay’s latest feature wallows in that world in the same way some of Paul Schrader’s directorial and written works do. Like Taxi Driver, we witness a Big Apple underground that is rotten to the core. Joe even has a nagging dental issue like Nick Nolte did in Affliction. This is not to suggest Ramsay is a knock off artist. Far from it. She’s a talent that saturates this with sadistic style, even if it ultimately lacks in substance. I couldn’t quite escape a feeling that this is Taken for the art house crowd, but it’s well done.

Joe is a former solider who served in Iraq and in the FBI. Quick flashbacks reveal the horrors he’s seen not only there, but in a troubled childhood. He now works in the shadows as a blunt force for hire who rescues trafficked girls. When not on assignment, he cares for his sickly mother (Judith Richards). A state senator (Alex Manette) utilizes his services to track down his young teen daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov).

This latest job leads to some revelations about the individuals behind the abduction. However, the film’s plot is less of a focus than Joe’s mental state while keeping up with it. The traumas of what’s to come have to compete with his stress disorders of prior ones. In a career filled with fine performances, Phoenix impresses again. With his unkept beard and near Terminator like concentration on inflicting pain on some real bad guys, he’s hard to turn away from. That’s even when the cruelty (both seen and implied) is occurring.

The picture is lean (clocking in at an hour and a half) and filled with mean spirits. It’s a credit to the lead actor, Ramsey’s filmmaking abilities, and an ace score by Jonny Greenwood that we stay with it.

*** (out of four)

Peppermint Box Office Prediction

Jennifer Garner is back to her action roots when Peppermint arrives in theaters next weekend. The revenge tale casts the former “Alias” star as a vigilante avenging a double family tragedy. While Garner has been out of this particular genre for a bit, director Pierre Morel has not. He’s best known for making the first Taken a decade ago, in addition to From Paris with Love and The Gunman. Costars include John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, and Method Man.

Peppermint will hope to bring a female and action oriented audience to the fold. Some of its anticipated crowd could be busy watching The Nun instead. You have to go back to 2005’s Elektra for the last time Garner was headlining a genre flick like this.

For a decent comp, I’m going all the way back to 2007 when The Brave One with Jodie Foster opened in the same time frame to $13.4 million. That actually sounds just about right, give or take a million or two.

Peppermint opening weekend prediction: $11.8 million

For my The Nun prediction, click here:


For my God Bless the Broken Road prediction, click here:


The Commuter Box Office Prediction

It’s been nine years since Liam Neeson reinvented himself as everyone’s go to elder action star with Taken. The last couple of years have seen him focusing on other genres,  but he’s back in kick ass mode next weekend with The Commuter. This marks his fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra after Unknown, NonStop, and Run All Night. Costars include Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga (presumably doing no conjuring work), as well as Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, and Elizabeth McGovern.

Mr. Neeson’s first two pictures with this director came while he was still packing in audiences with the Taken franchise. That helped propel Unknown and NonStop to openings above $20 million. Run All Night (and another more recent Neeson action flick A Walk Among the Tombstones) both failed to reach the teens in their debuts.

The Commuter has received decent reviews so far and sits at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, recent evidence has shown the star’s box office potency in the genre has waned. I’ll predict this reaches low to possibly higher teens for its four-day MLK weekend debut.

The Commuter opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my The Post prediction, click here:


For my Paddington 2 prediction, click here:


For my Proud Mary prediction, click here:



Oscar Watch – Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

It’s been nearly 25 years since Liam Neeson received his one and only Oscar nomination for playing Oskar Schindler in 1993’s Schindler’s List. He’s had acclaimed roles since then (2004’s Kinsey being a notable one). To younger moviegoers, he may just be known as the brooding action hero from the Taken franchise and others. Yet Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House had prognosticators like me take notice when it screened at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film casts Neeson as the title character, the real-life FBI man who was revealed decades later to be Deep Throat. Felt provided the invaluable intel that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation. Peter Landesman directs with a supporting cast that includes Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Ike Barinholtz, and Michael C. Hall.

While reviews for Neeson’s work here have been solid, reaction to the picture itself has been rather lackluster. It stands at just 44% on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, Neeson is the only possibility at all for Academy chatter. That appears to be a long shot.  The film fest season of the past couple weeks has provided a couple names with better chances like Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger. That’s in addition to the assured nomination of Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, not to mention plenty of other contenders whose movies haven’t screened.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Top 25 Best Movie Trailers (1990-2015): Nos. 25-21

This evening brings us to a new best of list covering the last 25 years of motion pictures. And this time, instead of the best movies, we’re covering my personal list of greatest movie trailers of the last generation.

Let’s be clear: making this particular list was quite difficult. There are lots of criteria for what makes a brilliant trailer. Frankly, it frequently has little to do nothing with whether or not the finished product is any good. There are movies contained in this list that I was no fan of, but that doesn’t mean its teaser or trailer wasn’t pretty sweet. And the teaser and trailer designation is key. I’m including both on this list. There are some teasers that actually had little to do with the eventual picture. And there are some full trailers that effectively captured how terrific the eventual picture turned out to be.

Obviously this list is all in the eye of the beholder (meaning me) and there are several spectacular ones left off. Here’s just a dozen of them: Spider-Man, Zero Dark Thirty, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight, The Day After Tomorrow, Star Trek, Heat, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pearl Harbor, Fight Club, Kill Bill – Vol. 1, and Suicide Squad. I’m also glad I limited myself to the past 25 years because there’s some of the best ever prior to that period – namely Psycho, Alien, and The Shining.

As is typical with these lists, I’ll count down from 25 to 1 in five part installments every day. Here we go:

25. Taken (2008)

It’s not often you can say that one trailer spawned a film franchise, but Taken did just that with its trailer focusing on that famous Liam Neeson speech to his daughter’s captors.

24. Black Mass (2015)

Johnny Depp had starred in a string of commercial and critical disappointments, but one look at this chilling dinner table trailer and you knew he was back in his element. A likely Oscar nomination may well follow early next year.

23. Unbreakable (2000)

It may be hard to recall now, but Unbreakable was M. Night Shyamalan’s supremely eagerly awaited follow-up to his phenomenon The Sixth Sense. This mysterious trailer raised the bar of expectations and though some would disagree with me, I believe the actual film delivered.

22. Red Eye (2005)

The late Wes Craven’s pic has one of the cleverest trailers on the list. The first portion of it makes it seems like a lame romantic comedy (with Rachel McAdams no less, making that prospect more believable). The sudden tone shift makes you realize what you’re really in for…

21. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

It had been 30 years since director George Miller was behind the camera for this franchise and legitimate doubts persisted whether his reboot that replaced Mel Gibson with Tom Hardy would work. Once the first trailer hit, there was little doubt at all in this visually breathtaking work.

We will get to numbers 20-16 tomorrow, folks!

Taken 3 Box Office Prediction

Once again Liam Neeson is back in vengeance mode as Taken 3 makes its way to theaters this Friday. The 2009 original kicked off a new career for Mr. Neeson as an improbable action star and it’s paid major dividends for him.

No one expected the first Taken to perform as it did when it made $24.7 million on its way to a $139 million domestic haul. The 2012 sequel kept the momentum going with a $49.5 million premiere with an eventual gross of $145 million.

Forest Whitaker joins the mix this time along with returnees Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen (though not long for her according to the spoiler happy TV spots). One must wonder if audience anticipation will wane a bit this time around. While the second go round did outdo the first, it wasn’t considered as solid as the original. Moviegoers may be growing slightly weary of viewing Neeson’s special set of skills.

Nevertheless, while the third entry may end up being the lowest domestic grosser of the franchise, I still see it topping $30 million out of the gate and easily topping the charts next weekend.

Taken 3 opening weekend prediction: $32.8 million

For my Selma prediction, click here:


For my prediction post on Inherent Vice, click here:



This Day in Movie History: January 30

Five years ago Today in Movie History – January 30 – Taken became a surprise box office smash in the U.S. with a terrific $24.7 million opening weekend on its way to a $145 million domestic gross. Building from its very effective trailer, Taken transitioned star Liam Neeson to a legitimate action hero. A sequel would follow in 2012 and a third is already in the planning stages.

As for birthdays, Gene Hackman is 84 today. He’s been nominated for five Academy Awards and won two – for Best Actor in 1971 for The French Connection and Supporting Actor in 1992 for Unforgiven. The other nominations: Bonnie & Clyde, I Never Sang for My Father, and Mississippi Burning. Mr. Hackman appeared in many notable pictures throughout his storied career before his retirement from acting in 2004. They include Downhill Racer, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein, as Lex Luthor in the Superman franchise, Reds, Under Fire, Hoosiers, No Way Out, The Firm, Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Birdcage, Enemy of the State, and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Christian Bale is 40 today. Of course, he’s best known as the Caped Crusader/Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. He got his start as a teenager headlining Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. His recent work with director David O. Russell resulted in a Supporting Actor Oscar win for The Fighter and a nomination for Best Actor just last week for American Hustle. And there’s his now iconic role in the 2000 cult classic American Psycho. Other noteworthy films: Shaft, The Machinist, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, Terminator Salvation, Public Enemies, and Out of the Furnace.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between these two fantastic actors:

Gene Hackman was in Unforgiven with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman was in Batman Begins with Christian Bale

And that’s today – January 30 – in Movie History!