Oscar Predictions: Resurrection

It’s happened a lot lately where films in the psychological thriller/horror realm feature lead female performances that have social media buzzing for their awards attention. Think Toni Collette in Hereditary or Lupita Nyong’o for Us. 

We could see that happen again with Rebecca Hall in Resurrection, which played at Sundance over the weekend. From director Andrew Semans, the dark tale features Hall confronting an ex flame and abuser (Tim Roth). The critical reaction is a bit mixed (76% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). However, the most positive reviews are really positive and nearly all write-ups praise Hall’s work (as well as Roth).

A quick study of the reviews will indicate this is not an Academy friendly experience. Don’t be surprised if there’s an Internet drumbeat for Hall to be recognized. She’s coming off a strong 2021 – making her directorial debut in the praised Passing and starring in the horror flick The Night House. 

Yet Collette and Nyong’o couldn’t make the Oscar cut and I wouldn’t expect Hall to. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Passing Review

Much of the drama in Rebecca Hall’s debut feature, based on a 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, is elevated by passing glances and comments overheard at gatherings. The term Passing refers to light skinned African-Americans who are deemed white to unsuspecting individuals. It’s a disguise that Clare Bellew (Ruth Negga) is living in and during the early moments of the picture, she has a chance encounter with Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson). They are childhood friends who’ve lost touch and their reconnection leaves Irene bewildered. She’s never left Harlem and has married successful but weary doctor Brian (Andre Holland). Irene fills her days with civic duties and some nights entertaining an author (Bill Camp) who’s endeared himself to the black community (though perhaps not for purely endearing reasons).

While Irene seems to have a nice upper class life going in a 1920s era filled with despair, a closer look is warranted. Her marriage is bordering on loveless. The couple struggle with proper child rearing to their two boys in a subplot that’s barely there (it should have been either explored in greater detail or dropped altogether).

Clare’s sudden presence reminds Irene of some chinks in the armor of her perceived blissful existence. That goes both ways. Clare is married to a vocal racist (Alexander Skarsgard) who has no clue what lies beneath. She’s a free spirit whose wings appear to grow when placed back in familiar territory. One of the strengths with this screenplay is that Clare’s reaction to her bonds rekindling is unexpected. Instead of substantiating her choice to pass as Caucasian, it fills her with a longing to return to her roots. In doing so, a strange and often unclear romantic dynamic emerges between Clare, Irene, and Brian. Jealousies and frailties come to the forefront. And those passing glances and comments take on deeper meaning as time goes by. Irene’s perception of Clare soon turns as cold as the wintry night air while Brian’s has blown in a warmer and cozier direction.

This is a picture that sneaks up on you with how powerful it ultimately becomes. Hall, a fine actress recently seen in The Night House, has her own complicated and for years unknown racial history that surely influenced her delicate handling of the subject matter. The performances are terrific across the board. This is not a story that over explains character motivation and it’s sometimes up to Thompson and Negga in particular to convey what’s really cooking in this tinderbox of a stew. They achieve that mission and Hall’s filmmaking prowess (shot in black and white with an aspect ratio of its era) accentuates that. By the climax, we are presented potential outcomes that occur in a flash and you may find yourself pondering them far longer. It all passes for a richly rewarding experience.

***1/2 (out of four)

Antlers Box Office Prediction

With a production assist from the king of creature features Guillermo del Toro, the supernatural horror tale Antlers crosses into theaters October 29th. From Black Widow and Hostiles director Scott Cooper, the pic is finally hitting screens a year and a half after its COVID postponement. Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, and Amy Madigan star.

The Searchlight pictures production has scored decent reviews and it stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Coming out Halloween weekend, Antlers is genre material in a market that’s been saturated with it. Last Night in Soho opens against it while Halloween Kills will be in its third frame.

Despite the mostly positive critical reaction, I don’t really see this registering with mainstream audiences. The competition won’t help and there’s no star power to draw crowds in. Furthermore the trailers and TV spots may make it look simply too strange to have widespread appeal. I could see this earning about as much as The Night House, which opened in August to a mere $2.9 million. If so, Antlers won’t approach the top five during its scary weekend.

Antlers opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million

For my Last Night in Soho prediction, click here:

Last Night in Soho Box Office Prediction

For my My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission prediction, click here:

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission Box Office Prediction

For my The French Dispatch prediction, click here:

The French Dispatch Box Office Prediction

For my A Mouthful of Air prediction, click here:

A Mouthful of Air Box Office Prediction

August 27-29 Box Office Predictions

The month of August closes with the return of a familiar name in horror… just don’t say it five times. Nearly three decades after the original buzzed into theaters, the sequel/reboot Candyman is the sole new release this weekend. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

Candyman Box Office Prediction

I’m going with a mid to high teens estimate with the caveat that this genre can over perform. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this fly a bit higher, but I’ll stick with my guns for now. That should be enough for a #1 start. If it doesn’t meet expectations, that could allow Free Guy to spend a third frame atop the charts after its remarkable hold this past weekend (more on that below).

With no new product, holdovers should all slide a spot. That means the top five should be bookended by fright fests with family fare in the middle. Here’s how I think it will look:

1. Candyman

Predicted Gross: $17.3 million

2. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $13 million

3. PAW Patrol: The Movie

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

4. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $4.6 million

5. Don’t Breathe 2

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

Box Office Results (August 20-22)

PAW Patrol: The Movie managed to bring the kiddos out and slightly outdid most forecasts. The new films catering to adults were all dogs.

Yet the headline of the weekend belonged to Free Guy as it remained in first with $18.5 million. That’s considerably better than my $13.9 million prediction. The Ryan Reynolds sci-fi comedy displayed the best sophomore hold we’ve seen all summer with just a 35% drop. We have become accustomed to seeing most titles plummet 50% or far more. That brings Guy‘s take to an impressive $58 million and its inclusion in the $100 million club seems assured. I wrote more about its earnings over the weekend here:

Free Guy Makes Them Pay

Paw Patrol: The Movie easily took second position with $13.1 million. The big screen rendering of the Nickelodeon show surpassed my $10.8 million projection.

Jungle Cruise was third with $6.3 million (I said $5.9 million). With $92 million overall, it’ll hit nine digits in short order.

The rest of the top five were returnees that I didn’t have slated to be there. Don’t Breathe 2 was fourth with $5 million. The fall of just over 50% in its second weekend is quite good for a horror flick and it’s made $19 million. Respect rounded out the top five with $3.7 million for a tally of $15 million.

And now for the trio of debuts that largely went unnoticed. The Protege was seventh with $2.9 million. I went with $4.7 million. In 8th place was The Night House with $2.8 million. I was a tad more generous at $3.1 million. And most embarrassingly, Hugh Jackman’s Reminiscence was the huge dud (considering its budget) as it placed 9th at $1.9 million. I said $6.8 million. Clearly audiences weren’t buying what was being sold with all three of these offerings.

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

Free Guy Makes Them Pay

As uncertainty regarding the box office continues amidst COVID concerns, there has been one undeniable bright spot in the dog days of August. That would be Shawn Levy’s Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds and its apparent second weekend grosses only puts an exclamation on the point.

The sci-fi family comedy surprised the film community originally with better than expected reviews (82% on Rotten Tomatoes). It continued to do so when it exceeded projections with a robust $28 million debut. Most forecasts ranged from the high teens to low 20s (my own was $21 million).

Yet perhaps the most encouraging sign are reports of its sophomore frame grosses. Free Guy will easily remain #1 with a projected drop around 40%. That should put it at approximately $17 million with an overall domestic take in the mid to upper 50s. With sturdy word-of-mouth, the Fox property seems destined to cross the $100 million mark stateside. The studio is already lining up a sequel. For context, that should be stronger than the second weekend for Jungle Cruise (which opened larger… more on that below).

Why is this somewhat unanticipated? To put it simply, Free Guy is performing in frame #2 much the same way it would without a pandemic. The few blockbusters of the season have experienced huge falls in their second outings and Free Guy is bucking that trend. Black Widow tumbled 68%. The Suicide Squad crashed at 71%. Even the aforementioned Jungle Cruise took a 55% dip.

What do all three of those titles have in common? That trio was available simultaneously on Disney Plus (Widow, Cruise) or HBO Max (Squad). Free Guy can be streamed only in the theater. With its positive audience reaction (it has an A on Cinemascore), moviegoers are proving that a title can have staying power if it’s: 1) good and 2) just in theaters.

This is a rare piece of good news for multiplexes in an industry starving for it. There are three other offerings this weekend aimed toward adults: Reminiscence, The Protege, and The Night House. All are headed toward meager starts outside of the top five. The other newbie is PAW Patrol: The Movie and it looks to slightly exceed expectations with around $12-$13 million (it’s also streaming on Paramount+).

So will studios adjust to Free Guy‘s solid performance? It could be a mixed bag. First, they might have to feel they have a product as pleasing as what Mr. Levy and Mr. Reynolds have created. Just yesterday, Universal Pictures announced they are keeping their animated sequel The Addams Family 2 in theaters but also making it available via streaming on the same say. On the other hand, Disney is keeping the next MCU adventure Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings only in cineplexes for 45 days starting Labor Day weekend. That might be the biggest test we have seen thus far for the theater only experiment.

Is Free Guy an anomaly or proof that if you build it only in theaters… they will come? We may need some more samples before studios make more decisions that favor theater chains.

The Night House Review

David Bruckner’s The Night House is a fascinating place to live… at least for awhile. Its sturdy foundation is a hauntingly grief-stricken central performance from Rebecca Hall’s Beth. There are desirable features such as loud audio jump scares that genuinely do surprise. Its mystery focused on an ambiguous suicide note leaves us guessing for some time. For all we are given to buy into and do, the screenplay from Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski ultimately struggles to close the deal. And that’s where the remorse might settle in.

High school teacher Beth is reeling from the out of nowhere self-inflicted demise of husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). Her best friend (Sarah Goldberg) and kindly widowed neighbor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) try to say the right things, but Owen’s final correspondence leaves her baffled and wanting answers. Such acknowledgements come in ways familiar for the horror genre. Her nights are filled with ominous noises and creaks that suggest a presence at the lakeside abode that Owen built.

Beth’s digging into her late partner’s past (usually via his electronic devices) discloses a secret life that involves more architectural designs and a penchant for women that closely resemble her. So what does it all mean? Those reveals are where the script leaves a bit of its own ambiguity. When it becomes clearer on closer examination, the reveals are a letdown.

The Night House is certainly carried by Hall’s work. She isn’t your typical helpless heroine living in a place with a demonic mind of its own. We learn Beth has already had a brush with death years before and that informs her behavior. A stereo coming on full blast at night by itself tends to not scare her as much as the audience. The generous imbibing of brandy also assists with her liquid courage.

I wish the screenplay solved a way to deserve her superb performance. It mostly does for about two-thirds of the showing and, for that, the filmmakers deserve credit. The final act? It’s a bit of a fixer upper.

**1/2 (out of four)

August 20-22 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (08/18): I am revising my PAW Patrol: The Movie estimate up from $7.9M to $10.8M.

The dog days of summer continues with four new offerings in the marketplace and they could all fall short of the second weekend of Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds. Speaking of dogs, we have PAW Patrol: The Movie as well as three more adult oriented offerings: Hugh Jackman’s sci-fi thriller Reminiscence, action flick The Protege with Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, and Samuel L. Jackson and horror pic The Night House. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Reminiscence Box Office Prediction

The Protege Box Office Prediction

PAW Patrol: The Movie Box Office Prediction

The Night House Box Office Prediction

I don’t have any of the features from the fresh quartet (not a sequel in the bunch!) topping $10 million. That means Free Guy, after a better than anticipated bow, should manage to remain #1 in its sophomore outing. I’m assuming it will dip in the low to mid 50s like Jungle Cruise did a couple of weeks back.

As for those newcomers, the one I’m most conflicted about is PAW Patrol: The Movie. It certainly has a built-in fan base of youngsters who may drag their parents to see it. Rather unexpectedly, it’s generating quite decent reviews. However, my hunch is that some families may wait for it to be on the small screen and I’m projecting third place.

That’s behind Reminiscence which could approach double digits. Jackman’s latest is also available on HBO Max. It will be competing for eyeballs with The Protege, which I have pegged for mid single digits (if anything, I think it could go lower). In fact, it could be in a battle for fifth with Jungle Cruise in its fourth weekend.

The Night House comes at the tale end of a season packed with horror titles and I believe it’s bound to get lost in the shuffle. My meager $3.1 million estimate leaves it well outside the top five.

And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:

1. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $13.9 million

2. PAW Patrol: The Movie

Predicted Gross: $10.8 million

3. Reminiscence

Predicted Gross: $6.8 million

4. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $5.9 million

5. The Protege

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

Box Office Results (August 13-15)

Friday the 13th wasn’t so unlucky for Ryan Reynolds and Free Guy. The Fox (and therefore Disney) property opened on the higher end of forecasts with $28.3 million, topping my $21.3 million estimate. With an A Cinemascore grade, audiences liked what they saw and it sounds as if a sequel will happen. The near $30 million start might have been called slightly disappointing in different times. All things considered, it’s rather strong.

Horror sequel (I’ve been saying that a lot lately) Don’t Breathe 2 debuted with $10.6 million, just under my $11.2 million take. That’s miles away from the $26 million that the 2016 predecessor took in, but generally in line with most predictions. At a cost of just $15 million, it should turn a nice profit for Sony Pictures.

Jungle Cruise was third in its third weekend with $9.1 million – right on pace with my $8.9 million estimate. The Disney adventure is at $82 million with $100 million in its sights.

The Aretha Franklin biopic Respect with Jennifer Hudson also hit its anticipated mark in fourth with $8.8 million. That’s a tad ahead of my $8.5 million call. Reviews were only so-so though its lead could be on her way to a Best Actress nomination.

And, finally, the bad news for The Suicide Squad continued. Following a disastrous opening, the reboot/sequel plunged an equally disturbing 71% to fifth with $7.4 million. I was more optimistic at $10.1 million. The ten-day tally is a lowly $42 million.

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

The Night House Box Office Prediction

There has been no shortage of horror offering for audiences this summer (almost all sequels), but Searchlight is hoping the masses turn out for another with The Night House. Directed by David Bruckner, the ghost story premiered all the way in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.

Reviews from Sundance were encouraging and it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the recent glut of genre titles (Don’t Breathe 2 is out the weekend before with Candyman the frame after) could cause this to get lost in the shuffle.

Opening on a fairly low 2000 screens, prospects for The Night House look dim. I foresee this debuting between $2-4 million and foreclosing in theaters quickly.

The Night House opening weekend prediction: $3.1 million

For my Reminiscence prediction, click here:

Reminiscence Box Office Prediction

For my The Protege prediction, click here:

The Protege Box Office Prediction

For my PAW Patrol: The Movie prediction, click here:

PAW Patrol: The Movie Box Office Prediction