Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in August of 2019 to very solid reviews before moving to the Berlin Film Festival. The 19th century set drama taking place in the Oregon Territory stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and represents another critical darling from the indie director.
After a limited and abbreviated theatrical run in March that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cow is now available for streaming today. Being that it’s one of the most acclaimed releases so far in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if distributor A24 makes an awards play for it.
That could be a tall order. Reichardt’s previous effort Certain Women with Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart also nabbed kudos from the critical community, but was ignored by Oscar voters. Her latest could easily see the same result, but with the uncertainty of the year’s calendar – a play for for Picture or Adapted Screenplay is at least feasible. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
In 2017, the period drama Mudbound likely just missed the cut for Best Picture consideration at the Oscars. The critically hailed Netflix production from director Dee Rees arrived at a time where Academy voters were probably still leery of the streaming service garnering significant nods. Mary J. Blige did manage a nomination for Supporting Actress.
Mudbound started its awards buzz at the Sundance Film Festival three years ago. Rees’s follow-up is the political thriller The Last Thing He Wanted and it’s also scheduled for a Netflix bow in February. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Edi Gathegi, Mel Rodriguez, Toby Jones, and Willem Dafoe in this adaptation from a Joan Didion novel.
The acclaim that greeted Rees and her picture three years ago has not repeated itself in 2020. The Last Thing currently sits at 0% (oof) on Rotten Tomatoes with reviews declaring it a serious misfire from a gifted filmmaker. The festival circuit frequently pushes along movies for consideration. It can also have the opposite effect of shutting those prospects down completely. And that’s where this seems bound. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (08/02/18): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my estimate down a tad from $34 million to $29.6 million
Disney’s ChristopherRobin hopes to make a pot of money when it’s released next weekend. The mix of live-action and CG brings back Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and other notable creatures that originated from the 1926 novel. Ewan McGregor plays an adult Christopher with Hayley Atwell as his wife. Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, and Sophie Okonedo provide voiceover work. Marc Forster directs. I’m guessing this is more in tone with his 2003 pic FindingNeverland and not QuantumofSolace and WorldWarZ.
This is not to be confused with last year’s GoodbyeChristopherRobin with Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie. That biopic about Pooh’s author went nowhere at the box office.
That shouldn’t be the case here. The Mouse Factory is certainly astute at marketing their product and the familiarity with Winnie and friends won’t hurt. It may even succeed at tapping into adult moviegoers hungry for a nostalgic fix. Depending on how high Mission: Impossible – Fallout flies this coming weekend, a low to possibly mid 30s gross from Robin could put it in contention for the top spot. That seems reasonable for where this begins.
ChristopherRobin opening weekend prediction: $29.6 million
The central theme of the Jurassic franchise is whether the scientific re-creation of dinosaurs for profit is enough reason to justify their existence. Of course, the real reason these movies exist is so we can gaze upon glorious CG creatures that took our breath away 25 years ago in Steven Spielberg’s JurassicPark. Three years ago, Colin Trevorrow gave us JurassicWorld. It did just enough to tap into our nostalgia for the original while keeping another central theme prominent in all series entries – the humans are less interesting than their prehistoric counterparts.
In the inevitable sequel JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom, we have a newer problem in that the dinosaurs are becoming increasingly less fascinating. When we left that theme park in 2015, it was in tatters due to the havoc wrought by its main attractions. We’re informed that the dinos still roam the deserted Isla Nublar and there’s a political debate as to what to do with them. That conversation is accelerated as a volcano is about to erupt on the island and incinerate everything. As audience members, let’s just choose to forget that even if the park had become successful and free of T-Rex breakouts, it would’ve only existed for three years because of that volcano. We don’t watch Jurassic pics for logic, after all.
The impending meltdown gets the attention of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s former operations manager, who’s now an advocate for the dinosaurs survival. Her nephews from JurassicWorld aren’t seen or mentioned. Perhaps they were smart enough to want nothing to do with all this. She’s recruited by Ben Lockwood (James Cromwell), the ailing former partner of the late John Hammond, to gather up Isla Nublar’s famous residents. Claire recruits her ex-flame and dino whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt) to join her, along with a ragtag group of assistants and military types led by mercenary and hunter Ted Levine. It turns out Lockwood’s assistant (Rafe Spall, a rather bland villain) might have conjured up other ideas for the creatures true purposes. Oh and Lockwood has a granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Kids in Jurassic flicks are mandatory. She’s got a spotty British accent and an eventual revelation about her character that is downright bonkers.
Our return to Jurassic World does allow for a couple imaginative action sequences that are well choreographed and filmed by franchise newcomer J.A. Bayona (Trevorrow isn’t behind the camera but has co-writing credit). In the second half, the pic moves to a more insulated setting. This section is less satisfying. While Bayona and company get a wee bit of credit for trying something different, the execution falters.
That’s the real issue here. 25 summers ago, the visuals of JurassicPark were brand new and stunning. The technology, while still state of the art, isn’t fresh anymore. Human characters here aren’t compelling either. The dynamic between Pratt and Howard is as dull as before. Jeff Goldblum turns up as Dr. Malcolm for the first time since 1997’s TheLostWorld, but his presence is brief and forgettable. What wowed us a quarter century ago is now a listless undertaking occasionally punctuated by genuine excitement. Put another way, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom has a tough time justifying its existence.
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, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom 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 JurassicWorld and brings back Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Jeff Goldblum (for the first time since 1997’s TheLostWorld). 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. TheLostWorld would achieve the same honor four years later with $72 million. And, of course, JurassicWorld stunned prognosticators in 2015 with $208 million out of the gate, which stood as the greatest premiere until StarWars: TheForceAwakens topped it six months later.
FallenKingdom will not and is not expected to break records. JurassicWorld 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 GuardiansoftheGalaxy.
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. JurassicWorld 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.
JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom opening weekend prediction: $140.4 million
A quarter century after Steven Spielberg’s JurassicPark thrilled audiences with its eye-popping visuals, the fifth entry in the franchise arrives domestically two weeks from Friday. However, JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom is out tomorrow in the United Kingdom, so critical reaction is present. The verdict? Mixed. Kingdom currently sits at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes (predecessor JurassicWorld ended up with 71%).
No Oscar prognosticator looked at this as Best Picture material. This series is all about the potential for technical recognition. The 1993 original was nominated for and won three gold statues: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. For those around at the time, Park was an undeniable marvel with said visuals and the sounds of the dinosaurs wreaking havoc. The 1997 sequel managed one nod for Visual Effects and lost to a little something called Titanic.
2001’s JurassicParkIII, no surprise, was ignored by the Academy. On the other hand, it may surprise you to learn that 2015’s World also came up empty with voters. The pic did set box office records at the time, but couldn’t even manage Visual Effects or Sound recognition.
The answer as to why could be simple. In this particular franchise, there’s really little room for improvement when it comes to its technical capabilities. JurassicPark set a high bar in Isla Nublar for the CG dinos and their sounds. The Academy has moved onto other impressive tech work for other pictures.
Bottom line: If JurassicWorld couldn’t manage down the line nods, don’t expect any for Kingdom.
Blogger’s Update (10/18/17): I am revising my prediction for The Snowman from $10.8 million down to $8 million
Next weekend, Universal Pictures will find out whether The Snowman gets a hot or icy reception at the box office. The thriller is based on a bestseller and stars Michael Fassbender as a detective chasing a serial killer who goes by the title. Tomas Alfredson, maker of critically acclaimed pics Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directs. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones, Chloe Sevigny, James D’Arcy, and Val Kilmer.
While the director’s previous efforts have met with critical approval, reviews for this aren’t so good. It stands at just 27% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Additionally, there are other pics opening directly against it that could compete for an adult crowd like Only the Brave and Geostorm.
The marketing has attempted to stress a horror vibe, so it’s only hope could be genre fans coming out. That said, I’ll estimate this just manages to reach double digits for a rather cold opening.
The Snowman opening weekend prediction: $8 million
For my Boo 2! A Madea Halloween prediction, click here:
AtomicBlonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.
David Leitch co-directed JohnWick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents. She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.
The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.
That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.
Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. AtomicBlonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.
Blogger’s Note (07/23): I am revising my estimate down from my original projection to a high teens debut.
Charlize Theron is in her second high-profile action flick of 2017 as Atomic Blonde hits theaters next weekend. The Oscar winner plays an MI6 agent teamed up with James McAvoy. The spy thriller costars John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones and is directed by John Wick‘s David Leitch.
Blonde premiered this spring at the South by Southwest Festival to solid word-of-mouth and reviews have been mostly pleasing as it stands at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Theron appeared in this spring’s The Fate of the Furious and McAvoy is fresh off his blockbuster starring role in Split.
Shot for a meager $30 million, the pic should have no trouble being a profitable venture for its studio. It could reach close to its budget in the first weekend, though I’ll estimate it falls a bit under that in the mid 20s. That may mean a debut in third place behind The Emoji Movie and the second weekend of Dunkirk, depending on how that opens on Friday.
Atomic Blonde opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million
The science fiction thriller Morgan hits theaters over Labor Day weekend. Directed by Luke Scott – scion of Ridley (you know, the guy who made Alien and Blade Runner) – the pic centers on a young girl who’s developed in a lab and obtains super human qualities. When she starts to cause trouble, all sorts of “stranger things” (so to speak) begin happening.
Ridley executive produces his son’s first feature and the cast features Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. This is unlikely to make an impression with audiences like the aforementioned classics of the elder Scott’s resume.
Morgan is debuting on the holiday weekend least known for producing hits. This is a historically slow time at the box office where newbies often struggle to achieve anything above low double digits. I believe that will hold true here with a four-day haul reaching just that.
Morgan opening weekend prediction: $9 million (Friday to Sunday), $10.6 million (Friday to Monday)
For my The Light Between Oceans prediction, click here: