August 5-7 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (08/03): My projection for Easter Sunday has taken a downward turn. Instead of $8.2M, I’m now only projecting $5.6M and that puts it outside of the top five – with Minions: The Rise of Gru now getting the 5 spot.

Brad Pitt looks to conduct Bullet Train to a sizeable debut while the Jo Koy comedy Easter Sunday looks be a sleeper hit. They are the newbies as August dawns at the box office. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

Bullet Train Box Office Prediction

Easter Sunday Box Office Prediction

There’s no question that Train (from John Wick maker David Leitch) will hit #1. It’s all about by how much. Some estimates have this in the $40 million range, but I’m skeptical. In the last couple of weekends, both Nope and DC League of Super-Pets have come in under expectations (more on those developments below).

While Pitt certainly has star power, I feel like buzz needs to pick up and fast for this to reach $40 million. Perhaps my projections will rise before Thursday evening. For now, I have Bullet a shade under $30 million.

As for current champ Super-Pets, a dip in the mid to high 30s seems likely and that should place it firmly as the runner-up.

The truly interesting competition could be for the #3 slot. Easter Sunday could surprise and vastly overperform and end up #2. Or it could be outside of the top five with below $8 million. I’m putting at $8.2 million in its basket and here’s where it could be awfully close. If Nope has another plummet close to 60% and Thor: Love and Thunder sees a mid to high 30s drop, the grosses for the trio could be separated by basically nothing.

That’s what I’m thinking will occur and here’s how I think the top 5 ends up looking:

1. Bullet Train

Predicted Gross: $29.7 million

2. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

4. Nope 

Predicted Gross: $8.1 million

5. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 29-31) 

The Warner Animation Group won’t be barking loudly about the earnings of DC League of Super-Pets as it came in the very low end of its range. With a muted $23 million, the animated superhero canine teaming of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a disappointment (coming in well under my $33.6 million prediction). The only silver lining could be lack of competition for the month. That could mean meager declines until the bulk of kiddos go back to school.

Nope, as anticipated with its lackluster B Cinemascore grade, cratered in its sophomore frame with $18.5 million (a smidge ahead of my $17.5 million projection). Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror tale is up to $80 million, though it will come in well under his predecessors Get Out and Us. 

Thor: Love and Thunder was third with $13.1 million, besting my take of $11.4 million. The MCU four-quel has hammered home $301 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took fourth at $10.9 million (I said $10.3 million) to brings it haul to $320 million.

Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five at $8.4 million, right on target with my $8.3 million guesstimate. The airborne phenomenon achieved another milestone at $650 million. It will soon become the 7th largest domestic earner in history when it vaults over Titanic ($659 million) and Jurassic World ($652 million).

Finally, When the Crawdads Sing held up solidly in weekend #3 with $7.5 million (I went with $6.9 million). The mystery based on a bestseller is past the half century mark with $53 million.

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

July 29-31 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Note (07/27): I am revising my Super-Pets estimate down considerably- from $42.6M to $33.6M

DC League of Super-Pets should have no trouble hitting the top spot as July closes out at the box office. It’s the only wide new offering coming to multiplexes and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

DC League of Super-Pets Box Office Prediction

My low to mid 40s projection puts the animated comedic adventure reuniting Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in the same range with where Jordan Peele’s Nope premiered this past weekend.

There’s more on that Nope debut below, but it could be headed for a sophomore fall in the mid to upper 50s. Considering its weak B Cinemascore grade, it’s not out of the question that it could plummet even farther. We could see a close race for the #3 position between Thor: Love and Thunder and Minions: The Rise of Gru, depending on how far each title drops. The former is likely to see a larger decline. However, Super-Pets being out could cause Gru to have a heftier dip than its meager mid 30s decline last weekend. Top Gun: Maverick could hold the #5 slot with Where the Crawdads Sing falling to sixth place.

Here’s how I see that top 6 playing out:

1. DC League of Super-Pets

Predicted Gross: $33.6 million

2. Nope

Predicted Gross: $17.5 million

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

Predicted Gross: $11.4 million

4. Minions: The Rise of Gru

Predicted Gross: $10.3 million

5. Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

6. Where the Crawdads Sing 

Predicted Gross: $6.9 million

Box Office Results (July 22-24) 

As mentioned previously, Nope started out on the lower end of expectations with $44.3 million. That’s under my call of $53.2 million and there were estimates that it would surpass my projection. While the sci-fi horror pic may end up turning a profit, Peele’s third outing opened nearly $30 million below his predecessor Us (which benefited by being the auteur’s follow-up to the unexpected smash Get Out). Word-of-mouth is not strong and that’s why you see me projecting a nearly 60% sophomore drop above.

Thor: Love and Thunder was runner-up after two weeks in first. Its $22.5 million gross is right on target with my take of $22.4 million as the MCU fourquel has hammered home $276 million.

Minions: The Rise of Gru took third with $18 million (I was close with $17 million) for a four-week tally of $298 million.

Where the Crawdads Sing had a solid hold in weekend #2 with $10.3 million, just ahead of my $9.5 million prediction. The ten-day earnings are $38 million.

Top Gun: Maverick was in the five spot with $10.2 million (I said $9.8 million). The overall $635 million haul is now 9th all-time as it just flew ahead of 2012’s The Avengers.

And that does it for now! Until next time…

Nope Review

***While this review doesn’t really spoil any major plot details that don’t take place within the first 10 minutes or so, you may want to wait until post viewing if you wish to go in completely clean***

In Jordan Peele’s Nope, it’s easier for the central characters to monetize a tragedy rather than deal with it. That’s one theme of many in the filmmaker’s third feature which blends more sci-fi with its horror than Get Out or Us. Another theme is that some creatures simply can’t be tamed. Peele too is in kitchen sink mode – willing to throw lots of ideas at the screen and see what sticks. This allows for some incredible sequences and the technical aspects are the most impressive of his filmography (particularly the sound work). I’d also, at least for now, rank it behind those aforementioned pictures. That’s with a caveat as both Get Out and Us grew in my estimation on rewatches.

There’s alien activities happening beyond one character being a tech support worker who actually provides meaningful tech support. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) helps his father (Keith David) run a ranch that provides horses for Hollywood productions. The patriarch meets a sudden end when a coin falls from the sky and makes deadly impact. Six months later, OJ’s spirited little sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) is helping her brother with the now struggling family business. The siblings soon discover items of an unidentified nature are hovering in the expansive California stratosphere.

They eventually enlist aforementioned electronics clerk Angel (Brandon Perea) and well-known cinematographer and wonderfully named Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) to capture the UFOs. Not in the sense of capturing or killing, but capturing footage for the world to see.  The motive seems less about revenge for what killed Dad and more about getting something on camera that will bring fame and fortune. Or, as Emerald describes it, the Oprah shot. YOU get the definitive proof of aliens! And YOU get the definitive proof of aliens!! 

Not far from the ranch is a Western theme park (a triumph of production design) run by former child star Jupe Park (Steven Yeun). An incident from his second sitcom Gordy’s Home in the late 1990s about a domesticated monkey gives us a creepy prologue and a later sequence that is terrifying. Does it fit with the rest of Nope? One could argue it doesn’t. Yet Jupe’s unwillingness to deal with what occurred is similar to OJ and Emerald’s own actions.

This is a gorgeous looking movie made for IMAX. Nope excels at presenting a wholly unique setting in a great wide open space. It may only be a few miles from Hollywood and it may be steeped in niche Hollywood history, but it feels much farther away. Kaluuya and Palmer both give first-rate performances as brother and sister of far different demeanors. I would describe the characters as less compelling than some from Peele’s previous works.

Whether from a simian scare or otherworldly interventions, there are thrilling moments in Nope. There’s also stretches where the electricity goes out and not just literally. Unpacking various concepts presented may be enriched on subsequent viewings. On first watch, I found myself often wowed by the behind the camera beauty of it all if not always by the plot mechanisms.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Nope

Five years ago, Jordan Peele’s horror debut Get Out was a critical and commercial phenomenon that won the auteur an Oscar for Original Screenplay. It also nabbed nominations for Picture, Director, and Actor (Daniel Kaluuya). Two years later, Us drew a more mixed reaction (though similar box office numbers) and garnered no attention from the Academy This was despite Lupita Nyong’o getting Critics Choice and SAG nods.

On Friday, Peele’s third feature Nope unveils itself and the review embargo is up. Many critics are saying yep to seeing it with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%. Yet that’s under the 98% bestowed upon Get Out and Us‘s 93%.

A consistent theme in various write-ups is that Nope has the weakest screenplay of the trilogy, but the best technical aspects. You’ll note that all of Get Out‘s nominations were above the line mentions. Nope, if anything, could see the opposite. Best Sound appears to be a real possibility with Cinematography, Production Design and Visual Effects standing more remote chances.

Finally, there’s Keke Palmer. She’s said to be the standout in a cast that includes Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, and Brandon Perea. However, if Nyong’o couldn’t get recognized for her participation in Peele’s sophomore effort, it’s hard to imagine Palmer breaking through for this. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Nope Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (07/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my Nope prediction slightly from $49.2M to $53.2M

Five years after his first feature Get Out was a critical and box office phenomenon, Universal is hoping audiences say yep to Jordan Peele’s Nope on July 22nd. The plot for the sci-fi horror tale is pretty successfully being kept under wraps. Based on the footage, it appears to involve cowboys and aliens. Daniel Kaluuya (who rose to stardom in Get Out) headlines alongside Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott.

In the spring of 2017, Peele’s debut rode a wave of buzz to a $33 million opening and eventually legged out to $176 million domestically. His 2019 follow-up Us was breathlessly awaited based on the Out appreciation. It got off to a $71 million start. However, it was not nearly as universally beloved by moviegoers. Us‘s legs were less sturdy and it actually grossed $1 million less than Out at $175 million.

The trailers and TV spots for Nope have keyed in on the Peele participation. That strategy worked for Us (especially the opening). Will it matter less this time around? Probably. Us had the advantage of following its predecessor by only two years. We’ve waited almost three and a half years for Peele’s third genre excursion.

As I write this post, we have yet to see reviews. That could cause my initial projection to rise or fall. I am rather confident that Nope won’t reach Us levels as far as the debut weekend. Estimates have this generating between $40-$60 million and that seems right. At press time, I’m thinking the $50 million mark seems doable. I’ll put it just a touch under with the possibility of revision possible.

Nope opening weekend prediction: $53.2 million

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…

Candyman (2021) Review

There’s a sequence in Candyman in a high school girls bathroom that plays like it belongs in a less meditative continuation of the franchise. While it’s certainly cleverly shot, the scene feels out of place with its bad sequel slasher vibe. It may well be the point of the tone that its filmmakers are satirically putting forth. After all, they jettison anything that transpired in the two inferior follow-ups to the 1992 original. That doesn’t mean the excursion works and it’s a nagging issue with the film as a whole. There’s no doubt that a lot of thought went into this melding of issues from racial discrimination to white privilege to gentrification to police brutality. What plagues it somewhat is that it seldom succeeds in getting under your skin.

Nearly 30 years ago, Bernard Rose’s Candyman (from a story by Clive Barker) shook up a tired horror genre filled with Freddy, Jason, and Michael sequels. There was gore to be had, but also plenty of subtext in its tale of the urban legend with a hook for a hand and a bevy of bees emanating from his torso. As the 1890s era tortured artist whose love for a Caucasian woman resulted in his own torture, Tony Todd created an iconic title character with more narrative meat on the bones than your typical weapon wielding terrorizer from that time. It was an arthouse movie and so is this (it’s even set in an arthouse for chunks).

This new version, as mentioned, serves as a direct restart. The Cabrini Green projects where part I was placed is no longer the notorious crime hub of Chicago. The gentrified and souped up property is now home to young and thriving professionals. This includes Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris). She’s an art gallery director and he’s a painter who’s stuck in a creative rut. Their collective work is contingent on the approval of the snooty types who make it their business to judge them (critics, gallery owners). One message seems clear – their assessment of an African-American artist’s work rises in their esteem if it’s more violent.

Anthony gets a burst of inspiration that is kickstarted by Brianna’s brother Troy (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). When he regales the couple and his boyfriend with the nearly forgotten account of the buzzy killer whose name shan’t be uttered five times in a mirror, it gets Anthony’s creative juices flowing. This leads him to investigate the crimes of Daniel Robitaille (Todd) and the crimes committed against him. Billy (Colman Domingo) is a longtime Cabrini tenant who is more than pleased to help with the backstory (he had his own dealings with Robitaille in the late 1970s). Anthony’s research results in a project that dares you to say Candyman’s name and await the consequences. This is when blood starts flowing.

Nia DaCosta directs her second feature with a screenwriting and production assist from Jordan Peele. The script incorporates the plot from 1992 with new twists. The primary one is that there’s not only one Candyman. We know this when Anthony’s past involvement in the saga is revealed and he begins showing symptoms of becoming him after a nasty bee sting. Side effects include often visually striking murders.

While DaCosta is just establishing her filmography, Peele is recognized for his melding of social issues with scare tactics (Get Out and Us are both superior examples of how to do it). In Candyman, there’s more of an appreciation for what it’s trying to do than what it ultimately accomplishes onscreen. Sort of like a painting that’s busy with ideas but there’s not enough time allotted for it to really hook you in. I admired the picture to a point though I left unconvinced the deeper dive was worth it.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: A Quiet Place Part II

Fourteen months after its scheduled release, A Quiet Place Part II looks to make noise at the box office when it debuts over Memorial weekend. John Krasinski’s horror sequel starring wife Emily Blunt was days away from release before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The 2018 original was critically hailed and generated some Oscar buzz. However, it managed only a nod in Sound Editing (this was before Sound Editing and Sound Mixing were combined into one category). It lost to Bohemian Rhapsody. 

The review embargo lifted today. The general consensus is that AQPII nearly matches the quality of its predecessor, but not quite. This is evident in the Rotten Tomatoes score. Part I reached 96%. Part II sits at 90%. The chances of a Best Picture nomination seemed rather unrealistic anyway. This does not hold true for Best Sound where it could make a play. There is bound to be serious competition in the form of musicals like In the Heights and West Side Story and spectacles such as Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. 

Marco Beltrami’s score is getting some kudos (his work in the original received a Globe nod), but that could be a long shot as well. There is another higher profile race to mention. Millicent Simmonds, reprising her role as Blunt’s daughter, is being singled out. The deaf actress received raves for Part I and critics are saying her work here is a highlight. A Best Supporting Actress is not impossible, but there’s a major caveat.

It seems like an actress in a horror flick has been hyped up every year in recent times. This includes Toni Collette in Hereditary, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Yet the Academy seems to never take the bait. It is worth noting that Blunt won Supporting Actress at SAG for the original and then didn’t get in at the Oscars. Simmonds probably won’t make final cut though it’ll be worth monitoring the strength of this category in the months ahead.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Antebellum

In addition to her successful music career, Janelle Monae has transitioned nicely into the cinematic universe over the past few years. In fact, her three highest profile supporting performances – Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Harriet – have all garnered Oscar attention and nominations for her costars.

So it stood to at least wonder if her first major starring role could accomplish the same. The horror pic Antebellum was slated to hit theaters in April. Like so many other features in these COVID times, that plan was scuttled and it’s now set to debut on streaming services on September 18th. From directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, it casts Monae as both a modern day author and a slave in the era of the Underground Railroad. The supporting players include Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, and Gabourey Sidibe.

There’s been a recent trend of actresses being lauded for their work in this genre. Both Lupita Nyong’o (Us) and Toni Collette (Hereditary) likely just missed inclusion in the final five for Best Actress in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The review embargo for Antebellum expired today and it certainly doesn’t appear as if Monae will join that club. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a meager 36% and several critics are calling this is a misfire.

Bottom line: while Monae’s involvement in projects has captured the attention of awards voters, she’ll need to wait for her turn as the focus. This one isn’t it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: A Midyear 2020 Report

It might be hard to fathom, but we are at the midpoint of this experience we call 2020. As COVID-19 and social issues dominate the landscape, the cinematic world has necessarily taken a backseat to the times. The Academy recently announced that the Oscars will be delayed until April 2021 and that movies premiering in January and February of that year will be eligible for consideration. This is in addition to previous notice that streaming pictures that forgo a theatrical release will also be able to nab nominations at that ceremony.

Since theaters have essentially been shuttered since March and with several festivals (the normal breeding grounds for awards hopefuls) either canceled or significantly modified, a midyear report on Oscar contenders is, to put it mildly, challenging.

Yet… here goes! As awards followers already know, the bulk of serious contenders aren’t  typically released until fall anyway. In fact, the earliest release of the nine Best Picture nominees last year was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came out in late July. The remaining 8 had autumn and winter dates.

The Sundance Film Festival from January did give us some potential contenders. Florian Zeller’s The Father was acclaimed and it could score nods for previous winners Anthony Hopkins in lead actor and Olivia Colman in Supporting Actress. The biographical tale of feminist icon Gloria Steinem finds several actresses playing her at different ages. Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander (they also both have gold statues) are among them and could be potential nominees. Previous nominee Carey Mulligan garnered solid reviews for Promising Young Woman. 

And there’s Minari. The South Korean family drama starring Steven Yeun won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. I wouldn’t sleep on its chances with the right marketing push from its studio A24. That same studio has the 19th century set indie First Cow, which also has its ardent admirers. They would need to make a major push in order for Oscar to notice it.

For movies that have actually come out, the Jane Austen inspired Emma saw positive notices for lead Anya-Taylor Joy. Ben Affleck got some of the best reviews of his career with the basketball drama The Way Back. Pete Davidson’s starring debut in The King of Staten Island drew mostly praise. And Elisabeth Moss starred in the hit The Invisible Man and it’s a possibility she could be recognized even though acting nominations in horror flicks are rare. Neither Toni Collette (Hereditary) in 2018 or Lupita Nyong’o (Us) last year could pull it off. Moss could also be recognized for Shirley, a drama that debuted at Sundance and is already available via streaming.

Then there’s Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee. The director saw his last picture, BlacKkKlansman, receive numerous nominations and win Adapted Screenplay. I would posit that Bloods stands the best chance at multiple nods including possibly Picture and Director. Delroy Lindo (though it’s not clear whether he’d be campaigned for in lead or supporting) seems highly likely to be recognized. And if he’s campaigned for in Best Actor (which he probably should be), it could open the door for Clarke Peters or Jonathan Majors to make the cut in supporting.

In other races – Pixar’s Onward could compete in Animated Feature, though Disney could save their muscle for the upcoming Soul. Look for Emma to nab a Costume Design nod.

And we shall leave it there for now, folks! As readers of the blog know, expect more Oscar Watch posts to come your way as titles screen. Typically it’s late August when I start my weekly predictions and hopefully that’s a tradition that can be kept in this crazy thing we call 2020…