Oscar Predictions: The Unforgivable

Out in theaters today before its Netflix premiere on December 10th is The Unforgivable from director Nora Fingscheidt. A remake of the 2009 British miniseries Unforgiven, Sandra Bullock stars as a convicted felon adjusting to life on the outside. Costars include Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Rob Morgan, and Viola Davis.

On paper, this looks like the type of role that could muster up awards chatter for Bullock. She’s a two-time nominee and one time winner, taking the gold 12 years ago for The Blind Side and nabbing a nod for 2013’s Gravity. However, the drama skipped the fall’s festival circuit and it’s been flying under the radar during the season.

Now we might know why. Early reviews aren’t very kind and it stands at 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. While some critics are praising her performance, the Best Actress competition is crowded already. Netflix might attract plenty of viewers (Bullock’s previous effort for the streamer was the hit Bird Box). I’m confident that we will not be blindsided by a nomination for its lead on the morning of nominations. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Review

Jessica Chastain is so fabulous in Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye that it’s tempting to forgive how much of a standard biopic it really is. Under layers of foundation, eye shadow, and drawn on lips, the actress playing televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker is always fascinating to witness. The film’s foundation is shakier with an over reliance on montages and a frequent unwillingness to truly peel away the layers of its subjects.

We meet Tammy when she finds the Holy Spirit as a poor young girl in the late 1950s. Her cheerful attitude confounds her grounded in realism mother (Cherry Jones), who’s considered an outcast due to a divorce. By the mid 60s, our devoted Christian soldier meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) in college. He’s a different kind of aspiring pastor – not afraid to preach the gospel of fun and materialism. Tammy is his perfect match in building an eventual empire through the PTL Network (at one time the fourth most watched channel on TV).

Their union and the fidelity of their followers doesn’t always circle with the more square Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio), who Jim looks up to but his wife eyes with caution. Speaking of fidelity, it comes into focus as the couple become more famous. Tammy’s attraction to her music producer (Mark Wystrach) is nearly requited while Jim’s own wandering eye is hinted at in different ways. Their relationship gets the most screen time in Abe Sylvia’s screenplay (based on a 2000 documentary of the same name). It’s at the expense of other areas of Tammy Faye’s life that are glossed over.

A key one is the script’s general resistance to delving into what caused the Bakkers fall from grace (dubbed Pearlygate for them and other clergy by the late 80s). Eyes definitely sees Tammy Faye as a sympathetic figure and in many respects she was. Her compassion for AIDS patients was at a period when that came with great risk to the business. The complicated alliance with Jim is presented as one of blind faith for Tammy. Garfield succeeds in making his character a multifaceted one. He’s neither portrayed as a greedy monster or a misunderstood prophet. The actor deserves the lion’s share of credit over the words written for him.

That certainly holds true for Chastain. From her squeaky Minnesota accent (she sounds like Betty Boop crossed with Marge from Fargo) to her ever present Diet Coke (it’s her only addiction until pills come into play), this could have been played for parody. Chastain is far too talented a performer for that. She alone, along with a few showdowns with her deep in debt hubby, makes Eyes highly watchable. However, it never genuinely gets behind the makeup with its conventional storytelling.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (09/16): On the eve of its premiere, it seems this is opening in a more limited fashion than I originally thought. Therefore my estimate is revised down from $3.4 million to $1.7 million.

Fresh off its Toronto Film Festival premiere yesterday, The Eyes of Tammy Faye makes its way to multiplexes on Friday. From director Michael Showalter (best known for The Big Sick), the biopic of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker is already generating Oscar buzz for Jessica Chastain. Andrew Garfield plays hubby Jim with a supporting cast including Vincent D’Onofrio and Cherry Jones.

Reviews for the film itself are decent (it’s at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes). Eyes is not available on any streaming service. The theatrical only output presents one current challenge for this estimator. I have yet to see a screen count and that makes projecting an opening gross challenging.

I may well revise this prediction when I do see some numbers, but a baseline in the $3-4 million range sounds reasonable at the moment.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye opening weekend prediction: $1.7 million

For my Cry Macho prediction, click here:

Cry Macho Box Office Prediction

For my Copshop prediction, click here:

Copshop Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Best Actress race just got more interesting and we can thank Jessica Chastain for that. Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye has emerged from the Toronto Film Festival. While the reviews for the film are mixed, Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye Bakker is drawing raves.

Based on a 2000 documentary, this dramatized bio of the extreme makeup wearing televangelist and her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield) has never been pegged as much of a Best Picture contender. The critical reaction confirms that. Mr. Garfield is getting some solid notices. I question whether he gains traction in the acting derby. He’ll have another shot in 2021 with the as yet unseen Tick, Tick… Boom! If that one doesn’t materialize, Searchlight could push him in supporting.

Chastain is another story with her viability. She appears firmly in line for her third nomination. The first was in 2011 in supporting for The Help. Her second came the next year in lead for Zero Dark Thirty. Not only does she seem headed for Oscar recognition, she could be a threat to win. In other words, we may not want to crown Kristen Stewart (Spencer) the victor yet.

Makeup and Hairstyling is another obvious race where this could get in. Perhaps the gaudy 80s fashion will be noticed for Costume Design.

Bottom line: a couple of weeks back, I boldly declared that you could write Kristen Stewart’s Best Actress inclusion in pen. Here we go again for the second pronouncement… I think you can do the same with Chastain. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Death Wish Box Office Prediction

Bruce Willis is back on the big screen next weekend with Death Wish, a remake of the 1974 action pic that starred Charles Bronson. Coming from director Eli Roth, the pic costars Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, and Mike Epps.

Willis will be in full vigilante mode and those familiar with Death Wish know it spawned numerous sequels of highly questionable quality. The star of the proceedings has been a bit of a stranger to multiplexes in recent years as many of his films have gone the direct to VOD route.

Competition is certainly there with Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow debuting against it and also making a play for R rated genre fans. That said, if Den of Thieves could pull in $15.2 million in January, I believe this could put up fairly similar numbers and perhaps a bit higher.

Death Wish opening weekend prediction: $16.6 million

For my Red Sparrow prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/02/21/red-sparrow-box-office-prediction/

CHiPs Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (03/23): I am revising down my box office estimate to $8.4 million names on putrid reviews and lowered expectations.

A film that has challenged my ability to properly use capital and lower case letters in its title, CHiPs opens in theaters next weekend. The buddy cop comedy is a more humorous take on the 1970s-80s TV series that starred Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. Taking over their roles as California highway patrolmen are Dax Shepard (who also directs) and Michael Pena. Costars include Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, and Shepard’s real-life spouse Kristen Bell.

Warner Bros. originally had this pegged as a late summer release before bumping it to March. I don’t foresee this approaching, say, Starsky and Hutch numbers from 2004. That was also based on a buddy cop series from the same era, but its headliners Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson had considerably more drawing power at the time than Shepard and Pena.

The good news for the studio: CHiPs comes with a reported budget of just $25 million. I believe this vehicle could achieve over half of that in its opening weekend. That would put it behind other newbies Power Rangers and Life, but it’s not too shabby.

CHiPs opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million (prediction changed from $13.2M)

For my Power Rangers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/15/power-rangers-box-office-prediction/

For my Life prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/15/life-box-office-prediction/

Rings Box Office Prediction

After nearly 12 years, that creepy contortionist Samara and that deadly videotape returns to the silver screen when Rings debuts next weekend. The horror flick reboots a franchise that began in 2002 with the American version of a 1998 Japanese pic. It was a huge success, followed up by a somewhat lackluster 2005 sequel. The question is whether young audiences who flock to the genre and now older moviegoers who were transfixed by the original turn out.

F. Javier Gutierrez takes over directorial reigns in this follow-up set 13 years after part two. The cast includes Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Curiously, Rings has been pushed back on multiple occasions. First scheduled for fall of 2015, then spring 2016, and then October – Paramount finally settled for February 2017. The stateside version of The Ring in 2002 started off with a decent $15 million opening before its solid word-of-mouth carried it to a $129 million overall domestic gross. The sequel debuted much bigger with $35 million, but petered out quickly with a $76 million eventual tally.

I don’t expect Rings to come anywhere near the franchise high of Ring Two. There’s also a football game that Sunday that could deter some viewers away. That said, we’ve seen the horror genre outperform expectations twice already in the new year – when The Bye Bye Man took in nearly $16 million out of the gate and Split made $40 million for its start. This could also mean genre enthusiasts may have had their fill in recent weeks. I believe Rings manages to just top $20 million.

Rings opening weekend prediction: $20.3 million

For my The Space Between Us prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/26/the-space-between-us-box-office-prediction/

The Magnificent Seven Box Office Prediction

There are few actors out there who can truly open a movie, but Denzel Washington is one of them. He’s back on screen for the first time in two years with The Magnificent Seven next weekend. A remake of the 1960 classic with Yul Brynner (which itself was a reworking of 1954’s Seven Samurai), this Western re-teams Washington with his Training Day and The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua. It also features the red-hot Chris Pratt, Training costar Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, and Haley Bennett.

Early reviews for Seven have been mixed, but this is likely to be a critic proof exercise that delivers an impressive debut. To give you some perspective on Washington’s star power, his last seven pictures have made over $20 million out of the gate (The Taking of Pelham 123, The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Safe House, Flight, 2 Guns, The Equalizer). Three (Eli, House, Equalizer) have topped $30M and Safe House managed $40M. With its familiar title and the participation of Pratt (coming off summer 2014’s biggest hit Guardians of the Galaxy and summer 2015’s biggest hit Jurassic World), Seven could also join the plus $40M club. In fact, if this reaches over $43 million (the number that Washington’s 2007 pic American Gangster accomplished), it would mark his largest opening.

I believe it will accomplish that feat for a mid to high 40s debut and that would give it the #2 September premiere of all time.

The Magnificent Seven opening weekend prediction: $47.1 million

For my Storks prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/14/storks-box-office-prediction/

Jurassic World Movie Review

For anyone under the age of about 30, it’s difficult to put into words just how amazing Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was when it debuted in theaters during the summer of 1993. As moviegoers today, we are accustomed to astonishing visual effects almost every week, especially during this season. Yet when those dinosaurs made their first appearance on screen 22 years ago, our jaws dropped along with Laura Dern and Sam Neill’s. It was a triumph of special effects and now our nostalgia factor with the original has reached the beloved status.

I never could quite put Jurassic Park alongside my Spielberg foursome of popcorn classics that are Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a near great motion picture experience that’s only flaw is my indifference to the human characters that populate it. Having said that, we all know that the prehistoric creatures are the real stars of this series.

It is in that context that Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World mostly succeeds, more so than sequels we saw in 1997 and 2001. We have new dinos to feast on our eyes upon their creepy looking and menacing eyes. The script allows a proper amount of reverence for 1993’s groundbreaking picture, but none for the follow-ups because few of us have much reverence for them.

And we have to have the scared kids, right? Here it’s teenager Nick Robinson and little bro Ty Simpkins visiting their aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is Jurassic World’s busy bee operations manager. Their parents are getting ready to divorce in grand and cliched fashion and their week long excursion to the park on Isla Nublar goes astray when the genetically designed new theme park attraction Indominus rex escapes his confines and his big debut involves terrorizing visitors. This doesn’t sit well with Jurassic’s head of security (Vincent D’Onofrio, hamming it up in a winking performance) and we learn of his plans to train some of the park’s dinos for military combat purposes. Let us ponder that – how cool would it be if that actually happened and we got to see it in an inevitable sequel/spinoff, eh?

Our main hero dealing with all this dino drama is Owen (Chris Pratt), an expert handler of the creatures who more than earns his overtime pay in these two hours plus. It is Pratt’s effortless charisma that makes him just about the most entertaining human character this franchise has given us thus far. His sidebar romance with Howard is perfunctory and tolerable. Pratt doesn’t get to let loose quite as much as he did in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but he is a very welcome addition to the proceedings.

The special effects and design of the creatures will simply never rival the wonder factor from over two decades ago. Still these dinosaurs look pretty darn awesome and seeing them in the setting that Richard Attenborough’s Hammond wanted them in is a summertime treat. Jurassic World accomplishes this by reminding us how thrilling and fun this series can be in a way we haven’t experienced since the very first time we saw those now iconic park gates.

*** (out of four)

Jurassic World Box Office Prediction

Nearly 22 years to the day after Steven Spielberg’s dino adventure Jurassic Park invaded theaters in the summer of 1993, Colin Trevorrow’s reboot Jurassic World should rule the box office when it opens Friday. It’s the fourth entry in the franchise, but the first in fourteen years and there’s been proper time for nostalgia to increase, while still allowing young viewers to want to flock and see the cool prehistoric creatures wreaking havoc. Chris Pratt, who headlined 2014’s largest summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, stars with Bryce Dallas Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio supporting.

When the original Jurassic opened, its $47 million opening weekend take marked the biggest domestic debut of all time. It now ranks 197th. Jurassic World looks to easily double and threaten to triple what came before it over two decades ago. The pic looks to have the third highest domestic debut weekend of 2015, behind Avengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 7.

As I see it, this should pretty easily top $100 million out of the gate. It is the only wide release next weekend as competitors steered clear. The question is – by how much? I look for Jurassic World to flirt with $125M but fall just a bit under it for a rock solid premiere.

Jurassic World opening weekend prediction: $123.5 million