Oscar Watch – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry is back in theaters next weekend with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s the second in a series of five planned features as it looks to conjure up huge box office dollars like predecessor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did.

Early reviews are out and the reaction is mixed at 56% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even the most acclaimed Harry Potter pics were ever considered awards contenders for major categories. However, down the line technical races are another story.

Two years ago, the first Beasts managed two Oscar nominations: Production Design and Costume Design. It won the latter. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be a factor in both of those categories again. That said, voters could feel they’ve already honored the franchise with part 1. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are in the realm of possibility, if unlikely.

Bottom line: the costumes especially could garner attention, but don’t expect Grindelwald to exceed (and maybe not match) the first movie.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Box Office Prediction

The wizarding world of J.K. Rowling is back next weekend when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts. This is the follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which precedes the events of the massive Harry Potter franchise. David Yates (who made the last four Potter flicks and the first Beasts) is back directing. Returning cast members include Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, and Johnny Depp, whose role as the villainous title character will expand from his cameo in the predecessor. Jude Law joins the party as a younger Dumbledore.

There is no doubt that Grindelwald will easily top the charts upon its release, just as all Rowling universe titles have. The real question is how it opens in comparison to 2016’s effort, which premiered on the same November weekend. I believe there’s some solid historical data to consider.

In 2001, the first Potter film (The Sorcerer’s Stone) made $90 million out of the gate. One year later, follow-up Chamber of Secrets made just a tad less at $88 million. This seems like a likely scenario with Grindewald. 

The first Beasts took in $74.4 million for its start two years ago and I’ll put the sequel right under that for a low 70s beginning.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening weekend prediction: $70.1 million

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Kin Box Office Prediction

Labor Day weekend brings the sci-fi pic Kin, which hopes to bring in a family and teen audience that have had plenty to see this summer. It’s not based on a YA novel, but it could pass as such an adaptation. That may not be great news as the genre seems to be dwindling.

Jonathan and Josh Baker direct with a cast including Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco as a crime lord (the guy is certainly eclectic).

The Lionsgate release seems to be flying well under the radar and the Labor Day release date doesn’t inspire much confidence in its prospects. This is typically a slow time of year on the box office calendar and I’m getting a bit of a Darkest Minds vibe here.

That means I foresee a holiday debut in the mid single digits.

Kin opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

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Rough Night Box Office Prediction

Scarlett Johansson gets out of action mode and into comedy mode next weekend when Rough Nights lands in theaters. The R rated flick finds the starlet involved in a bachelorette party gone wrong. Costars include Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Demi Moore, and Ty Burrell.

Originally titled Rock That Body, the pic will attempt to bring a sizable female audience that made Bad Moms one of the surprise hits of last summer. There is competition in the form of the third weekend of Wonder Woman, which is likely to be banking in the low 30s for that frame.

Johansson could use some good box office fortune after the flop that was this spring’s Ghost in the Shell. Some estimates have Rough Night making around $25 million (higher than the $23 million achieved by Bad Moms out of the gate). I believe the level of competition and lack of buzz will result in a mid teens debut.

Rough Night opening weekend prediction: $15.1 million

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The Divergent Series: Allegiant Box Office Prediction

Shailene Woodley and company are back next weekend in The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the third entry in the YA adaptations from author Veronica Roth. The dystopian sci fi pic arrives in the same March slot as its predecessors, 2014’s Divergent and last year’s Insurgent. Director Robert Schwentke is back behind the camera and costars include Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts, Jeff Daniels, Octavia Spencer, and Zoe Kravitz.

Second installment Insurgent saw a slight dip from the first entry. While Divergent debuted to $54 million and eventually grossed $150M domestic, Insurgent opened at $52 million with an overall $130M tally. Reviews for Allegiant haven’t been kind… it sits at 0% currently on Rotten Tomaotes and I look for its returns to continue diminishing. Even the third and fourth Hunger Games pics saw dips from the first two and this should follow suit.

I’ll say this first Allegiant (the second part arrives in March 2017) will be the first of the series to fall below the $50M mark out of the gate with low to mid 40s being more probable.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant opening weekend prediction: $43.7 million

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Mad Max: Fury Road Movie Review

Oh, what a lovely story it is with Mad Max: Fury Road. Some three decades after George Miller made the third in his Mad Max trilogy, he’s returned to helm this new entry. Obviously, the visual capabilities possible nowadays have advanced exponentially and yet Miller eschews the CGI we’ve grown so accustomed to whenever possible. We also have a new Max in the form of Tom Hardy, who in every way equals the strong and mostly silent charisma that OG Max Mel Gibson brought. And we have action heroine Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who might be the most badass female character in this particular type of genre since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.

It is not necessary to know Miller’s original pics to follow Fury Road. Max’s family history from the 1979 original is brought forth, but not explored in any meaningful way. Having said that – if you haven’t seen them, you really should. Instead we have a new story with Max as a captured man in a post apocalyptic world. He’s being held by the evil Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) as a blood donor for an injured War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Our main villain controls his land’s water supply and lords over a group of beautiful and captive women that he impregnates to keep his blood line flowing. Hell breaks loose when Furiosa, one of his top errand girls, veers off course on a mission to pick up oil. She takes Joe’s girls with him and Max soon ends up in her presence along with Nux as a near two hour chase ensues.

Along this chase, we learn some fascinating details of Furiosa’s background in particular as this vast and desolate world soon reveals more about itself. And yet the chase rarely stops. Fury Road is an astonishing example of how cinematography, editing, sound, music stunt work, and visual effects can come together. Frankly, it makes most action pictures look small. We have grown highly accustomed to an amazing shot and visual here and there in our Fast and Furious and Mission: Impossible pics and efforts from your Bays and Emmerichs. This is something entirely different and for a fourth feature in a franchise, something that feels completely fresh. For a film not particularly concerned with it, the plot is totally interesting yet Miller and his cowriters know not to spend too much valuable time on backstory.

George Miller and his wizard team hit the gas peddle and fly here. It’s over the top non-stop excitement that is a constant eyeball feast. Fury Road was stuck in what those in Hollywood call “development hell” for thirty years. Who knew it would emerge from that designation as this? An action flick that is truly gorgeously made with characters that we genuinely care about as they hurl furiously down their road back to redemption.

**** (out of four)

Divergent Movie Review

Divergent exists because of The Hunger Games. While it may be based on its own series of popular YA novels (which were probably also “inspired” by the Games books), it’s the success of Jennifer Lawrence and company that made this possible. Imitation isn’t always so bad if you can find a somewhat interesting way to do it. Yet for the most part, despite a solid effort from the actors involved, Divergent often feels dull, way too familiar, and poorly paced.

In a dystopian future (of course), the city of Chicago now looks like District 12 and society is divided into five needlessly complicated factions where at age 16, citizens must choose where they wish to belong. There’s a faction for smart people and brave people and selfless people and so on. As we open, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is about to take her test to find out where she belongs, as is her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort). You take the test to show where to go, but have free will to join another group. You can also be considered divergent, which means you don’t fit into any faction. The powers that be don’t like the free will thinking of that subgroup and kill them. Beatrice turns out to be just that and must hide it from everyone. She joins Dauntless (the brave law enforcement team) to the surprise of her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd), who are involved in the government ruling selfless faction. Brother Caleb joins the smart people group. Katniss volunteers in place of her little sis… oh, wrong movie.

If this all sounds more complicated than it needs to be, you would be correct. Soon enough, though, we’re in known territory with training sequences that take Tris (she shortens Beatrice) on a physical and mental journey. There’s also several shades of Inception in the proceedings, as part of the training involves dream like worlds and reading minds.

One of Tris’s Dauntless superiors is Four (Theo James) and he becomes her love interest who may have some easily predicted secrets of his own. There’s also Woodley’s Spectacular Now boyfriend Miles Teller as a weasel of a faction member. This is in addition to Shailene’s romantic counterpart Elgort as her brother. So while there’s no love triangle, our lead actress’s filmography makes things kinda awkward.

Kate Winslet leads the smart people faction, who have evil designs on taking over the government themselves. This puts Tris in the position of needing to protect her family while furiously protecting her true divergent nature.

The plus side of Divergent is really with Woodley. She’s a fine actress and she provides a better performance than the material. Same goes for James and most of the other personnel. That’s pretty much where the compliments stop. Some of the action is OK, but Divergent is just so routine. The look and feel borrow way too heavily from the aforementioned other franchise. They even cast Hunger Games costar Lenny’s daughter Zoe Kravitz as Tris’s BFF (best faction friend).

There is an admittedly nifty sequence where Tris simulates flying, albeit in a different way than her costar Winslet did in that movie about a boat and an iceberg. Divergent tries too hard to emulate The King of the YA Adapted Films and hits its own metaphorical ‘berg.

** (out of four)

Insurgent Box Office Prediction

Opening a year after the hit Divergent, Insurgent is the second picture in a series of wildly popular YA novels penned by Veronica Roth. Stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Theo James, Kate Winslet and Zoe Kravitz are back in the mix, along with newcomers to the franchise Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer.

While this series will likely never do Hunger Games level numbers, the original opened to an impressive $54 million last March on its way to a $150 million domestic haul. It doesn’t hurt that Woodley, Teller, and Elgort have kept themselves firmly in the public eye with recent commercial and critical hits such as The Fault in Our Stars and Whiplash.

The big question is whether or not Insurgent manages to open larger than its predecessor. My gut feeling is that it will, even though competition among female fans will be considerable with Cinderella’s second weekend. I believe this will manage to break the $60 million mark out of the gate.

Insurgent opening weekend prediction: $62.1 million

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Divergent Box Office Prediction

More than a year after their financial juggernaut Twilight franchise wrapped up, Summit Entertainment moves on with their next series based on wildly popular YA novels with Divergent, opening Friday. Based on Veronica Roth’s books, the futuristic sci-fi actioner comes with a healthy $80 million budget and high expectations from the studio. Two sequels have already been greenlit with Insurgent debuting a year from now.

Headlined by Shailene Woodley and Theo James, Divergent also features a supporting cast that includes Shailene’s Spectacular Now costar Miles Teller and Oscar winner Kate Winslet. The box office prospects for Divergent are a bit murky. It’s highly unlikely to reach Hunger Games types of numbers. It also hopes to avoid the disappointing performances of other YA movies like The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or Beautiful Creatures from last year.

Recent speculation has focused on Divergent opening in range with the first Twilight, which earned $69.6 million in its premiere. This seems like reasonable territory to me. The chances of Divergent getting past $75M out of the gate are within reach. However, I’ll predict it falls just under what Bella, Edward, and company achieved in their debut.

Divergent opening weekend prediction: $68.4 million

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