Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: HAIL, CAESAR!

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Universal Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

            If your favorite artist - be it a filmmaker, musician, sculptor, painter, actor, whoever - makes something that is terrible, are you able & willing to admit it?   Joel Coen & Ethan Coen have made some of the best movies of the past three decades.  FARGO is marvelous, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is 90% of a masterpiece and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS leaves me speechless still.  HAIL, CAESAR! was primed to get those descriptions as well with Deakins behind the camera, Clooney, Johansson & Brolin in front of it and Roderick Jaynes in the editing room.  Instead, HAIL, CAESAR! is being described as if it were a Brett Ratner movie.
            Eddie Mannix (Brolin) is the head of production of Capitol Pictures in the early 1950’s.  He’s not having a good day.  His star, Baird Whitlock, has disappeared from the set of the titular Roman epic.  DeeAnna Moran (Johansson) can barely fit into her mermaid costume because she is pregnant out of wedlock.  Hobie Doyle’s (Ehrenreich) transition into a mainstream movie star under the wing of Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes) is not going so well.  Then there are Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Swinton & Swinton), twins & rival columnists looking for the latest scoop or juicy rumor.  At the same time, he gets an unbelievable offer to become the CEO of the Lockheed Corporation.
            It becomes quite clear quite early that the movie does not have a solid center to pivot from one storyline to another.  Mannix’s decision about his future quickly becomes the center of the film and that inner conflict needed more attention.  HAIL, CAESAR! spends most of the time following Mannix as he runs around Southern California like a chicken with his head cut off.  Meetings with writers, directors, the Thacker twins, a clutzy editor, lawyers, a priest, you name it, Mannix met them.  Just looking at the schedule of a studio head makes one exhausted but not enough time was used to show just how stressed out he is from the shenanigans of his stars, despite Brolin’s best efforts.  The only scenes that slightly work are where Mannix has to talk down the threats of the dueling Thackers.  Tilda Swinton
            Instead, the Coens focus on the stars themselves in a sort of commentary about how celebrity culture hasn’t changed over the years.  This would make for an interesting movie if only those subplots worked.  At all.  As it turns out, Whitlock has been kidnapped by Communists but the Coens use the old “character misunderstanding the situation” to make Whitlock look like a bigger idiot than he probably is.  In addition, the Communist subplot ends in amusing fashion but by that time, you’ve already checked out of the movie.
            The DeeAnna Moran storyline is given so little attention, I ponder why Johansson took the role to begin with, beyond the allure of working with the four-time Oscar winners.  As far as I can remember, she’s in two scenes, one of which being that scene you see repeatedly in the marketing with Jonah Hill, which is his only scene, before the subplot is wrapped up while the lead sleeps.  What a waste!
            Hobie Doyle has a tough time with complex dialogue as shown by an endless (at least it felt that way) scene where Laurentz tries to get Doyle to say a 6 word line to his liking.  I don’t know if this was the purpose but Fiennes acts circles around young Ehrenreich.  Doyle’s story also includes a tiny premiere of one of his B-movie Westerns and his date with a Latina actress stereotype, which goes nowhere until it intersects with another of the celeb subplots.
            When the stars are making their movies, HAIL, CAESAR! shines.  The re-creation of an aquatic dance sequence featuring Johansson as a mermaid in the first 10 minutes is simply gorgeous.  Another recreation is a musical sequence featuring Channing Tatum as a sailor about to ship off is also very entertaining.
            But these two scenes are not enough to keep the movie afloat.  Even on a technical level, HAIL, CAESAR! fails miserably.  The movie looks as if the Brothers Coen didn’t care.  It has this modern filmmaking feel to it and doesn’t work with the time period not the setting at all.  Deakins’ cinematography is so lazy & uninspiring that it wouldn’t shock me if he gave out instructions to his assistant over the phone while working on another project.
            When the credits started rolling, I sat there is disbelief.  The first credit read “Written, Produced & Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen” and I didn’t believe it.  Never in a million years would I have expected to have been so thoroughly bored & enraged by a movie they created.  The acting is decent but the writing is painfully unfunny and, apart from the vintage Hollywood set pieces, the general look is uninspiring.  On paper, this should have been that February “diamond in the rough” movie.  In reality, it’s prestigious dog shit.


*

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: February 5-7

KUNG FU PANDA 3
Cost: 433 FML Bucks
Estimate: $25.595 million
After a disappointing opening weekend, this excellent (review coming soon) threequel looks to rebound with the lack of real new competition.  It may be Super Bowl weekend but the least hindered movie of the weekend should be the one for kids.  Should win the Bonus in a runaway.

HAIL, CAESAR!
Cost: 286 FML Bucks
Estimate: $14 million
The Coen Brothers are known for their quality films (even if this isn’t one of them, review coming later) but almost never light up the box office.  With the post-WWII Hollywood as the backdrop of this star-studded film, this one won’t either.  A complete non-factor.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIE
Cost: 240 FML Bucks
Estimate: $12.7 million
Wild card #1.  Based on a popular book, this horror-romance-comedy appears to have been released about 3 years too late.  If this hits $14.5 million, it could become a major Bonus factor.

THE REVENANT
Cost: 201 FML Bucks
Estimate: $8.945 million
Remember two weeks ago when the Mid Atlantic was snowed in?  Box office receipts were down almost across the board.  After the melting, people went to the movies again.  Last week’s numbers were inflated for all the non-opening movies.  I expect a huge drop here but even if it doesn’t plummet, it still won’t compete for the Bonus.

THE CHOICE
Cost: 181 FML Bucks
Estimate: $9.35 million
Wild Card #2.  Do the ladies still love Nicholas Sparks?  Maybe if released next weekend (Valentine’s Day) instead of this weekend, it nabs the Bonus.  Still a competitor but will fall short.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Cost: 168 FML Bucks
Estimate: $6.67 million
Post-blizzard drop plus age plus theatre drop means…STAY AWAY!

THE FINEST HOURS
Cost: 114 FML Bucks
Estimate: $5.66 million
A well-received true story should have a decent hold.  The best mid-range option.

RIDE ALONG 2
Cost: 99 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.63 million
Major disappointment all around here.  A bad movie with bad word of mouth with another theatre count drop.  This should plummet, with or without the post-blizzard deflation.

DIRTY GRANDPA
Cost: 89 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.416 million
Boosted by the thaw last week, this bad comedy is fall to where it belongs: the far end of the Cineplex.

THE BOY
Cost: 88 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.02 million
Will act like a horror movie on its 3rd weekend, which coincidentally THE BOY is.

THE 5TH WAVE
Cost: 85 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.214 million
Mediocre YA adaptation will fade into nothing beginning this weekend.

13 HOURS
Cost: 73 FML Bucks
Estimate: $3.137 million


FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK
Cost: 53 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.36 million
Poor reviews? Check.  Bad CinemaScore?  Check.  Disasterous 2nd weekend hold?  Pending.

THE BIG SHORT
Cost: 52 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.991 million
Last week’s surprise Bonus winner lost less than 200 screens this week.  But like many movies this week, the post-winter storm drop will make it worthless this week.

DADDY’S HOME
Cost: 36 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.834 million
Sure, it’s an old movie and it’s losing 700 screens.  But as the cheapest option, it’s worth taking to fill up screens.  Possible Bonus contender.

My Cineplex
            I have zero confidence in the new releases, especially after seeing one of them Thursday night.  While the optimum lineup for my predictions involves taking THE CHOICE twice, I eliminated it from consideration.  With KFP3 as a no brainer pick, my Cineplex this week is…

KUNG FU PANDA 3, THE FINEST HOURS x4, DADDY’S HOME x3
Total Cost: 997 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonus: $55.731 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: January 29-31


            I have decided in an effort to minimize my workload when writing, I will write a sentence or three about each movie available to choose in Fantasy Movie League.  This way, I can be fresh to write important stuff, like the new KUNG FU PANDA movie this week.  I hope you like the new format.

KUNG FU PANDA 3
Cost: 785 FML Bucks
Estimate: $52.65 million
As a huge fan of the series so far, I’m tempted to go really, really high on this one, especially with the success of the first one.  But the second one, even with a holiday weekend & 3D, grossed less in five days than what the first did in three.  Add to all of that the fact that it’s January & kids are in school, it won’t sniff the original’s gross.  But after a weekend of being stuck inside because of the weather in the Mid-Atlantic (and variations of this question can be asked about all the movies this weekend) how much do parents want kids out of the house?  If it rockets to near $54 million or higher, Po wins the Bonus

FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK
Cost: 214 FML Bucks
Estimate: $10.75 million
Another year, another Marlon Wayans dance on the spoof movie grave.  His target this time: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.  His last original spoof movie (A HAUNTED HOUSE) made over $18 million opening weekend three Januarys ago.  The sequel released the following April opened to half of that.  While a nice portion of Wayans’ audience is probably horror fans, the percentage who are fans of FIFTY SHADES has to be smaller, resulting in a smaller opening gross.  Ceiling is $13 million & has little to no chance of winning the Bonus.

THE REVENANT
Cost: 167 FML Bucks
Estimate: $9.605 million
It’s still Awards Season so I’m seeing a smallish drop of 40%.  I’m just wondering who the audience is left to see this.  But based on the daily grosses, those people are out there.  It could easily pass $10 million, especially if Leo wins SAG Saturday night.  But, it will never make enough to win the Bonus.

THE FINEST HOURS
Cost: 157 FML Bucks
Estimate: $9.35 million
The reviews are mixed and so will the box office receipts.  Needs at least $10.5 million to be in contention for the Bonus.  Not happening.

STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS
Cost: 135 FML Bucks
Estimate: $9.15 million
Will this weekend be the last weekend this is a major player in FML?  Yes, but might this be the week where the movie’s whole weekend wins the Bonus?  Entirely possible with my 35% drop estimate.  Anything over that and SW7 plummets in value.

DIRTY GRANDPA
Cost: 95 FML Bucks
Estimate: $6.111 million
A 45% drop may be soft for the sophomoric comedy in its sophomore weekend.  But this very close to the movie’s ceiling ($6.25 million) and the ceiling is the only way it has a chance at the Bonus.

RIDE ALONG 2
Cost: 92 FML Bucks
Estimate: $6.23 million
A 50% drop sounds reasonable considering the weather issues from last week, the slightly smaller than I expected drop in # of theatres (lost 782) and the competition.  Only has value if it wins the Bonus, which I have it in a tight race with SW7.

THE BOY
Cost: 88 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.85 million
Traditional horror movie 2nd weekend expectations plus the thawed blizzard effect equals a 55% drop.  And that might be generous.  No chance for the Bonus.

13 HOURS
Cost: 87 FML Bucks
Estimate: $4.515
Speaking of no chance of getting the Bonus…

THE 5TH WAVE
Cost: 81 FML Bucks
Estimate: $5.178 million
The movie’s star told folks where the blizzard hit to stay home & go this weekend.  But how many will remember that this movie exists?  I say half as many that saw the movie last weekend but not enough for serious Bonus contention.

DADDY’S HOME
Cost: 46 FML Bucks
Estimate: $2.717 million
The movie’s age (6th weekend) plus its theatre count decrease (1000+ drop) make it nothing more than KFP3 filler.

NORM OF THE NORTH
Cost: 36 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.723 million
Non-factor/theatre filler #1.  Nothing more to see here.

JANE’S GOT A GUN
Cost: 34 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.573 million
Troubled production plus little marketing plus moderate release equals non-factor/theatre filler #2.

THE BIG SHORT
Cost: 33 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.747 million
A Best Picture nominee that lost less than 400 theatres so the drop could be anywhere.  I’m thinking a 45% drop but not a Bonus contender, only a screen filler.

BROOKLYN
Cost: 22 FML Bucks
Estimate: $1.032 million
See THE BIG SHORT only with a 40% drop.

My Cineplex
            I have three movies fighting for the Best Performer Bonus.  KUNG FU PANDA 3 is too expense to take that risk.  As for the choice between STAR WARS 7 and RIDE ALONG 2…I couldn’t choose.  I can do three of one & four of the other with a triple digit filler as the eight screen.  So my choice came down to which of the following has the bigger upside: FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK or THE REVENANT?  Based upon the target audience potential & the fact that it’s a new release, I chose the former.  Filling out the final seven screens with the two I have in the Bonus race, I maximized my lineup to become:

FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK, STAR WARS x3, RIDE ALONG 2 x4
Total Cost: 987 FML Bucks
Estimate After Bonuses: $71.114 million

As always,

Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review: Dirty Grandpa

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Lionsgate Films.  All Rights Reserved.

            Another January, another gross out comedy involving a soon-to-be married man.  This time, Jason Kelly (Efron) is a corporate lawyer in Atlanta about to marry Meredith (Hough), the daughter of a powerful lawyer.  A week before the wedding, Jason’s grandmother passes away and has to transport his grieving grandfather Dick (De Niro) to their summer condo in Boca Raton.  Dick has other plans.
            What you see in the commercials for DIRTY GRANDPA in mostly in the first 20-25 minutes.  What the marketing leaves out is the bare-bones, formula story revolving around Jason falling for Shadia (Deutch), a former classmate of his who is a hipster photographer/Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  Jason is continually foiled by Shadia’s dude-bro boyfriend & his goofy-looking henchman.  These two underdeveloped buffoons exist solely to be subjects of De Niro’s insults and to create the third act tension this formula requires only to completely disappear immediately after without explanation, showing just how important first-time credited writer John M. Phillips feels a competent story is to a comedy.  The other significant story is that of Jason’s fiancĂ©e’s almost constant surveillance of him and her total devotion to their wedding.  Such highlights from her include choosing tie colors during the funeral and calling 37 times in a morning to talk with the rabbi.  Hough’s shrill bride-to-be is not as infuriating & pathetic as other bridezillas as of late but this character needs to be retired.  These two battles drag down to almost unwatchable status.
            As little effort puts into his story, the three of the main actors try their best to keep the movie rolling & the audience entertained.  Zack Efron continues to show that there is something behind that pretty face & those abs.  He has the charisma & comedic timing that Adam Sandler would kill for.  I’ve seen Robert De Niro phone it in more times that should be legal.  But as the titular character, he appears to be having the time of his life.  You can see it in his eyes that De Niro cherishes the opportunity to say these vulgar insults & he never holds back.  But the runaway star of the movie is Aubrey Plaza as the young object of De Niro’s affection.  Imagine April Ludgate-Dwyer if she grew up watching teen sex comedies.  Plaza has that perfect, uninhibited comedic timing in a movie in desperate need of her talents.
            Make no mistake: I am not recommending you see this movie.  Director Dan Mazer (BORAT co-writer) doesn’t have nearly the talent to combine all these elements into a coherent movie.  Are there laughs?  Yes.  But most of the humor is in the form of an old man spewing vulgar insults at everyone and genuine laughs are few & far between.  There’s Jason Mantzoukas’ Pam, a tourist supply shop owner/drug dealer/DJ whose mere presence caused migraines.  Repeatedly he sweet talks his way out of being arrested by Mo Collins & Henry Zembrowski, two standard idiot local cops who don’t induce any positive emotions from the audience.  Danny Glover has one, two-minute scene that is supposed to add to the title character’s pressing need to live life to the fullest but it just comes off as a time filler   Plus, there is a gay black male character who does a tightrope walk with line between being an offensive stereotype and just a bad character.  And don’t get me started on the third act climaxes followed by an unearned sentimental moments that cause the proceedings to limp to the end credits.
            The actors are game but the writer & director are just way out of their league.  DIRTY GRANDPA is a three week rewrite away from being a very good movie instead of the uneven jumble we get here.


*1/2

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fantasy Box Office - January 22-24

No full article this week.  It's amazing what one changed plan does to one's week.

Box Office Top 15
1. The Revenant - $21.306 million
2. Ride Along 2 - $16.215 million
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - $15.8 million
4. Dirty Grandpa - $12 million
5. The Boy - $11 million
6. The 5th Wave - 10.5 million
7. 13 Hours - $9.5 million *FML Bonus Winner*
8. Daddy's Home - $5.73 million
9. Norm of the North - $3.74 million
10. The Big Short - $3.18 million
11. The Forest - $2.69 million
12. Sisters - $2.575 million
13. Brooklyn - $1.97 million
14. The Hateful Eight - $1.784 million
15. Room - $1.15 million

My Cineplex: 13 Hours x6, Daddy's Home, Brooklyn
Cost: 994 FML Bucks
Projected Gross: $76.73 million

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fantasy Box Office - MLK Weekend

            As we continue into the doldrums of January, we have three types of movies that usually dominate theatres this time of year opening this weekend: low-budget animation, minority-centric comedy and recent phenomenon uber-patriotic action movie.
            The smallest of the releases is NORM OF THE NORTH, a Lionsgate animated flick about a displaced polar bear running around New York City featuring the voice talents of Rob Schneider & Heather Graham.  Usually, animated features released this time of year earn $6 million opening weekend then disappear after three weeks.  Two years ago, THE NUT JOB from Open Road earned $19+ million opening weekend on the way to a $121 million worldwide gross & a sequel in the works.  TNJ could be considered an anomaly since it was the first children’s movie in 9 weeks when released whereas NotN opens five weeks after the 4th ALVIN movie and two weeks before the 3rd KUNG FU PANDA.  I’m leaning closer to the traditional performance of an animated flick but with the poor performance of ALVIN, I’m wondering if parents want to try to get kids out of the house anyway they can.
            The widest new release of the weekend is RIDE ALONG 2, the sequel to the 2014 Kevin Hart-Ice Cube hit.  RA2 is being released on the same weekend as it predecessor, MLK weekend.  The PG-13 original made $41.5 million in three days & $48.5 million in four, which grossed higher that either of Hart’s two R-rated comedies from last year.  The sequel, also rated PG-13, is the first new comedy in 3 weeks and features an even more diverse cast than the last one with the addition of Ken Jeong in what appears to be a significant role.  I don’t expect a huge bump from the last one but I also don’t expect a collapse like other sequels to poorly-reviewed comedies due to Kevin Hart's star power.
            Finally, there’s the most controversial of the new releases, Michael Bay’s 13 HOURS.  Based on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, Bay’s movie features a minor star in John Krasinski and major explosions that have always populated his movies.  Knowing the politics surrounding Bay & the book this is based on, I could see a certain half of the political spectrum flocking to this just like they did two previous movies released around the same time.  Two years ago, LONE SURVIVOR opened wide with a surprising $37.85 million weekend on its way to a $154 million worldwide.  Last year, AMERICAN SNIPER’s wide debut exploded to an $89.2 million weekend, eventually becoming the highest grossing movie of 2014.  But how high will 13 HOURS go?  One thing the other two movies had were a big star (Wahlberg/Cooper) and a real-life hero (Marcus Luttrell/Chris Kyle).  13 HOURS has Jim from The Office & anonymous protagonists.  But will that matter to the Fox News crowd?
            As for the older releases, STAR WARS should finally fall from its #1 perch this week with a moderate drop.  With its numerous Oscar nominations, THE REVENANT should continue to grab attention from those looking for prestige movies.  With RIDE ALONG 2 poised to win the weekend, older comedies DADDY’S HOME, SISTERS & (to a lesser extent due to Oscar attention) THE BIG SHORT should have bigger drops that usual for their runs.  Speaking of Oscar attention, CAROL & SPOTLIGHT both expand, hoping to catch the eyes of awards watchers.

Top 15 Predictions (4-Day Weekend)
1. RIDE ALONG 2 - $53.5 million *FML Bonus Winner*
2. THE REVENANT -$35.84 million
3. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - $29.48 million
4. 13 HOURS - $27.3 million
5. NORM OF THE NORTH - $11.25 million
6. DADDY’S HOME - $10.27 million
7. THE FOREST - $6.12 million
8. SISTERS - $4.745 million
9. THE BIG SHORT - $4.211 million
10. THE HATEFUL EIGHT - $3.96 million
11. ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP - $3.92 million
12. JOY - $2.954 million
13. CAROL - $2.25 million
14. CONCUSSION - $1.8174 million
15. SPOTLIGHT - $1.5 million

Fantasy Movie League Lineup
            As for my lineup this week, everything came down to how much confidence I have in 13 HOURS.  In the end, it wasn’t enough.  Based upon my projections, using a two-screen foundation of RA2 & SW7 was the best use of FML dollars & screens while leaving enough of both to get a lot of Oscar bait filler of CAROL & SPOTLIGHT.  At least that was the plan until CAROL didn’t receive Best Picture & Best Director nominations.  I quickly scrambled by changing those two screens into a fifth SPOTLIGHT and, because of the amount of FML bucks left, JOY.  I just hope the Fox News crowd gets snowed in this weekend or I’ll kick myself for weeks for not going with my first instinct.  But with how little the weekend grosses will be, the penalty for won’t be too severe.

Lineup: RIDE ALONG 2, STAR WARS 7, JOY, SPOTLIGHT x5
Cost: 995 FML Bucks
Projected Gross: $95.43185 million


Good Luck & Buy a Winning Ticket!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture is ranked in order of likelihood of being nominated.  The rest are alphabetical.

Best Picture (Eight will be nominated)
1. Spotlight
2. The Revenant
3. The Big Short
4. The Martian
5. Carol
6. Bridge of Spies
7. Mad Max Fury Road
8. Room
9. The Danish Girl
10. Brooklyn
11. Trumbo
12. Joy
13. Steve Jobs
14. Sicario
15. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
16. Creed
17. Straight Outta Compton
18. Inside Out
19. Creed
20. Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Todd Haynes, CAROL
Alejandro Inarritu, THE REVENANT
Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT
George Miller, MAD MAX FURY ROAD
Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN
            Alternate: Adam McKay, THE BIG SHORT
            Dark Horse: Steven Spielberg, BRIDGE OF SPIES

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, TRUMBO
Matt Damon, THE MARTIAN
Leonardo DiCaprio, THE REVENANT
Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS
Eddie Redmayne, THE DANISH GIRL
            Alternate: Johnny Depp, BLACK MASS
            Dark Horse: Michael B. Jordan, CREED

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, CAROL
Brie Larson, ROOM
Jennifer Lawrence, JOY
Saoirse Ronan, BROOKLYN
Alicia Vikander, THE DANISH GIRL
            Alternate: Charlotte Rampling, 45 YEARS
            Dark Horse: Charlize Theron, MAD MAX FURY ROAD

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, THE BIG SHORT
Mark Ruffalo, SPOTLIGHT
Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES
Sylvester Stallone, CREED
Jacob Tremblay, ROOM
            Alternate: Idris Elba, BEASTS OF NO NATION
            Dark Horse: Paul Dano, LOVE & MERCY

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Rooney Mara, CAROL
Rachel McAdams, SPOTLIGHT
Alicia Vikander, EX MACHINA
Kate Winslet, STEVE JOBS
            Alternate: Helen Mirren, TRUMBO
            Dark Horse: Kristen Stewart, CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Best Adapted Screenplay
THE BIG SHORT
CAROL
THE MARTIAN
ROOM
STEVE JOBS
            Alternate: BROOKLYN
            Dark Horse: TRUMBO

Best Original Screenplay
BRIDGE OF SPIES
EX MACHINA
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
INSIDE OUT
SPOTLIGHT
            Alternate: SICARIO
            Dark Horse: JOY

Best Editing
THE MARTIAN
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE REVENANT
SICARIO
SPOTLIGHT
            Alternate: THE BIG SHORT

Best Cinematography
CAROL
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE MARTIAN
THE REVENANT
SICARIO
            Alternate: BRIDGE OF SPIES

Best Production Design
BROOKLYN
CAROL
THE DANISH GIRL
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE REVENANT

Best Sound Mixing
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE MARTIAN
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Best Sound Editing
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE REVENANT
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Best Costume Design
BROOKLYN
CAROL
THE DANISH GIRL
CINDERELLA
THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Best Original Score
CAROL
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
INSIDE OUT
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Best Animated Feature
ANOMALISA
INSIDE OUT
MINIONS
SHAUN THE SHEEP

Best Visual Effects
JURASSIC WORLD
MAD MAX FURY ROAD
THE MARTIAN
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
THE REVENANT

Best Makeup & Hair
CAROL
THE DANISH GIRL
THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Best Original Song

…Does it really matter?  That overplayed “See You Again” from FURIOUS 7 is going to win.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fantasy Box Office Recap - January 8-10

            Everyone likes a surprise every once in a while.  For instance, no one won Powerball Saturday despite having, I believe, at least half of all combinations covered.  The Pittsburgh Steelers benefited from two Cincinnati Bengal personal fouls with 18 seconds left, giving the Steelers a winning chip shot field goal.  Then there’s what’s happened in the box office the past month.
            First, you had STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (TFA) shatter almost every box office record in existence three weeks ago.  Two weeks ago, DADDY’S HOME had a weekend no one could fathom, not even yours truly who selected 5 screens of it on the way to the Perfect Cineplex in the Fantasy Movie League.  Then there’s this weekend where there were four surprises, each of an increasing level of surprise.
            This shouldn’t be treated as a surprise but THE FOREST did better than most projections, including mine.  And that’s simply because of box office history.  The first horror flick of the year, no matter the quality, does well, sometimes very well.  The PG-13 rated THE FOREST was able to case a wide enough net to nab almost $12.75 million this weekend but will quickly fade into oblivion over the next few weeks.
            Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT should teach studios a lesson: no more format-specific limited releases.  TH8 was the third such release of 2015 to do this after the one week, IMAX-only runs of EVEREST & THE WALK in September, with each release doing worse than the one before it.  Don’t let the #BlueLivesMatter movement fool you: TH8 dropped 59% to a $6.4 million weekend despite adding over 450 screens is because the marketing made it appear that you either see it in 70mm or not at all.
            I was one of those interested observers of TFA’s daily box office take during the week.  I felt there was a simple explanation: kids went back to school & the adults went back to work.  They would return for the weekend and would set another record, I thought.  Wrong.  The fourth weekend record is still AVATAR’s but its take is still an impressive $41.35 million.  Add the $33 million from China on opening day, TFA will soon solidify its place as the third highest grossing movie of all time worldwide as its reign at the top of the American box office will end after this weekend.
            Then there’s THE REVENANT.  I wish there was a site that compiled the box office projections of experts & wannabe experts like me.  I saw a few projections for the weekend and I had the highest projection for THE REVENANT.  And I was $10 million low with its $38 million wide debut.  Its performance this weekend shows that adults do in fact go to the movies, just not in droves like those younger than me.
            The rest performed within about a million of what I projected.  DADDY’S HOME’s SISTERS’ performance still astounds me but the latter is a welcome surprise.  For all intents & purposes, ALVIN is done box office wise along with most of the awards possibilities of JOY & CONCUSSION.  POINT BREAK finally tanked.  MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is going to fall short of $300 million in the end.
            It’s awards season but it’s also lull season folks.  Buckle up.  The next few months are going to be rough.


FML Recap
            Seeing as I missed SW & TR by $10 million each, I obviously chose the former as my foundation, losing about 200 bucks in the process.  Luckily, I took a chance on THE FOREST possibly winning the bonus, which it did with ease.  THE BIG SHORT underperformed but didn’t do as horrible as other movies (3rd best value).  Still, my lineup lost me over $45 million on the perfect lineup, dropping me to 8th in the Main League & 3rd in The View League.  The Main League is a three horse race but there’s still plenty of weeks to catch up in The View League.

My Line-Up : STAR WARS x1, THE FOREST x2, THE BIG SHORT x5
Gross w/ Bonus: $102,708,652
Perfect Lineup: THE REVENANT x1, THE FOREST x7
Gross w/ Bonus: $148,015,072


January 8-10 Box Office Actuals:
1. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS                    $42,353,785 (-53.1%) [$812,734,828]
2. THE REVENANT                                                         $39,826,840 (NEW WIDE) [$41,383,741]
3. DADDY’S HOME                                                         $15,015,465 (-48.6%) [$116,329,041]
4. THE FOREST *FML Bonus Winner*                       $12,741,176 (NEW) [$12,741,176]
5. SISTERS                                                                          $7,189,455 (-43.7%) [$74,899,400]
6. THE HATEFUL EIGHT                                                  $6,402,187 (-59.2%) [$41,525,007]
7. THE BIG SHORT                                                            $6,174,503 (-31.9%) [$42,724,340]
8. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS ROAD CHIP            $5,703,675 (-52.8%) [$75,812,014]
9. JOY                                                                                   $4,476,246 (-56.2%) [$46,531,854]
10. CONCUSSION                                                               $3,029,367 (-61.4%) [$30,947,645]


Friday, January 8, 2016

Fantasy Box Office: January 8-10

            As a New Year’s Resolution this year, I’ve decided it’s now or never: I get serious about film writing or I get out.  So, one weekly item that I plan on doing is a little twist on box office predictions: My Fantasy Movie League picks.  Fantasy Movie League (FML) is a really fun game where you try to select the best 8 screen combination with a limited budget.  For complete rules & other information, go to fantasymovieleague.com/howtoplay.  They can explain the game easier than I ever could.
            As for this week’s box office, there will be a clear winner: THE MASKED SAINT.  But seriously, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (TFA) will win the weekend for the fourth straight weekend without question.  The questions for the weekend are 1) How much will it hold from a holiday weekend and 2) Will it break the 4th weekend record currently held by AVATAR from exactly 6 years ago?  To figure out the first question, I looked at the fourth weekend drops ten highest grossing live-action movies of 2015 not named TFA.  After removing SPECTRE’s 14.3% drop as an outlier, the average of the remaining 9 is 37.59%.  I then reasoned that with the type of movie TFA is (sequel to a 20+ year old movie) plus with the lack of competition in this post-holiday weekend, I found it reasonable to believe that the fall would be between that percentage & the fourth weekend fall for another 2015 sequel to a 20+ year old movie, JURASSIC WORLD (46.8%).
            The big wide release of the weekend is a big awards season film with a big star, THE REVENANT starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  The first movie that came to mind as similar in nature (post-Picture & Director winning film moving from limited-to-wide release) was 2011’s ZERO DARK THIRTY and its $24.3 million opening weekend gross.  Leo’s star-power will be a little bigger of a factor than ZDT’s controversy but the subject matter might negate that.  Based solely on inflation, THE REVENANT will earn slightly more than ZDT did 4 years ago.
            The other wide release is THE FOREST, a PG-13 horror flick that takes place in the suicide forest of Japan.  Being the first non-holiday-themed horror flick since PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DEMENSION in mid-October, it should dominate the weekend.  But with TFA still out there, the movie’s tame PG-13 rating, the smallish studio backing it & the decline of the success of the first horror flick of the calendar year as of late, THE FOREST appears to be a three-weekends-and-out kind of movie.

Top 10 Predictions:
1. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – $51.257 million (-43.2%) *New 4th weekend record*
2. THE REVENANT - $27.5 million (NEW)
3. DADDY’S HOME $17.08 million (-41.5%)
4. THE FOREST - $9.1 million (NEW)
5. THE HATEFUL EIGHT - $8.749 million (-44.29%)
6. THE BIG SHORT - $7.248 million (-20%)
7. ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP - $6.52 million (-46%)
8. SISTERS - $6.38 million (-50%)
9. JOY - $5.41 (-47%)
10. CONCUSSION $3.923 million (-50%)

Fantasy Movie League Prediction: 
            It being the weekend after a holiday weekend, drops will be larger than normal.  But you see an exception there in THE BIG SHORT.  With the 950 theatre expansion combined with the great word of mouth plus it is awards season, I see it being the winner of the $2 million bonus for best performer on FML.  As my cineplex’s foundation, TFAx1 barely beats out TH8x5 as a value (10.63 bpm vs. 10.74 bpm).  With 7 screens & 455 bucks remaining, I could max out on THE BIG SHORT without a problem.  But I’d leave 41 bucks just sitting out there and have a movie with a historical upside in THE FOREST.  I’ll take 2 of them then fill out the rest with my projected best performer THE BIG SHORT.  With the box office projected to be so low this weekend, if taking THE FOREST is a mistake, I won’t be punished that harshly.

My Cineplex: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS x1, THE FOREST x2, THE BIG SHORT x5
FML Bucks Spent: 1000
Projected Gross w/ Bonus: $115.6969 million


Good luck and buy a winning ticket!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: MY ALL-AMERICAN

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Clarius Entertainment.  All Rights Reserved.

            As of late, faith-based films have been coming out for Christians to have a reason to go to the movies.  In recent years, such successes have included GOD’S NOT DEAD, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL and this fall’s WAR ROOM.  One sub-genre of these movies is the Christian sports movie, specifically football-centric movies.  There has already been one such movie this fall (WOODLAWN) that has been a moderate success.  This weekend, another movie appears in theatres as a wide release with a little bit of mainstream prestige behind it.  This is my first foray into the Christian movie genre and if the rest of them are like MY ALL AMERICAN, I may skip the rest.
            MY ALL AMERICAN follows the true story of Freddie Steinmark (Wittrock), a star running back/safety at a small-ish school in Colorado.  Freddie wants to follow every Catholic athlete’s dream: play football for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (sound familiar?).  Considered too small for that major program, Freddie, along with “rival” turned best friend Bobby Mitchell (Terrell), are offered scholarships to play for the University of Texas by not-yet-legendary coach Darrell Royal (Eckhart).  Joining them in Austin is the girl of Freddie’s dreams, Linda (Bolger).
            After a little bit of back & forth with myself over the past week, I have decided to not spoil the movie outright.  This despite the fact that it is my belief that no one, not even the most passionate Longhorn fan, should see this movie.  This movie is awful.  Really, really awful.  And not laughably awful either.  The dialogue is awful.  Each line is so short & so on-the-nose precise that they read like they’re from a 2nd grader’s reading book.  You could probably count the number of six-letter words that aren’t proper nouns with your fingers.  The story is even straighter & simpler, showing its hand in the first conversation of the movie during the opening scene where a magazine interview takes place that serves as the bookends to the movie.  If you don’t see the end of this movie coming after that first scene, I’ll assume you’ve never seen a movie before.
            What’s most shocking about that is that writer/director Angelo Pizzo has actually written two really good sports movies, HOOSIERS and RUDY.  Watching MY ALL-AMERICAN I wondered often if those two movies actually were any good.  Think of all the pre-game pep talks in HOOSIERS.  MY ALL-AMERICAN features the opposite: speeches that would have made me take off my uniform & go back to the dorms to study for Monday’s Chemistry exam.  Pizzo also has very little idea what he’s doing behind the camera.  Football can look beautiful on screen but that’s not the case here.  Most scenes are barely distinguishable from the Friday Night Lights TV show.  Some shots of the Colorado farmland look decent but most scenes that involve actors moving are uninspiring.  This movie needed Pizzo’s friend & collaborator David Anspaugh’s touch badly.
            It almost appears that the actors know that the material just isn’t up to par.  Aaron Eckhart looks lost and he’s the one giving the speeches.  He looks like he’s biding time before he can fire his agent after each take.  Robin Tunney is absolutely wasted as Freddie’s mother.  The lone bright spot is the chemistry between Finn Wittrock & Sarah Bolger as the love birds at the center of the movie.  You’d swear they are actually an item in real life.  The rest of the actors are people I’ve never seen/noticed before in my years of watching movies & television and something tells me that I’ll see very few of them again.
            MY ALL-AMERICAN features so little real conflict between two human characters there were times where I was wondering if the movie actually took place in the fictional town of Pleasantville.  So many little details are set up but not a single one is followed through.  It’s mentioned quite early that Freddie’s dad is strict about practicing at home but that’s brushed aside just as quickly without issue.  Bobby is set up as the guy whose size & attitude is going to shove Freddie down the depth chart.  But after one practice, they’re BFFs.  At spring practice & training camp, a potential quarterback controversy could break the team apart but is resolved in a dumb scene where a character drops his pants.  The movie plays everything safer than a winning team in prevent defense on the final drive of the game.
            But how does the movie play as a Christian movie?  For even that audience, the movie sucks.  The only time Freddie’s faith is openly talked about is after Bobby finds out his older brother was killed in Vietnam.  And even then, it’s for maybe a minute & is so memorable, I can’t remember a damn thing Freddie says.  That will teach me to forget a pen & paper at these screenings.  But it’s in a single scene during the final 15 minutes where the movie fails the most in this aspect.  Something happens to the main character where his faith appears to have failed him in the most unimaginable way.  It is here at this moment that he should need his Catholic belief the most.  It is mentioned or hinted at that Freddie is a devout Catholic who goes to mass every day, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and probably hasn’t slept with his girlfriend.  But during this one particular scene, the words “God” or “faith” are never mentioned between the two of them.  In fact, Freddie’s religion is barely mentioned in the final half of this 115 minute slog.
            MY ALL-AMERICAN is a faith-based rip-off of BRIAN’S SONG.  The script features hardly a scene or even word of dialogue that would appear in any decent movie.  Angelo Pizzo is way over his head on this one, leaving every actor, crew member & ticket buyer out to dry.  To paraphrase what I’ve said many times before: Christians, you deserve better.


½*