Emma Watson’s The Circle Ends The Lame Spring Movie Season -- The Weekend Warrior

– by Edward Douglas

Welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly look at the new movies hitting theaters this weekend, as well as other cool events and things to check out. 

Even Emma Watson and Tom Hanks May Not Be Enough to Make a Mark As April Ends 

The last weekend of April, and the “slower” spring movie season is ending this weekend, leading directly into the start of the lucrative summer box office next week. As has been the case in past years, the last couple weekends in April see a couple movies hoping to bring in any amount of money before the first big summer blockbuster, and other movies that will steal away their theaters. Last weekend was pretty sad, but hopefully a few of this weekend’s movies will fare better.

The movie that stands the best chance at finding an audience this weekend is the tech industry thriller THE CIRCLE (STX Entertainment), based on the novel by Dave Eggers, which stars Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, two A-list box office draws, although Watson is certainly more relevant to today’s moviegoers than Hanks, coming off her recent Disney hit Beauty and the Beast. 

The film is directed by James Ponsoldt, an indie director who has had moderate success with films like The Spectacular Now (starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley), Smashed (with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul) and The End of the Tour (with Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel)--all festival favorites, although this will be his highest profile film to date due to its stars.

This is a much different film for Emma Watson that probably won’t be of much interest to her younger female fans from Beauty and the Beast, but those who grew up watching her as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies will be the right age to be interested in the role she’s playing in this. Hanks is still a decent draw, as seen by last year’s Clint Eastwood-directed Sully and Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, although his days as Robert Langdon are probably over going by Inferno’s showing last year.

The film also stars John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Karen Gillen, Patton Oswalt and the recently-deceased Bill Paxton, although the focus is clearly being put on Watson and Hanks.

The film’s distributor STX Entertainment still hasn’t proven itself in terms of marketing with the high concept comedy Bad Moms being their biggest hit so far.  One expects the premise of a brilliant young woman trying to make it in the tech industry and the film’s two stars could do much to help the movie do better than it might otherwise. It’s a little unnerving how few people have had a chance to see the movie with it opening in two days--the movie premieres tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival. Because of this, there won’t be any reviews until Thursday, and The Circle is the kind of movie that will be relying heavily on reviews to get business, just like one of last week’s bombs, The Promise.

As we saw last weekend with the thriller Unforgettable, which also bombed very badly last weekend, having name stars isn’t always enough to get people into theaters, so The Circle may have a tough time this weekend, though it should still bring in enough 20 to 30-somethings for an opening weekend in the $10 million range or slightly higher.

LRM Interview with James Ponsoldt (Later this week)

The second film of the week may be a little more underrated, but that’s because the comedy HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER (Lionsgate/Pantelion) is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Mexican superstar Euginio Derbez, whose 2013 comedy Instructions Not Included grossed an astounding $44.5 million in the United States despite never playing in more than one thousand theaters. It opened over Labor Day weekend with $10.4 million in just 348 theaters before expanding, and it opened a lot of eyes about the growing Latin-American community and their desire for movies directed towards them.

Directed by Ken Marino of The State and Wet Hot American Summer, this is going to be a real test to determine whether instructions Not included was a fluke, and Pantelion Films are giving Derbez’s latest comedy the widest release since the company started with 1,000 theaters plus right out of the gate. Surrounding Derbez are the likes of Rob Lowe, Salma Hayek, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera and Rob Corddry from HBO's Ballers (in the picture above).

One thing that’s really going for the movie is a great title that’s sure to get a lot of people interested--maybe even a few non-Latinos--and the premise seems like a great match for Derbez--unlike The Circle for Watson--and a comedy may be just what the movie market needs this weekend. Expect this to open with around $5 to 6 million, although like faith-based films, it’s really hard to gauge this film’s potential audience, especially sitting between Fate of the Furious and next week’s Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.

The last new wide release is the groundbreaking indie crime-thriller SLEIGHT (BH Tilt/WWE Studios) from first-time director J.D. Dillard starring Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner, Collateral Beauty) as a street magician, who uses his skills to help commit crimes for a local drug dealer, played by Dulé Hill. 

The movie played well at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where it was picked up for distribution in a joint deal between Jason Blum’s BH Tilt and WWE Studios with the idea that it could be marketed to WWE fans using that company’s undeniable number of fans and viewers. It’s not exactly the type of hard-R horror film BH Tilt is used to releasing, but they’re hoping that undeserved urban moviegoers who’ve already seen The Fate of the Furious might give it a look. (Both Latimore and Hill have a significant Twitter presence and have been promoting Dillard's film.)

It looks BH Tilt is giving the movie a moderate wide release into roughly 550 theaters, and though this had some festival buzz (just like last week's Free Fire), it’s hard to determine whether the advertising has connected with its younger male target audience or not.  This will probably will be shooting for $2 million or $3 million tops, and probably will end up outside the Top 10,  unless there’s a noticeable last-minute marketing push. 

LRM Interview with Director J.D. Dillard and Jacob Latimore

BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)

UPDATE 4.27  A little shuffling and shifting around with The Circle getting released into over 3,000 theaters nationwide, and we have a surprise entry with the Bollywood sequel Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which follows up the 2015 hit which grossed $6.7 million in less than 250 theaters. Being released into about twice as many should help the anticipated movie break into the mid-range of the Top 10, especially with $2 million in early ticket sales under its belt. Gifted and James Gray's The Lost City of Z continue to expand wider which should help them move further up the charts.

1. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) -- $18 million -53% (down .1 million)

2. The Circle (STX Entertainment) -- $11.2 million N/A (up .7 million)

3. The Boss Baby  (DreamWorks Animation) -- $9 million -30%

4. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) -- $7 million -28%

5. How to Be a Latin Lover (Pantelion/Lionsgate) -- $6.5 million N/A (up .1 million)

6. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Great India Films)  -- $5.3 million N/A (new entry)

7. Gifted (Fox Searchlight) -- $3.6 million -22% (up .2 million and one spot)

8. Going in Style (New Line/WB) -- $3.5 million -29%

9. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) --  $3 million -40% (down .2 million)

9. Disneynature’s Made in China (Disney) -- $3 million -38%

-- Sleight (BH Tilt) -- $2 million N/A (down .1 million)

--The Lost City of Z (Bleecker Street) -- $1.9 million  -9%


THIS WEEK’S PICK:

OBIT. (Kino Lorber)

Cast: William McDonald, Margalit Fox, Bruce Weber, William Grimes, Jack Kadden, Jeff Roth
Director: Vanessa Gould (Between the Folds)
Genre:  Documentary

This documentary takes an in-depth look at the NY Times Obituary department, the fantastic writers and editors whose job it is to report on those who have died, but also to commemorate them with tributes that explain the achievements of the deceased. In some cases the person being written about is very famous, but in other cases, those achievements may not be as well known.

I first saw this film at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and for a writer, this is a fairly inspirational film, because you get to see how much these writers love the art of writing. Of course, most people would assume that writing obituaries all day would be a depressing job, but as you learn, obituaries are as much about celebrating the lives of those who’ve passed away, and in the case of the lesser known people, championing them posthumously.  This involves intensive research and then trying to find the perfect words and ways of saying things to fit within a specific word count, and the film follows a couple specific obits being written.

This is a great companion piece to the similarly excellent 2011 doc Page One: Inside the New York Times in that you really get an intensive look inside the way one of the country’s most prestigious newspapers works. All of the subjects offer fascinating insights into the job, particularly Margalit Fox who offers good reasoning for why much of the Obituary section is dedicated to white men.

Possibly even more fascinating is archivist Jeff Roth who runs the New York Times’ archives, a large room full of drawers and folders filled with old photos and even some pre-written obituaries ready to go in case death takes the subject. He’s quite a character, but somehow he almost knows where everything is.

Possibly my favorite moment in the movie is when Bruce Weber discovers he made a minor error with a fact in the obit he was writing, and in the original cut of the movie, Gould actually reran the very moment this happened from earlier in the film. For some reason, that was changed, maybe as to not embarrass Weber more (because it was an error that could have been avoided.)

(Another change in the film I noticed from when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year is that there are clips, and photos of Prince who hadn’t passed away at the time that obit. played the festival, so clearly, Gould has updated and changed the movie since last year.)

Obit. opens exclusively at the Film Forum and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York starting Wednesday (Tonight!), but will expand to L.A. at the Landmark Nuart Theater on Friday, May 5, with more cities to follow.


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

The late April dumping ground isn’t just for the bigger wide releases, as there’s a lot of movies that don’t sound very appealing, including a number of thrillers. At least the first two movies below are halfway decent, although probably not for everyone (as they’re both quite weird).

Narratives -- Dramas, Comedies and Genre:

Rami Malek from USA’s hit show Mr. Robot stars in Sarah Adina Smith’s Buster’s Mal Heart (Well GO USA), playing a wandering drifter named Buster who has been hiding in the mountains by breaking into vacant homes there. Through a non-linear storytelling technique, we go back in time and see how he once was a family named Jonah married (to Kate Lyn Sheil, no less) with a young daughter, and we see the events leading up to him changing into Buster. Having premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, it will open in New York on Friday and in L.A. on May 5.

Secretary director Steven Shainberg returns with his sci-fi thriller Rupture (AMBI Media Group), starring Noomi Rapace as a single mother and housewife who is kidnapped and tortured for reasons you’ll have to see the movie to find out. It co-stars Michael Chiklis, Lesley Manville, Peter Stormare and Kerry Bishé, and it opens in select cities as well as On Demand Friday, following its World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in 2016.

Liam Gavin’s directorial debut A Dark Song (IFC Midnight) stars Catherine Walker as Sophia, a grieving woman with a secret, while Steve Oram plays Joseph, an alcoholic occult expert who agrees to help her as they hole up in a cabin in Northern Wales to conduct a series of dark rituals.  It opens in select theaters, on VOD and digital platforms.

The next two films (which I haven’t seen yet) open at New York’s Cinema Village (and in other places, see below)...

Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Marton Czokas star in Eric Howell’s thriller Voice from the Stone (Momentum Pictures), set in 1950’s Tuscany with Clarke playing Verena, a nurse trying to help a young mute boy, who seems to have fallen under the spell of an otherworldly spirit in the villa’s walls. This also opens in select cities including Boston, L.A., Miami and others, as well as on VOD and Digital HD. You can learn more at the Facebook page.

April Mullen’s Below Her Mouth (Gunpowder and Sky) stars Natalie Krills as fashion editor Jasmine, living with her fiance (Sebastian Pigott), who meets a roofer named Dallas (Erika Linder) who hits on her, leading to an affair between the two women.  This will also open in L.A. as well as On Demand Friday. (Presume that the trailer below is NOT SAFE FOR WORK!)

Alexander Nevsky directs and stars in Black Rose (ITN Distribution) as a Russia Police Major enlisted by the LAPD to solve a series of murders by a sociopathic killer preying on the young women of Hollywood. Also starring Kristanna Loken, it opens in select cities on Friday and on VOD on Tuesday, May 2.

Kenneth Mader’s Displacement (Arcadia Releasing Group) stars Courtney Hope as physics student Cassie Sinclair trying to solve the murder of her boyfriend while dealing with memory loss and other stress from a “quantum entanglement event.”  Oh, also her mother has died from cancer and she’s being chased by a mysterious group (related to said quantum event). It opens in select cities Friday.

Lastly in terms of narratives, actor and filmmaker John (1998’s Southie) Shea’s Grey Lady (Beacon PIctures) is a Boston-set mystery-thriller starring Eric Dane as homicide detective who travels to Nantucket Island looking for clues in his partner’s murder.

Foreign

Missing 4/20 by a week, Asaph Polonsky’s Israeli comedy One Week and One Day (Oscilloscope Labs) is about a couple whose 25-year-old son dies, so after sitting Shiva (the one week of the title), the boy’s father steals his son’s stash of medical marijuana and starts doing all sorts of stoner things. It will open in New York and L.A. on Friday.

The Brazilian film NISE: The Heart of Madness (Outsider Pictures/Strand Releasing) from Robert Berliner, which stars Gloria Pires as Dr. NIse da Silveria, who works at a psychiatric hospital in Rio in the 1940s who refuses to use new electroshock treatment on her schizophrenic patients. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinema and in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Documentaries:

Narrated by Stevie Van Zandt from The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Bang! The Bert Berns Story (Abramorama) looks at the legendary songwriter in a film directed by his son, Brett Berns. Berns Sr. wrote many iconic songs in the ‘50s and ‘60s including, “Twist and Shout,” “Hang on Sloopy” and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and the film includes interviews and footage of the likes of Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Ben E. King, Van Morrison and more. It opens TODAY in New York at the IFC Center with special guest events all weekend. (Honestly, this movie would probably be one of my Top Picks if I had a chance to watch it, but I got bogged down in Tribeca this past weekend.) You can find out where else it will play on the movie’s Facebook page.

Directed by Christian Tureaud and David Salzberg, Danger Close (Gravitas Ventures/Broad Green) is the third chapter in their “Heroes of Valor” collection (that includes last year’s Citizen Soldier and 2014’s The Hornet’s Nest), this one following female war reporter Alex Quad as she’s embedded with the U.S. Special Operation Forces. It also opens at the Cinema Village and at L.A.’s Laemmle Music Hall, as well as Tampa, Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis and Chicago. (This also shouldn’t be confused with the Vietnam War movie with the same name.)

Daniel Raim’s Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (Zeitgeist) takes a look at Hollywood couple, Harold and Lillian Michelson, him a storyboard artist, she a film researcher, who left a mark on classic films by Hitchcock, Spielberg, Mel Brooks and Francis Ford Coppola, while mostly going uncredited. It opens at the Quad Cinema in New York Friday and in other cities and festivals--you can find out where here--over the next few months.

Opening at the Metrograph in New York Friday as well as streaming on Netflix is Casting JonBenet, a documentary by Kitty Green that blends the facts about the famed disappearance and murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, talking with the local community by having them auditioning for roles in a movie about her death. 

Streaming:

Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau stars in Small Crimes (Netflix), directed by Evan Katz (Cheap Thrills), as an ex-cop who is released after six years in jail, trying to rebuild his life in his hometown. It also stars Gary Cole, Molly Parker, Macon Blair and Pat Healy, and streams starting this Friday.

Also, congrats to my old pal Justin Simien on Season 1 of his new Netflix show Dear White People, based on his acclaimed indie film, which will also start streaming this Friday.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies, including what is probably one of my most anticipated movies of the year...James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 from Marvel Studios!

Tell us what you think in the comments below, and don't forget to share this post on your Facebook wall and with your Twitter followers by using the buttons at the top of this page.

(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)

Box Office, Film, LRM Exclusives, Featured, The Weekend Warrior The Weekend Warrior, Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, The Circle, How to Be a Latin Lover, Eugenio Derbez, Jacob Latimore, J.D. Dillard, Dule Hill