Ghost In The Shell And Boss Baby Take Another Crack At The Box Office Beast -- 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.

Two Very Different Movies Look to Divide Up the Weekend Box Office Business

With Disney’s Beauty and the Beast continuing to dominate at the box office with $90 million this past weekend, and Saban’s Power Rangers (Lionsgate) also doing exceedingly well with $40 million in second place, you wouldn’t think anyone would try to release a movie that might get overshadowed by those two blockbusters.

That said, what’s interesting about this weekend is the fact there are two very different movies that are competing very heavily for second place with DreamWorks Animation’s latest animated family film, THE BOSS BABY (20th Century Fox), taking on the live action English remake of GHOST IN THE SHELL (Paramount), starring Scarlett Johansson. In most cases, easy money would be on the animated family film, especially going by DreamWorks Animation’s past March success rate--more on that below. 

DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby, based on the books by Marla Frazee, features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow, and it’s very different from other recent hit animated movies partially because it doesn’t feature talking animals. Instead it deals with humans, and family, in a similar way as movies like Pixar’s Inside Out and the Toy Story movies. It’s a strange premise that has Baldwin voicing a baby in a business suit who is working undercover to try to deal with the fact that puppies are starting to receive more love and affection than babies. (I told you it was a strange premise!) 

The sad truth is that animated movies aren’t the sure-fire blockbusters they once were, and we’ve seen plenty of DreamWorks Animation’s movies falter in recent years, even spin-offs like Penguins of Madagascar and Puss in Boots. They’ve certainly had a lot of luck with March releases thanks to spring and Easter break with 2015’s Home and Monsters vs. Aliens both opening over $50 million, and 2013’s The Croods opening with $43.6 million.  They clearly have their marketing down when it comes to family films, although there’s an aspect to the film’s oddball premise that reminds one of Warner Bros’ Storks, which tried to open this past September in the slot where Sony Pictures Animation has had a lot of success, but only opened with $21 million on its way to $72.7 million. (It did much better overseas, as most things do.)

Reviews so far have been fairly bad, but there are still parents who will feel more comfortable taking their kids to see this than the other PG movies mentioned above, which should be enough for it to bring in a sizable audience to do as well or better than 2014’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman. It shouldn’t be too surprising if it opens just below Beauty and the Beast with $34 million or more.

The Boss Baby’s main competition for teen and older audiences is going to be a live action remake of Masamune Shirow’s popular Japanese graphic novel and animated movie, Ghost in the Shell, which helped to create an avid base of Anime fans in this country ever since the English version of the movie showed up on these shores 21 years ago. 

For those who aren’t into Japanese comics, the movie offers the wonderful, and talented, Scarlett Johansson, aka Marvel’s Black Widow, in another action role similar to the one she played in Luc Besson’s 2015 hit Lucy, which opened with an impressive $44 million in the summer of 2015 and grossed $127 million total domestic.  (Expect the new trailer for Besson’s latest, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets--also based on a comic--to premiere in front of this movie this week!) The idea of Johansson continuing her run as an action star should appeal to her fans, although even Angelina Jolie’s fans could only put up with so much after her awful turn as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001.

More importantly, the movie just looks kind of strange and cool, different from everything else in theaters right now, which could entice teen and older moviegoers who know almost nothing about Masamune Shirow’s original comics, or animated feature to check it out.

Like CHiPs last week, reviews won’t be rearing their (presumably) ugly heads until Thursday, maybe too late for anyone who bought tickets in advance to change their minds--apparently, British critics have already posted their reviews since the movie opens earlier there--but this will be a likely action follow-up to last week’s hit Power Rangers, more for the older kids than the young ones.  There’s a really good chance that Ghost in the Shell could win Friday, and maybe even beat Beauty and the Beast, but it’s probably going to be more frontloaded than the other two offerings, so expect Disney’s live action musical to be #1 for its third weekend in a row.

Joseph Medina's Review of Ghost in the Shell

 Also opening in roughly 500 theaters, or less, this weekend is Niki Caro’s Holocaust drama THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE (Focus Features), starring Jessica Chastain and Daniel Brühl, a historic film that just doesn’t have the buzz it should have to really make an impact. Directed by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro, still best known for her early film Whale Rider, it’s mainly going to be focusing on older moviegoers who won’t have much interest in other movies currently in theaters, but it’s doubtful it will make more than $2 million this weekend.

Interview with Director Niki Caro


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

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

Update 3.30.17: A minor update, based on revised theater counts, giving a bit more to the new movies--The Boss Baby is really picking up steam--and changing things up on the bottom half as movies like LoganGet Out and The Shack lose 25-30% of their theaters to make way for the new movies.

1. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) - $46.1 million -49% (down 1.4 million)

2. The Boss Baby  (DreamWorks Animation) - $36.6 million N/A (up 2 million)

3. Ghost in the Shell (Paramount) –  $28 million N/A (up .4 million)

4. Power Rangers (Saban/Lionsgate) – $19 million -53%

5. Kong: Skull Island (Legendary Pictures/WB) - $7.6 million -48%

6. Life (Sony) - $5.8 million -53% (up .2 million and one spot)

7. Logan (20th Century Fox) - $5.3 million -49% (down .3 million)

8.Get Out (Universal) - $5.2 million -41% (down one million and two spots)

9. CHiPs (New Line/WB) - $3.2 million -59%

10. The Shack (Summit/Lionsgate) - $2.1 million -40% (down .2 million)

-- The Zookeeper’s Wife (Focus Features) - $1.5 million N/A


THIS WEEK’S PICK:

Before I get to this week’s pick, I want to give a quick shout-out to a doc directed by my good friend Marshall Fine called Robert Klein: Still Can’t Stop My Leg, which will premiere on the Starz network this Friday. I have to be honest that before I saw this movie--which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last yea-- I honestly didn’t know the reach that Klein had over the world of comedy, being peers with Robin Williams and others of that era, and he had a record number of HBO comedy specials going all the way back to 1975 and through 2005. If you’re a fan of comedy and want to learn more about this still living legend, you should definitely check out this movie when it premieres on Friday, March 31 at 10pm, on the Starz Network.

CARRIE PILBY (The Orchard)

Cast: Bel Powley, Jason Ritter, Gabriel Byrne, Nathan Lane, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, William Moseley.
Director: Susan Johnson (debut)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated R
Plot:
Carrie Pilby (Bel Powley) is a 19-year-old living in New York after graduating from Harvard at 18, but she’s unhappy and her psychiatrist (Nathan Lane) challenges her to fulfill a few items from a list he gives her, including going on a few dates and finding someone to spend New Year’s Eve with. 

The modern romantic comedy tends to get a bad rap, especially when they’re set in New York and they deal with young women trying to find themselves, so I was pleasantly surprised by this movie based on a novel by Caren Lissner.  I generally have loved Bel Powley since her role in Diary of a Teenage Girl a couple years back, and she brings so much to this character that’s fresh and different than what we’ve seen from other similar movies.

In some ways, it’s an older version of the character she played in that other movie, but it’s a much lighter and more modern film as well. What’s especially interest are the men she’s paired up with, whether it’s Colin O’Donoghue as a professor she has an affair with, or Jason Ritter as a man she goes on a date with while planning to shame him for cheating on his fiancé, but actually liking him. There’s also Nathan Lane as her world-weary psychiatrist who just wants her to enjoy her youth and try to have some life experiences outside the books she regularly reads. 

Much of my enjoyment does come down to how amazing Powley is at keeping you invested in this character, but another nice surprise is Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, who is very funny as Carrie’s co-worker who also eggs her on despite having her own issues with men.

First-time director Susan Johnson does an amazing job with the material, keeping things moving at a brisk pace and always veering away from the clichés of this genre when they might arise, and overall, it’s a fairly sweet and enjoyable film.

After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival last year, Carrie Pilby opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas and in L.A. on Friday and then will be On Demand, starting April 4.

I also want to give an Honorable Mention to Laurent Bouzereau’s three-part docuseries Five Came Back (Netflix), based on bringing amazing stories and footage back to the American public: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens.  Their stories are told by five modern filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan, and is narrated by Meryl Streep. It’s a pretty amazing film to see these great filmmakers going off to war and how that changed them when they returned to Hollywood. (Netflix will also present 13 documentaries, including some made by the filmmakers in question.)

Festivals, Series, and Repertory:

 This section is more for those in the New York area, as it would be very hard to impossible to cover festivals from around the country or world, and yet I want to kick this section off with a mention of the Sarasota Film Festival in Florida, which starts this Friday with the Opening Night film, Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton from Rory Kennedy. It closes on Sunday, April 9 with Eleanor Coppola’s Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin, screening at the Sarasota Opera House. In between, there’s a lot of great films including I, Daniel Blake (in my Top 5 last year) and other films that screened at Sundance a few months back, including one of my favorites, The Hero, as well as Beach Rats, Marjorie Prime, Barbara Kopple’s doc This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous and Joshua Weinstein’s Menashe. They seem to have a lot of upscale parties as well. I’ll be going down there as a juror in the Documentary Competition along with the awesome filmmaker Amy Berg (West of Memphis) and my equally awesome colleague, Aaron Hillis, so it should be a fun time, and hopefully I’ll see some docs that I can talk more about as they’re released.

Richard Kelly’s 2001 sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko (Arrow Films), starring a very young Jake Gyllenhaal, an even younger Jena Malone, a slightly older Drew Barrymore, and a lot of trippy sequences involving time travel and scary rabbit friends, has a newly remastered HD version coming to Blu-ray in April. Both the theatrical and director’s cuts will be screened for the next week at New York’s Metrograph (along with the Singularity series I mentioned a couple weeks back). Donnie Darko Remastered will also hit DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes on April 18. 

Not too far away at the Landmark Sunshine Theater (which is in danger of going bye-bye) is the Kino! 2017 German Film Festival, starting Friday with the U.S. premiere of Paula starring Carla Juri as the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. Other films include 24 Weeks, All of a Sudden, and a special screening of Fritz Lang’s Destiny with accompanying music by DJ Raphaël Marionneau, which acts as the festival’s centerpiece. Honestly, very few of these movies will probably get U.S. distribution so it might be your only chance to see some of them.

If you feel like venturing into Brooklyn (or you live there), then you might want to check out BAMCinemetek’s Major League: Wesley Snipes in Focus, running from March 31 to April 9 and showcasing this fantastically underrated African-American actor’s body of work, including White Men Can Jump, Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, Passenger 57, To Wong Foo...and quite a few more. Wesley Snipes is awesome and he’s so due for a comeback.


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

In attempt to make this section easier to navigate, and focus on what you like, I’ll be separating it into sections by category to see if that helps:

Narratives - Dramas, Comedies, and Genre:

Psycho star Anthony Perkins’ son Osgood Perkins directs the thriller The Blackcoat’s Daughter (A24) about two girls, Kat and Rose (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton from Sing Street) who find themselves abandoned at their prep school over winter break when their parents don’t pick them up. They start experiencing strange occurrences as a third girl, Joan (played by Emma Roberts), is desperately trying to get to the school for unknown reasons. Like Carrie Pilby, it also opens at the Village East Cinemas.

Also opening in theaters and streaming On Demand Friday is Rod Blackhurst’s Here Alone (Vertical Entertainment), the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award-winner from last year, starring Lucy Walters (Power) as a young woman who is trying to survive on her own after an infection wipes out much of society then meets two other survivors who could help her survive, or could put all of their lives in danger. From what I remember, the movie wasn’t bad.

Shamim Sarif’s Despite the Falling Snow (Caru Pictures)--based on her own novel--stars Rebecca Ferguson (Life, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) as female spy Katya who in 1959 is stealing secrets from a politician name Alexander (Sam Reid), who she then falls in love. Decades later, Alexander (now played by Charles Dance of Game of Thrones) goes back to Moscow to re-explore that relationship. It opens in theaters, On Demand, and iTunes Friday.

Opening in New York at the Cinema Village is Logan Sandler’s black and white Live Cargo (Gunpowder and Sky), starring Sam Dillon as Myron, a homes youth trying to belong based on the director’s own experiences growing up in and around the Bahamas. It stars Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) and Dree Hemingway as a couple who encounter Myron while trying to recover from a loss on the Bahamian island where her family has a home. It will open in L.A. at the Arena Cinelounge Hollywood on April 7.

Rucha Humnabadkar’s timely For Here or to Go (Many Cups of Chai Films) is a look into the contribution of immigrants to some of the Top 500 companies through the story of a young Silicon Valley software engineer, Vivek Pandit, whose potential job at a healthcare startup is threatened by having only a year left on his work visa.

Documentaries:  

Jenny Gage’s All This Panic (Factory 25) is a coming-of-age cinema verité doc (of sorts) set around a group of teen girls living in Brooklyn that was shot over the course of three years as the girls “navigate the ephemeral and fleeting transition between childhood and adulthood.” It opens in New York Friday at the IFC Center and in L.A. on April 14.

Also at the IFC Center is Jon Nguyen’s doc David Lynch: The Art Life (Janus), which is pretty much what you’d expect: filmmaker David Lynch talking about his art and showing him at work on it. 

Todd and Jedd Wider’s doc God Knows Where I Am (Bond/360) delves into the mystery of the body of a homeless woman found in a New Hampshire farmhouse along with a diary about how she survived during the cold winter on apples and rain water, hoping for God to save her. The intriguing doc that gives us an unprecedented look into the homeless premieres at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York. 

Opening Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is Petra Epperlein & Michael (Gunner Palace) Tucker's Karl Marx City, which looks at the suicide death of Epperlein’s father who was a spy for the East German Stasi before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It will then open April 21 in Los Angeles.

Foreign Films:

Opening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center is Albert Serra’s The Death of Louix XIV (Cinema Guild), starring Jean-Pierre Léaud as the longest reigning French monarch in history during his final days.

This week’s Bollywood offering is Naam Shabana (Reliance Entertainment), Shivam Nair’s spy action-thriller that spins-off Taapsee Pannu’s character from the 2015 film Baby, which I also haven’t seen. 

Streaming:

 The other new Netflix movie of note this week is The Discovery, the new movie from Charlie McDowell (The One I Love), starring Jason Segel as the son of the doctor who discovers the existence of the after-life (played by Robert Redford) and who arrives at his father’s island compound with a mysterious woman, played by Rooney Mara, who may be one of father’s acolytes devoted to his cause. It’s a strange sci-fi drama that played at Sundance that I wasn’t really a fan of.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies as we kick the month of April off with Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) and the comedy remake Going in Style (New Line/WB), starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.

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

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