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.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 Kicks Off the Summer With a Sci-Fi Action-Comedy
After three weeks of dominating the box office, Universal’s The Fate of the Furious is going to have to give way to a new movie, and that’s because the first weekend of May means that it’s officially...THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON!!!!
Just like the last couple years, the summer movie season is kicking off with a new movie from Marvel Studios, and their sequel GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (Marvel Studios/Disney), reunites Chris Pratt as Starlord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista’s Drax, Michael Rooker’s Yondu with the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper as Groot and Rocket Racoon, for the next adventure of Marvel’s space-faring oddballs. For this one, they’re joined by Kurt Russell as Ego, father of Pratt’s Starlord, and model Pom Klementieff as alien mentalist Mantis. Karen Gillan also returns as Gamora’s half-sister Nebula while legendary action star Sylvester Stallone also playing a role in the film.
The original 2014 movie starring this unlikely Marvel team to follow in the wake of the Avengers was helmed by James Gunn, who at the time was better known for his edgy R-rated horror comedies like the 2006 horror-comedy Slither and the indie Super in 2010. The fact the movie worked so well as a Star Wars-like space opera immediately helped raise Gunn to a new status as a filmmaker, although it looks like he’ll continue spending his next few years making a third Guardians movie.
The original Guardians of the Galaxy movie might have seemed like a risk, but as it edged closer to its August 2014 release, it became obvious that audiences were interested and its $94.3 million opening (just shy of the opening of the original Iron Man) put it in good shape to top that year’s box office with $333 million. (The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 1 and Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper would pass it, though the latter only opened wide the following January, so it was kind of cheating.)
The film’s total gross, 3.5 times its opening, is a good sign that word-of-mouth was good and that fans liked it enough to go see it more than once, and most of those fans will have been awaiting the movie’s sequel to find out where these characters go next. GotGV2 is also one of only two Marvel movies this year, and probably the more likely to do big business, because Thor hasn’t broken out to the same extent as movies featuring Iron Man and Captain America. (Although both of the movies do deal with Marvel’s cosmic universe, which presumably will lead into next year’s Avengers: Infinity War.)
It’s also good to remember that since Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt has become an even bigger A-list star due to his appearance in 2015’s Jurassic World, and even his poorly-received sci-fi film Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence still grossed $100 million over the holidays. Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper are no slouches either in terms of being A-list stars with huge worldwide blockbusters under their belts.
At this point, it will be hard to set any new records, because Marvel’s last four movies that opened the summer box office pretty much cornered the market on May box office records. Robert Downey’s Iron Man 3 kicked off the summer of 2013 with $174 million to become the 2nd Marvel Studios movie to cross the $400 million mark, and last year’s Captain America: Civil War followed suit, opening with $179 million and grossing just over $400 million. The first Avengers movie in 2012 is still Marvel Studios’ highest grossing movie with $623 million after a record-setting $207 million opening, which has now been bested twice by non-Marvel movies.
Unlike just about every other movie writer in the United States and most people abroad, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I can’t comment on the quality of the film and whether it improves on the original, or is just more of the same. It’s currently at 87% on RottenTomatoes, which isn’t bad.
Either way, most of the fans of the original movie (like me) will give it the benefit of the doubt regardless of the somewhat lackluster reviews. (I already have my ticket to see it Friday morning.)
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 grossed over $100 million internationally last weekend, which is a great lead-in to its North American opening. Because of the popularity and success of the original movie, we can expect this to be a sequel that does a good amount of its business over the next couple weeks. I think $150 million is the lowest possible opening, and it’s more likely to end up with $160 million or more on its way to becoming Marvel Studios’ sixth movie to make over $400 million.
Everything else, well, expect a lot of movies to lose theaters to make way for the Guardians, and only a few other movies will make more than $5 million.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (Marvel Studios/Disney) -- $160.3 million N/A (up .9 million)
2. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) -- $8.6 million -57%
3. How to Be a Latin Lover (Pantelion/Lionsgate) -- $6.5 million -47% (up .1 million)
4. The Boss Baby (DreamWorks Animation) -- $5.2 million -45%
5. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) -- $3.6 million -47%
6. The Circle (STX Entertainment) -- $3.5 million -61%
7. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion -- $3.4 million -67%
8. Gifted (Fox Searchlight) -- $2.0 million -40% (down .2 million)
9. Going in Style (New Line/WB) -- $2 million -42% (down .1 million)
10. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) -- $2 million -37%
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
We’re going to waive the normal format for this section of the column for a...DOCUMENTARY EXTRAVAGANZA!
Yes, for whatever reason, there are a lot of decent, and intriguing, docs coming out this week that I feel the entire genre deserves a special spotlight. I know that most LRM readers probably only get out to the big superhero and franchise movies, but part of the idea of this column was to let movie lovers know that there’s a whole world out there of cinema of all kinds and styles, so let’s see what this week is offering in terms of non-fiction filmmaking.
We’ll start off with Laura Poitras’ Risk (NEON/Showtime Documentary Films), her follow-up to the Oscar-winning CITIZENFOUR, this one telling the story of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, beginning in 2010 as thousands of State department documents were posted on his site, then continuing to follow him as he goes into exile at the Ecuador embassy in London, trying to avoid being extradited to the US where a grand jury investigation is being conducted. There’s a pretty big gap of time of about three years when it’s clear that Poitras was tailing Edward Snowden for her Oscar-winning documentary, but she does return to Assange for one last interview following the Wikileaks documents that indicted the Democratic Committee for their support of Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, as well as the possibility of Russian involvement in those leaks. No, I don’t think it’s as powerful or groundbreaking as Poitras’ film on Snowden, but it’s still quite relevant and enlightening on the world of Assange. Risk opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday.
Opening on Wednesday at the Metrograph is Ferras Fayad’s Last Men in Aleppo (Grasshopper), a look at the brave White Helmets in Syria who have made it their job to help rescue those trapped in buildings which have been downed by the regular air raids. It’s an amazing film with unprecedented footage of these amazing individuals. No surprise that it won the documentary jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, as well as the same honor from the Sarasota Film Festival (on which I was a jury member for the doc section).
Last Men in Aleppo also kicks off the Metrograph’s True Stories: New Non-Fiction from Europe, which includes seven other docs from across the pond, as they say. You can see the full list of movies in this series here.
The life and career of basketball great Kenny Anderson is showcased in Jill Campbell’s Mr. Chibbs (Abramorama), which follows the ups and downs in a career that eventually helped Anderson discover himself and rise above the hurdles he’s faced. It also opens at the IFC Center (and played at Sarasota), but it opens Wednesday (today), and Kenny will be at the 7 p.m. screenings tonight and Thursday to answer questions after the film.
Two controversial artists get spotlight docs this week with artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel being featured in Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait (Cohen Media), which will open at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza in New York this Friday. It’s a really intriguing look into his views on art and how that’s translated into filmmaking. I wasn’t as big a fan of Richard Dewey and Timothy Marrinan’s Burden (Magnolia) about performance artist Chris Burden, whose controversial art has had the art world questioning the definition of art. It opens exclusively at the Metrograph (as well as On Demand, iTunes) on Friday and then expands to other cities May 12.
Lastly, we have Robert Liebsman’s Angkor Awakens: A Portrait of Cambodia, opening at the Landmark Sunshine in New York and DC’s East Street Theater on Friday, a fairly sentimental look at the tangled history of the Asian nation which is poised for a cultural turn as the people try to recover in the wake of the Khmer Rouge genocide of the ‘70s. This well-made doc that includes emotional testimonials from those who experienced the genocide and their kids who have heard about it from their relatives will expand to L.A. on May 12.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Narratives -- Dramas, Comedies and Genre:
This week we have no less than four movies that just had premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival...
The Messenger director Oren Moverman tackles Herman Koch’s 2009 novel The Dinner (The Orchard) with Steve Coogan and Richard Gere playing brothers who meet for dinner with their respective wives (Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall) for a fancy dinner where they’re to discuss the trouble their kids have gotten into. It’s an ambitious film that deals with everything from mental illness to the battle of Gettysburg, and it opens in a little over 120 theaters starting Friday.
In French-Canadian filmmaker Philippe (Monsieur Lazhar) Falardeau‘s boxing drama Chuck (IFC Films), Liev Schreiber plays the famed “Bayonne Brawler/Bleeder” Chuck Wepner, the former New Jersey heavyweight champion who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali at the height of the latter’s boxing career, also becoming the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Even so, Chuck’s dalliance with drugs, and women, ends his marriage (to Elisabeth Moss, no less) and he ends up in jail when busted for drugs. Also starring Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman and Jim Gaffigan, this lighter boxing drama opens in select cities Friday.
Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in Azazel Jacobs’ dramedy The Lovers (A24), playing a long-married couple, both of whom are in the middle of affairs they’re committed to. As they decide whether it’s ready to end their marriage, a new spark ignites leading to a romance that has them cheating on the partners they were originally cheating with. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Actor Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) makes his directorial debut with his dark comedy Take Me (The Orchard/Netflix), in which he plays Ray Moody, whose company Kidnap Solutions LLC is thriving from his specialized abductions used to help people who need to get away for awhile. When he gets the call from a business woman (Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling) who wants to pay a lot for his services, but makes his job more difficult. It opens in New York and L.A. and will stream on Netflix sometime later this year.
Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon are the Three Generations (The Weinstein Company) in the new drama from filmmaker Gaby Dellal (On a Clear Day, Angel’s Crest). Fanning plays Ray, a teenager born as a girl but who has identified as a boy and is wanting to go through transition, but in order to do so she needs to get the approval of her mother (Watts) and her estranged father, who left them and has already started a new family. Sarandon plays Ray’s lesbian matriarch, so basically the movie’s a lot like Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women, but with Elle Fanning playing the teen boy surrounded by women. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Next up, we have two martial arts-tinged genre films.
Guardians V2 star David Bautista, also appears in Matthias Hoene’s Enter the Warriors Gate (EuropaCorp), written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, a fantasy adventure about a chest that opens a gateway through time, and a teen gamer (Uriah Shelton) who goes though it to end up in an ancient empire ruled by a cruel barbarian (Bautista).
Stuntwoman Amy Johnston stars in Chris Nahon’s action flick Lady Bloodfight (Vertical Entertainment) in which she plays Jane, an American girl backpacking through Hong Kong. After fighting off three muggers, Jane gains the attention of Wudang champion Shu, who recruits her to be part of n all-female underground martial arts tournament called “The Kumite,” where she’s pitted against some of the deadliest woman fighters. It opens in select cities and On Demand Friday.
Cam Gigandet stars in Jesse Gustafson’s action flick Black Site Delta (XLRator Media) playing the leader of a band of military prisoners who must fight off a terrorist attack at the “black site” prison where they’re being held, which is actually a secret drone control facility. Okay, then. It opens in select cities Friday and on VOD and iTunes on May 9.
Ela Thier’s sci-fi comedy Tomorrow Ever After stars herself as a historian from 600 years in the future who has only read about war, poverty and other bad things in the history books from our own present day, but a time travel experiment gone wrong sends her back to 2015 where she makes a new group of friends she hopes can help her get back to the future. It opens at New York’s Cinema Village and the Laemmle Music Hall in L.A. on May 5 and other cities further into May.
Paolo Virzi’s comedy LIKE CRAZY (Strand Releasing), winner of five Donatella Awards in Italy, stars Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Beatrice, a billionaire countess who thinks she’s on friendly terms with world leaders while Donatella is an fragile introvert, both of them patients at a psychiatric clinic, who become friends as they escape from the secure facility. It opens in downtown New York at the IFC Center and uptown at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas Friday and then expands to L.A. and other cities on May 12.
Derek Hui's Chinese romantic comedy This Is Not What I Expected (WellGO USA) stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as the CEO of a company who makes cute with the chef at a hotel that he's about to take over. It opens in select cities across the country.
Based on Guy de Maupassant’s novel, A Woman’s Life (Kino Lorber), directed by Stephane Brizé (last year’s The Measure of a Man), is about a young ingénue (Judith Chemia) living in her family’s chateau who dreams of marrying a viscount (Swann Ariaud), but as that relationship sours and her fortunes take a downturn, she tries to achieve independence. It opens at the Quad Cinema in New York.
Michael Barnett’s The Mars Generation is a family adventure about two teens at Space Camp who dream of travelling to Mars with experts Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye talking about the history, and future, of space travel.
Festivals, Series and Repertory:
Opening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center is a new restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi thriller Stalker (Janus), which will be followed next week by a restoration of his earlier 1972 film Solaris, which was remade by Steven Soderbergh with George Clooney.
The Film Society is also kicking off this year’s New York African Film Festival, which opens tonight with Akin Omotoso's Vaya and runs through Tuesday, May 9. it will include many NY and US premieres of African-made films including one World Premiere, with many of the filmmakers and casts in attendance. You can see the full list of films on the schedule and buy tickets on the Film Society site.
Out in Astoria, Queens at the Museum of the Moving Image will see the ninth edition of the Panorama Europe Film Festival, featuring seventeen new European feature films, opening with Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s King of the Belgians, a faux documentary about the same. This year’s festival runs from May 5 to May 21, closing with the doc The European from director Jan Roeleven. In between are more than a dozen European films that have yet to be seen on these shores.
Also, Fathom Events will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of John Travolta’s breakout film Saturday Night Fever this Sunday, May 7, and on Wednesday, May 10. If you haven’t seen the movie or haven’t seen it in a long time, it’s definitely worth checking it out, if only to see the start of what has become an absolutely amazing career.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies, including Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Warner Bros.), the Amy Schumer-Goldie Hahn comedy Snatched (20th Century Fox) and something called Lowriders (BH Tilt).
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(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)