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.
So we’re going to try something different this week, because the Weekend Warrior has been getting a little long in the tooth, and we’re worried that our busy readers may prefer shorter and more concise pieces. We’ll give this a try over the next few weeks and maybe I’ll write a little more when there’s a bigger movie opening.
How Will Power Rangers and Two Other Movies Fare Against Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?
This past weekend, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reigned supreme with nearly $175 million--over $20 million more than my prediction (ouch!)--and even with a substantial drop this weekend, it’s unlikely that any of the three new movies will be able to keep it from retaining a second week at #1.
The first movie trying is Saban Films’ Power Rangers, distributed by Lionsgate, which is going to try to do for the campy Japanese import-turned-popular-kids- show Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers what Paramount has done for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers, and hopefully make that kind of money. It definitely offers the type of nostalgia that has done well at the box office, as well as offering something bright, colorful and PG-rated for the younger kids, but it’s hard to think that many fans of the cheesy show have really wanted a serious action movie based on the concept. The movie does have a couple decent guest stars in Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston--who apparently provided voices for the original show!--but otherwise, the various colored Power Rangers are played mostly by unknowns with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s RJ Cyler being one of the few exceptions as the Blue Ranger. The movie is directed by Project Almanac’s Dean Israelite from South Africa, which doesn’t offer the prestige some filmgoers may expect.
There is a good chance for Power Rangers to bring in $30 million or more this weekend, but going up against Beauty and the Beast might make it harder for it to get screens and attention, especially among those who weren’t familiar with the original television shows. One imagines that grown-ups with kids might take them to see the characters they themselves loved as kids, but there’s also a chance that grown-ups might not remember them that fondly. This is definitely a movie that should do well based on nostalgia, but it might not do as well as it would have done if it got a summer release.
The other two movies are likely to be vying for a lower spot in the top 10 with less than $20 million each.
First, there’s Sony’s sci-fi thriller Life, which has the benefits of an all-star cast led by Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation), as well as a genre that has delivered many popular favorites including Ridley Scott’s Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing and more recent movies like The Martian, Prometheus, Interstellar and Gravity. Much like Sony’s recent Passengers, which grossed nearly $100 million, this is an original idea not based on anything that’s come before, which makes it somewhat refreshing in a market full of remakes and sequels. It’s directed by Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa, best known for directing Reynolds’ hit spy thriller Safe House, which teamed him with Denzel Washington and was a fairly substantial hit.
The oddest thing to happen surrounding this movie was a fan theory that started circulating last week that it was actually a prequel to a Venom movie Sony had been developing for years with Life writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. This turned out not to be true, but it could certainly drive interest for the movie from those who want to make sure for themselves that this isn’t a secret Venom movie. (Honestly, it isn’t!)
The promotion for the movie has been solid, including a premiere at the SXSW Film Festival this past weekend, and reviews have generally been good so far, as well. The film’s best chances are that older males have already seen Logan, Kong: Skull Island and may be skeptical of Power Rangers (as they should be), which will make this a viable option.
If it were any other weekend, New Line’s reboot of the popular ‘70s cop show CHiPs, directed and starring Dax Shepard and co-starring Michael Peña (from Ant-Man), would do a lot bigger business, especially following the success of Sony’s 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street. (Warner Bros. previously had success with movies based on classic TV shows Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard, but even those had bigger stars than CHiPs.) Unfortunately, neither of the two stars have the drawing power of a Channing Tatum or Jonah Hill, and the movie’s ability to draw in older fans of the show through nostalgia may be hurt by older moviegoers’ unfamiliarity with Shepard’s previous directing work on the low-profile indies Hit and Run and Brother’s Justice. Unlike Life, there won’t be any early reviews to convince moviegoers this will be a worthwhile comedy, but the lack of other comedies in the market might make this a welcome change, which should allow it to take fourth place with somewhere in the low teens at best, but probably less than that.
There’s also a PG faith-based basketball drama called Slamma Jamma being released independently into about 1,000 theaters, but it probably won’t have much of an impact on anything and probably won’t even bring in a million dollars this weekend. Fox Searchlight’s Wilson (see below) will also be getting a moderate release into 250 theaters Friday, but again, probably won’t even get into the Top 10.
THIS WEEK’S BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
Update 3.23.17: A couple revised theater counts makes us think Power Rangers will do better than our earlier prediction, as well as Life, which has been building buzz over the course of the week. Beauty and the Beast will still win the weekend by a lot, but will have a bigger drop than anticipated. Oh, and Slamma Jamma (mentioned above) is only getting about 500 theaters so it will barely make a mark.
1. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) -- $80.4 million -54% (down 1.3 million)
2. Power Rangers (Saban/Lionsgate) –- $33.0 million N/A (up 2.2 million)
3. Life (Sony) -- $17.7 million N/A (Up .1 million)
4. Kong: Skull Island (Legendary Pictures/WB) -- $14.2 million -49%
5. CHiPs (New Line/WB) -- $10.2 million N/A (down 1 million)
6. Get Out (Universal) -- $9.4 million -30%
7. Logan (20th Century Fox) -- $8.5 million -51%
8. The Shack (Summit/Lionsgate) -- $3.5 million -42% (down .5 million)
9. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) -- $2.1 million -55% (down .6 million)
10. The Belko Experiment (BH Tilt) -– $1.9 million -55% (up .1 million)
THIS WEEK’S PICK:
WILSON (Fox Searchlight)
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Isabelle Amara, Cheryl Hynes, Margo Martindale, David Warshofsky, Mary Lynn Rajskub.
Director: Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Plot: Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a bit of a cranky curmudgeon, living alone with his dog Pepper after his wife Pippy (Laura Dern) left him 17 years earlier. He gets a new lease on life when he learns that Pippy didn’t abort their child and actually gave the baby away for adoption and that he now has a 17-year-old daughter named Claire (Isabelle Amara).
Fans of Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World and Art School Confidential will probably be interested in Clowes’ latest venture, which puts Woody Harrelson in the title role of a man who is angry at the world and has very little patience with the idiots who inhabit it. It’s the type of character that both Clowes and Harrelson excel at, which gives Wilson the type of snarky comedy that both their fans should appreciate. The big turn comes when Wilson decides to seek out his ex, Pippy (Laura Dern), who he hears has fallen on hard times, but from her, he learns that she kept his baby and that she’s now a teenage girl named Claire.
Together, they seek the girl out and the film starts to take a much warmer, heart-felt direction, which is why it ultimately won me over since it’s hard to imagine one could endure Wilson the way he is in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie.
Honestly, this is just another great showcase for the talented Woody Harrelson, who really can’t do any wrong in my book, and the fact Craig Johnson surrounded him with such a great cast of women, including Dern, Judy Greer and Margo Martindale (the latter two being personal faves of mine), just makes Wilson work far better than it may have if it was just a snark comedy throughout. I also have to give credit to them finding Isabelle Amara for the role of Wilson’s daughter with the young actress also appearing in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, so this movie is a great introduction to what she can do when paired with an actor like Harrelson.
It’s easy to imagine that Wilson won’t be for everyone, and knowing Clowes’ work certainly will help make it easier to be drawn into the world of his latest character, but really, this is just another great role for Harrelson, and hopefully people will check it out for that alone.
Wilson opens in select cities, roughly 250 theaters, on Friday.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Streaming on Netflix Friday after its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week is The Most Hated Woman in America (Netflix), starring Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of the "American Atheists" movement that fought against prayer in church and the use of the term “under God” during the pledge of allegiance. In the ‘90s, she, her son and granddaughter disappeared, as this true crime film by Tommy O’Haver (An American Woman) explores what may have happened to her.
Also based on a true crime story, I, Olga Hepnarova (Outsider Pictures/Strand Releasing), directed by Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb, is about the title woman, a lesbian outsider who in 1973 drove a rented truck through a group of older people waiting for a tram in Prague, Czechoslovakia, killing eight. She was sentenced to death in 1975, making her the last woman executed in the country. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas Friday.
Silence of the Lambs star Ted Levine stars in Hunter Adams’ supernatural thriller Dig Two Graves, presented by indie horror maven Larry Fessenden. It looks at the generational violence plaguing a small town in the ‘70s after a 13-year-old girl (Samantha Isler) loses her brother in a drowning accident and is approached by a group of moonshiners who offer to bring him back to life. Levine plays her grandfather, the town’s sheriff with a back history. After sitting on the shelf for years, it opens in select cities and on iTunes Friday.
Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Matt O’Leary star in Bokeh (Screen Media), a thriller from filmmakers Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan in which they play a couple on a romantic vacation in Iceland who wake up one morning to find everyone else on earth gone as they struggle to survive and figure out what happened. It opens in select theaters and On Demand after playing the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
Jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, who played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and John Coltrane, gets the spotlight in Kasper Collins’ doc I Called Him Morgan (FilmRise/Submarine Deluxe), which mainly covers the case of the 33-year-old’s murder by his wife Helen during a gig in February 1972, through a new interview done with Helen twenty years later. It opens in New York at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Friday and at L.A.’s Laemmle Monica (and New York’s Metrograph) on March 31.
This week’s Bollywood offering is Anshai Lal’s rom-com Phillauri (FIP), starring Suraj Sharma (The Life of Pi) as a Punjabi boy named Kana who returns to India to marry his childhood sweetheart (Mehreen Pirzada), but he has to marry a tree before he can marry her. Okay, I’m just going to stop right there at the whole “marrying a tree” bit…apparently there’s a fantasy element involving spirits as well, but I’m already lost. Just watch the music video below...
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM for a look at new movies including more nostalgia in the form of Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell (Paramount), DreamWorks Animation’s latest The Boss Baby (20th Century Fox) and Jessica Chastain in the Holocaust drama The Zookeeper’s Wife (Focus Features).
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(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)