The Weekend Warrior 10/14/16: The Accountant, Kevin Hart: What Now?, Max Steel

– 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. 

Hey, guess what? This is the official 15th Anniversary of the Weekend Warrior, although back on October 10, 2001 when this weekly movie preview debuted, it was under a different title, and it took some time to get the column to where it is now. (And of course, I took 9 months off after leaving ComingSoon.net last year.)  But it’s 15 years, so thanks to everyone who has been reading it all these years and a special thanks to three people who have always been there to read my column week after week, my three editors Kirk Kasicki (aka spamlet), Mirko Parlevliet and the my current editor here at LRM, Mr. Joseph Jammer Medina. Thanks, guys, for all your hard work to make me look better!

THIS PAST WEEKEND:

Another disappointing October weekend where there were no huge breakouts and none of the three movies did as well as I predicted. Emily Blunt starred in the thriller The Girl on the Train (Universal) which was #1 at the box office but with just $24.5 million, about $3 million less than my prediction. The next four movies were returning ones, basically in the same order but down a notch.  The question of whether Nate Parker’s historical drama The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight) might be hurt by the controversy surrounding the first-time director’s past was answered when the movie didn’t even do as well as Matthew McConaughey’s own Reconstruction Era drama Free State of Jones, opening with just $7 million in 2,105 theaters, though it did get an “A” CinemaScore, which is really good.  Middle School: The Worst Years of Our Life (CBS Films) actually ended up doing almost as well with $6.9 million in 2,822 theaters to take seventh place.


THE ACCOUNTANT (Warner Bros.)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow
Director: Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Warrior, Jane Got a Gun)
Genre:  Thriller, Action
Rated R
Plot:
You may want to sit down for this one.  Take Batman (Ben Affleck) and make him an autistic accountant laundering money for various criminal factions, but also moonlighting as an assassin. For whatever reason, agents from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (JK Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson) are looking for this mysterious “Accountant” using tax returns. To hide from them, he takes a job fixing the books for an electronics executive (John Lithgow) who has based his entire company around the business model for “Crazy Eddie.”  Oh, yeah, and Batman is also being chased by the Punisher (Jon Bernthal).
Theater Count (est.): 3,200+

With a plot like the one above, you might wonder how a movie like The Accountant even got made, let alone with such a prestigious cast, but hey, it’s the new movie from Ben Affleck, whose star continue to ascend following the acclaim he received from his Oscar-winning drama Argo, which was released on this same weekend in 2012 and grossed $136 million. Two years ago, Affleck starred in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, also released in October, and that grossed $168 million. And then of course, there’s the fact that Ben Affleck is the latest actor to portray Batman in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which grossed $330 million earlier this year. (And Affleck’s Batman also cameo’ed in Suicide Squad, which has grossed nearly as much.)

So you look at those recent achievements, it’s clear that Affleck is once again an A-list star after nearly destroying his career with a number of bad decisions like Gigli and Surviving Christmas in 2003 and 2004, and those were following his disappointing turn as Daredevil. Yeah, so it took Affleck a few years to find his footing, and directing strong films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo certainly helped him regain some of the respect he lost, especially among older males, who are often the hardest audience to win back after losing them. It’s not like Affleck hasn’t had a few misfires like 2013’s Runner Runner, which also opened in October but grossed just $19 million total, even with co-star Justin Timberlake. Even so, Affleck’s movies have grossed over $2 billion just in North America so he can often get past any weaker movies by doing something better.

The Accountant is an odd choice for the actor since it is such an eclectic film that isn’t your typical gangster/assassin type role, since Affleck plays a man with Asperger’s who has trouble communicating emotions, which may in fact make him a better killer. Affleck is joined by Oscar-nominated actress Anna Kendrick, who has also been a lot of odd decisions this year with bad movies like Get a Job and Mr. Right, the latter a similar movie about an assassin — don’t worry if you’ve never heard of either.  She also did slightly better with her role in the comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but she really has to do another Pitch Perfect movie if she wants to get her mojo back.  The movie also stars Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons from Whiplash, as well as Jon Bernthal, who was amazing on AMC’s The Walking Dead but then he took on the role of the Punisher in Netfllix’s Daredevil.  (In fact, if Warner Bros. really wanted to sell the movie, they should just say “It’s Batman vs. The Punisher!” and it will get fans from both sides of the comic book universe debate into theaters.) 

The film is directed by Gavin O’Connor, who has not had very much luck lately as his Western Jane Got a Gun, starring Natalie Portman, was plagued with problems even before he came on board and then it was delayed and dumped by the Weinstein Company. His previous movie, the MMA drama Warrior, starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, also didn’t fare very well due to its odd early September release date. His film before that, Pride and Glory, starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, also got lost in the shuffle of October releases, but before that, he helmed the Disney sports drama Miracle about the 1980 US Olympics team, and that fared decently. Either way, he’s a skilled but underrated filmmaker who might finally get some respect by being teamed with Affleck.

Reviews probably won’t be that great, similar to last week’s The Girl on The Train, but this will still mostly appeal to guys 20-something and over, because the ladies will still have that thriller to see this weekend if they didn’t get around to it last week. It probably will lose younger African-American males to the new Kevin Hart comedy, although it should still get enough interest to win the weekend, even if it isn’t enough to crack the $20 million mark.

LRM Interview with Gavin O’Connor


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? (Universal)

Cast: Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle
Director: Tim Story, Leslie Small
Genre:  Comedy, Documentary
Rated R
Plot:
Kevin Hart stars in his third concert documentary, this one filmed in front of 50,000 people at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.
Theater Count (est.): 2,500

Comedian Kevin Hart has slowly become one of the country’s biggest box office stars by his hard working attitude that has led to a number of comedy hits, though he has never lost sight of his stand-up comedy roots, and Kevin Hart: What Now? is his third theatrically-released concert film following 2011’s Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain and 2013’s Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain.  The first grossed $7.7 million while the second grossed over four times that, showing how huge Hart had gotten in the course of just two short years.

This year alone, Hart reteamed with Ice Cube for the comedy sequel Ride Along 2, which grossed $90 million—the same amount as Hart’s 2015 teaming with Will Ferrell for Get Hard—and then teamed with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the summer comedy hit Central Intelligence, which grossed $127 million.  If that wasn’t enough, Hart provided his voice for the animated hit The Secret Life of Pets, which is currently the #3 movie for the year with $365 million. That’s quite an achievement right there, but that’s only this year, and Hart has helped comedies like Think Like a Man and Ride Along become enormous hits among African-American moviegoers.

Hart’s success as a film actor has also helped him sell out even bigger venues as a stand-up comedian when he does go on tour and like those previously mentioned films, What Now? mainly focuses on one of the larger concerts on his sold out 2015 tour in a 50,000 seat venue in Phillly. There have been plenty of hugely successful concert movies, but most of them have been by recording artists like One Direction, Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. Stand-up comedy movies haven’t been nearly as successful, although they’re mostly geared towards African-American audiences with two bigger hits being Eddie Murphy: Raw and the Spike Lee-directed The Original Kings of Comedy. Kevin Hart has successfully followed the likes of Murphy and Martin Lawrence with his own movies and he’s even bigger now than he was four years ago.

Considering that 2013’s Let Me Explain opened with $10 million in just 876 theaters, then this movie opening in three times as many theaters and with three years of popular comedies under Hart’s belt—not to mention the marketing push by Universal, who has more money to spend than Summit -- should help his new movie give The Accountant a run at the box office this weekend, though it will still likely end up in second place.


MAX STEEL (Open Road)

Cast: Ben Winchell, Josh Brener, Maria Bello, Andy Garcia, Ana Villafañe, Mike Doyle
Director: Stewart Hendler (Sorority Row)
Genre:  Action, Adventure
Rated PG
Plot:
Telling the story of how Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) met his alien companion Steel, who combine their powers to become the superhero Max Steel.
Theater Count (est.): 2,000 

Remember what I say every week about one movie that I don’t know almost anything about? Well, this week it’s this new kid-friendly adventure based on Mattel’s toy line that’s been in development for quite a long time. Originally, Paramount bought the movie rights with plans to expand their toy line-based empire, but their rights expired and eventually, smaller production company Dolphin Entertainment came on board to make a movie, which they began over two years ago.

There isn’t much of a cast to speak of with the only known actors being Maria Bello and Andy Garcia, who honestly seem to be doing anything for a buck at this point in their careers.

Since I don’t know anything about the toys or the cartoons and video games that have been based on them, I’m not sure what else to say about the movie except that distributor Open Road aren’t screening the movie in advance for critics and the movie is pretty much being dumped with very little marketing to speak of, so if you or your kids have any interest, I’d see it soon because I don’t expect it to be in theaters for long.


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS: 

Ben Affleck’s latest action-thriller The Accountant should be victorious this weekend even if reviews aren’t very good, but Kevin Hart: What Now? could attract a lot of the comedian’s many fans, putting it in second place. The only other wide release, the family adventure Max Steel will probably be lucky if it gets into the Top 10 with the little amount of awareness it has among mainstream moviegoers.

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

1. The Accountant (Warner Bros.) - $19.3 million N/A

2. Kevin Hart: What Now? (Universal) -   $15.1 million N/A

3. The Girl on the Train (Universal) - $11.8 million -52%

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Fox) - $8.2 million -46%

5. Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate) - $7 million -40%

6. Storks (Warner Bros.) - $5.5 million -34%

7. The Magnificent Seven (Sony) - $5 million -46%

8. Max Steel (Open Road) - $4.6 million N/A

9. The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight)  - $4.1 million -42%

10. Middle School (CBS Films) - $4 million -42%

LAST YEAR:

The second weekend of October picked up a bit from the previous weekend as Sony’s Goosebumps, starring Jack Black, won the weekend with $23.6 million, putting it just ahead of the two-time box office leader The Martian. Steven Spielberg’s spy-thriller Bridge of Spies (DreamWorks), starring Tom Hanks, opened quietly with just $15 million, while Guillermo del Toro’s “Not a horror movie” Crimson Peak (Universal), starring Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, took fourth place with $13.1 million. The Christian football drama Woodlawn opened in ninth place with $4 million in 1,553 theaters.


THIS WEEK’S PICKS: 

This is another week with a lot of limited releases, but at least there’s a lot of things I can  recommend even if I don’t have the time to write as much about them this week.

MISS HOKUSAI (GKIDS)

Voice Cast: Anne Higashide, Kumiko Asô, Gaku Hamada, Kengo Kôra, Yutaka Matsushige, Shion Shimizu, Jun Miho
Director: Keiichi Hara (Colorful)
Genre:  Animation, Drama, Fantasy
Unrated
Plot:
During the Edo period of Japan, the artist Hokusai is one of the country’s most famous artists, but it’s his shy but hard-working daughter O-Ei who is slaving over the artwork in the studio to create pieces for which her father gets all the credit. 

While I like Japanese animated films (or anime, if you like), I’m not the most diehard fan, and I’m very selective of the anime that I watch, and this one being delivered by GKIDS, who have been releasing a lot of Studio Ghibli’s animated films, is a really special film. Much like the recent Tim Burton film Big Eyes, this is another story about a woman whose artistic talents are ignored in favor of a man, but it’s a much more layored, almost episodic film, that follows O-Ei, daughter of the famous artist Hokusai, as she tries to win her father’s love and respect.  The movie is set during Tokyo’s Edo period but it doesn’t deal with samurai, just normal people and artists and other working class people around the city, as it mixes drama, romance, humor and even a bit of fantasy. Definitely recommended for fans of anime and Japanese art in general.

Miss Hokusai will open in New York at the Angelika Film Center and in L.A. at the Landmark Nuart Friday and then many others theaters starting October 21. You can see the full list of theaters on the Official Site.


DESIERTO (STX Entertainment)

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo, Diego Cataño, Oscar Flores, Marco Pérez
Director: Jonás Cuáron (Year of the Nail)
Genre:  Thriller
Rated R
Plot:
A group of illegal Mexicans trying to get into the United States are terrorized and hunted by a man (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his vicious dog.

Most people will know filmmaker Jonás Cuáron for his better-known father Alfonso Cuáron, with whom he co-wrote the 2013 outer space hit Gravity, but the apple has clearly not fallen far from the tree as Cuáron makes an impressive sophomore feature. (Frankly, I’ve never seen his earlier film Year of the Nail or Año Uña from 2007.) What’s amazing about Desierto is that it starts out just like any other movie about Mexicans trying to get into the country, but then it quickly turns into a tense mainstream thriller similar to the recent Don’t Breathe. I’ve really been digging what Gael Garcia Bernal has been doing in recent years, and this his third film with a Cuáron after Y Tu Mama Tambien and Rudy y Cursi with uncle Carlos.  Even more surprising is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is almost unrecognizable as the ruthless killer who begins to pick off the group of Mexicans with a hunting rifle before sic’ing his vicious dog on the survivors. This movie may surprise a lot of people by how well it works, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be getting much promotion, and it’s only being released in around 74 theaters this Friday.


Next, we have two rather grim films opening exclusively at the Film Forum in New York this week.

TOWER (Kino Lorber)

Voice Cast: Violett Beane, Louie Arnette, Blair Jackson, Monty Muir, Chris Doubek, Reece Everett Ryan, Josephine McAdam
Director:  Keith Maitland (The Eyes of Me)
Genre: Animation, Documentary
Plot: An animated film recreating the August 1, 1966 shootings in Austin, Texas, where a man stationed at the top of the University Tower at the University of Texas in Austin with a sniper rifle killed 16 people in the course of 96 minutes.

Yeah, three of the movies I picked this week are pretty dark, but we live in dark times, so it makes sense that films are reflecting this. Long before Columbine and Sandy Hook, this shooting in Austin, Texas during the mid-60s shocked the nation, and in Keith Maitland’s doc, actors recreate first-person accounts of those who were around on that day with actors reading the testimonials, combined with interviews with the actual survivors in the present day talking about what happened. The film does an incredible job just putting you into the shoes of those who were there on the day of the shooting, and it’s an absolutely terrifying account that keeps you fairly caught up in what essentially was just 96 minutes of terror.

Having just been nominated for three Critics Choice Documentary Awards—which the Weekend Warrior helped nominate --Tower opens Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York, then expands to L.A. on Friday and opens in Austin on October 21. You can find the full schedule on the movie’s website.


CHRISTINE (The Orchard)

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Timothy Simons
Director: Antonio Campos (Afterschool, Simon Killer)
Genre:  Drama
Rated R
Plot:
Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) is a Sarasota, Florida-based television reporter at WXLT, who feels she deserves more than life has given her, so one day, she shoots herself in the head on live television.  

Not to be confused with the 1983 movie based on the Stephen King novel, this is an incredible character drama from Borderline Productions’ Antonio Campos that tries to get into the head of Florida newswoman Christine Chubbuck who in 1974 shot herself on live television, becoming the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film Network. It’s an interesting choice for filmmaker Antonio Campos, who has explored similarly dark material in the past, but this is his first movie based on a real historical event and tries to explain why Chubbuck did what she did. Rebecca Hall gives an absolutely indelible performance that really shows Christine’s personal issues trying to achieve her goals at work and life, and that performance is what really makes the film quite memorable. Christine premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year along with Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine, which acts more as a documentary about the event with Kate Lyn Sheil talking to people who knew Christine before her death.

This will open at Film Forum on Friday before expanding to other cities. Check out the trailer below:

Also, if you like spy thrillers like Bond and Bourne, EPIX is launching their new TV drama Berlin Station, starring Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), Richard Jenkins, Rhys Ifans, Leland Orser and more, this Sunday. You can watch the first episode for free on EPIX, but they’re also doing a free weekend for those who aren’t subscribers this weekend.


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

Already playing in theaters and for the next week is Shin Godzilla (Funimation), Toho Studios’ latest attempt to revive the legendary monster using new motion capture technology, creating a movie more like the original 1954 Gojira i.e. darker with Godzilla being more threatening than kid-friendly, as Tokyo is once again invaded by the legendary fire-breathing lizard, Gojira. It will play for one week only in select cities

Wendy and Lucy director Kelly (Wendy and Lucy) Reichardt’s new film Certain Women (IFC Films) is based on the short stories of Maile Meloy telling three stories about women in a small town, as played by Michelle Williams (star of two previous Reichardt films), Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. It will open in New York and L.A. Friday

Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong stars in Ordinary World (Universal) (formerly Geezer) from filmmaker Lee Kirk (The Giant Mechanical Man), in which he plays Perry Miller, a former punk rocker who, ten years after his band went on hiatus, is struggling to adjust to the world while working in his family hardware store.  When his lawyer wife (Selma Blair) and daughter forget his 40th birthday, Perry’s brother (Chris Messina) gives him money to throw a huge rockstar bash in a fancy New York hotel. Featuring new music from Armstrong including the song “Ordinary World” which appears on Green Day’s latest album, it will open in select cities and be available on Digital HD and On Demand Friday. (And it also stars Judy Greer, who is always awesome. This didn’t quite make my top picks, but it’s quite fun, especially if you’re a Green Day fan.)

Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider-Woman) stars in Aquarius (Vitagraph), the new film from Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighboring Sounds), in which she plays Clara, a 65-year-old widow and the last resident at an apartment complex in the Brazilian seaside town of Recife, who is being pressured by owners and family alike to sell the apartment, so they can do renovations. It opens in New York and L.A. following its festival run, and it’s yet to be determined whether Brazil will pick this as their Oscar selection.

Next, we have two films from the SXSW Film Festival…

First up is Zach Clark’s Little Sister (Forage Film Company) about a Goth girl named Colleen (Addison Timlin), about to take her vows to become a nun when she learns her injured brother Jacob (Keith Poulson) has returned from Iraq, so she goes back home to see him just around the time of Halloween. ‘80s star Ally Sheedy plays Colleen’s mother. It opens at New York’s Metrograph on Friday and then at the Arena Cinema in L.A. on October 29.

Next, we have Thomas Dekker’s horror film Jack Goes Home (Momentum Pictures) stars Rory Culkin as Jack Thurlowe, a magazine editor whose fiancée Cleo (Britt Robertson) is seven months pregnant when he learns his parents have been injured in a car accident, killing his father but leaving his mother Teresa (Lin Shaye) alive.  When he goes home, the tense relationship between Jack and his mother leads to him learning that his peaceful childhood was a lie. It opens in select cities and On Demand.

A year after its Austin Film Festival premiere and opening in select cities is James (“In Treatment”) Sadwith’s Coming Through the Rye (Sam Goldwyn), which reunites him with Alex Wolff  (“The Naked Brothers Band”) who plays 16-year-old Jamie Schwartz whose life at an all-boy boarding school is brightened by his dream to play JD Salinger’s hero Holden Caulfield on Broadway, so he runs off with a local girl to New Hampshire in search of Salinger (played by Chris Cooper).

The latest faith-based drama comes from Christian rock group KING & COUNTRY, brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, is Priceless (Roadside Attractions), which will open in over 300 theaters Friday. It’s a drama/thriller starring Joel as James Stevens, a good man whose wife dies leaving him with custody of their little girl and with his life in a downturn, he agrees to drive a truck across country for cash no questions asked, only to discover the truck’s true contents and secret. 

The Mexican animated film La Leyenda del Chupacabras (Lionsgate/Pantelion) is a sequel to Alberto Chino Rodriguez’s 2011 hit Mexican film La Leyende de la Llorna, following the latest adventure of Leo San Juan, who is taken prisoner and locked in an abandoned convent after being mistaken for an insurgent. There, he encounters a winged monster known as El Chupacabras.

Melinda Yanko’s doc 100 Years follows Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet warrior from Montana who takes on the government when money disappears from Indian Trust accounts, and she spends 30 years trying to get justice for the 300,000 Native Americans who lost money due to a corrupt Treasure of her tribe.

Lastly, we have a couple movies on streaming and TV that are getting a limited theatrical release including Kevin MacDonald’s doc Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (Netflix), a look at the Chinese artist who uses gunpowder in his work to create fantastic pieces as seen at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the movie focusing on his latest work, the Sky Ladder, a 1,650-foot ladder of fire in the skies over Cai’s hometown. Similarly getting a theatrical release before showing on PBS, the biographical doc Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (American Masters) tells the story of the influential and inspirational poet.  Premiering on Netflix Wednesday is Justin Timberlake + the JT Kids (Netflix), Jonathan Demme’s documentary that follows the recording artist leading up to the final date on his 20/20 Experience World Tour at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, culminating two years on the road.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies, including FIVE (!!!!) new wide releases including Tom Cruise’s return as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Paramount), the horror prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween (Lionsgate) and the comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses (Fox)

(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)

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