The Weekend Warrior 11/18/16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Edge of Seventeen, Bleed for This
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.
THIS PAST WEEKEND:
As expected, Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls remained #1 and #2 while Paramount’s Arrival took third place but with quite a bit more than I predicted. The Amy Adams-J Tsci-fi drama took in $23 million in its opening weekend to take third place. The ensemble comedy Almost Christmas took fourth place with $15.1 million, right around where I predicted, but with an “A-“ CinemaScore which might help it fare well over the next few weeks, especially over Thanksgiving weekend. The Naomi Watt thriller Shut In (EuropaCorp) bombed with just $3.6 million in 2,050 theaters, an average of less than $2 million, which just goes to show that it’s sometimes better to screen for critics (although that may have been disproven by its 0% Rotten score on RottenTomatoes… ouch!)
This is going to be a rough weekend for any movie trying to open against Warner Bros’ latest journey into the world of Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, and yet, there are three movies that will try to make any sort of impact at all, but will likely end up with less than $10 million each, and a couple possibly with less than $5 million this weekend.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (Warner Bros.)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Jenn Murray, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Zoe Kravitz
Director: David Yates (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2, The Legend of Tarzan)
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action, Humor
Plot: Arriving in New York in 1926, “Magizoologist” Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is trying to help find a mysterious creature that’s destroying sections of New York before Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) and the Magical Congress of the United State of America (MACUSA) find and destroy it. Unfortunately, Newt’s briefcase full of magical creatures breaks open and some of them escape, so he, along with an auror named Tina (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sobol) and a “No-Maj” named Jake (Dan Fogler) must find them before they too are destroyed.
Theater Count (est.): 4,000+
At this point, if you don’t know about this movie and its connections to the world of JK Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter series of books, then you probably have absolutely no interest in seeing it, plain and simple.
It’s been five years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 killed at the box office, opening with and grossing more than all the previous seven installments with a $169 million opening (at the time, the biggest opening ever) and grossing $381 million total. That capped off a franchise that grossed $2.4 billion domestically and $7.7 billion worldwide, certainly putting it up there with some of the biggest movie franchises.
Fantastic Beasts is a different animal, first of all because it’s not based on JK Rowling’s books, although she actually wrote it directly for the screen with the promise of four more movies. Director David Yates, who directed the final four Harry Potter movies, returns to direct at least the next couple installments, although there definitely will be some “waiting to see” if the first installment can even find the success of the first Harry Potter movie
The Harry Potter series did amazing box office business without having very many known stars, which isn’t as much the case with Fantastic Beasts, which stars already established Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne from The Theory of Everything and last year’s The Danish Girl. He’s joined by Katherine Waterston, an upcoming second generation actress, and Dan Fogler, a comedic actor in the funny fat guy vein as Jack Black and Josh Gad, and Alison Sobol from the Amazon show Transparent. Ezra Miller also takes on a key role after being cast as The Flash for Warner Bros’ DC Expanded Universe. They’re joined by better-known actors like Colin Farrell and Jon Voight, as well as Samantha Morton, but it will really be the premise and the fact that it’s written by Rowling that will interest most moviegoers.
The good thing about the movie is that even with a PG-13 rating, it will bring in parents with kids, probably in the 7 to 10 year old range, and that audience should give the movie a nice boost over movies like Doctor Strange and even Trolls.
It’s going to be shooting for the opening weekend of the original Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, which opened with $90.3 million this same weekend 16 years ago, when that was still considered a lot of money, but it might fall just short without the name brand of the book series. Fantastic Beasts should still prove to be a significant enough draw to do similar business as Doctor Strange and then get a nice bump over Thanksgiving based on positive word-of-mouth.
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (STX Entertainment)
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto
Writer/Director: Kelly Fremon Craig (writer of Post Grad)
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Plot: Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is your typical teen who is unpopular school and can barely deal with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and far-too-perfect older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). When her only friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating Darian, Nadine reaches her wit’s end and turns to her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) for advice.
Theater Count (est.): 1,850+
Usually, offering some sort of counter-programming against a big potential tentpole film is a good idea, but maybe not so much when your counter-programming is targeting the exact same teen girls that would probably rather go see Fantastic Beasts.
It’s a shame because this coming-of-age comedy that premiered as the Closing Night film at the Toronto International Film Festival is actually quite delightful and very original in a way that audiences who see it will probably enjoy it, but it’s definitely going to be a harder sell with so many strong movies already in theaters.
The film is a showcase for 19-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld, who was nominated for an Oscar six years ago for her role opposite Jeff Bridges in the Coens’ Western True Grit. That was followed by roles in John Carney’s Begin Again, the adaptation of Ender’s Game and a role in Pitch Perfect 2, none of which really showed her off as an actress who deserved that Oscar nomination. (Sorry Hailee!) She’s joined by entertaining and respected actors like Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick, neither of whom have proven to be box office draws, as well as younger talent Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some!) and Haley Lu Richardson.
This is the feature film debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, a fairly unknown screenwriter who managed to get James L. Brooks to produce her debut—much like he did the first movies by Wes Anderson and Cameron Crowe! (And if there isn’t a more deserving movie to be called this generation’s Say Anything than this one.) It’s hard to tell if that might have any effect on people wanting to see the movie as much as it just being an interesting fact.
As much as I personally love this movie and have been trying to recommend it to many friends and colleagues who may like it but are put off by the subject matter, it’s definitely an even harder sell going up against the higher profile Fantastic Beasts, and this might not have been the best weekend for the still-fledgling STX Entertainment to release it.
Reviews are already pretty good, but the movie’s still going to be a tough sell for anyone older than 17, although word-of-mouth from those who see it should be good enough to find an audience after opening weekend… maybe when it plays regularly on cable for decades to come.
LRM Interview with James L. Brooks (Coming Soon)
BLEED FOR THIS (Open Road)
Cast: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ted Levine, Ciaran Hinds, Jordan Gelber, Amanda Clayton
Director: Ben Younger (Boiler Room, Prime)
Genre: Boxing, Drama
Plot: The true story of Providence, Rhode Island boxer Vinny Paz (Miles Teller), who was on his way to stardom when he was in a near-fatal car accident that left him with a broken neck, potentially never being able to walk or box again. Working with trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), Vinny began to train relentlessly so that when his cumbersome neck brace was removed, he was able to return to the ring and win a third world title in a new weight class.
Theater Count (est.): 2,000
Speaking of counter-programming, here’s something that probably has a better chance at finding an audience while opening against Fantastic Beasts, since it’s a boxing drama targeting older males who won’t be as interested in the fantasy adventure. It stars Miles Teller in his fourth movie of the year including Allegiant, Get a Job and the summer’s War Dogs. Teller has clearly been set up as a major star of the future over the last few years after roles in Footloose and the Oscar-nominated Whiplash, but he hasn’t quite connected with the audiences to become an A-lister. He’s joined by Aaron Eckhart, who is coming off his supporting role in Clint Eastwood’s popular film Sully and is playing a very memorable role as Vinny Paz’s trainer.
One thing that separates Bleed For This from other super-serious boxing dramas like Eastwood’s own Million Dollar Baby is that it’s an entertaining movie filled with dark humor provided by Miles Teller, but the commercials aren’t really conveying that aspect of the movie.
Like The Edge of Seventeen (above), Bleed for This also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival but not with the same buzz as many other movies that have opened or will be opening. It’s rated a 77% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which certainly isn’t bad and might help gain some interest among boxing and boxing movie fans.
Open Road hasn’t exactly been making waves in terms of marketing their movies, despite having their movie Spotlight win Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year. it grossed about $45 million at the box office, about $100 million than the “second place” The Revenant. In fact, their biggest hit was the animated The Nut Job with $64.2 million and that could have just been blind luck of releasing an animated movie during a slow market. Their most recent biopic, Oliver Stone’s Snowden only made about $21 million, which also isn’t great.
That said, they’ve made sure there’ve been plenty of commercials on sports channels where it might attract the same older male audience that might not have much interest in Fantastic Beasts, and maybe some will be interested in the movie whereas few were interested in the Robert De Niro boxing movie Hands of Stone a few months back. It bombed with just $1.7 million opening weekend and less than $5 million total. (Ironically, that film’s subject matter, Roberto Duran, also appears in Bleed For This, getting beaten by Vinny Paz.)
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (TriStar Pictures/Sony)
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin
Director: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, The Life of Pi, Hulk and many more)
Plot: When 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) is declared a hero for a daring rescue attempt to save his sergeant (Vin Diesel), he and his Bravo cohorts are brought to take part in the half-time show at a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, but once home, Billy sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart) just wants him to leavethe war behind and stay home.
Theater Count (est.): 1,100+
These are definitely strange times when the new film from a two-time Oscar winner like Ang Lee is the low man on the totem pole, but there are reasons why this adaptation of Ben Fountain’s 2011 novel isn’t getting more attention or recognition.
It’s especially strange because the film features big stars like Kristen Stewart and Vin Diesel, as well as actors who haven’t appeared much in theaters like Steve Martin and Chris Tucker. That certainly makes for a strange cast that also includes Garrett Hedlund, who career has included roles in Tron Legacy, the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis and last year’s bomb Pan.
The movie is partially about a group of soldiers trying to deal with being among the populace at a Thanksgiving football game and America’s impressions of our war heroes, and partially a war film set in Iraq—the latter of which we’ve seen so much of in recent years, that it makes the film feel a little dated.
Last weekend, Billy Lynn’s opened in two theaters--one in New York and one in L.A.--the only two theaters that could accommodate the 120 FPS high-frame rate in which Lee shot the movie. It grossed about $120,000, a decent per theater average of $60,000 per theater. This weekend, it expands nationwide, but only into about 1,200 theaters, which is fairly moderate for a major studio release from a prestigious filmmaker, but only the first two theaters will continue to play it in 120 FPS.
The problem is that when the movie had early screenings at the New York Film Festival, it was received fairly poorly and those negative early reactions and many Oscar predictors pulling it out of the awards running may have given Sony second thoughts about giving it a major wide release last week. It should still be able to kowtow to the post-Veteran’s Day patriotism that’s still alive in certain parts of the country that weren’t left saddened by last week’s election.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
It's pretty obvious that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will destroy the box office this weekend, but the question is whether any of the returning movies, including Trolls, can hold up against it, more than whether any of the other three new movies can make a mark. Expect STX Entertainment's The Edge of Seventeen to do the best of them but still end up in the bottom half of the Top 10.
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
UPDATE: Holding the line on most of my projections although lowering Bleed for This, since it's not getting the 2,000 theaters projected earlier in the week.
1. Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them (Warner Bros.) - $86.5 million N/A (up .1 million)
2. Trolls (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) - $22.7 million -35%
3. Doctor Strange (Marvel/DC) - $20.6 million -52%
4. Arrival (Paramount) - $11.5 million -50%
5. Almost Christmas (Universal) - $9.1 -40%
6. The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment) - $8.0 million N/A (up .5 million)
7. Hacksaw Ridge (Summit/Lionsgate) - $6.7 million -37%
8. Bleed for This (Open Road) - $4.6 million N/A (down .5 million)
9. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Sony) - $4.3 million N/A
10. The Accountant (Warner Bros.) - $2.4 million -45% (down .2 million)
Last year was a lot like this year with one huge franchise movie and a couple others trying to pick up the scraps of what’s left from moviegoing audiences. And yet, the big movie, The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2 (Lionsgate) didn’t fare as well as the previous installments opening with “only” $102.7 million in 4,175 theaters. Even so, the next new movie, the comedy The Night Before (Sony) starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, only opened in fourth place with $9.8 million, followed by The Secret in Their Eyes (STX) in fifth place with just $6.6 million. Unfortunately, this might be a similar situation this week with only Fantastic Beasts doing very well.
THIS WEEK’S PICK:
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (Focus Features)
Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Karl Glusman, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen, Jena Malone
Writer/Director: Tom Ford (A Single Man)
Genre: Drama, Crime
Plot: Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a successful art gallery owner who receives a manuscript of a novel written by her ex-husband Charles (Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s a crime thriller involving a teacher named Tony (also Gyllenhaal) driving on a lone stretch of the highway with his family when they encounter a group of redneck hoodlums who kidnap his wife and daughter. Along with a local sheriff (Michael Shannon), Tony tries to find out what happened to his wife and daughter and get revenge on the men responsible, as Susan reflects back on how her relationship with Charles fell apart.
Nocturnal Animals is the second film from fashion icon Tom Ford, his follow-up to the 2009 drama A Single Man, for which Colin Firth was nominated for an Oscar. Nocturnal Animals has similar noteworthy and hopefully awards-worthy performances from Amy Adams—who may instead get nominated for last week’s Arrival—Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon, but it’s also a very dark film that won’t be for everyone.
It’s an interesting departure for Ford, being that it’s adapted from an Austin Wright book called Tony and Susan, and yet Ford gives it very much his own touch by setting much of it in the pretentious L.A. art world where Amy Adam’s character Susan is immersed as an art gallery owner. Ford seems to be so intimately familiar with that world that there’s a wry humor to Susan’s interactions with colleagues, played by the likes of Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen and Jena Malone, all in tiny but funny roles.
But it’s also a movie that has two stories running concurrently, the more interesting one being the one within the book written by Susan’s ex Charles, about a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped who is then racked with guilt and a desire for revenge. These scenes are great because Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon are so great together, as is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as one of the rednecks Gyllenhaal and his family encounter on a deserted road. Even though it’s a dark and violent tale, more in the vein of Deliverance than Hitchcock, there’s some humor built-in to Shannon and Taylor-Johnson’s characters, Shannon playing a West Texas sheriff in a similar vein as Jeff Bridges’ in the excellent Hell or High Water.
The grittiness of that story is countered with the beauty of the modern-day, as cinematographer Sheamus McGarvey’s camera just loves perring longingly at Amy Adams as she’s reading that manuscript and getting more disturbed by each twist and turn. Granted, it’s a little hard to believe that 20 years has passed between the present-day Susan and her younger self, although you have to give Adams credit for being able to play this character at two extremes of her life.
Without ruining things, Nocturnal Animals is a film that deals subversively (and sometimes overtly) with guilt, regret and revenge, as it draws parallels between the story Susan is reading with how her relationship with her first husband fell apart, leading to her second loveless marriage with Armie Hammer. The way Susan and Charles’ story is slowly unveiled makes things clearer as the film progresses, and like I said before, it’s not going to be for everyone, but anyone who enjoys the work of Pedro Almodovar should appreciate Ford’s similarly gorgeous and layered thriller.
Nocturnal Animals opens in select cities on Friday, November 18, expands on November 23 and then goes wide on December 9.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Casey Affleck stars in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions) in a role that may get him an Oscar, playing Lee Chandler, a Boston janitor who has to return home to his suburban Massachusetts neighborhood when his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies suddenly and asks Lee to care for his troubled teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is still trying to come to terms with the tragedy that separated him from his own family and ex-wife (Michelle Williams), and doesn’t think he’s ready to be Patrick’s guardian. Manchester by the Sea opens in New York and Los Angeles Friday with expansion plans going into awards season where the film should do especially well among critics. Me, personally? I saw the movie’s premiere at Sundance, and I wasn’t quite as enamored as other critics who raved about it. There’s no question, Affleck is terrific, but it’s a slow film and LONG—not nearly as long as Lonergan’s previous film Margaret—but it still drags and there’s so much of the film that seems extraneous to the story. In other words, I think some people will like it more than others, and the fact that a drama nut like me leaned closer to “others” makes me think it will be more of a critical hit than commercial one.
Formerly called “Bastille Day”, The Take (High Top Releasing) is the new crime-thriller from James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black) about an American pickpocket (Richard Madden) who teams with a CIA agent (Idris Elba) for an anti-terrorism mission in France. Presumably delayed after the Paris shootings a year back, yet still released in just about every other country in the world (including France) earlier this year, this is presumed to be opening wide this weekend, for some odd reason.
John Travolta and Kate Bosworth star in David (Saw V) Hackl's Life on the Line (Lionsgate Premiere), a family drama revolving around Texas linemen, those who perform the dangerous job of climbing up electrical poles to maintain the county’s electrical grid. Travolta plays a veteran lineman named Beau, whose relationship with his orphaned niece Bailey (Kate Bosworth) is affected by her relationship with his fellow lineman Duncan (Devon Sawa), as a huge storm is about to hit the area. It opens in select cities and On Demand. Having seen the movie, I wasn't particularly impressed, as it's a fairly corny Southern soap opera that focuses more on the overly-complicated lives of the characters rather than focusing on showing the brave linemen the movie's meant to pay tribute to, even including a charity that provides funds to the families of linemen killed on duty. This was a missed opportunity to create something on par with the recent Deepwater Horizon, and it's probably better that it's getting dumped to VOD.
Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary (Well Go USA) is a Chinese drama starring Fan Bingbing (X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Li Xuellan who stages a fake divorce from her husband so that they can get a second apartment reserved for “single people” but when her husband remarries, she takes on the Chinese system to earn back her reputation that’s been tarnished by her ex-husband’s actions. It opens in select cities Friday.
Andre Royo (The Wire, Empire) won a Best Actor award out of SXSW for Hunter Gatherer (The Orchard), Josh Locy’s first time feature about Ashley Douglas, a Tennessee man released after three years in jail, trying to start a new life without friends or connections, living in his mother’s house. When he meets a loner named Jeremy, the two of them start a business of dumping refrigerators for cash. It opens in select cities Friday.
The “Clown” from metal band Slipknot, M. Shawn Crahan, teams with Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates for Officer Downe (Magnolia Pictures), an adaptation of Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s comic book about a crime-fighting Los Angeles police officer brought back to life every time he dies, losing his sanity each time. Sounds a little too much like R.I.P.D. (or the person who greenlit it), doesn’t it? It opens in select cities (basically San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri) and On Demand Friday.
Screening in L.A. on Thursday and available on iTunes on November 24 is Love Is All You Need?, Kim Rocco Shield’s take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in a world where homosexuality is the norm and being heterosexual is illegal. Based on Shields’ award-winning short film, it follows a female university star quarterback in Middle America (Briana Evigan) who has an affair with a male journalist (Tyler Blackburn), shaking up their community and the nation.
Tomorrow Never Dies director Roger Spottiswoode directs A Street Cat Named Bob (Cleopatra Films), an adaptation of the bestselling book about a homeless man named James Bowen (Luke Treadaway from Attack the Block) who finds an injured tom cat living on the streets that he names “Bob” and after James nurses the cat back to health, it helps James get his own life back together. It opens in select cities and On Demand.
Magnus (FilmRise) is Benjamin Ree’s new documentary about Norwegian child prodigy turned chess grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen, the “Mozart of Chess,” who became World Champion in 2013. It opens at the Village East Cinema in New York on Friday and in L.A. and elsewhere on November 25.
Mari-Lynn Evansand Jordan Freeman’s doc Blood on the Mountain (Abramorama) takes a look at the struggles of the coal workers in West Virginia and how they’re being exploited by corporate interests and not represented in the government. This follows the filmmaker’s previous docs The Appalachians and Coal Country.
Opening at New York’s Film Forum Wednesday is Notes on Blindness, Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s doc that brings to life theologian John Hull’s philosophies as he lost his sight at the age of 48. Also at Film Forum starting Friday is a new restoration of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (Cohen Media), which follows an African family’s 1902 migration to the North, led by a group of women.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies opening over Thanksgiving weekend, including Disney’s Moana, featuring the voice of Dwayne Johnson, the Robert Zemeckis war drama Allied (Paramount), starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes film Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox), and the next big holiday movie, Bad Santa 2!
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)