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:
It wasn’t a bad Thanksgiving weekend, especially for the Weekend Warrior who pretty much nailed two of his predictions for the weekend! Disney Animation’s Moana indeed at opened at #1 with $55.5 million for the three-day weekend (exactly my prediction), although it ended up with more--$81.1 million--in its first five days. The Brad Pitt-Marion Cotillard spy thriller, Allied (Paramount), directed by Robert Zemeckis, also opened with $18 million, right on track with my prediction. I guess I could take some comfort on being spot on with two of the Thanksgiving releases—like I said last week, that holiday weekend is a bear to predict—but I way overestimated the other two movies as sequelitis indeed hit Billy Bob Thornton’s comedy sequel Bad Santa 2 (Broad Green), which opened with just $9 million in its first days, $10 million less than I predicted. The biggest bomb of the weekend was Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox), which didn’t even make it into the Top 10, making just $2.1 million in its first five days or half my prediction. Other surprises included Paramount’s Arrival surpassing Trolls, which took a big tumble from #2 down to #6 with the added competition of Moana.
Just as the Thanksgiving weekend is always very busy, the weekend after tends to die down as everyone is getting back to work and school before the long holiday vacation ahead. Because of this, not a lot of studios will release new movies, and that being the case, we only have one new movie.
INCARNATE (High Top Releasing)
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, David Mazouz, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Carice van Houten, Mark Henry
Director: Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Plot: Dr. Seth Ember (Eckhart) is a scientist who is able to enter the subconscious mind of those who are possessed, a supernatural ability he has to use save a 9-year-old boy from the grips of demons while facing his own horrors from the past.
Theater Count (est.): 1,500
This being the weekend after Thanksgiving and there being people who have already seen every movie in theaters, there’s usually a studio with a movie they don’t know what to do with that will dump it this weekend. Sometimes, that’s paid off, like last year’s Krampus (see below), but most of the time, those movies are completely ignored as most of the country is completely movied out.
It makes sense that a smaller budget horror film like Incarnate is the way to go as Blumhouse Productions releases their sixth or seventh movie of the year, this one through their own BH Tilt imprint of High Top Releasing following The Darkness back in May, which grossed $10.7 million after opening with under $5 million. Their previous release, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno grossed just $7.2 million when it was finally released last year.
This is Aaron Eckhart’s third movie since Labor Day, having played key supporting characters in Clint Eastwood’s hit Sully and the more recent boxing bomb Bleed for This. The last time Eckhart headlined a movie was 2014’s awful I, Frankenstein, also bombed with just $19 million, although he’s done better teamed with Gerard Butler for Olympus Has Fallen and its less successful sequel London Has Fallen. They might have done better promoting the fact that Dutch actress Carice van Houten is in the movie, since her career has done better since joining HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Although the movie is produced by Blumhouse, who have had many successful horror hits, the film is directed by Brad Peyton who has very little credibility in the horror realm, having directed a bunch of family comedy sequels, and only really had much of an impact with last year’s earthquake movie, San Andreas.
The one good thing working in the movie’s favor is that it deals with exorcism, a subject for horror films that have done quite well, including The Exorcism of Emily Rose, directed by Doctor Strange’s Scott Derickson, which grossed $75 million, and the low budget The Last Exorcism, which grossed $41 million. Clearly, moviegoers beyond horror fans are interested in that subject, but Incarnate might handle it in too odd a way.
While the movie has been relatively well-advertised, it’s only being released into roughly 1,500 theaters, which is rarely a sign for a big break-out hit as seen by EuropaCorp’s recent Shut-In, which opened with just $3.6 million in 500 more theaters, although that opened against two stronger films.
With that in mind, Incarnate is likely to bomb in a similar way, making less than $5 million and ending up in the bottom half of the Top 10.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
The weekend after Thanksgiving is notoriously bad because even the most popular movies over the holiday tend to have huge drops the next weekend with everyone back to school and work. Even so, Incarnate doesn’t seem likely to do much better than the bottom half of the Top 10. Unfortunately, the next couple weeks are going to be relatively slow until the release of the next Star Wars installment in two weeks.
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
1. Moana (Disney) - $24.3 million -57%
2. Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them (Warner Bros.) - $20.3 million -55%
3. Doctor Strange (Marvel/DC) - $6.3 million -54%
4. Allied (Paramount) - $5.8 million -54%
5. Arrival (Paramount) - $5.6 million -51%
6. Trolls (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) - $4.7 million -56%
7. Incarnate (High Top Releasing) - $3.5 million N/A
8. Hacksaw Ridge (Summit/Lionsgate) - $2.8 million -48%
9. Bad Santa 2 (Broad Green) - $2.5 million -60%
10. Almost Christmas (Universal) - $2.4 million -57%
The weekend after Thanksgiving last year was similar in that it only saw the release of one horror film, the holiday-related Krampus (Universal), which actually did quite well with a $16.3 million opening, which put it in second place after The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2 with $18.8 million. This weekend should still do relatively better with stronger returning films, even if Incarnate bombs.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
JACKIE (Fox Searchlight)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Saarsgard, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Pablo Larrain (No, The Club, upcoming Neruda)
Plot: After the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1962, his wife and First Lady, Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) tries to come to terms with his death while also dealing with her transition out of the White House for Vice President Lyndon Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) to take over the Presidency.
I’ve been waiting for months now for this movie to finally be released, but I saw this fantastic film by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain at the Toronto International Film Festival, and then again shortly after, and it’s quite spectacular.
Of course, a lot of the focus will be on Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, which should get her another Oscar nomination, but the movie overall is just fantastic, from Noah Oppenheimer’s screenplay to the amazing team Larrain put together to realize it. Originally, the movie was going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, but he stepped aside to produce, and you can definitely see parallels between this and some of Aronofsky’s own work.
The framing of JFK’s assassination is done via an interview Jackie did with a reporter (played by Billy Crudup) shortly after his death, and as she tells her story, we get flashbacks to them preparing for the fateful motorcade through Dallas in November, 1963. Eventually, we do see the actual incident that’s already been recreated so many other times, but never quite in this way.
What immediately strikes you about Portman’s portrayal is how Jackie talks in a very specific and deliberate way, as if she’s thinking very carefully about every word, but she also has an attitude that might come across as cold or aloof. It’s clear that she comes from an insular life of luxury that she’s afraid to lose after her husband is killed and she has to move out of the White House. The performances of those around her, especially Peter Saarsgard as Bobby Kennedy, really create a full portrait of what the Kennedy family was going through during those times.
Beyond the performances by the fantastic cast, the film just looks gorgeous as Larrain’s production designer, costumes and hair/make-up go to great lengths to recreate the era and what the White House looked like in those times. The cinematography is brilliant and the stark score by Mica Levi may be one of the most amazing film soundtrack’s of the year, often using single instruments to create a mood.
Jackie is such a great film on its own but then you put it next to Larrain’s upcoming Spanish film Neruda—more about that in a couple weeks--and you clearly have a filmmaker who is ready to break through to direct more mainstream American films.
Jackie will open in select cities on Friday and then expand much wider on December 9
The LRM Interview with Pablo Larrain (Coming Thursday, December 1)
OLD STONE (Zeitgeist)
Cast: Gang Chen, Nai An, Hongwei Wan, Zebin Zhang, Xue’er Lo
Director: Johnny Ma (debut)
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Plot: Taxi driver Lao Shi (Gang Chen) accidentally hits a man on a motorcycle while dealing with an unruly passenger. Trying to be a good samaritan when no ambulance arrives, he takes the injured man to the hospital only to be held responsible for the comatose man’s hospital bills since they have no other person to bill. Shi starts to look for the victim’s family and his rich passenger in hopes they’ll help him financially as his world starts to fall apart.
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Chinatown for 25 years that I’m really fascinated by Chinese cinema, especially when it’s a movie that feels so real and authentic, yet has the type of story that plays so well in movies.
Canadian/Chinese director Johnny Ma has made a sensational debut with this movie about Lao Shi, a taxi driver who gets pulled into financial hardships by trying to help someone he accidentally hit with his cab while dealing with a drunk and unruly customer. The young man he hits ends up in a coma and Lao Shi is forced to take fiscal responsibility even though the accident wasn’t his fault. His taxi company also won’t take responsibility and he soon loses his job and has problems at home with his wife (Nai An) that makes it impossible for him to live. Just watching this man’s life falling apart is heartbreaking, but then the movie also has this strange modern noir element to it that will make it interesting to cinephiles.
The film’s last act is absolutely astonishing and unexpected, so I won’t reveal where the film ultimately goes but Ma has done an amazing job creating a story that incorporates the culture and lifestyle of mainland Chinese in a way we haven’t seen very much in the film’s that have been imported to the U.S. This story could probably take place anywhere, including the U.S. and Canada, but setting it in China gives the film a veracity unlike what might have been done if it was set in the States… but hey, I could totally see this movie remade in English as well.
Old Stone opens Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Shia LaBeouf reunites with filmmaker Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) for Man Down (Lionsgate Premiere), a military thriller in which LaBeouf plays US Marine Gabriel Drummer who returns home from Afghanistan to his wife (Kate Mara) and son, suffering from trauma after a mission goes wrong, and he and his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney) must contend with an America that’s been left in an almost post-apocalyptic state as he looks for his son who has been kidnapped. It will open in select cities and probably be On Demand as well.
In Nicolas Pesce’s black and white directorial debut The Eyes of My Mother (Magnolia), a young girl living in seclusion on a farm with her eye surgeon mother and farmer father must learn to cope on her own after the two of them die, her mother at the hands of a psychotic stranger that her father chains up inside their barn. It opens in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC with more theaters to come.
The new film from French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love (Eden) is Things to Come (Sundance Selects), starring Isabelle Huppert as Nathalie, a philosophy teacher who is trying to juggle her various commitments of work and family after finding out her husband of 25 years is leaving her, leaving her feeling adrift but with a freedom she hasn’t had in years. Having won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, this will also open at the IFC Center in New York and other theaters starting Friday.
Opening in select cities, director Akan Satayev’s Anonymous (Archtone Distribution) stars Australian actor Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby) as Alex Danyliuk, a teenager learning about computer programming, who turns to a life of online crime and identity theft after his family hits financial troubles from the banks. Along with a hustler who introduces him to black market trading and another hacker (Lorraine Nicholson) who is actually an FBI mole, they get the attention of the head of the online crime group Darkweb, known only as Z (Clifton Collins, Jr, who also appears in Man Down this weekend).
Opening in select theaters after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Alexey Mizgirev’s Russian historic epic The Duelist (Sony Pictures Releasing International) follows a professional duelist in 19th Century Russia who falls for the beautiful sister of an upcoming opponent.
The Williamsburg venue Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death By Audio, which shut down when Vice Media took over the building is chronicled in venue founder Matt Conboy’s doc, which shows how it went from a communal living space to one of the coolest albeit short-lived rock clubs. It opens at the brand-new Alamo Downtown Brooklyn with screenings on Friday and Saturday night.
Opening in New York at the Cinema Village this Friday is Garrett Zevgedis’ documentary The Best and Most Beautiful Things (First Run Features) follows a 20-year-old Maine woman named Michelle Smith who is legally blind and on the autism spectrum, but is still trying to chase her dreams. After graduating college, she finds herself unemployed and alone until she experiences a “provocative sexual awakening” on the internet. It will open in L.A. on December 9.
Opening at New York’s Film Forum Wednesday is Brendan J. Byrne’s documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days (Content Media) about the 27-year-old member of the IRA who in 1981, while in the middle of a 14-year-sentence for weapons possession, led a hunger strike that lasted 66 days.
Another doc opening in New York, this one at the Metrograph, is Sam Pollard’s Two Trains Runnin’, narrated by Common (Selma), which covers the “Freedom Summit” of 1964 when hundreds of college students converged on Mississippi to fight for civil rights at an important time in that struggle. There will be a discussion with director Sam Pollard, moderated by Alex Gibney on Friday night.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies opening next weekend, including the comedy Office Christmas Party (Paramount) and Jessica Chastain’s Miss Sloane (EuropaCorp) also expands nationwide.
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)