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 per my Thursday update, M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Split ended up winning the weekend but with way more than anyone, including myself, predicted, with more than $40 million for its opening weekend. That’s pretty impressive, and his first movie to open at that level since 2010’s The Last Airbender. Meanwhile, Vin Diesel’s sequel xXx: The Return of Xander Cage ended up making around where I predicted, taking second place with $20.1 million, not a great sign for the continuation of that franchise. Michael Keaton’s The Founder ended up right around where I predicted with $3.4 million, ending up just outside the Top 10. Hidden Figures, La La Land and Sing continued to do well with minimal drop-offs.
This may be another week of surprises if a family movie about dogs and reincarnation ends up beating the latest and last movie in a series based on a video game….
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (Sony/Screen Gems)
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, Lee Joon-Gi, William Levy, Iain Glen.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator, The Three Musketeers, Pompeii and more)
Genre: Action, Horror
Plot: Alice (Milla Jovovich) returns to Raccoon City and the Hive from the first movie to find out the truth about who she is.
Theater Count (est.): 3,000
The third sequel of the year (and it’s only January!) might be one of the first to really have much interest among the franchise’s fanbase, because the fans of the Resident Evil games and movies are fairly diehard. The previous five movies have made nearly a billion worldwide and almost $250 million domestically, so it makes a lot more sense to make a sixth one than it did for some of the other sequels released in the last year.
That said, the last installment Resident Evil: Retribution, released in September 2012, was the second lowest grossing movie after the first one (at least domestically) and that was after 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife, which marked director Paul W.S. Anderson’s return to the franchise. Still, that only grossed $60 million after a $26 million opening. That dip with the last movie may be a little disturbing if not for the fact that this movie at least has other things going for it As the sixth film in the series and fourth directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who happens to be married to actress Milla Jovovich.
Jovovich had already been making a name for herself in films like The Fifth Element (by former husband, director Luc Besson) when she was cast as Alice in the 2002 Resident Evil, a movie that was ahead of its time in terms of being a zombie movie before that genre exploded. It did well enough to produce two sequels, both produced by Anderson but directed by others. In the meantime, Jovovich just wasn’t able to get a hit outside the Resident Evil movies with bombes like Ultraviolet and A Perfect Getaway. She’s only made one small independent movie since the last Resident Evil, while also having another baby.
Likewise, Anderson’s non-Resident Evil movies haven’t fared as well with 2004’s Alien vs. Predator topping the heap with an $80 million gross. His next movie Death Race only made $36 million in North America, and Anderson’s The Three Musketeers and Pompeii both bombed, only making $20 million each. This is also a little worrying when considering whether fans of his earlier films care about him making another.
A few weeks back Underworld: Blood Wars tanked with five years since the previous movie, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is coming out only slightly closer to the previous movie, but it will also be the first installment to be released in January versus September. Another important thing is that whole “Final Chapter” thing might convince fans of earlier movies to catch the grand finale, especially with the promise of wrapping up some of the plotlines introduced way back in that first movie.
Screen Gems’ trailers and marketing have been spot-on, although the movie shared a New York Comic-Con slot with Blood Wars, which seemed to show a lot of fan appreciation who just didn’t show up for that movie’s opening weekend. Like that movie, Screen Gems won't screen it in advance for critics, but at least it's not opening in other territories where their critics might trash it.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter should be good for the same $20 to 23 million as the previous movie and probably will gross around $50 million or maybe slightly more.
A DOG’S PURPOSE (Universal)
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, Juilet Rylance, Luke Kirby, John Ortiz, Pooch Hall, Josh Gad (and a bunch of dogs… voiced by Gad)
Director: Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey, Chocolat, Who Killed Gilbert Grape? Safe Haven and many more)
Genre: Family, Drama, Comedy
Plot: The story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of its existence through the various humans he interacts with. (It also dies and is reincarnated
Theater Count (est.): 2,800
If you asked me a couple weeks ago about this movie, I probably wouldn’t have any idea what you were talking about, and yet, in the past week or two, the buzz for this movie has exploded, some for good reasons but others, not so good.
Just for background, the movie is an adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 novel, which was on the New York Times bestseller list. Obviously, it’s well-known enough for a movie adaptation to make sense, especially when you look back at movies like 2008’s Marley and Me, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, which grossed $143 million after opening with $36.3 million. Clearly, moviegoers like dogs. To this day, that movie is second only to the 2002 Scooby-Doo as far as dog movies, although movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Cats and Dogs have done well among family audiences.
While A Dog’s Purpose doesn’t have stars with the clout of Aniston and Wilson, it still has a decent cast including Dennis Quaid and the popular Josh Gad, and it’s directed by Swedish filmmaker Lasse Halstrom, whose 1985 film My Life as a Dog and little-seen Hachi: A Dog’s Tale shows a true love for canines.
It’s pretty obvious from the commercials that this is a dog whose soul is being passed from one mutt to another (isn’t it?), which might make it uncomfortable for the dog lovers that hate to see dogs dying in a movie. (There’s even a site for them!) But that isn’t the most worrisome part of the movie… uh uh.
Because it doesn’t seem like there can be anything in this world these days without some sort of controversy, video was leaked by TMZ of a dog being mistreated on set that got PETA in an uproar wanting people to boycott the movie. Josh Gad even got involved, tweeting that he was disturbed by what he saw in the video. This definitely could hurt the movie's chances if dog lovers turn against it for that reason, but there's a good chance that a lot of people interested in this movie will be those that don't spend much time on social media anyway.
Either way, it still puts a big question mark on whether the dog lovers and families with kids that would probably have gone to see the movie might automatically decide to give it a pass (even though the dog in the video didn’t die.) Before that video was leaked, this movie was really doing well in terms of interest and could have been the surprise winner of the weekend, but now, who knows? We're in new territory here.
The movie might also not have as much appeal to urban audiences than to those in the suburbs and rural areas, but there’s probably many who never even knew about the movie before the controversy that might see the movie out of sheer curiosity. Either way, it should be good for an opening in the high-teens but more likely will end up in the $23 to 25 million range.
GOLD (Dimension Films-TWC)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach
Director: Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Abandon, writer of Traffic)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Plot: In 1988, Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is a mineral prospector working for his father in a company trying to find gold deposits in third world countries. Hearing about the success of South American Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) at finding copper in Indonesia, Kenny partners up with him and gets other wealthy people to invest in his company, Washow Mining. Now, they just need to find that gold they promised to find.
Theater Count (est.): 2,200
For a second weekend in a row, The Weinstein Company is clearing a movie off its coffers that it’s been sitting on, not quite for as long as The Founder, but still, it’s not getting quite the push of other movies this month, so it’s uncertain how aware or interested audiences are to see it.
The latest film directed by Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic) takes a look at the gold industry in a similar way as films like 2015’s The Big Short and last year’s War Dogs looked at their respective subjects, mixing real life with humor.
More important than anything else, it’s the new movie starring Matthew McConaughey, whose animated film Sing is currently doing gangbusters among family audiences, having grossed $250 million since opening before Christmas. McConaughey’s last movie before that (besides the straight to On-Demand The Sea of Trees) was another animated film, Kubo and the Two Strings, which grossed just $48 million but just received an Oscar nomination. His fourth movie of 2016 was the slavery drama Free State of Jones, which opened with $7.5 million and grossed $20.8 million.
Obviously, there’s very little to be made from the eclectic nature of McConaughey’s career since winning an Oscar for 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, but it’s clear that the actor has become far more respected in the last five years.
McConaughey is joined by Edgar Ramirez, who has also been very busy with an erratic career that includes bombs like Point Break and artier fare like David O. Russell’s Joy, opposite Jennifer Lawrence. It also stars Bryce Dallas Howard in a very small and negligible role.
Gold opened in December for Oscar consideration but reviews haven’t been very good with it being at 42% on RottenTomatoes, and there just doesn’t seem to be very much interest in the movie compared to other movies in theaters.
Last week, Michael Keaton’s The Founder ended up making around $3.5 million in 1,500 theaters and opening in 700 more theaters and with McConaughey, the film should do very well in states where he’s particularly popular, which should allow it to end up slightly higher, maybe with around $5 million.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
For the second week in a row, we’re likely to have a horse race, or maybe a dog race as A Dog’s Purpose is likely to give Resident Evil: The Final Chapter a run for the top spot with the latter doing better on Thursday and Friday but the former picking up steam over the weekend. Controversies be damned. Matthew McConaughey’s new movie Gold just doesn’t seem to have much interest and probably will end up in the lower half of the Top 10.
Update 1.26.17: I've lowered my predictions for the two higher profile new movies although they should still beat the other movies for the weekend. The Important thing to note is that the Oscar-nominated films like La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and others are all expanding into a lot more theaters with La La Land almost doubling its theater count from last week. Although Manchester by the Sea is well ahead of Moonlight in terms of box office gross, the latter might get a better bump from its Oscar nominations and expanding into over 1,000 theaters.
1. A Dog’s Purpose (Universal) - $22.7 million N/A (down 2.6 million)
2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Sony) - $20.5 million N/A (down .9 million)
3. Split (Universal) - $19 million -53% (down .5 million)
4. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $10.3 million -35% (down .2 million)
5. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Paramount) - $9.1 million -55% (down .4 million)
6. La La Land (Lionsgate) – $7.7 million -38% (Up 2.5 million and one place)
7. Sing (Universal) - $5.4 million -40% (down one spot)
8. Gold (The Weinstien Company) - $5 million N/A
9. Monster Trucks (Paramount) - $4.2 million -45% (down .6 million)
10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm/Disney) - $3.8 million -47%
-- Moonlight (A24) - $2.3 million
-- Manchester by the Sea (Roadside Attractions) - $2 million
The top new movie this weekend last year was DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3, a rare January release for one of their animated films, but one that benefitted with little competition to bring in $41 million in 3,955 theatres. The next new movie was Disney’s The Finest Hours, starring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, which opened in fourth place with $10.3 million, but Marlon Wayans’ latest comedy spoof Fifty Shades of Black (Open Road) bombed with just $5.9 million in 2,075 theaters. Still, it did better than Natalie Portman’s Western Jane Got a Gun (Weinstein Co.), which only made $835,000 in 1,210 theaters, a really bad per-theater average of $691 per theater. Ouch! Hopefully their new movie will do better.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
Another week with lots of limited releases but the two to look out for are…
THE SALESMAN (Amazon Studios/Cohen Media Group)
Cast: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, Shirin Aghakashi
Writer/Director: Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly, Fireworks Wednesday)
Plot: Husband and wife actors Emad and Rama (Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti) have to leave their building in a hurry when an earthquake makes it unsafe to stay there. When a friend from the theater sets them up with a new apartment, a horrifying incident causes Emad to try to find justice for his wife, who is shaken-up but doesn’t want to involve the police.
The new film from the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind A Separation returns him to another Iran-based film that’s probably closer to his Oscar-winning film than his last one. Unlike that film, which was on the surface about a divorce, this one seems to deal with a lot of different things that might not be as evident as the film starts with a family clearing out of their building as an earthquake hits. The real story begins when something happens to the wife Rama in the apartment where they end up staying, but like with A Separation there’s more to everything you see on screen.
As with Farhani’s past work, his dialogue and character interaction is what drives the film even more than the plot and being able to get some of the best actors in Iran to appear in his films goes a long way to making The Salesman another riveting viewing experience.
Unsurprisingly, Farhadi’s latest was just nominated for an Oscar, perfect timing for its release in New York and L.A. on Friday.
SOPHIE AND THE RISING SUN (Monterrey Media)
Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Lorraine Toussaint, Takashi Yamaguchi, Diane Ladd, Joel Murray, Bobby Henline
Writer/Director: Maggie Greenwald (Songcatcher, The Last Keepers and more)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Plot: In 1941, a young beaten-up Japanese man (Takashi Yamaguchi) ends up in Salty Creek, South Carolina where he befriends a couple local women (Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale), but things get complicated when he gets romantically involved with Sophie just before the attack on Pearl Harbor that makes him a target for local racists.
This period drama was a hidden gem from last year’s Sundance that not many people saw, and much of that has to do with the casting of Julianne Nicholson and Margo Martindale, but also in the source material, the 2011 novel by August Trobaugh, which should have led to a film on par with The Help but is instead getting a very limited release and will probably be missed by most.
Part of what makes the film so interesting is how it looks at the treatment of a Japanese man in the South during World War II, because we’ve seen more than a few movies about the treatment of slaves during the Civil War and black people in the South before they were given their civil rights. The actors are so good that it doesn’t even seem awkward when the film gives us a romantic angle between Nicholson’s Sophie and the Japanese visitor, who has gone into hiding after Pearl Harbor.
Sadly, very few people will have a chance to see this, at least theatrically, when it opens in select cities on Friday, but if you’re interested in historic drama, especially that looks at a part of American history that hasn’t been covered particular well in cinema, then look for this on streaming services and DVD if it doesn’t play in your area.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Jackie Chan reunites with director Stanley Tong (Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx) for Kung Fu Yoga (Well Go USA), for Chan’s first new movie… in three weeks. This time, he’s playing an archaeology professor trying to locate ancient Indian treasure and left for dead when ambushed by mercenaries. Using his “vast knowledge of history and kung fu,” he leads his team on a race around the world to get the treasure before the mercenaries. It opens in select cities.
The Mexican romantic comedy Padre No Tan Padre (Lionsgate/Pantelion) stars Héctor Bonilla as 85-year-old Don Servando Villegas, who gets kicked out of his retirement home for bad behavior, forcing his son Francisco to take him into the hippie household he shares with his girlfriend and son. So it’s kind of the Mexican Dirty Grandpa? It opens in about 300 theaters in select cities on Friday.
In Eric England’s Get the Girl (Orion Pictures), a wealthy young man decides to have a fake kidnapping to try to win the affections of the girl he’s in love with. When one of the kidnappers is actually killed, he has to save her life while trying to keep the ruse going.
The previous film from King Cobra director Justin Kelly is I Am Michael (Brainstorm Media), executive produced by Gus Van Sant and starring James Franco as Michael Glatze, a queer youth activist who caused controversy when he claimed to no longer be gay, becoming a straight Christian pastor. Based on the true story documented in Benoit Denizet-Lewis New York Times article “My Ex-Gay Friend,” Zachary Quinto plays Michael’s San Francisco boyfriend, he leaves behind to dabble in religion, eventually finding his girlfriend Rebekah(Emma Roberts). It opens in select cities and On Demand Friday.
Also opening Friday is Jacques Martineau and Olivier Ducastel’s real-time French drama Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo (Wolfe Releasing) about two men who meet at a sex club and drift romantically through the streets of Paris.
Australian theater director Simon Stone makes his feature debut with The Daughter (Kino Lorber), starring Paul Schneider (Parks and Recreations) as a man who returns to his New South Wales home to attend the wedding of his father Henry (Geoffrey Rush), who runs the local mill. Once there, he gets reacquainted with an old friend but discovers a secret that could tear his family apart. It will open in New York at the AMC Empire on Friday and in L.A. on February 3.
Lloyd Kramer’s doc Midsummer in Newtown (Participant Media) takes another look at the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School through the eyes of two Newtown, Connecticut kids preparing for a staging of a musical comedy, while grieving parents try to honor the death of their 6-year-old daughter Ana through their own activities. It opens at New York’s Village East on January 27 and in L.A. and other cities February 3.
Opening at New York’s Metrograph Friday is Zhao Liang’s new doc Behemoth (Grasshopper Films), which chronicles the social and ecological devastation, shot in the coalmines of Inner Mongolia.
Lastly, Evan Oppenheimer’s Lost in Florence stars Brett Dalton (from last week’s The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) as Eric Lombard, a man trying to decide between going after his dream to play football and applying to law school, but when he travels to Florence with his girlfriend, he gets involved in an ancient precursor to football sport called Calcio Storico.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies opening the first weekend of February including the horror film Rings (Paramount) and the sci-fi romance The Space Between Us (STX Entertainment).
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.