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:
Bomb, bomb bomb bomb, Boooooomb! Things just kept getting worse and worse at the box office as this past weekend saw more new releases not meeting up to their potential. The horribly-reviewed horror movie Rings (Paramount) ended up around where I predicted with $13 million, taking second place to M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. The sci-fi romance The Space Between Us (STX Entertainment) didn’t make much of a mark, opening in ninth place with just $3.8 million with about $1,300 per theater. Robert De Niro’s The Comedian (Sony Classics) tanked worse than many recent movies, making less than a million in 848 theaters or about $1,000 per theater. By comparison, the doc I Am Not Your Negro made about 78% of that amount in 800 less theaters.
This is going to be an absolutely huge weekend at the box office. Even though there are two sequels in the mix, this is a weekend without a dud, because both the sequels are seemingly worthwhile to the fans of the original movies. Oh, and I guess the third movie is kind of a spin-off movie but of an enormous blockbuster hit.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (Warner Bros.)
Voice Cast: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Hector Elizondo, Jenny Slate.
Director: Chris McKay (“Robot Chicken,” animation co-director of The LEGO Movie)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure, Action.
Plot: Loneliness is starting to get to LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), who misses having a family, and when an orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) comes along, he finally might have companionship as he takes on his arch-nemesis The Joker (Zach Galifianakis).
Theater Count (est.): 4,000+
After a number of bad weekends, we’re finally given a movie that could be the year’s first major blockbuster going by its predecessor, The LEGO Movie, which opened on this exact same weekend three years ago and took in $69 million its opening weekend, which was really impressive, and it went on to gross $258 million total. Oddly, it got an Oscar nomination for the song “Everything is Awesome” but not in the animated feature category, for some odd reason.
It was also a nice surprise for the Warner Bros. animation division that hadn’t had a hit since the first Oscar-winning Happy Feet. Part of the reason why the movie was so successful is that it had directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller on board, having already had hits with 21 Jump Street and the two Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies for Sony.
Their co-director Chris McKay has taken on this spin-off that features the popular version of Batman voiced by Will Arnett, basically creating a LEGO version of Gotham City and the Batman characters around him. Essentially, it’s the story of how Robin joined forces with him done in a very funny way.
Arnett is the only one back from The LEGO Movie, but he’s joined by other comic actors like Zach Galifianakis as the Joker and Michael Cera as Robin, but other new LEGO characters (at least for the movies) include the Rosario Dawson-voiced Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes as the new Alfred. They’re great versions of the characters that should appeal to Batman fans of all ages, because McKay and the writers are clearly fans of the Batman legacy.
Obviously, this movie has a lot going for it from the popularity of LEGO’s building blocks to the popularity of Batman and the previous LEGO Movie, which should bring in a wide variety of moviegoers although probably more young boys, older teens and men with kids, as mothers might instead opt for Fifty Shades Darker.
Either way, opening in over 4,000 theaters, we can expect this to do very well, probably as well as The LEGO Movie, because while it might not hold as much interest to women, it will more than make up for it with the older men that would check it out just because it’s Batman.
FIFTY SHADES DARKER (Universal)
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Tyler Hoechlin, Bella Heathcote, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Max Martin, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora.
Director: James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, Who’s That Girl, At Close Range, “House of Cards” and more)
Genre: Romance, Drama, S&M.
Plot: Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are back, trying to make their relationship works as she tries to deal with the anger and jealousy towards his previous girlfriends.
Theater Count (est.): 3,800
Two years after the previous adaptation of E.L. James popular but controversial trilogy of sexy sromance novels, Universal are releasing the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey, a movie that opened with $85 million (setting a new February opening record), although it only grossed $166 million (about double opening) in North America. The movie ended up doing huge business overseas, though, over $400 million, and one can’t scoff at that kind of money, especially when there’s a guaranteed trilogy involved.
Both lead actors, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, have been appearing in other movies over the past two years, Johnson being more high profile with roles in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash and the rom-com How to Be Single last year. Dornan has been in smaller indies like Anthropoid and Alexandre Aja’s The Nine Lives of Louis Drax.
The original 50 Shades received absolutely horrid reviews with 25% on RottenTomatoes and 4.1/10 from IMDB Users (compare that to John Wick below) and it pretty much swept that year’s Razzie Awards. (Director Sam Taylor-Johnson was spared but she still decided not to direct the sequel.) Even odder was that it was still nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for two different original songs.
One of the biggest problem with the decision to release Fifty Shades Darker this Friday is that Valentine’s Day isn’t until Tuesday and any bump the movie might get from couples going on a V-day date won’t be reflected in the opening weekend. The other problem is… and I’ve used this word multiple times this year already… SEQUELITIS!
Many of the people who rushed out to see the original Fifty Shades of Grey may be a bit more tentative with this one since it wasn't received that well, even by the female fans of the book.
Because of that alone, there’s little doubt that Fifty Shades Darker won’t do as well as its predecessor, but will it end up with half the opening weekend of the original movie or even less? Certainly having the amount of competition it does (even for mothers taking their kids to see the LEGO Batman Movie) won’t help, and it probably will struggle to make $40 million this weekend, though it might come close to $100 million overall as it gets a bump on Valentine’s Day.
JOHN WICK 2 (Lionsgate)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Thomas Sadoski, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynihan, Peter Stormare, Lance Reddick.
Director: Chad Stahelski (John Wick, upcoming Highlander)
Genre: Action, Thriller.
Plot: After getting his car back, assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is hired by an Italian Mafioso (Riccardo Scamarccio) to kill his competition for a seat at the crime table, but taking on that job puts Wick at odds with the competing assassin (and his target’s bodyguard) Cassian (Common).
Theater Count (est.): 2,800+
The third movie and second sequel of the weekend brings back Keanu Reeve’s popular assassin from Chad Stahelski’s 2014 movie John Wick, which opened in late October with $14.4 million and grossed $43 million total. That isn’t bad considering the $20 million price tag, and Stahelski and his collaborators David Leitch and Derek Kolstad already had ideas for a sequel.
Once again directed by stuntman Chad Stahelski, the focus for the movie will be on the action scenes, which were so remarkable in the first movie, and that's likely what is going to get people into theaters to see the sequel this weekend.
Reeves has had a long and illustrious career with lots of ups (The Matrix Trilogy) and downs (most of his past nine years other than John Wick), but he’s played enough memorable characters to be considered at least a B-list star, and he’s yet to resort to the VOD-bait movies that others like Nick Cage, Bruce Willis and John Cusack have resorted to. If John Wick: Chapter 2 is successful, then he has a good chance at having a solid second-and-a-half act, especially if it warrants a third movie, making it Reeves’ second action trilogy.
Reeves is joined by Ruby Rose from Orange is the New Black, who just appeared with Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, as well as rapper Common, who plays a competing assassin who gets into a lot of great fights with Reeves’ John Wick. Returning from the previous movie are Ian McShane (playing a bigger role), John Leguizamo and others.
Although the previous movie only opened with $14.4 million, there’s a good chance the movie has been discovered since on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, cable, etc. something that often contributes to sequels doing better than their predecessors. Also, the original movie was popular enough that you have to expect the sequel will be one of the few in the past year that actually does better than its predecessor. That would basically defy the overall lackluster box office over the past month where few new movies (and even fewer sequels) did well.
Part of what makes me optimistic is the fact that the original John Wick scored 85% on RottenTomatoes and 7.2/10 among IMDB Users, and that’s both a fairly solid showing that people still remember it a little over two years later, and the February release date is better than late October.
We’ll see how reviews go and whether critics think the sequel stacks up--at this point, I'm one of few negative reviews on RottenTomatoes-but it probably won’t matter much as fans of the original will want to see it. The biggest competition for older males, especially fathers, is if they need to bring their kids to see The LEGO Batman Movie, and there may be a lot of crossover with the older teen males as well.
Even so, John Wick: Chapter 2 should be good for a $20 million or slightly higher opening weekend, which will put it in third place behind the other two movies above.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
As mentioned above, this looks to be a big weekend, although The LEGO Batman Movie should be a clear victor, followed by Fifty Shades Darker and John Wick: Chapter 2. Many of the other movies will probably be losing theaters to make way and family films especially might be hit by the first big competition.
UPDATE 2/9/17: No major changes except that most of the returning movies are losing a lot theaters this weekend and made the appropriate changes, plus John Wick 2 is probably going to slightly better than my original projection.
1. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) - $72 million N/A (down .3 million)
2. Fifty Shades Darker (Universal) - $38 million N/A (down .4 million)
3. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Lionsgate) - $26.4 million N/A (Up 2.4 million)
4. Split (Universal) - $7.6 million -47% (down .4 million)
5. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $6.1 million -40% (down .4 million)
6. A Dog’s Purpose (Universal) - $6 million -43% (down .1 million)
7. Rings (Paramount) - $4.6 million -65%
8. La La Land (Lionsgate) – $4 million -46% (down .4 million)
9. Lion (The Weinstein Company) - $2.3 million -35% (down .1 million)
10. Sing (Universal) - $2 million -48% (down .2 million)
The second weekend in February last year was President’s Day weekend and it included Valentine’s Day on Sunday, making it very hard to use it for comparison to this non-holiday weekend, and yet, last year saw an enormous hit in Fox’s Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds, which opened with an astounding $132.4 million (and $152 million including Monday). Besides setting a new February opening record, beating the previous year’s Fifty Shades of Grey, it also set a new record opening for an R-rated movie, beating 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded by about $40 million. Not bad for a movie that took nearly ten years to get made. Opening in third place was the romantic comedy How to Be Single starring Alison Brie and 50 Shades star Dakota Johnson, which made $17.9 million over the weekend with a sizable V-Day bump on Sunday. Things didn’t work out as well for one of the first sequels of last year, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s Zoolander 2, which opened with $13.8 million over the three-day weekend, which is actually less than the original movie made almost 15 years prior. Not good.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
KEDI (Oscilloscope Labs)
Cast: Sari (The Hustler), Bengü (the Lover), Deniz (The Social Butterfly), Psikipat (The Psycho), Duman (The Gentleman), Gamsiz (The Player), Aslan Parcaçi (The Hunter)
Director: Ceyda Torun (feature debut)
Genre: Documentary, Cat Videos.
Plot: A documentary about the street cats of Istanbul.
Living in a NY studio apartment, I don’t own a cat, and I don’t spend a lot of time gushing over cat pictures or cat videos, but I do prefer cats to dogs. I’m really not sure why, because I’m a little scared of them, but from the very first time I saw the trailer for this documentary by Ceyda Torun, I just knew that this doc was going to be an enormous hit. I mean, just watch the trailer below and tell me that you don’t want to travel to Istanbul and adopt a cat!
But the movie is more than just an extended cat video as it not only follows the cats but also talks to the people of Istanbul expressing their own love for their feline neighbors and what they bring to the city.
LAND OF MINE (Sony Pictures Classics)
Cast: Roland Møller, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton.
Writer/Director: Martin Zandvliet (Applause, A Funny Man)
Genre: War, Drama.
lot: At the end of WWII, a group of young German POWs is captured by the Danish army and forced to defuse and land mines from the Danish coast despite not having the training to do so.
Opening just a few weeks after it was nominated for an Oscar, this Danish entry into the Academy Awards is a tense thriller set post WWII where you barely get to meet the characters before you’re watching them trying to defuse landmines, never knowing if they’re going to get blown up in the process. It’s a somewhat strange premise for a historical drama, for sure, but it’s also an effective one, because it shows a side of the so-called “good guys” that maybe the Danish government wouldn’t want outsiders to see. And yet, they put Zandvliet’s film up for Oscar consideration, which means a lot more people will have a chance to see it. It’s not a movie I recommend lightly, just because emotionally, it is a tough film to watch, but Zandvliet’s young cast are all quite amazing.
Land of Mine will open in New York and L.A. on Friday.
For however many years it’s been the Oscar-Nominated Short Films (ShortsHD/Magnolia) will get a nationwide release starting in New York at the IFC Center on Wednesday and then in 500 theaters nationwide starting Friday. I haven’t seen all of them yet, but if you want to be ahead of the rest of your office in the office Oscar pool, seeing all the short films goes miles in giving you an advantage.
I also want to give a shout-out to the 7th Annual Athena Film Festival, put together by Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein, which pays tribute to women making movies, opening with Courtney Moorehead Balaker’s Little Pink House on Thursday and including an amazing array of features, docs and panels, including Katherine Dieckmann’s Strange Weather and Disney’s Queen of Katwe with star David Oyelowo getting a special award. s
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
Belle director Amma Asente’s’s A United Kingdom (Fox Searchlight) tells the love story about Bechuanaland king-to-be Seretse Khama, as played by David Oyelowo (Selma), with working class British woman Ruth Wiliams, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), whose romance and marriage is threatened to be ripped apart by their conflicting countries. It opens in select cities on Friday.
LRM Interview with Rosamund Pike (Coming soon!)
Ricky Gervais brings back his popular character from “The Office” in the movie David Brent: Life on the Road (Netflix) in this mockumentary that was already released in the UK last year but will be coming to Netflix on Friday. After the closure of his Office, Brent travels up and down the British coast trying to be a rock star.
Alexander Babaev’s horror film Bornless Ones (Uncork’d Entertainment), stars Margaret Judson (The Newsroom) as Emily, a woman who moves to a remote home to take care of her institutionalized brother Zach, but when her friends come over to help unpack they end up awakening an evil force that begins to possess them. In theaters and On Demand Friday.
Framestore visual FX experts Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot’s make their feature directing debut with the horror film Don’t Hang Up (Vertical Entertainment) stars Garrett Clayton and Gregg Sulkin as two friends who like making prank calls, whose acclaim in doing so ends up backfiring when they get a caller who turns the game on them.
Opening in select cities and On Demand is Alex Ranarivelo’s Running Wild (SP Releasing/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), about a young widow who tries to save her ranch after her husband dies in a car crash, so she opens up her ranch to a group of convicts for a rehabilitation program where they can interact with wild horses. Co-starring Sharon Stone, the movie opens up in select cities and On Demand.
Julie Benz (Dexter) stars in Andrew C. Erin’s horror film Havenhurst (Brainstorm Media) as a woman dealing with alcohol addiction who is released from rehab, given a second job and an apartment in the mysterious gothic apartment complex, Havenhurst, as she deals with the death of her 8-year-old daughter.
Filmmaker Larry Fessenden’s 16-year-old son Jack Fessenden makes his directorial debut with Stray Bullets (Screen Media Films) about two teens spending the weekend at their father’s trailer when three cooks on the run seek refuge in the trailer, holding the teens hostage so they’ll help them escape a hitman.
The Bollywood sequel Jolly LL.B 2 (Fox STAR Studios) (also known as The State vs. Jolly LL.B) is a sequel to the 2013 movie, a courtroom dramedy involving a conflict between two powerful lawyers, one of them played by Akahay Kumar. It opens in about 180 theaters in select cities.
Justin Schein’s documentary Left on Purpose (Gunpowder and Sky) is about anti-war activist Mayer Vishner, who midway through filming decides that he wants to commit suicide, and he wants it all on camera, forcing the filmmaker to make a tough decision. It opens in New York and On Demand Friday.
Mary Mazzio’s doc I Am Jane Doe (50 Eggs Film), narrated by Jessica Chastain, about mothers dealing with the fact their under-age daughters have been bought and sold for sex in the classifieds section of Backpage.com, a huge human rights violation that is protected by the internet freedom law. It will open in New York, L.A., DC, Boston, Philly and Seattle before expanding elsewhere.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at the new releases with three very different movies AND NOT ONE OF THEM IS A SEQUEL! First we have the comedy Fist Fight (New Line/WB), starring Ice Cube and Charlie Day, while Matt Damon scales The Great Wall (Legendary/Universal) and director Gore Verbinski returns with A Cure for Wellness (20th Century Fox).
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)