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:
The LEGO Batman Movie won the weekend as expected, but not with nearly as much money as I had predicted, not besting the opening of The LEGO Movie as expected, but instead ending up with a reasonable and not so bad $53 million. Fifty Shades Darker proved that the audience for movies based on the popular books was still great enough for it to win Friday with $21 million (to LEGO Batman’s $15 million) and end up second for the weekend with a strong $46.6 million. That was still almost $40 million less than the opening of the previous movie Fifty Shades of Grey, but the sequel also didn’t have the benefits of Valentine’s Day and a four-day holiday. Coming in a strong third place was Keanu Reeves’ John Wick: Chapter 2 with slightly better than my prediction, an impressive $30.4 million opening, which should be enough to warrant a third chapter in the assassin saga. Most of the returning movies, other than last week’s offerings, continued to hold up well.
It’s President’s Day weekend and while it’s doubtful anything can best The LEGO Batman Movie in its second weekend, three new movies will try to have an impact over the extended holiday weekend.
FIST FIGHT (New Line/WB)
Cast: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Kumail Nanjiani, Christina Hendricks, Dannis Haysbert, Charlie Carver, Max Carver.
Director: Richie Keen (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, lots of other TV shows)
Plot: Teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) and his deeply-feared colleague Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) end up facing each other in an after-school fight when Andy accidentally gets Strickland fired.
Theater Count (est.): 3,000+
One movie genre we have yet to see show up in movie theaters this year is an R-rated comedy, so Warner Bros. opening a new Charlie Day-Ice Cube comedy this weekend may be just the right thing to keep the box office love going after last weekend.
Like some of the best comedies, this one relies as much on the premise—the idea of two feuding teachers at a school—as the actors playing them, since both Ice Cube and Day have their own strong fanbases from previous work. Day has garnered a lot of fans from his long run on the FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and that’s helped him do fairly well transitioning to movies, having a big hit with 2011’s high concept Horrible Bosses, which grossed $117 million, and a role in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which grossed around the same. Day also provided his voice to animated hits like Monsters University and The LEGO Movie, both enormous hits. While Day’s small role in John Krasinski’s The Hollars didn’t amount to much, Fist Fight returns him to more familiar territory, as the R-rating allows a far raunchier movie. (Fist Fight also reunites him with Richie Keen, who had directed and producers a number of episodes of Sunny.)
Ice Cube might play a bigger factor in getting audiences as he’s long established himself as a popular favorite among urban audiences from early hits like Boyz N the Hood to the Friday movies, which led to Barbershop and its sequels and even a stint as xXx. More recently, Cube as teamed with Kevin Hart for the hit Ride Along movies and with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street and its even more successful sequel, 22 Jump Street. (Cube also produced the hit musical biopic Straight Outta Compton about his former group NWA, which was also a huge hit.) In other words, Cube is bigger than ever, and what’s important is that he’ll bring in African-American moviegoers, probably more men than women, who may not be interested in much else in theaters (especially if they’ve already seen John Wick: Chapter 2).
Besides the two leads, Fist Fight also has the equally popular Tracy Morgan from Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, making his first movie appearance since Chris Rock’s Top Five in 2014, having been in a potentially life-threatening car accident. Another secret weapon for the movie is Jillian Bell, who also appeared in 22 Jump Street, as a very twisted guidance counselor, who has some great scenes with Day and Morgan.
As much as the cast and the comedy will sell the movie, the idea of two teachers fighting should help the movie bring in older high school and college age kids as well as parents who’ve dealt with teachers and the school system both as kids and through their kids. It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a good “after school fight comedy,” and usually those involve two students from different groups. (One of my personal faves is the excellent and underrated Three O’Clock High, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.)
A more recent comparison that can be used is the Cameron Diaz-Jason Segel comedy Bad Teacher, another R-rated movie set in school, and that opened with $31 million on its way to $100 million, although that had a plum summer release. Two years ago, Warners released the R-rated comedy Get Hard, starring Will Forte and Kevin Hart, arguably two bigger stars than the ones in this movie and that opened with $33.8 million on a non-holiday weekend and grossed $90.4 million total.
It’s doubtful Fist Fight will fare as well as either of those, though they’re good precursors and with schools being out on Monday, this may be one of the top choices behind The LEGO Batman Movie, for moviegoers looking for laughs in a country that desperately needs them right now. This may not do as well as the Ride Along or Jump Street movies, but expect it to do somewhere in the mid-$20 million range, possibly better if the reviews are good.
THE GREAT WALL (Legendary/Universal)
Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Ryan Zheng, Kenny Lin, Lu Han.
Director: Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Road Home, Raise the Red Lantern, Red Sorghum. Shanghai Triad and more)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Plot: Two mercenaries from the West (Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal) arrive at the Great Wall of China looking for a powerful “Black Powder” that can make them rich. The military leaders don’t trust the newcomers, but Commander Lin (Tian Jing) vouches for them after seeing what William(Damon) is able to do with his archery skills against the invading monsters known as Taotie.
Theater Count (est.): 3,200+
One of the odder releases of the weekend may be this new action-adventure epic from Legendary Pictures, a movie that’s been in the works for some time and was moved around the schedule a few times before landing on Presidents’ Day weekend.
The idea behind the movie is that the Great Wall of China was built to ward off monsters called Taotie, who would invade every 60 years in huge armies of creatures that needed to be fought off by the Chinese army stationed on the wall. Seems simple enough if not the most inventive idea, although it’s meant to be one of those big fantasy epics ala Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies mixed with Braveheart and more historic war films.
More than anything, the big draw for this movie is going to be Matt Damon, appearing in his first movie since last year’s Jason Bourne, his return to a popular character that just didn’t do as well as it could have with about $162 million. That followed after Damon’s teaming with Ridley Scott for the bigger blockbuster hit The Martian, which grossed $228 million in North America. There’s little question that at this point in his career, Damon can be considered an A-lister, especially having had success with the original “Bourne” trilogy and when teamed with pals George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 movies.
Damon will clearly be the driving factor for anyone wanting to check out the movie, although his co-stars Pedro Pascarl and Chinese superstar Tian Jing bring a lot to the mix as well, at least in terms of international appeal. In fact, the very large Chinese cast might help the movie do particularly well among America’s vast Chinese-American population, as will the involvement of filmmaker Zhang Yimou, whose Chinese films have received quite a bit of acclaim, two of them having been nominated for Oscars. Director Zhang also previously had success in this country with the similar Jet Li action epic Hero, though that was more about martial arts than fighting off CG monsters.
The movie already opened in China and was a huge hit for Legendary, thanks to the film’s director and mostly Chinese cast, grossing (you might want to sit down for this number) $170.5 million after a $60 million opening. Even so, reviews weren’t that great and the reviews in the United States aren’t going to be much better. (To be honest, I kind of liked the movie just because I’m into big epic Asian films like this.) And having a movie already opening in other territories like China and Mexico and much of Europe is just going to encourage those who download pirated films to seek out a copy online rather than going to the theater, even though it’s being urged to see it in IMAX 3D.
Surely, a lot of the interest in the movie will come from comparisons made to a certain wall our current President wants to build between the United States and Mexico, although the changing mood towards outsiders might hurt the movie since many of those who might normally go see an action movie might not be as interested in one with lots of subtitles (something that Universal has wisely kept well hidden.)
It’s going to be hard for The Great Wall to make much of a mark against stronger returning movies, though it should be able to make somewhere between $15 and 20 million with the four-day weekend as curiosity (and Matt Damon) drives interest in the movie, even though it probably won’t end up with more than $50 million total (domestically) when all is said and done.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS (20th Century Fox)
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs
Director: Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean,
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Plot: Financial broker Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to the Swiss Alps to retrieve the company’s CEO in order to resolve a business matter, but once Lockhard arrives at the spa there, he gets caught up in the machinations of the spa's director, Dr. Volmar (Jason Isaacs), and a mystery that's hundreds of years old.
Theater Count (est.): 2,700
Just a few weeks after the failed Rings, original The Ring director Gore Verbinski returns to the horror genre with an original idea that plays with a number of horror genres, most notably, the gothic horror that drove the careers of the late Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. A Cure for Wellness is a very strange and twisted thriller that seems to be an allegory for the world we live in now, where it’s all about hustling to succeed in business and losing sight of our own goals and personality. It plays upon some of the great old horror movies of someone arriving at a location and experiencing odd things, something that can be traced all the way back to the original 1931 Dracula movie based on Bram Stoker’s novel.
The movie stars Dane Dehaan, probably best known as the Harry Osborn/Green Goblin in Sony’s failed superhero sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but he’s also given great performances in smaller movies like Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, and he’s thought to be an up and coming actor. (This summer, he stars in Luc Besson’s sci-fi action flick Valerian as well.) His co-star Mia Goth may be best known as Mrs. Shia Labeouf, having starred with him in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, while actor Jason Isaacs is a hard-working actor who has played many a bad guy in movies like Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot as well as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies.
Sadly, none of those actors can be considered a box office draw, so it’s really about what director Gore Verbinski brings, since he’s had so many huge hits including The Rings, including the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the animated Rango, with Pirates star Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, his last movie was the failed The Lone Ranger, also with Depp, which started to show the cracks in Depp as a box office star. That movie was almost four years ago now, but one has to imagine it was harder for Verbinski to get the money for such a twisted original horror premise as the one behind his new movie.
We have to face the fact that the movie’s title isn’t that great either, because it doesn’t make it clear this is indeed a horror movie or thriller, instead sounding more like the title of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, which is why Fox’s marketing and commercials will have to go a long way to raise awareness of one of the rare non-sequels, non-remakes not based on a previous property. One smart move they did was playing it at Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numbathon in hopes of starting some buzz, but sadly, the reviews so far are pretty dismal compared to other recent movies.
It is opening far enough after the success of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split that thriller fans might give it a look and with the extended weekend, it can probably do around $10 to 11 million in its first four days. It’s still going to have a tough time maintaining an audience with its rather divisive twist, long running time (2 hours 20 minutes!) and the fact that Split producer Blumhouse has a new thriller from Jordan Peele called Get Out opening next Friday.
LRM Interview with Jason Isaacs (Coming on Thursday 2.16.17)
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
It’s unlikely anything will be able to dethrone The LEGO Batman Movie in its second weekend, although it’s more likely that the new Ice Cube comedy will bring in a wider range of audiences than the other two new offerings, although The Great Wall could benefit from its PG-13 rating when the other two movies are rated R. Unfortunately, there are still a number of strong returning movies with strong word of mouth including last week’s John Wick: Chapter 2, which might give the new movies—all originals not based on existing properties--some serious competition.
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc. All the below predictions are for the four-day weekend.)
1. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) - $40 million -25%
2. Fist Fight (New Line/WB) - $24.2 million N/A (down 1.2 million)
3. Fifty Shades Darker (Universal) - $23.7 million -49%
4. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Lionsgate) - $19.8 million -35%
5. The Great Wall (Universal) - $19.0 million N/A (up .2 million)
6. A Cure for Wellness (Fox) - $10.5 million N/A (down .2 million)
7. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $8.8 million +10%
8. A Dog’s Purpose (Universal) - $7.5 million +3% (down .1 million)
9. Split (Universal) - $7.4 million -22% (down .1 million)
10. Lion (The Weinstein Company) - $4.5 million +14% (up .2 million)
This weekend last year was NOT President’s Day weekend as things were shifted slightly, but Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool won its second weekend in a row with $56.5 million, followed by Kung Fu Panda 3 in second place with $12.5 million. The Jesus Christ historic drama Risen tried to capitalize by opening on the same weekend as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ but it had to settle for third place with $11.8 million. Robert Eggers’ The Witch was finally released, over a year since its Sundance debut, taking in a commendable $8.8 million in 2,046 theaters. The Jesse Owens film Race did slightly less with $7.3 million in 2,369 theaters to take seventh place.
THIS WEEK’S LiMITED RELEASES:
Sadly, I didn’t see enough of this weekend’s movies to find one or two that spoke to me making them worthy of recommending, so you’re kind of on your own this weekend. Frankly, my top pick of this weekend is Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness, which was delightfully twisted, but there are a couple more horror films in limited release as well as a couple romantic films that just missed Valentine’s Day.
The horror anthology XX (Magnet) features four women filmmakers—Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), Annie Clark (better known as singer St. Vincent), Jovanka Vuckovic—each supplying a creepy short film. It opens theatrically in select cities this weekend as well as On Demand, Amazon, iTunes, etc.
Another genre film by a female director is Anne Hamilton’s directorial debut American Fable (IFC Midnight), about an 11-year-old girl, Gitty (Peyton Kennedy), who lives on her family’s failing farm but spends more time in her own world of make believe until she discovers a mysterious man (Richard Schiff) being held captive in her family’s silo. It will open at the IFC Center in New York as well as On Demand.
Josh Lucas and Terrance Howard star in the thriller Ghost of New Orleans (SP Distribution)—a movie from 2011 (!!!!) that is finally getting a theatrical release. (It must be AMAZING to be buried that long, huh? I bet David Blaine has never tried that.) Lucas plays a detective who encounters the ghost of a murdered woman in post-Katrina New Orleans and she helps him to find her killer. Yeah, it sounds bad and I’m sure Howard is hoping it stays buried with the success he’s having on Empire now.
Mexican filmmaker Catalina Aguilar Mastretta’s romantic comedy Everybody Loves Somebody (Pantelion Films/Lionsgate) will open in over 300 theaters on Friday. It stars Karla Souza as Clara, a young beautiful Mexican woman with a successful job in L.A., although she still hasn’t figured out her love life, so when she has to attend a family wedding in Mexico, she asks a coworker to pretend to be her boyfriend. Things only get more confusing when Clara’s ex-boyfriend also shows up after a long absence. It’s a shame this is being released three days after Valentine’s Day.
Jena Malone and Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road) star in Lovesong (Strand Releasing), the new movie from So Yong Kim (For Ellen, Treeless Mountain). Keough plays neglected wife Sarah, who takes a road trip with her daughter and her best friend Mindy (Malone) that makes their relationship more intimate until they’re forced apart, something Sarah tries to rectify before Mindy’s impending wedding. Also starring Rosanna Arquette, Brooklyn Decker and Amy Seimetz, it opens at New York’s City Cinemas Village East Friday and in L.A. on March 3.
Matthew Newton’s timely From Nowhere (FilmRise) follows three undocumented teenagers—an African Muslim, one from the Dominican Republic and another from Peru—who are about to graduate their high school in the Bronx, while still nervous about discovering by the authorities, who would want to have them deported. Also starring Julianne Nicholson and Dennis O’Hare, it opens in New York (at the Village East) and L.A. this Friday.
The last two movies open in select cities, including New York’s Cinema Village on Friday:
James Franco directs an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s first novel In Dubious Battle (Momentum Pictures) about a group of California migratory workers who rise up against the landowners after only being paid a fraction of the wages they were promised. Starring Franco, along with Josh Hutcherson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Natt Wolff, Ashley Greene, Josh Hutcherson, Robert Duvall and many more, the film opens in select cities on Friday.
The coming of age film My Name is Emily (Monument Releasing), directed by Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice—who made the film despite being fully paralyzed by ALS/MND--stars Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood, Evanna Lynch, as a teenage girl who runs away from a foster home with a school friend (George Webster) in search of her writer father (Michael Smiley) who has been institutionalized in a psych ward.
Join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies including Jordan Peele’s thriller Get Out, the action flick Collide and the animated movie called “Rock Dog.”
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)