The Weekend Warrior 2/3/17: Rings, The Space Between Us, The Comedian

– by Edward Douglas

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…. But mostly the movies.  

THIS PAST WEEKEND:

The box office continues to be particularly bad for sequels, as both of the higher profile new movies this past weekend failed to meet expectations (and my overly-optimistic predictions). Instead, M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Split defied the normal frontloading of his previous movies for the movie to remain atop the box office with $25.6 million, down just 36%. Universal’s A Dog’s Purpose didn’t quite achieve the success expected, possibly due to the PETA boycott controversy, taking second place with $18.2 million. Hidden Figures held third place with $14 million, holding well thanks to its own Oscar nominations, to take third place as it passed $100 million. Director Paul W.S. Anderson insured that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter would indeed be the final chapter as it bombed with just $13.6 million, significantly lower than previous installments. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, nominated for 14 Oscars last week, got a significant bump, expanding into 3,136 theaters and remaining in fifth place with $12,2 million, as it also crossed the $100 million mark.


It’s Super Bowl weekend and with the biggest television sporting event of the year taking place Sunday, you can expect that theaters will probably be fairly empty, especially in places like New England and Atlanta where the two competing teams hail from. As in past years, that makes it the perfect weekend to dump a horror movie and a romantic drama that might appeal to women who won’t care too much about football.

RINGS (Paramount)

Cast: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, Vincent D'Onofrio.
Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez (Before the Fall)
Genre: 
Horror, Thriller
Rated PG-13
Plot:
 Julia (Matilda Lutz) starts worrying about her boyfriend Hoyt (Alex Roe), when he seemingly vanishes after going off to college, and she soon learns he's gotten involved with a science teacher (Johnny Galecki) who is experimenting on his students by making them watch a videotape that kills whomever watches it in seven days. Sound familiar?  That’s because THIS IS A SEQUEL. HAVE WE NOT LEARNED ANYTHING YET?!?!
Theater Count (est.): 2,800

No, seriously, it’s clear that studios haven’t learned a thing from last year, but to be fair to Paramount, this is a property they picked up from DreamWorks years ago, and a movie that was produced almost two years ago with plans to release it sometime in 2016. At one point, it was going to be released close to Halloween, which would have been a perfect way to fill in the niche left open by the end of the Paranormal Activity franchise. But then the movie was moved once again to this weekend.

Normally, a movie being shelved for so long is worrying, although we’ve seen other horror films do decently on Super Bowl weekend, including the remake When a Stranger Calls ($21.6 million opening), The Woman in Black ($20.9 million) and the horror “classic” Boogeyman ($19 million). We can go back further and see other movies like Kristen Stewart’s pre-Twilight movie The Messengers, Darkness Falls, and the Jessica Alba remake of The Eye, all of which made between $12 and 15 million.

I can tell you right now that almost all of those movies were varying degrees of bad. Many of them weren’t screened for critics because they were so bad… and yet, they still did decently. It makes you wonder… WHY?!?!? It’s possible that every couple years there’s a new batch of stupid teenagers who want to go to a movie and be scared with their friends and Rings looks to fit that bill.

What makes Rings a bit different is that this isn’t just another sequel but sort of a reboot of a remake of a Japanese hit, and that original remake, The Ring, was directed by Gore Verbinski, who returns to horror later this month with A Cure for Wellness. Mind you, it’s been 12 years since the poorly-received sequel The Ring 2 (released by DreamWorks when it was its own company), and it’s hard to imagine anyone who sat through that dog will ever want to see another Ring movie.

If there is anything we’ve learned from the past year’s “sequelitis” is that you can’t expect fans of a movie as old as The Ring to care about a new movie in the “franchise.” They were probably between 15 and 25 back and then now that they’re 12 years older and probably know better about wasting money on a movie that probably won’t be very good or as scary as the original movie. (Paramount are screening the movie for critics but making them hold reviews until after Thursday previews.)

And yet there’s still those teenagers who might see this without knowing anything about the original movies or their origins…. That is, if they don’t just decide to go see Split again, since there’s probably a lot more people talking about M. Night Shyamalan’s movie then seeing Rings. Still, expect it to do somewhere between $10 and 12 million based on those teens who’ll go see this out of curiosity alone, just like they went to see The Bye Bye Man a couple weeks back. (There’s a chance that younger women might have to decide between this and The Space Between Us, though this certainly seems like a stronger draw.)


THE SPACE BETWEEN US (STX Entertainment)

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery
Director:  Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Hector and the Search for Happiness, Funny Bones, Town & Country and more)
Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi, Drama
Rated PG-13
Plot:
Gardner Elliott (Asa Butterfield) becomes the first human born on Mars after his astronaut mother dies while giving birth to him, never revealing who his father is. As a teenager, Gardner tries to find out the truth, starting an online friendship with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a girl in Colorado, who he connects with once he finally has a chance to come to Earth. Unfortunately, he can’t stay there because his body isn’t used to the Earth’s atmosphere.
Theater Count (est.): 2,800 

Reading the plot of this sci-fi romance, one would think this movie is based on a popular Y.A. book. Nope! This is actually an original screenplay by Allan Loeb, whose last screenplay was the holiday bomb Collateral Beauty.  

Besides the success of Y.A. adaptations, another reason this movie might exist is due to the popularity of sci-fi films like Gravity and maybe even The Martian in that the success of the sci-fi genre has domino’ed to the point where many Hollywood screenwriters have started to write projects hoping to capitalize on the increased interest in space travel. It’s partially why Jon Spaihts’ Passengers finally got made last year. In fact, these two similar movies almost went up against each other.

19-year-old Asa Butterfield is coming off his starring role in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children, which grossed $87 million last September, and before that, he had the starring role in the adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as well as in Martin Scorsece’s Oscar-nominated Hugo Back in 2011. He’s clearly a young actor who has captured the attention of prominent filmmakers

His romantic counterpart is 26-year-old Britt Robertson (an older woman!) who appeared in last week’s A Dog’s Purpose as well as opposite Eddie Murphy in Mr. Church and opposite George Clooney in Disney’s Tomorrowland. That’s quite a bit of prestige for a fairly lame teen romance movie.

It’s obvious that this movie—previously scheduled to open against Passengers in December—wasmoved to early February for two reasons. 1.) in hopes that young women not interested in the Super Bowl might check it out and 2.) that someone may have enough interest in the movie to make it a date movie on Valentine’s Day in roughly 11 days. (The fact that the sequel 50 Shades Darker is finally opening in…. 7 days… ha ha… won’t help matters in term’s of the movie’s legs, although that generally will skew older.)

The Space Between Us probably won’t do much more than $8 million unless it gets some traction against the easier-to-sell horror film Rings.

LRM Interview with Asa Butterfield (Coming Thursday, Feb. 1)


THE COMEDIAN (Sony Pictures Classics)

Cast: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Veronica Ferres, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman, Patti LuPone
Director: Taylor Hackford (Ray, The Devil’s Advocate, Dolores Claiborne, An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds and more)
Genre:  Comedy, Drama
Rated R
Plot:
Best known for a role on a cheesy TV sitcom, comic icon Jackie Burke (Robert De NIro) is trying to reinvent himself for a new audience, who just isn’t in tune to his sense of humor. After accosting an audience member, Jackie is forced to do community service at a soup kitchen where he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), whose father (Harvel Keitel) is a Florida real estate mogul and fan of Jackie’s work, but not one necessarily wants his daughter to date the troubled comic.
Theater Count (est.): Unknown.

It’s hard to imagine that a movie starring Robert De NIro might be considered an underdog, but in a really ballsy move by Sony Pictures Classics, this romantic dramedy (of sorts) is being released nationwide rather than being given the normal limited release to see how it does before rolling it out.

Robert De Niro has generally been keeping quiet in the last few years, starring in last year’s comedy dud Dirty Grandpa, and the boxing drama bomb Hands of Stone. Director Taylor Hackford has surrounded him with an impressive cast that includes Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Patti LuPone and… a Midnight Run reunion with Charles Grodin! (Plus there’s a ton of cameos from the world of stand-up comedy including a true living legend.)

Like the Weinstein Company’s last two movies, The Founder and Gold, this movie was given an awards consideration release in December, but with absolutely no traction for awards and a pitiful 28% on RottenTomatoes since early December, it’s not likely that too many adult moviegoers will pick this over some of the awards fare still in theaters. 

Because of the movie’s lower profile so far (and the fact it might only be opening in 500-600 theaters), it’s unlikely to get into the Top 10 and probably will end up with less than $3 million opening weekend, and it doesn’t have very far to go with three big releases next week.

LRM Interview with Leslie Mann

LRM Interview with Taylor Hackford (Coming Friday, Feb. 3)


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

This weekend is all about the Super Bowl, although there’s still Friday and Saturday to go to the movies and while the new offerings might not offer anything particularly exciting, but Rings should generally beat The Space Between Us even though they’re likely to take a backseat to Split and other returning movies. Robert De Niro’s The Comedian is going to have a hard time making much of a mark as it appeals only to older adults, and the Weinstein Company is finally going to expand Lion very wide, following its Oscar nominations, although it will probably remain outside the Top 10 as well.

(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)

1. Split (Universal) - $15.4 million -40%

2. Rings (Paramount) - $12 million N/A

3. A Dog’s Purpose (Universal) - $11.3 million -38%

4. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $9.1 million -35%

5. The Space Between Us (STX Entertainment)$8 million N/A

6. La La Land (Lionsgate) – $7.6 million -37%

7. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Sony) - $5.2 million -62%

8. Sing (Universal) - $4.2 million -35%

9.  xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Paramount) - $4 million -53%

10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm/Disney) - $2.3 million -40%

-- Lion (Weinstein Co.) - $2.9 million

-- The Comedian (Sony Pictures Classics) - $2.5 million N/A

LAST YEAR:

Super Bowl weekend last year saw the release of a new Coen Brothersmovie, as well as a Nicholas Sparks romance AND a zombie romance based on Jane Austen. But DreamWorks Animations’ Kung Fu Panda remained at #1 with $21.2 million (down 48%) while the Coens’ Hail Caesar! (Universal) took second place with $11.3 million in 2,232 theaters for $5,087 per theater.  The other two movies, The Choice (Lionsgate) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Screen Gems) failed to make much of a mark, opening in fifth and sixth place with $6 million and $5.3 million respectively i.e. not good. (Last year, the bump from Oscar nominations happened a week prior or the last weekend of January.)


THIS WEEK’S PICKS:

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (Magnolia)

Cast: James Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson (voice)
Director: Raoul Peck (Lumumba, It’s Not About Love, The Man on the Shore)
Genre:  Documentary

Nominated last week for an Academy Award is this amazing doc based on the writings of the prolific author and civil rights leader James Baldwin for an unfinished book about the American experience through the life of three of his late friends: Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. In 1979, he wrote a letter to his literary agent about the book, to be called “Remember This House,” but he only got through thirty pages by the time of his death in 1987.

Baldwin’s writing, as read by the great Samuel L. Jackson, is accompanied by an incredible montage of images and film footage that documents Baldwin’s journey to research the book, discussing his heroes and the places where some of the toughest civil rights battles were won… and lost.

In some ways, the film act as a memoir of Baldwin and his achievements, but the way Baldwin openly and honestly discusses race in all aspects of American life makes the film a tough movie to get through, mainly because racism is still as serious a topic now as it was in Baldwin’s days.

Director Raoul Peck not only uses the text written for the book but also notes he has taken and correspondence with Baldwin’s family and editor discussing the project, and it’s quite an amazing achievement for Peck to put all these elements together to create a film based on Baldwin’s words that creates a vivid portrait, both as an introduction of Baldwin’s ideals to younger people and to those who have been fighting for their rights all their lives. 

This amazing doc is opening in a huge number of theaters, and you can learn where and when it’s playing near you at the Official Site.


THE LURE (Janus Films)

Cast: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Jakub Gierszal, Zygmunt Malanowicz
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska (debut)
Genre: Fantasy, Musical, Romance, Horror.
Unrated.
Plot:
Two beautiful young man-eating mermaid sisters are found in the ocean and put to work performing  at a Polish strip club, which goes well until one of them falls in love with a human.

In case La La Land was too conventional for you or you were going to allow Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid to take the prize for the strangest movie about mermaids, here’s this import from Poland from first-time director Agnieszka Smoczynska that combines the two ideas into a strange but delightful hybrid.

It opens with a couple alluring mermaids luring men to their death at the sea, but after being found, they’re brought ashore where they join The Lure, house band for a local strip club, and things just get stranger and sexier from there. This darkly comic story is scored with a soundtrack of amazing synth-driven songs, some rather lovely and romantic, others driving and energetic.

Needless to say, The Lure is a movie that would never be made in the United States but it probably will appeal to fans of campy fun like American Horror Story and Scream Queens.  

The Lure opens Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York and then on Friday at the Laemmle NoHo 7 in L.A.


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Calvary) returns with War on Everyone (Saban Films/Lionsgate), a police comedy starring Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Peña as corrupt cops who frame and blackmail criminals including a strip-club manager (Caleb Landry Jones) and a junkie boss (Theo James), but end up getting themselves into even bigger trouble by doing so. It’s opening in select cities and On Demand Friday after premiering on DirecTV on January 5.

Speaking of Stephen Chow’s global hit The Mermaid, legendary martial arts director Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China) takes the directorial reigns for the sequel to Chow’s “Western” with the sequel Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (Sony Pictures Entertainment) which had a huge opening in China last week. The Monkey King (Len Gegnxin) is back, now a disciple of Tang Sanzang (Kris Wu) as they fight against demons.

Tim Sutton’s Dark Night (Cinelicious Pics) uses a cinema verité filmmaking style to explore the 2012 massacre at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado in the same way as Gus Van Sant’s Elephant did the Columbine shootings. It opens at the Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn on Friday and in L.A. on February 10. You can watch the trailer here. 

Directed by Joel David Moore, Youth in Oregon (Samuel Goldwyn Films) is a dark comedy starring Frank Langella as Raymond, a cranky 80-year-old whose plans to be euthanized in Oregon is met with resistance from his daughter Keate (Christina Applegate), though her husband Brian (Billy Crudup) offers to drive Raymond and his wife (Mary Kay Place) the 3,000 miles to Oregon. It opens in New York, L.A. and On Demand following its 2016 premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Former Black Panther Jamal Joseph’s directorial debut Chapter & Verse (Paladin) stars Daniel Beatty as S. Lance Ingram, a reformed gang leader who after spending ten years in prison is having trouble adjusting to how Harlem has changed. He ends up meeting 75-year-old Maddy while delivering meals, and she offers him hope as they adjust to the changes in society. Having premiered at the UrbanWorld Film Festival in 2015, it opens in New York on Friday and in L.A. and Chicago February 10. 

Three movies opening at New York’s IFC Center (besides The Lure) this week…

Caradog W. James, director of The Machine, unleashes a new horror film Don’t Knock Twice (IFC Midnight), starring Lucy Boynton (Sing Street) as a troubled teen who arrives at an abandoned house, rumored to be inhabited by a vengeful witch, so she goes to the country home of her estranged artist mother (Katee Sackhoff) who abandoned her as a child.

Having just premiered at Sundance, Barak Goodman’s Oklahoma City (PBS) will open theatrically before its PBS premiere on February 7. It takes a look at the terrorist act committed by Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995, where he parked a truck with a five-ton fertilizer bomb at the federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people. The film studies the actions that led to McVeigh committing this crime as a cautionary tale.

Similarly, Oscar-winning documentarian Barbara (Harlan County USA) Kopple’s doc This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous (YouTubeRed), also premiered at Sundance and will get a nominal theatrical release Friday before premiering on youTube Red on Wednesday, February 8. It follows the journey of Gigi Lazzarato, born Gregory Lazzarato, who became a transgender icon due to her beauty and fashion videos posted on YouTube.

Israeli director Tomer Haymann’s doc Mr. Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance (Abramorama) follows acclaimed choreographer Ohad Naharin, who left Israel to attend Julliard and perform with Martha Graham’s dance company before returning to Israel and becoming Artistic Director of the Batsheva Dance Company, developing his own form of dance that he calls “Gaga. The documentary opens Wednesday in New York both at the Film Forum downtown and Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunim Munroe Theater (as part of their annual Dance on Camera Festival) uptown.

Opening at New York’s Metrograph on Friday is a 2k restoration of Josef von Sternberg’s 1953 film Anatahan (Kino Lorber), his film about a dozen Japanese seamen stranded on a Pacific Island with one woman, unawares that World War II has ended.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies including The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros.), the twisted romance of 50 Shades Darker (Universal) and Keanu Reeve’s John Wick 2 (Lionsgate) hit theaters nationwide.

(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)

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