The Weekend Warrior 3/10/17: Kong: Skull Island, Brimstone, Canners

– 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 movies. 

THIS PAST WEEKEND:

It was absolutely no surprise that Hugh Jackman’s last Wolverine movie Logan would top the box office, but it actually ended up doing even better than my prediction when actual numbers came in, grossing $88.3 million over the weekend. That makes it the fourth highest X-Movie opening (including Deadpool) but also the biggest R-rated opening for March, defeating 300’s once-impressive $70 million opening. It’s also the fourth highest R-rated opening of all time after Deadpool, The Matrix Reloaded and American Sniper.

The bigger surprise was how well Jordan Peele’s thriller Get Out held up in its second weekend, not only because it was going up against Logan, but also because high-profile horror films tend to drop big-time in their second weekend. Instead, Get Out brought in another $28 million, a negligible 15% drop-off to bring its ten-day total to $78 million.

Pulling in a strong third place was Lionsgate’s The Shack, which ended up doing quite a bit better than I expected with $16.1 million.  On the other hand, Open Road’s Before I Fall ended up doing about as badly as I expected with an opening weekend of $4.7 million and about $2,000 per theater, which isn’t great, but it still ended up doing better than Open Road’s last offering Collide, which probably won’t come close to that amount in total. 


Someone up there clearly likes the Weekend Warrior, as he’s been given a lighter weekend with just one new movie, but it’s a doozy in that it’s the return of classic movie monster King Kong to theaters under a new direction that will eventually have Kong fighting Godzilla.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (Legendary/Warner Bros.)

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Giant Monster.
Rated PG-13
Plot:
In 1973, an exploratory group of scientists travels to the dangerous Skull Island, accompanied by a military escort, fresh off the end of the Vietnam War and led by Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Once they get there, they’re immediately attacked by a giant ape that strands them there, but they soon meet another soldier stranded on the island for decades (John S. Reilly)
Theater Count (est.): 3,800+

Since March has become a legitimate month to release movies that would normally be considered summer tentpoles, Legendary Pictures is releasing their second movie of the year, Kong: Skull Island, which hopes to continue their success with big monster movies like Godzilla and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

This one is more closely connected to Godzilla, since the long-term plans are for Legendary to eventually bring the two biggest movie monsters into the battle movie, Godzilla vs. Kong.  Godzilla came out in the early summer of 2014 and grossed $200 million domestically after opening with $93.2 million, and obviously they’re hoping that Kong: Skull Island will bring in a similarly large fanbase.

The movie is being released just over eleven years after Universal Pictures tried to revive King Kong with filmmaker Peter Jackson, although that was a movie far more faithful to the 1933 original, even being set in that era with a strong cast that includes Oscar winner Adrian Brody, Jack Black and Naomi Watts. It opened with $50.1 million in December 2005 and grossed more than $200 million over the holidays, and it was generally received favorably, even if it was overly long at 3 hours.

The new incarnation of Kong is a new origin story set in 1973 that takes a new group of explorers to Skull Island and has them encountering all the giant prehistoric creatures that reside there, as well as the mighty ape himself. It’s directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who isn’t that well known, having previously directed the Sundance film The Kings of Summer, but that’s about it. It’s a far more action-driven movie than Jackson’s film, too.

Even so, he’s managed to assemble an impressive cast including both Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson from Marvel’s The Avengers, and Oscar winner Brie Larson in her first role since winning for Room last year. It also stars not one but two of the stars of Straight Outta Compton, Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins, as well as Legendary Pictures’ favorite Chinese actress, Ting Jian, who recently appeared opposite Matt Damon in The Great Wall (in a much better role, too). The insanely large cast also includes John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Tobey Kebbell, Thomas Mann and the list just goes on and on.  I mean, this is a BIG cast. Obviously, none of them are nearly as big a draw as Kong himself, but there’s basically something for everyone, which is needed for this type of attempted blockbuster.

What it doesn’t have is something for women who probably will hold off on going to the movies this weekend in favor of next week’s Beauty and the Beast from Disney, and not having that sort of four-quadrant interest could theoretically keep the movie from a Godzilla-like opening. (No, I’m not sure why women might like Godzilla more than King Kong either, but that’s a think piece someone else can write…or not.) That said, early reviews have generally been good with it scoring 83% Fresh in early reviews on RottenTomatoes. In this case, positive reviews will help add to the interest, because fans will check reviews before deciding whether to see it.

Expect Kong: Skull Island to open decently, probably above $60 million, even with the competition from last week’s Logan and the thriller Get Out, although it’s likely to have a similar tumble next week as Godzilla did, which might not get it to $200 million domestically.

REVIEW 


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

Over the next couple weekends, we’re just going to see a new #1 each week, and this week, that’s going to be Kong: Skull Island as it quickly dethrones Logan, then next week it will be Disney’s Beauty and the Beast playing king of the hill, and that one probably will hold onto it for at least one more week. Since there aren’t any other new movies in wide release, that’s about all I have to say about this weekend’s box office. 

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

UPDATE 3.9.17: It's not often that I get cold feet on one of my predictions but my original $60 million plus prediction for Kong: Skull Island seems to be quite a bit off from other predictions (that are anywhere from $45 to 55 million), so I'm going to lower mine a little, although I still think it should bring in a fairly big audience with Logan taking a strong second place.

1. Kong: Skull Island (Legendary Pictures/WB) - $58.3 million N/A (down $3.3 million)

2. Logan (20th Century Fox) - $41 million -54%

3. Get Out (Universal) - $20 million -30%

4. The Shack (Summit/Lionsgate) - $10.5 million -34%

5. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) - $7 million -40%

6. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $2.7 million -34%

7. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Lionsgate) - $2.5 million -48%

8. Before I Fall (Open Road) - $2.4 million -48%

9. Fifty Shades Darker (Universal) - $1.7 million -52%

10. La La Land (Lionsgate) - $1.6 million -45%

LAST YEAR:

Disney’s animated Zootopia remained atop the box office for a second weekend with $51.3 million, down just 32% from the previous weekend. The JJ Abrams-produced thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane opened strong in second place with $24.7 million. Three other releases last year bombed with the Lionsgate rom-com The Perfect Match opening in sixth place with $4.3 million, followed by Focus Features’ The Young Messiah with $3.3 million and the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Brothers Grimsby, which took eight place with just $3.2 million. (A far cry from the opening of Borat many years earlier.)


THIS WEEK’S PICKS:

It was a little tough to pick two movies this week--I’m generally going to try to go with one narrative and one doc each week when possible--but the one that stands out is…

BRIMSTONE (Momentum Pictures)

Cast: Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Emilia Jones, Carice van Houten, Kit Harington
Writer/Director: Martin Koolhoven (Winter in Wartime, Happy Family and many more)
Genre:  Western, Thriller, Drama.
Rated R
Plot:
A young woman named Joanna (Dakota Fanning) is plagued by a religious zealot, known simply as The Reverend (Guy Pearce), who chases after her when she tries to escape his unwanted attention. (That’s the short spoiler-free version of the plot. It’s far more complicated than that.) 

Man, it’s tough to fully recommend this Western from Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven, because it’s so grim and creepy, mainly due to the character played by Guy Pearce, who thinks its his religious right to basically take his daughter’s (and then her daughter’s) virginity.  The thing is that I absolutely love a good Western and Brimstone has all the factors of what I like in a Western that I have to give it some credit for that.

Of course, it puts Pearce back in the genre after the excellent Australian film The Proposition, although he’s playing a very different character, one who begins as one thing and evolves into something else, which is only confusing because the first three chapters of the story are told in reverse order. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes the film so innovative because turning things around like that creates a supernatural element to Pearce’s Reverend where he seems to be killed multiple times but keeps coming back, something you wouldn’t even realize until the end of the second chapter.

Oddly, that chapter was the most compelling one to me as it had Joanna ending up at a brothel where violence is the norm, and boy, it gets really dark and grim even without the presence of the Reverend, but fortunately, Pearce is all over the last chapter, which is really the beginning of his story.

I’m sure some people will see this movie and immediately make comparisons to our current political leaders, although our current President doesn’t have the religious zeal that makes the Reverend so dangerous because he’s so positive what he’s doing is right.

Granted, the movie won’t be for everyone, but those who appreciate really dark storytelling should be able to kind of enjoy parts of this one, and be generally creeped out by how far Pearce takes the character.

Brimstone will open in select theaters and be available on VOD starting Friday.

LRM Interview with Guy Pearce


CANNERS (Streetwise Films)

Director: Manfred Kirchheimer
Genre:  Documentary

It was even tougher picking a doc this weekend, because I was sure that I would appreciate Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie more than I actually did, but this film from Manfred Kirchheimer that opens at the Metrograph in New York on Friday is very much a New York City movie, so it gets bonus points for that.

If you live in New York or have just visited, you’re likely to have seen the people pushing around shopping carts completely filled with plastic bags full of cans and bottles…or maybe that’s just me because I live down near Chinatown, but they are regular sightings, and you often see them going through trash and recycling to find the items that are worth 5 cents each. What Kirchheimer’s doc ably proves is that these people aren’t just bums, and many of them are collecting the cans and bottles to supplement welfare or social security income, and there’s actually a logic to how they go about finding and getting reimbursed for their recycling booty. It’s kind of surprising that no filmmaker has ever ventured into this territory because it’s such an interesting part of living in NYC, and it’s especially relevant to those living in the neighborhood where the Metrograph is based. It’s a fairly low-key doc that probably won’t be seen by many, much like last year’s Off the Rails, but man is it a compelling subject to learn more about these people who few of us would approach if we saw them on the street. 

Also, this weekend, the Metrograph is having a special one-day tribute to filmmaker Olivier Assayas (whose Personal Shopper opens on Friday, see below), with his international trilogy of Clean, Demonlover and Boarding Gate with Assayas and Greta Gerwig in person.

Also, an honorable mention in a similar vein as Canners….

Opening at MOMA and IFP Made in NY Media Center on Thursday is Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandlands’ do  Uncertain (Lucid, Inc.) that takes a look at the residents of the town called Uncertain, Texas and three men trying to survive as the town’s swampy lake is being threatened by an aquatic week. Having won the Albert Maysles Documentary Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, it will also be available on iTunes and VOD next Friday, March 17. 


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

Julie Ducournau’s thriller Raw (Focus World) follows 16-year-old Justine, the vegetarian daughter of veterinarians (got that?) who ends up eating raw meat during a college induction ceremony…which gives her the taste for meat…including humans! It opens in select cities and will play at the Alamo in Downtown Brooklyn, so you can try to eat some food while watching it. Good luck with that.

Olivier Assayas reunites with his Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart for the thriller Personal Shopper (IFC Films) playing Maureen, the personal shopper for a celebrity client who spends her nights trying to channel the spirit of the dead in hoping to contact her dead twin brother.  When she starts receiving sinister text messages, she thinks she might have succeeded. After playing every film festival known to man, it’s opening in New York and L.A. on Friday.

British documentarian Louis Theroux (Weird Weekends) explores the controversies surrounding a religion thought of as a cult with My Scientology Movie (Magnolia). Not much to say about this one--it is what it is--except that it opens in New York (at Landmark Sunshine) and L.A. (Laemmle Noho) as well as being available on iTunes, Amazon Video and On Demand Friday.

A somewhat lighter fare for those needing it this weekend…(Seriously, you’re not gonna get anything light seeing Brimstone!)

Jim Broadbent stars in the British drama The Sense of an Ending (CBS Films), based on Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel and directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox). Broadbent plays photographer Tony Webster, a reclusive man whose flawed youth is brought to the fore by secrets that are uncovered, including the truth about his first love Veronica, played in the present day by Charlotte Rampling. Also starring Emily Mortimer and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

LRM Interview with Ritesh Batra 

Director Joseph Ruben (Money Train, Sleeping with the Enemy) returns with the WWI drama The Ottoman Lieutenant (Paladin), starring Hera Hilmar (Da Vinci’s Demons) as a frustrated young woman who leaves the United States to help an American doctor (Josh Hartnett) run a medical mission in war-torn Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire. Her desires to help people is usurped when she falls for a lieutenant in the Ottoman army (Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones).  If you like movies like The English Patient, then this is for you.

Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay stars in Simon Aboud’s This Beautiful Fantastic (AMBI Distribution/Samuel Golwyn) about a woman who hopes to be a children’s book author and the cranky widower (Tom Wilkinson) who lives next door that she convinces to help her take care of her neglected garden to keep from being evicted. It opens in select cities Friday.

Orphan Black’s Tatanina Maslany and Tom Cullen (also from Downton Abbey! What is going on here?), star in Joey Klein’s The Other Half (Brainstorm Media), a love story between a man dealing with grief and a bipolar woman (more bipolar than playing clones on Orphan Black?) who try to have a life together.

One of the popular faves from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival was Mike Ott and Nathan Silver’s comedy Actor Martinez (Breaking Glass Pictures) starring computer repairman Arthur Martinez who hires two indie filmmakers to make a feature film with him as the lead, something that quickly goes awry.  Also starring Lindsay Burdge and Ott and Silver (as the filmmakers, of course), this strange mix of fiction and reality will open in L.A. on Friday at the Laemmle Music Hall and in New York at the Cinema Village on March 17.

Del Shores’ A Very Sordid Wedding (The Film Collaborative) has its premiere and theatrical release at the Camelot Theaters in Palm Springs--now that’s different! A sequel to the hit play, movie AND TV series called Sordid Lives, it reunites the cast of characters set in the Southern Baptist town of Winters, Texas in the days following the U.S. Supreme Court’s same sex marriage ruling. It’s supposed to roll out to other cities following this run.

Fresh from this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it was in competition is Gerard McMurray’s Burning Sands (Netflix) starring Trevor Jackson (American Crime), Alfre Woodard, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) and more in a movie about fraternity pledging and the amount of underground hazing that takes place. It will premiere on Netflix Friday. (While you’re on Netflix, check out the second season of the Judd Apatow-produced comedy Love, cause the first season was amazing!) 

Shashank Khaitan’s Bollywood rom-com Badrinath Ki Dulhania (FIP) stars Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan as two individuals from small towns with opposing ideas about life and gender roles who meet and clash on their ideologies…but as with most American “meet cutes,” we have to expect things will work out for them. It opens in select cities.

On the repertory front, Kino Lorber is rereleasing a digital restoration of Thomas White’s obscure 1966 film Who’s Crazy? (Kino Lorber) about a group of inmates from an insane asylum whose bus breaks down and they form a collective at a nearby farmhouse. Filmed in Belgium with actors from New York’s experimental Living Theater and a soundtrack by Ornette Coleman’s trio, it will open for a week at Lincoln Center’s Howard Gilman Theater.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the horror-thriller The Belko Experiment (BH Tilt), which is written and produced by James Gunn.

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

 

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