The Weekend Warrior 3/3/17: Logan, The Shack, Before I Fall

– 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.  

THIS PAST WEEKEND:

As expected Jordan Peele’s thriller Get Out (Universal) did very well, but it actually ended up doing quite a bit better than I predicted with an opening weekend of $33.4 million. Another solid hit for Universal and Blumhouse Productions, following M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. It’s also impressive when you consider that the biggest name star in the movie is Allison Williams from Girls, and it didn’t seem to be affected at all by the Oscars on Sunday. The other two movies did way worse even than our low expectations with the animated Rock Dog ending up with around $3.7 million, and Collide not even getting into the Top 10, bombing big time with just $1.5 million or less than $750 per theater. Clearly, that could have been left on the shelf.


This is another one of those weekends where we have a movie so big that it’s likely to dominate two other new movies just doing their best not to be completely annihilated. This is one weekend where “counter-programming” might be a mistake.

LOGAN (20th Century Fox)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Director: James Mangold (The Wolverine, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma and more)
Genre:  Action, Drama.
Rated R
Plot:
Years after mutants have all but vanished, Logan (Hugh Jackman), the former Wolverine, is working as a limo driver in Texas. When approached by a woman with a young girl named Laura (Daphne Keen), Logan turns to Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) for help to find out if she might be a mutant. Meanwhile, they’re all being pursued by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who wants to get his hands on Laura for other reasons.
Theater Count (est.): 3,900

With this March looking to be one of the biggest months of the year (and maybe even history), we’re kicking off with the only movie of the month that’s actually a sequel, although most of the other big movies are also based on existing properties.

Back in 1999, Bryan Singer was hired to bring Marvel’s mutant superheroes, The X-Men, to the big screen, which he did, casting an unknown Australian actor named Hugh Jackman to play the popular character Logan aka Wolverine. 17 years later and Jackman is approaching 50, which makes it appropriate that he retires the character with a take on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan storyline, which took place in an alternate future similar to Days of Future Past.

Logan reunites Jackman with director James Mangold, who helmed The Wolverine, a movie that disappointed with a $53 million opening, $30 million less than the previous Wolverine solo movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which opened with $85 million. Part of that could have been due to the negative reaction to that earlier Wolverine movie.

For what is said to be Jackman’s last Wolverine movie, he’s joined by another X-Men veteran in Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier. If you look at the box office for the X-Men movies, the ones with Jackman and Stewart tend to perform the best, while the other ones (X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Apocalypse)--which only had Jackman in cameos--didn’t fare nearly as well. That’s very telling that the fans of the movies really like those characters, although that doesn’t explain why The Wolverine is still the lowest grossing of all X-Men movies, at least domestically.

One of the biggest changes for this film from the previous two Wolverine movies is that Mangold has decided to go all-out with an R-rating that allows Wolverine’s violent action scenes to include a lot more gore. That R-rating will mean that the movie doesn’t bring in the younger kids that often go to superhero movies, but as we saw with the success of last year’s Deadpool movie, there’s still quite a large audience for R-rated superheroes, and the fans of Wolverine’s comic book have been waiting to see this take on the character.

One might wonder if calling the movie “Logan” might throw off a few of the more casual comic book fans, because some may not even realize it’s the latest Wolverine movie, but movies like The Dark Knight and Man of Steel have proven you don’t have to include the name of the character in the title for people to figure it out, and that should be the case here, too.

The movie has received mostly positive reviews on RottenTomatoes, although it’s not quite as Fresh as last week’s Get Out, which managed to maintain a 100% with 131 reviews (which is quite a feat!). The people who have praised Logan range from nerdy geek sites to serious critics, which certainly will give the movie more credibility for those who haven’t liked the last few X-movies.

Needless to say, Logan is going to do very well this weekend. Maybe not quite as well as X-Men Origins: Wolverine in its summer opening weekend, but definitely better than 2013’s The Wolverine, even with the theoretically restricting R-rating. I’m thinking of an opening somewhere between $80 to 85 million, though it might get hit pretty hard by next week’s Kong: Skull Island and maybe even more by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It should still be good for $200 million, which would make it the highest grossing Wolverine solo movie to date. 

LRM Interview with Director James Mangold

LRM Interview with Producers Hutch Parker and Simon Kinberg (Coming Later this Week).


THE SHACK (Summit/Lionsgate)

Cast: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw, Radha Mitchell, Avraham Aviv Alush, Sumire, Megan Charpentier, Gage Munroe, Amélie Eve, Alice Braga.
Director: Stuart Hazeldine (Exam)
Genre:  Drama, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
Plot:
After his youngest daughter has a tragic fate, Mackenzie Phillips (Sam Worthington) receives a note in his mailbox calling him to a place called “The Shack,” sending him on a life-changing journey to meet with three individuals claiming to be God.
Theater Count (est.): 2,500

The first of two book adaptations this weekend--okay, if you don’t count Logan, which is based on a comic book--is this adaptation of William Paul Young’s 2007 novel The Shack, which has apparently sold 10 million copies in the United States alone and was #1 in the NY Times Bestsellers List for 52 weeks and on the list for 180. That’s pretty damn impressive, and if a book is that popular, you have to assume that a movie based on a book would be of interest as well.

I mean, look at the movies based on the books of Nicholas Sparks and how well at least some of them have done, although they’ve been losing ground in recent years with last year’s The Choice only grossing $18.7 million. The Shack is definitely along similar lines with a faith-based leaning that will appeal to part of the country more than others, although even faith-based movies haven’t been doing nearly as well as they have a few years back.

It’s the first movie starring Sam Worthington in some time, although he had a supporting role in last year’s Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge--another movie about faith. There was a time when Worthington was considered a soon-to-be A-list action star after starring in James Cameron’s Avatar, but other movies like Terminator: Salvation and the sequel Wrath of the Titan didn’t fare as well as hoped, and things have been slow in the five months since. (Apparently, Cameron is going to start filming Avatar 2 soon. Does anyone even care anymore?)

He’s joined by Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help and was nominated for the equally as popular Oscar Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures. Chances are that she’ll be a bigger draw for this movie than Worthington, but if they are going for audiences in the South and Midwest having Tim McGraw in a key role will also help. The country singer previously appeared in hits like The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock and Four Christmases, as well as movies like The Kingdom and Flicka.  

Reviews probably won’t be great going by the mostly aetheistic who will be reviewing it, but it might not matter, because those who loved the book may already be deciding to see the movie.

Offered as counter-programming, The Shack could do okay, especially among Christian women of a certain age who won’t have any interest in Logan, but it’s also hard to think anyone who hasn’t read the book will have much interest.  This probably will end up with less than $10 million over the weekend, which would put it in fourth place, at best.


BEFORE I FALL (Open Road)

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Liv Hewson, Logan Miller, Jennifer Beals, Halston Sage, Elena Kampouris, Alyssa Lynch, Cythy Wu.
Director: Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks, You Won’t Miss Me, Orphans)
Genre:  Drama, Science Fiction.
Rated PG-13
Plot:
Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is part of a popular group of high school seniors constantly picking on an odd girl named Juliet (Elena Kampouris). After a party prank goes wrong, Sam and her friends end up in a deadly car crash, but then Sam wakes up, realizing she’s reliving the same day over and over, and she has to make changes if she wants a better outcome.
Theater Count (est.): 2,000?

Last, and certainly not least, is a third movie adapted from a novel. This one from Lauren Oliver’s Y.A. novel, which honestly, I wouldn’t have known anything about if there wasn’t a movie based on it. In this case, it’s a high school drama version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day with a teen girl played by Zoey Deutch experiencing the same day over and over.

The movie is a big step forward for filmmaker Ry Russo-Young, whose earlier film You Won’t Miss Me wasn’t even able to get theatrical distribution…and yet, it still beat Damien Chazelle’s first movie at the Gotham Awards for “Film Not Coming to a Theater Near You.”  Russo-Young’s next film Nobody Walks, starring John Krasinski, fared slightly better but still didn’t really break out after its Sundance premiere. Tackling a movie that she didn’t write that’s getting a wide release is new territory, but she did a good job with a complex film that deals with a lot of tough subjects.

Starring in the film is Zoey Deutch, daughter of actress Lea Thompson from the Back to the Future movies, who starred in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some last year, as well as two R-rated comedies, Dirty Grandpa with Robert De NIro and Why Him? with Bryan Cranston. She’s definitely an up and coming actress who gives an amazing lead performance in this movie.

It’s hard to determine who might want to see this besides young women who would have read the book, because it’s not being marketed as something that might appeal to anyone else. It’s actually a pretty decent film that doesn’t start off great because the snotty high school girls are annoying at first, but that’s kind of the point of putting the main character in that environment and forcing her to find redemption.

Open Road decided to take a chance by showing the film at Sundance where Russo-Young’s previous films played, and it fared well with mixed reviews from the mostly male film critics that saw it.

The problem Before I Fall faces is that it’s being offered as counter-programming in a weekend where The Shack seems like far stronger counter-programming, since that’s targeted towards older women, while this is geared towards teen girls, who may be more interested in Logan despite (or due to) its R-rating.

With that in mind, Before I Fall probably won’t fare that well this weekend, possibly with $5 million tops, although it could pick up business due to word-of-mouth, at least until Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens in just two weeks, at which point, all female-geared movies are doomed.

LRM Interview with Ry Russo-Young 


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

Logan will win the weekend with ease, but the question is whether it will do more like previous Wolverine solo movies or maybe have a huge breakout opening like last year’s Deadpool? We’re going with the former, which is still a decent $80 to 85 million, putting it in the Top 5 openings for the month of March. Of the other two movies, The Shack will probably do better, although neither of the other two new movies will open with more than $10 million. Look for some of the Oscar winners to get a nice bump, presuming that Lionsgate and A24 expand La La Land and Moonlight into more theaters on Friday.

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

Updated 3.2.17:  A few minor changes to account for changes in theater counts with a slightly bigger bump for The Shack La La Land is actually losing theaters, just like it lost Best Picture (grr...) A last minute addition is Fox Searchlight's Table 19, which is getting a wide release into over 850 theaters... and that's with very little marketing, which is never a good sign. It probably will come and go without much attention.

1. Logan (20th Century Fox) - $84.7 million N/A (up $2.1 million)

2. Get Out (Universal) - $18.5 million -45%

3. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) - $10.6 million -42% (down .4 million)

4. The Shack (Summit/Lionsgate) - $10.3 million N/A (up $2.1 million)

5. Before I Fall (Open Road) - $5 million N/A (up .4 million and one spot)

6. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Lionsgate) - $4.9 million -48%

7. The Great Wall (Universal) - $3.8 million -58%

8. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - $3.6 million -38% (down .1 million)

9. Fist Fight (New Line/WB) - $3.5 million -47%

10. Fifty Shades Darker (Universal) - $3.3 million -58%

-- Moonlight (A24) - $3 million

-- Table 19 (Fox Searchlight) - $1.3 million N/A

LAST YEAR:

The first full weekend of March last year saw the release of one enormous hit in Disney’s animated Zootopia, which opened with $75 million, making it the first of Disney’s big hits of the year, going on to gross $341 million in theaters.  The action sequel London Has Fallen opened with $21 million, avoiding the sequelitis that would affect so many other sequels last year. Tina Fey also starred in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, an Iraq comedy which opened in fourth place with $7.5 million.

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THIS WEEK’S PICKS:

There are a lot of pretty good movies this week, but for my two picks, I decided to go with two of the better movies I saw at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival: 

WOLVES (IFC Films)

Cast: Michael Shannon, Carla Gugino, Taylor John Smith, Zazie Beetz, Chris Bauer, John Douglas Thompson, Jessica Rothe.
Writer/Director: Bart Freundlich  (The Rebound, Trust the Man, Catch the Kid, episodes of Californication and more)
Genre: Drama, Sports
Plot: Anthony Keller (Taylor John Smith) has it made as the hot shot on his private school basketball team with a beautiful girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) and scouts from Cornell looking to recruit him. He also has a father with a serious gambling and drinking problem (Michael Shannon) whose abusive behavior might hurt Anthony’s chances at a basketball career.

As someone who really isn’t into sports, it’s always surprising to me when a movie where sports play such an important role really clicks with me. That was definitely the case with this sports drama from Bart Freundlich (Julianne Moore’s long-time partner), a filmmaker whose past work has been sort of hit or miss with me.

There are lots of great sports movies about how young high school stars try to figure out where to go with the rest of their lives, but Freundlich has found a way to create drama within a young man whose father has high expectations but also some serious issues that make it hard for them to get along. In this case, the film’s main character--an amazing performance by newcomer Taylor John Smith--finds a better mentor in an older street ball player named Socrates (John Douglas Thompson) who pushes him to put everything he can into the sport.

Wolves features great performances all around, but there’s undeniable brilliance in the dramatic scenes between Smith and his parents, played by Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino. Freundlich gives the film an amazing energy with fast-paced basketball scored with hip-hop music and powerful emotional dynamics created with more poignant and simple piano scoring.

This is easily one of Freundlich’s career best, just an amazing achievement in creating a movie that keeps you on edge about what happens, especially in the last ten to fifteen minutes with a last act climax that’s quite amazing.

Wolves opens at the IFC Center on Friday as well as other theaters and On Demand. (Note: IFC Center will have a preview on Thursday night at 7 p.m. with Freundlich, Shannon and Gugino doing a Q n A)

LRM Interview with Bart Freundlich (Coming later this week)


THE LAST LAUGH (The Film Collaborative)

Cast: Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jeffrey Ross, Larry Charles, Gilbert Gottfried (of course). Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, Judy Gold.
Director: Ferne Pearlstein (Sumo East and West and more)
Genre:  Documentary

I also caught this amazing doc at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, and I was really impressed with what Ferne Pearlstein put together in trying to create a thesis answering the question whether jokes about the Holocaust can be made almost 70 years later.  There’s little question in my mind that Jewish comedians generally have the funniest way into comedy, and this film proves it as a few of them talk about this topic. At the same time, Pearlstein follows an actual Holocaust survivor going around talking about the Holocaust, but she also watches some of the comedians and comments on some of their Holocaust jokes. (She’s not a fan of Sarah Silverman or Seinfeld).  And of course, Mel Brooks talks about doing “Springtime for Hitler” in The Producers (which has gone on to becoming a huge Tony-winning musical on Broadway).

The doc proves quite concisely that Jews do have a sense of humor, even about the darkest moment in Jewish history; although you don’t hear a lot of comedians, Jewish or otherwise, making jokes about the Pharaoh of Egypt, but don’t worry, I’m working on a few jokes for my own comedy act. It’s especially funny when you realize that making jokes about our current President is similar to making jokes about Hitler, except Hitler is dead.

The Last Laugh especially strikes a chord because I remember my strong negative reaction to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, especially the deliberate attempt to bait people into attacking Jews for entertainment. When you hear Cohen, who is Jewish, talk about the reasons for what he does to out anti-Semitism, it’s a little more forgivable, but it still makes it hard to take.

This is absolutely a brilliant must-watch documentary whether you’re Jewish or a fan of comedy and how/why it does or doesn’t work.

The Last Laugh opens at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York Friday.

I also have to give a very positive mention to Onur (Summer of Blood) Tukel’s hilariously dark comedy Catfight (MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films). As one can tell from the title, it’s about the ongoing feud between two one-time college friends, played by Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, who run into each other at a party and get into a brutal fight that throws one of them into a coma for two years. When she gets out of the coma, she finds out she’s run out of money and lost everything so she swears revenge on the other woman. The fights between Oh and Heche would make the cast of Dynasty proud. It opens in select cities Friday and it’s probably the only other movie this weekend that’s nearly as violent as Logan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlA6XIj1sPk

Also, if you’re in New York City, and haven’t been to the Metrograph yet, it celebrates its first anniversary over the weekend, and owner Alexander Olch will screen his doc feature The Windmill Movie, produced by the theater’s artistic director Jacob Perlin, for one screening only tonight, March 1, at 7 p.m.!


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

You might want to sit down for this weeks’ offerings because there are a ridiculous amount of new movies opening in select cities and on VOD Friday.

Anna Kendrick reunites with Jeff Blitz, director of her early movie Rocket Science, for the comedy Table 19 (Fox Searchlight) in which she plays Eloise, a woman invited to the wedding of a former best friend, whom she was originally going to be her maid of honor before the bride’s brother (Wyatt Russell) broke up with her.  Because of this, Eloise is seated at a table of outcasts including Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, June Squibb and Stephen Merchant (who is also in Logan this week!). Hijinks ensue. This opens in select cities Friday.

Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried star in The Last Word (Bleecker Street), the new movie from Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), in which MacLaine plays Harriet Lauler, a businesswoman who has not made many friends in life, so she hires young journalist Anne Sherman (Seyfried) to write her obituary in hopes she can find people who might say nice things about her. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

From there we go to a couple Asian imports…

Indonesian action star Iko Uwais (the original The Raid) stars in Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto’s Headshot (Vertical Entertainment) about a young man who wakes up after months in a coma from a gunshot wound. As he’s nursed back to health by a student doctor, the two of them get caught up in conflicts with a group of criminals as the young man fights them off with lethal force, getting them closer to realizing the truth about his past. It opens in select cities.

From Singapore comes Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice (Film Movement), starring Fir Rhaman as Aiman, a 28-year-old Malay correctional officer who is working at the area’s top prison where he takes interest in Rahim, a 65-year-old sergeant who is the prison’s chief executioner, taking on the role of his assistant. Aiman’s sister is upset to hear this since Rahim executed their father.

Now, let’s get into a few indie comedies…

Expanding upon his original short film, Kris Avedisian writes, directs and stars in Donald Cried (The Orchard), the story of how two childhood friends are reunited years later. Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) left their Rhode Island home to create a new life on Wall Street but when he loses his wallet on a trip home, he calls upon his eccentric neighbor Donald to help him. The buddy comedy opens in select cities and will be available On Demand Friday.

Jacob (Inequality for All) Kornbluth directs his brother Josh Kornbluth in the comedy Love & Taxes (Abramorama), a pseudo documentary based on the latter’s own autobiographical monologue about not paying his taxes for seven years and the trouble that gets him into.

Yet another Tribeca Film Festival premiere--there’s a lot this weekend--is Udi Aloni’s Junction 48 (The Orchard) about a Palestinian-Israeli rapper living in an Arab ghetto trying to be the “first Arab rapper” as he faces violence from the government and nationalist rappers who threaten him and his singer girlfriend. It opens in New York and L.A. and will be available via TUGG as well.

Opening at New York’s Film Forum on Friday are three movies--two new and one old--Shimon Dotan’s compelling doc The Settlers (BOND/360) takes a look at the controversial topic of Israel and the dispute between the government with the Palestinians and a group of settlers--i.e. Israelis living in the Palestine sections of the country--that makes the situation even more complicated.  (And in some ways, it’s related to the characters in Junction 48, as well!) It’s playing alternately with Yariv Mozier’s doc Ben Gurion: Epilogue, based around an unseen 1968 interview with the Israeli leader, essentially playing once a day starting Friday.

Also on Friday at Film Forum, Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1953 film Ugetsu (Janus Films) will be re-released in a 4k digital restoration. It’s a story set during 16th century Japan in which a potter goes to town to sell his wares, leaving his wife behind, only to be seduced by a ghost princess, but when he returns, he finds his village devastated.

Pamela Romanowsky and James Franco co-direct The Institute (Momentum Pictures), starring Allie Gallerni as a woman who is subjected to bizarre and violent experiments in personality modification, brainwashing and mind control at the Rosewood Institute, from which she needs to escape and get revenge on those who performed them.

Canadian filmmaker Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs) returns with his new thriller Lavender (AMBI Media Group), starring Abbie Cornish as a photographer suffering from memory loss after an accident, but finds clues that she may be responsible for the death of a family she never knew she had. Justin Long plays her psychiatrist. It opens in select theaters, as well as on VOD and Digital HD.

Two docs opening at the IFC Center in New York on Wednesday are Bill Ross and Turner Ross’ documentary Contemporary Color (Oscilloscope)--yet another Tribeca Film Festival premiere--and Sara Jordeno’s Kiki (Sundance Selects)--which premiered at Sundance, just to ruin this streak we’ve got going. Contemporary Color follows David Byrne and his plans to stage an event celebrating the art of Color Guard at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, collaborating with performers Saint Vincent, Nelly Furtado and Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys to create new music for 10 color guard teams. Kiki takes a similar look at the art of the voguing scene in New York. (Yes, that’s the dance made famous by Madonna.) 

Opening in New York at the Village East Cinemas is Eddie Rosenstein’s The Freedom to Marry (Argot Pictures), another doc about how same-sex marriage came to be the norm in the country, following the architect of the movement, Evan Solfson, along with attorney Mary Bonauto on their battle for marriage equality that lasted ten years.

Opening at the Metrograph Friday is Eduardo Williams’ doc (of sorts) The Human Surge (Grasshopper Films) is a cinema verité film following a group of people from Argentina to the Philippines trying to find the “fugitive spirit of plugged-in 21st century youth.”  Yawn.

Jon Mann’s doc Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe (XLRator Media) looks at the personalities of today’s new wave of burlesque, while drag queens in Columbus, Ohio are the focus of Gabrielle Burton’s Kings and Queens and In-Between (Five Sisters Productions)--as someone who has lived in Columbus, I can confirm that it is indeed a drag (rimshot). They both open in select theaters on Friday, the latter at the Cinema Village in New York.

Also opening at the Cinema Village is Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman’s Nakom (Corinth Films), a Ghana-based drama about a medical student who returns home to the village of Nakom after his father’s death, taking over as head of the household and dealing with father’s massive debt.

That’s it for this week--as if you would need any more than that--but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies. In fact, next week we only get ONE new wide release (thank heavens!) and it’s Kong: Skull Island (Warner Bros)!

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

 

Box Office, Film, Featured, LRM Exclusives, The Weekend Warrior The Weekend Warrior, Logan, Wolverine, Before I Fall, The Shack, Wolves, Hugh Jackman, Sam Worthington