The Weekend Warrior 8/12/16: Sausage Party, Pete’s Dragon, Florence Foster Jenkins and More!

– 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.   

Before we get to this week’s offerings, let’s look back at…

This Past Weekend:

As expected, the David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.), starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis won the weekend and was able to set a bunch of new August opening records. With an opening weekend of $133.7 million, it only did slightly better than last week’s prediction despite horrible reviews and the Summer Olympics opening ceremony night.  It did start out quite strong with $65 million on Friday but quickly lost ground on Saturday (an unheard of 41% drop) and ended up well below some of the higher projections of $145 million for the weekend. Barry Sonnenfeld’s talking cat movie Nine Lives (EuropaCorp), starring Kevin Spacey, ended up slightly lower than where we projected with $6.3 million. Returning movies Jason Bourne and Star Trek Beyond were both hurt by the opening of Suicide Squad, as expected, and had drops of 62% and 59% respectively, while Bad Moms and The Secret Life of Pets held better in third and fourth place without as much direct competition. 

This week, we have three new movies trying to make some money before we hit the “Dog Days of Summer,” those last two weekends in August where it’s very hard for any movie to make much money. At least, this is a weekend with two original movies and only one remake and not a single sequel in sight.


Sausage Party (Sony)

Voice Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Michael Cera, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Anders Holm, Paul Rudd, Danny McBride
Director(s): Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted), Greg Tiernan (Various “Thomas & Friends” videos)
Genre:  Animated, Comedy
Rated R
Plot:
Unbeknownst to shoppers, the items in the shopping aisles at Shopwells grocery story are actually sentient, their only desire is to go to “The Great Beyond”—to be picked by shoppers and taken home. Little do they know that once they get there, they’ll be cooked and eaten. Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) is a hot dog who looks forward to going to “The Great Beyond” with his sweetheart Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), but when they’re knocked out of their shopping cart they need to make their way back to their shelf, but not before learning the truth about “The Great Beyond.”
Theater Count (est.): 2,800+

This has been a pretty decent year for animated movies with three of them already grossing over $300 million, but Sausage Party is a different beast, because it’s not trying to bring in families or little kids. Instead, it’s the first foray into animation by comedy superstars Seth Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg, who have turned R-rated stoner comedy into an art form.

In the nine years since Rogen starred in Knocked Up and Superbad (written by him and Goldberg), they’ve been able to branch away from producer Judd Apatow to set up many of their own productions, including the acclaimed 2012 film 50/50, the 2013 hit This is the End (which they co-directed), the even bigger 2014 hit Neighbors and last year’s The Night Before, which didn’t fare as well as many hoped. They also wrote and directed the comedy The Interview, which suffered from Sony’s inability to get the movie into major theater chains after being threatened by “North Korean hackers.” Rogen has still managed to establish his own brand with a strong appeal towards college-age males and the stoner crowd who appreciate his R-rated sense of humor.

That sense of humor is being brought to Sausage Party, their first attempt at animation and once again, they are trying to do something daringly different. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an adult animated movie if you don’t count Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa last year. Sausage Party probably has more in common with Team America, the puppet film from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in that it’s looking to bring in an older teen and college-age crowd. There was a time when R-rated animated films were quite popular, but mostly in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and trying to make something as raunchy as Sausage Party now is really taking a chance.

Rogen and Goldberg have created quite a circle of friends for themselves in their various productions and they bring most of them back to provide voices for this, including both Jonah Hill and Michael Cera from Superbad, James Franco from most of their movies, as well as Paul Rudd, Bill Hader and Craig Robinson. They’ve never done anything with Kristen Wiig before but she provides the voice of the bun to Rogen’s hot dog, while Salma Hayek and Edward Norton also provide voices to a taco and a bagel respectively.  It’s definitely a varied bunch of voice actors to match the diverse characters.

The promos for the movie have been great, although they’ve wisely left out some of the racier bits, but Sony were confident enough in the movie to show an early cut at the SXSW Film Festival, where it was well received, as well as having a screening at Comic-Con International.  The buzz from these early screenings has helped to generate good word-of-mouth to its target audience of 17 to 25 year olds, who will drive the film’s business.

Sony could really use a hit right now and they’re hoping that releasing this raunchy comedy in late August, similar to Rogen and Goldberg’s 2008 hit Pineapple Express, will offer the same motivation to thei teen and older fanbase to get out of the heat and to see something a little edgier than the other movies being offered in theaters. 


Pete’s Dragon (Disney)

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford
Director: David Lowery (Ain’t Them Body Saints)
Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG
Plot:
A young orphan named Pete (Oakes Fegley) ends up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest being cared for by a mythical dragon he names Elliot, but when a forest ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds him, others are more interested in his invisible friend.
Theater Count (est): 3,500+

Walt Disney Pictures has been having a fantastic year (and summer), having released four of the five highest grossing movies this year with Pixar’s Finding Dory and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War dominating the summer with over $400 million each.

While family films don’t tend to do as well if released later in the summer, Disney are hoping they can change that with a modern-day remake of one of their beloved earlier films, 1977’s Pete’s Dragon.  Like that movie, this combines live action with animation but in this case, the dragon of the title is created with the latest in computer graphics animation. This dragon also doesn’t talk like the original animated one did, nor is this remake a musical like the original movie, but that’s one of the decisions made in trying to refashion the idea for a new generation of moviegoers.

The movie is directed by David Lowery, best known for directing the very different indie drama Ain’t Them Body Saints, after having a fairly successful career as a film editor. He brings a very different sensibility to the film while also creating something as sweet and magical that tends to be the norm from Disney.

The cast is made up of Bryce Dallas Howard, star of last year’s blockbuster hit Jurassic World, as well as living legend Robert Redford, who doesn’t make that many movies anymore (usually one or two a year), but much of the focus is being put on newcomer Oakes Fegley, who plays the film’s protagonist Pete.

Honestly, most people coming to see the movie will be there for the adorable furry green dragon, which should help the movie appeal to kids while also offering a nostalgia factor for their parents, even though the original Pete’s Dragon wasn’t as popular or memorable as other movies that have been remade in recent years.

It should be interesting to see how this fares with the Disney marketing machine firing on all cylinders this summer other than a few missteps like Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (which this resembles quite a bit) and Johnny Depp’s Alice Through the Looking Glass.


Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount)

Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda
Director: Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons and many more)
Genre:  Comedy, Music
Rated PG-13
Plot:
New York heiress Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) has always been urged by her husband (Hugh Grant) to pursue her dreams, so she decides that she wants to be an opera singer and perform at Carnegie Hall, even though no one will tell her the truth—that she can’t sing.
Theater Count (est.): 1,500

Like last week’s Nine Lives, this is the underdog of the weekend, mainly because it’s looking for a very specific audience of older adults, mostly women, and that’s not an audience that regularly flocks to go see movies opening weekend.

It’s a vehicle for three-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep to once again play a real person as she did playing Julia Child in Julie & Julia (one of many Oscar nominations she’s received) and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2011’s Iron Lady, for which she scored her third Oscar. The real Florence Foster Jenkins wasn’t that well known but she was a wealthy New York heiress who had dreams of being an opera singer despite not having an ear for pitch.

Streep is joined by Hugh Grant, a popular actor among women from his films like About a Boy and Notting Hill, and though he appeared in last year’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. remake and in the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas, he’s been keeping a fairly low profile in recent years. Florence Foster Jenkins also stars “Big Bang Theory’s” Simon Helberg as Jenkins’ piano accompanist as well as Rebecca Ferguson, a very hot actress right now after appearing in last year’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. 

They couldn’t have a more perfect director for this than British filmmaker Stephen Frears, who directed actresses like Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench to Oscar nominations with movies like The Queen and Philomena, and he has a pretty good track record with this kind of film, even though  this will be his widest release in quite some time. (Philomena managed to bring in $16.4 million with a release in half as many theaters.)

Unfortunately, Paramount Pictures doesn’t seem to have many ideas on how to release and market prestige films like this one, because it’s not in their usual wheelhouse. Normally a movie like this would receive a limited release in a couple cities and expand from there, but they’re going to give it a moderately wide release into 1,500 theaters right away. Reviews have generally been quite favorable so far and it’s already grossed almost $7 million in Australia and the United Kingdom (where most of those positive reviews came from), although those audiences have different tastes than Americans.

If you can imagine the absolutely oldest person that you know—well, Florence Foster Jenkins will probably appeal to their mother, and even THEY might not be aware this movie even exists.


This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

The fact that Suicide Squad broke the August opening record last weekend despite negative reviews won’t hinder the fact that many people rushed out to see it opening weekend, which means it will have a pretty significant drop, but probably still remain in the #1 spot.  Two of the new movies should both do pretty well with Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party bringing in enough older teens to take second place with $30 million or more so Pete’s Dragon will probably have to settle for third place. With a moderate release, Meryl Streep’s Florence Foster Jenkins will probably open somewhere in the bottom half of the Top 10.

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

UPDATED 8.11.16

 1. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) - $42.0 million -69% (down 2.1 million)

2. Sausage Party (Sony) - $31.5 million N/A (up .1 million)

3. Pete’s Dragon (Disney) - $27.8 million N/A (up 1.2 million)

4. Jason Bourne (Universal) - $11 million -51%

5. Bad Moms (STX) - $8 million -45%

6. The Secret Life of Pets (Universal)  - $7 million -40%

7. Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount) - $6 million N/A (up .4 million)

8. Star Trek Beyond (Paramount) - $4.8 million -52%

9. Nine Lives (EuropaCorp) - $3.6 million -43%

10. Lights Out (New Line) - $3 million -48%

Last Year: 

This weekend last year saw the release of the hip-hop biopic Straight Outta Compton about Ice Cube’s rap group NWA, which exceeded almost all expectations with an opening weekend of $60.2 million. That didn’t leave much room for Guy Ritchie’s spy comedy The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill and Alicia Vikander, which bombed with just $13.4 million in almost a thousand more theaters than “Compton” and ended up in third place behind the bigger spy movie, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.


This Week’s Picks:

If you’re into old school hip-hop or old school video games, this weekend has some cool new movies to check out, but we’ll start off with a “new school Western”…

Hell and High Water (CBS Films)

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Director: David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Young Adam, Asylum and many more)
Genre:  Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R
Plot:
Two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), have taken to robbing local banks in West Texas, because Toby needs the money to save his mother’s farm from foreclosure. Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) has been put on the case with his half-Mexican/half-Native-American partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham), and they’re stumped by the criminals’ motives as they chase them from one bank job to another.

This new movie from underrated British director David Mackenzie may be one of the biggest surprises of the summer, mainly because it’s the most American film he’s made after maybe 2009’s Spread, starring Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Spacey.

The title would make you think this was a Western and it kind of is, although it takes place in modern-day Texas and incorporates some of the things affecting America today, including the financial housing crash and how that’s affected people in rural areas. Not surprisingly, it’s written by Taylor Sheridan, who was responsible for last year’s excellent Sicario, and this is a similar mix of genres, ranging from crime-thriller to road movie with a very unique look and feel to other summer releases.

Probably the best thing going for the movie is the perfect casting of Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges as a crotchety Texas Ranger close to retirement who becomes obsessed with a series of small bank robberies and wants to catch the perpetrators with his partner Alberto, who he is constantly ragging on. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are also quite believable as brothers, who have begun to rob banks mainly to get the money to save their late mother’s farm, which is in danger of foreclosure from the same banks.  

Sheridan’s script is really good, up there with some of the best from the Coens, but it’s even more of an achievement for Mackenzie, who has previously done smaller, more British films and who was able to get in tune with Texas and the Americana to give this film true authenticity. It’s also a surprisingly light film with some great humor, mostly thanks to Bridges and some of the side characters.

Hell and High Water is opening in select cities and will expand into more places over the rest of the month, and it’s probably one of the better and more accessible films that hopefully will find its audience despite its late summer release.

LRM Interview with Director David Mackenzie


The Lost Arcade

Director: Kurt Vincent (co-produced and written by Irene Chin)
Genre:  Documentary
Plot: A look at the last New York City arcade, the Chinatown Fair, and its history.

Like any guy over a certain age, I spent much of my childhood in video game arcades, as well as hanging out at whatever store or restaurant had arcade games to play. Once I moved to New York, I pretty much drifted over to gaming consoles and playing video games at home, but there were a bunch of notable video arcades, including Playland in Times Square and the Chinatown Fair, which built up quite a group of regulars with its legendary fighting games like Street Fighter and the highly-skilled players that would show up to take on all challengers.

This amazing doc focuses on the Chinatown Fair, and it’s really interesting even if you never made it there, since it features great interviews with some of the regulars and those who worked there, including owner Sam Palmer. The movie follows the Fair up until its closing in 2011, before it’s bought by a new owner who wants to turn it into a “mini Dave and Busters,” something that rubs all the regulars the wrong way. Most of them had already moved onto the Brooklyn arcade Next Level set-up by a Chinatown Fair employee to give that community a place to continue their matches.

This is quite an impressive doc from Vincent, accompanied by music from Gil Talmi that beautifully captures the 8-bit synth sounds of classic video games, and while it’s focused on Chinatown Fair, it ends up telling an interesting story about the evolution of gaming and arcades and how the existence of home consoles has made it harder for video game arcades to stay afloat.

The Lost Arcade will open at the Metrograph in New York City (just blocks away from the Chinatown Fair!) for a one-week run but it will also be available on VOD sometime in September. The Metrograph will also have a related “Shall We Play a Game?” series that will include screening of films like Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, Wreck It Ralph, Tron and the raunchy ’80s classic Joysticks.

You can learn more about that series here. 

The Get Down (Netflix)

Cast: Shameik Moore, Justice Smith, Herizen Guardiola, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Skylan Brooks, Tremaine Brown Jr., Jimmy Smits, Giancarlo Esposito, Jaden Smith, Eric Bogosian, Mamoudo Athie
Director(s): Baz Luhrmann
Genre:  Music, Drama

Plot: In 1977, in the Bronx borough of New York City, two young people are trying to break out through their special talents, Mylene (Herizen Guardiola) as a disco diva, and Ezekiel (Justice Smith) through his rhymes, as hip-hop starts to become a big thing in the underprivileged community and the popularity of disco is starting to wane.

Okay, this isn’t a movie and it’s not exactly a television series either, but it’s a Netflix mini-series from one of my favorite film directors, Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby). I’ve already watched the pilot, and I’m very excited about the prospects of a filmmaker famous for his musicals and dance numbers tackling the birth of hip hop in 1979 New York City. It mainly focuses on the two characters mentioned above, Justice Smith’s Ezekiel and his childhood friend Mylene, who he has had a crush on and how their paths to get out of their South Bronx neighborhood intersects with the musical trends of the time. It also stars Shameik Moore, the breakout star of last year's Dope, and even Jaden Smith.

Luhrmann has some great consultants for the film including Associate Producer Grandmaster Flash (who appears on the show as played by Mamoudo Athie) and Nelson George, so if you’re a fan of old school hip-hop and want to know more about how it came to be with a story told in a way only Baz Luhrmann can tell it, then you should check out the first part of The Get Down (six episodes) when it debuts on Netflix this Friday.

Other Limited Releases:

Mel Gibson stars in Blood Father (Lionsgate), a new action-thriller directed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine, Assault on Precinct 13) in which he plays John Link, an ex-convict trying to protect his daughter (Erin Moriarty), who is on the run from the drug cartel. It also stars Diego Luna, Michael Parks and William H. Macy and it will open in select cities Friday.

There’ve been a number of great indie ensemble comedies coming out of the Sundance Film Festival each year, and Jeff (Life After Beth) Baena’s Joshy (Lionsgate Premiere) is a fun one. It stars Thomas Middleditch from HBO’s “Silicon Valley” as the title character, a guy who loses his fiancée right before his wedding, so he and his friends decide to throw a debaucherous bachelor party anyway in the name of male bonding. Those friends are played by Nick Kroll (who also voices the main baddie in Sausage Party), Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”), filmmaker Alex Ross Perry and Brett Gelman (Married), while Jenny Slate (Obvious Child) plays a drunken woman Joshy meets over the weekend. It will open in a few theaters but also be On Demand via Hulu, who picked it up at Sundance.

“Napoleon Dynamite” himself, Jon Heder, teams with Justin Long for Ghost Team (The Orchard), a supernatural comedy getting a limited release Friday about a group of paranormal investigators who get more than they bargain for. It also stars David Krumholtz (also in Sausage Party), Amy Sedaris and Melonie Diaz.

Irish actors Cilian Murphy and Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey) star in Anthropoid (Bleecker Street) playing Czech operatives on a secret mission to Prague to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the diabolical SS officer behind the Nazi’s Final Solution, a mission labeled “Operation Anthropoid.” It will actually open in about 300 theaters this weekend, so fairly wide.

Similarly, the Korean film Operation Chromite (CJ Entertainment) is another war-time thriller, this one being about the crucial Battle of Incheon during the Korean War, starring Liam Neeson and other American actors among the otherwise Korean cast. Expect it to get a fairly small limited release despite the bigger name stars.

French actress and filmmaker Maïwenn (Polisse) returns with her Cesar Award-nominated My King (Film Movement), a love story starring Emannuell Barcot as a woman trying to rehabilitate from a ski accident who reflects on her ten-year love affair with Vincent Cassel’s Georgio. It opens in New York at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and in L.A. at the Laemmle Royal on August 26.

Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl) and Diane Kruger star in the French-Belgian thriller Disorder (IFC Films) from filmmaker Alice Winocour (writer of last year’s Oscar-nominated Mustang). Schoenaerts plays Vincent, a man suffering from post-traumatic stress who is hired to provide security to a wealthy businessman’s wife (Kruger), which becomes harder to do as he succumbs to anxiety and hallucinations. It opens at the IFC Center in New York.

Rob Connolly’s thriller Edge of Winter (Vertical Entertainment) stars Tom Holland (the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man) as one of two brothers who gets stranded by a winter storm with his estranged father, played by Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad), who may be a bigger threat than the storm. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village as does The Model (Brainstorm Media), the new film from Mads Matthiesen starring Maria Palm as Parisian fashion model Emma who develops an obsession for fashion photographer Shawn White, played by Ed Skrein (Deadpool).

Also, Werner Herzog’s latest Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (Magnolia Pictures), the Oscar-nominated director’s documentary about the origins and evolution of the internet, will get released in a couple Canadian cities, but it’s real roll-out will take place on August 19. In the meantime, the IFC Center in New York will be running a week-long film series called “Ecstatic Truths: Documentaries by Herzog,” which as the title suggests will showcase Herzog’s extensive documentary filmography.

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 Todd Phillips war comedy War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of the classic epic Ben-Hur and LAIKA Studios’ attempt to create their own new stop-motion epic with Kubo and the Two Strings.

(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)

 

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