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 first…
This Past Weekend:
Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad won its third weekend as expected with $20.9 million, down 54% in its third weekend, while Seth Rogen’s animated Sausage Party was able to hold onto second place with $15.5 million, down 52%. Third place went to Todd Phillips’ War Dogs (Warner Bros), starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, which did slightly less than predicted with $14.7 million, followed by the LAIKA stop motion animated Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) in fourth place with $12.6 million. Paramount and MGM’s new take on Ben-Hur failed miserably with a sixth place opening of $11.2 million in 3,260 theaters. All the new movies basically did slightly less than we predicted last week, except for Suicide Squad which did slightly better.
We’re still in the official “Dog Days of Summer.” With lots of people on vacation and schools already starting up in some regions, it’s going to be hard for any of these movies to have much of an impact… but they’ll try. They always do. (Two of the movies are directed by South American filmmakers, and both movies are actually quite good, too!)
DON’T BREATHE (Screen Gems)
Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang, Daniel Zovato
Director: Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead)
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Plot: Three young petty criminals (Levy, Minnette, Zovato) hear that a blind vet on the outskirts of town (Stephen Lang) is hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in his house, so they sneak in late at night, only to find themselves being hunted down by the man who doesn’t take intruders lightly.
Theater Count (est.): 2,800
This has been a fairly good year for horror films and thrillers so far, so it makes sense that we’d get one more before the end of summer and before October (the month when horror movies really thrive). Don’t Breathe is latest film by Uruguay-born filmmaker Fede Alvarez, whose debut feature film, the 2013 remake of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, was one of the more impressive horror remakes we’ve seen, maybe because it was one of the few remakes that was actually good.
For his second feature (and one based on an original idea), Alvarez once again teams with his Evil Dead star Jane Levy, best known for her turn on the sitcom “Suburgatory,” but showed a surprising dramatic side in Evil Dead, which she carries onto Don’t Breathe. She’s joined by Dylan Minnette, star of last year’s Goosebumps movie — and you’d think by now he’d know not to sneak into strange men’s houses for the sake of a girl. The main antagonist is veteran stage actor Stephen Lang, who is probably best known to most for his role in James Cameron’s Avatar, but his film career goes back over thirty years.
Don’t Breathe premiered a work-in-progress cut at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in March, where it received rave reviews, and we expect it to continue to gain from support from critics as more reviews roll out this week.
Horror movies tend to be easy sells with solid marketing, and Screen Gems has done a decent job selling this one with scary commercials that don’t give away as much as some might think. Teen and older moviegoers who’ve heard about the movies from out of SXSW or earlier promo screenings will finally have a chance to see what all the buzz is about. Maybe Don’t Breathe would make more if released in a better weekend than the one right before Labor Day, but word-of-mouth should help carry it through the Labor Day weekend.
MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (Lionsgate)
Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, Toby Eddington, John Cenatiempo
Director: Dennis Gansel (We Are the Night, Before the Fall)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Plot: Jason Statham’s Arthur Bishop is back in action when he’s hired to assassinate some of the most dangerous men in the world by the deceitful but beautiful woman Gina (Jessica Alba).
Theater Count (est.): 2,200
Back in 2011, British actor Jason Statham was in a weird place where he had put the "Transporter" franchise to rest, and didn’t seem likely to do another Crank movie. He had just achieved success as part of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, and hadn’t even signed to joint the “Fast and Furious” franchise at that point. With that in mind, he signed on to star in a remake of the lesser-known Charles Bronson thriller The Mechanic for CBS Films, and it ended up doing just okay in its late January release despite mixed reviews. It grossed $29 million domestically and about the same internationally, which probably was enough profit to consider bringing the character back.
Since then, Statham’s profile has been increased quite dramatically by his appearance in last year’s hit movies Furious 7 and Spy, so his decision to return to the type of action-thrillers he used to do seems like a bit of a throwback, even if he definitely has fans who dig Statham in this mode.
For this one, Statham is teamed with the beautiful Jessica Alba, who has been laying low in recent years, mostly appearing in smaller movies that few people have seen. It’s been some time since Alba has been in anything even remotely high profile, mostly appearing in the films of Robert Rodriguez like Sin City, Machete and their respective sequels. It’s doubtful that Alba’s fans from the earlier ‘00s will be as keen to see her return as the growing fanbase for Statham.
Mechanic: Resurrection is being released at the tail end of a summer where “sequelitis” among moviegoers has hurt all but a few sequels, even those that have been well-received. Even so, Lionsgate aren’t going to be screening the movie for critics, presumably because it’s not very good, but also because maybe they see this movie as a late-summer write-off with stronger movies scheduled for the fall season ahead. It feels like Mechanic: Resurrection may be one of those guilty pleasures for action fans, but also a movie they’ll be perfectly fine waiting until it’s on DVD or cable.
HANDS OF STONE (The Weinstein Co.)
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Ruben Blades, Ana de Armas, Elen Barkin, John Turturro, Ellen Barkin
Writer/Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express)
Genre: Action, Drama
Plot: Ever since he was a boy in Panama, Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) was a fighter, and as he becomes better known outside Panama, he’s taken on by trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De NIro) who promises to make him world champion. Duran’s temper ends up getting the better of him when he gets into a conflict with the current champion, Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond).
Theater Count (est.): 800+
There have been a lot of great boxing movies, many of them based on the lives of ring greats. Hands of Stone is the biopic of the legendary Roberto Duran, who wowed Latino audiences in North, South and Central America in the ‘70s with his fantastic fights against the equally charismatic Sugar Ray Leonard.
The film is written and directed by Venezuelan-born filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz, whose earlier film Secuestro Express got him some attention on the festival circuit over ten years ago, but more importantly, it got him hired to make a movie based on the Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran. The beloved boxer’s fame helped the director get an impressive cast that includes Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin and John Turturro in key roles, but more importantly, he’s teaming with fellow Venezuelan Edgar Ramirez, who plays the role of Duran.
Ramirez is becoming better known to American audiences for his appearances in high-profile movies like Steven Soderbergh’s Che and Olivier Assayas’ acclaimed Carlos — the latter in the lead role for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. Last year, he was cast in David O. Russell’s Joy opposite Jennifer Lawrence as well as in the disastrous Point Break remake. Duran’s main opponent Sugar Ray Leonard is played by popular R ‘n’ B singer Usher Raymond, who hasn’t appeared in many movies lately, while the movie also stars actress Ana de Armas, who also played Miles Teller’s wife in last week’s War Dogs.
Wisely, distributor The Weinstein Company has put most of the film’s promotion behind the presence of Robert De Niro, since they know the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker commands a certain degree of respect among older moviegoers when doing this type of drama. De Niro also has a history with boxing movies, most notably Scorsese’s Raging Bull, for which De Niro won one of his Oscars, less so for the recent comedy Grudge Match opposite “Rocky” himself, Sylvester Stallone. The less said about the latter the better.
Hands of Stone is seemingly a movie with a lot going for it, but one thing that might not be so obvious is its draw to older Latino males who may remember fondly seeing Duran fight as a kid. That Latino audience is one that is often underestimated when it comes to moviegoing, and sometimes it takes a movie like this to bring them out. It’s hard to determine whether the Weinstein Company has targeted this audience as they should.
The biggest obstacle for this movie is the dubious standings of the Weinstein Company, which is rumored to be close to bankruptcy right now, having delayed a few of their 2016 releases and releasing this one into the worst weekends of the summer. Normally, the Weinstein Company would try to give the movie some sort of awards push in hopes of drumming up awareness, but that didn’t work very well for last summer’s Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, although that generally did decently at the box office. Reviews should generally be good because it’s a decent movie, but that probably won’t help the movie get the attention it needs to succeed this weekend.
The Weinstein Company have decided to open the movie moderately in 800 theaters in hopes that word-of-mouth will help contribute to the movie's success when they expand it into over 2,000 theaters next Wednesday.
Box Office Predictions:
This is going to be a very slow weekend, as it leads into the end of the summer and the even slower months of September and October. The Screen Gems thriller Don’t Breathe stands the best chance at breaking out and winning the weekend, while the other two movies will be lucky to make much of a mark at all. Hands of Stone will probably end up opening outside the Top 10 since it's opening more moderately. If nothing else, at least something will finally knock Suicide Squad out of the #1 spot.
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
UPDATE: Screen Gems is releasing Don't Breathe into more theaters than originally planned, but also CBS Films is expanding the modern Western Hell or High Water into 900 theaters. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate have decided to open Richard Tanne's Southside with You (this week's Top Pick) nationwide this weekend as well.
1. Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems/Sony) - $14.5 million N/A (up 2 million)
2. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) - $11 million -48%
3. Sausage Party (Sony) - $8.3 million -47%
4.Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) - $7.6 million -40%
5. Mechanic: Resurrection (Summit/Lionsgate) - $7.5 million N/A (down .3 million)
6. War Dogs (Warner Bros.) - $7.1 million -52%
7. Pete’s Dragon (Disney) – 7.0 million -38%
8. Ben-Hur (Paramount/MGM) - $5.3 million -54%
9. Bad Moms (STX) - $5.2 million -35%
10. Jason Bourne (Universal) - $4.4 million -45%
-- Hell or High Water (CBS Films) - $3 million +11%
-- Hands of Stone (The Weinstein Company) - $2.9 million N/A
-- Southside with You (Roadside Attractions) - $2.7 million N/A
Historically, one of the worst weekends of the year saw an actual hit in the Christian drama War Room, which opened with $11.3 million in just 1,135 theaters, although it still had to settle for second place behind Universal’s Straight Outta Compton, which triumphantly celebrated its third weekend at #1 with $13.1 million. The only other new movie in wide release was the Pierce Brosnan-Owen Wilson thriller No Escape (Dimension), which ended up behind Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in fourth places with $8.1 million.
THIS WEEKS PICK(s):
This week I’m picking three of the better movies I saw at this year’s Sundance Film Festival including two directed by actors and two by first-time feature directors.
SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (Roadside Attractions)
Cast: Parker Sawyers, Tika Sumpter
Writer/Director: Richard Tanne (debut)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Plot: Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) agrees to spend the day with her co-worker Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) in this fictitious version of what their first date might have been like.
If you haven’t seen any of Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated “Before” movies, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, it might be hard to imagine a movie about two people talking being very interesting. When those two people are our President and First Lady, as they spend their very first day together outside of work, that’s another whole story.
Who knows how much access filmmaker Richard Tanne had to friends, family, and other research materials to piece together what Michelle and Barack may have talked about on that day (which Michelle insists isn’t a date), but watching the relationship unfold between Barack, played by British stage actor Parker Sawyers, and Michelle (Tika Sumpter of the Ride Along movies) is what makes Southside With You such a special film.
Like Linklater’s dialogue-driven films, it’s a very script-heavy film but the topics discussed between the two of them are compelling enough to keep you invested, especially as Michelle starts warming up to Barack, despite a few missteps he makes along the way.
However you slice it, Southside With You ends up being a thoughtful and actually quite romantic character study that works on many levels beyond the obvious political ones. Southside with You will be opening moderately wide this weekend.
THE INTERVENTION (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Clea Duvall, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat, Vincent Piazza, Cobie Smulders
Writer/Director: Clea Duvall (debut)
Plot: Four couples get together for a weekend getaway, only for one of the couples to learn that the other three are there to convince them that they should get a divorce.
The premise of friends and family getting together for a weekend getaway, bringing out all sorts of amusing animosity, is one we regularly see come out of the Sundance Film Festival, where Clea Duvall’s directorial debut premiered. Even so, she brings a lot to the table as a respected actor able to pull together an impressive cast to give The Intervention its own unique spin on that idea. (It’s actually one of many things it has in common with this week’s other pick below, The Hollars.)
The film opens with Abbie (the always amazing Melanie Lynskey) on a flight to meet her fiancé Matt (Jason Ritter) for their planned weekend in the country with friends and siblings. Abbie and Matt have been engaged for a long time but she’s not ready to pull the trigger, maybe because her plans for the weekend is to convince her friends Ruby and Peter (Cobie Smulders, Vincent Piazza) that their marriage isn’t working out, and they should get divorced. Duvall herself plays Jessie, one half of a lesbian couple (with Natasha Lyonne’s Sarah) whose main issues seem to be their insecurities about their own relationship, while widower Jack (Ben Schwartz) brings along the considerably younger outsider Lola (Alie Shawkat).
All of the couples have issues, but Duvall is able to find hearty humor within all the drama, whether it’s Abbie’s drunken antics or the musical bedfellows going on between Jessie and her jealous girlfriend Sarah, who thinks she might be attracted to the younger Lola.
Duvall also had the wherewithal to get Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara to compose the film’s score, which really helps add to what might have been a difficult mix of tones otherwise.
As funny as The Intervention ends up being, it’s also quite thought-provoking, because it makes you think about whether you’re satisfied with your own relationships and if they’re where you want them to be.
THE HOLLARS (Sony Pictures Classics)
Cast: John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins, Charlie Day, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: John Krasinski (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Plot: When New York graphic artist John Hollar (Krasinski) learns his mother Sally (Martindale) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, he returns to his small hometown, leaving his pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) behind. Once he gets home, he finds out what a mess his family has become with his father’s business failing and his older brother Ron (Copley) pining over his ex-wife.
Another regular theme of Sundance movies is what happens when someone returns home and has to deal with family drama they thought they put behind them. Using this premise for dramedy may not be that big a surprise coming from a feted Sundance screenwriter like James Strouse, but John Krasinski makes it his own for his second feature as a director, surrounding himself with an impressive cast of actors.
Probably the best of the bunch is Margo Martindale (The Americans) who has played many a mother in films and television, but what makes Sally different is that this is a woman who is all about caring for her family who suddenly gets sick and needs to learn to put herself first. Martindale has such a great rapport with Krasinski that it makes their scenes quite wonderful to watch, and I would love it if she got some awards love in the fall because she’s just so good.
The likes of Charlie Day, Sharlto Copley and even Richard Jenkins provide more of the comedic angle to a movie that jumps back and forth between humor and drama with a bunch of subplots involving each of the characters. Day has some funny moments with Krasinski, playing a nurse now married to John’s former high school sweetheart Gwen, which leads up to John going to Charlie’s house for dinner and being accosted by Gwen — a hilarious cameo by Mary Elisabeth Winstead -- who still has feelings for him. I wasn’t as crazy about Anna Kendick’s role and performance, because John’s girlfriend was just a little too grating to me. (I totally would cheat on a pregnant girlfriend with Winstead, too.)
Sure, The Hollars probably won’t be of much interest to film snobs looking for something more deep or artsy, because this is a very accessible and relatable movie about family and how one family pulls together to try to fight against adversity with love and laughs.
The Hollars will open in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Other Limited Releases
The Norwegian crime-comedy In Order of Disappearance (Magnet) stars Stellan Skarsgard (Thor) as Nils Dickman, operator of the snow blower responsible for removing snow from the single road through a desolate area of Norway. When his son turns up dead, Nils is forced to follow the trail of gangsters to the crazy and murderous crimelord responsible, known as “The Count.” It opens in New York, L.A. and a couple Canadian cities; you can find out where here.
Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon star in the drama Complete Unknown (Amazon Studios/IFC Films) from Joshua Marton (Maria Full of Grace), playing two people who meet at a dinner party, only to realize they knew each other decades earlier. It opens at the IFC Center in New York and other cities.
Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees (A24) starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe and Naomi Watts will open in New York and L.A. Friday over a year since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. McConaughey plays a suicidal American who goes to the same forest near Mt. Fuji as seen in The Forest earlier this year, where he meets Watanabe’s character and the two of them try to find a way out.
Robert Greene’s intriguing pseudo-doc Kate Plays Christine (Grasshopper Film) follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she does research to play 30-year-old Florida newswoman Christine Chubbuck, who shot herself on-camera in 1974, creating a mystery about why she did it. Sheil ends up speaking to many of those who knew Chubbuck as she tries to prepare for the role, making it more difficult for her to pull the trigger herself. It opens Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York.
Dave Christiano’s Remember the Goal (Five and Two Pictures) is a faith-based drama about a girls cross-country team at a private Christian school, who has a new female coach just out of college who pushes them to win the state title. It will open across the country in select theaters.
John Bowman from ABC’s Revenge stars in Adam Randal’s Level Up (Filmbuff), a British action thriller in which he plays a deadbeat gamer whose girlfriend is kidnapped, and her kidnappers force him to take on dangerous challenges as he fights his way across London to save here. It will open in select theaters on Friday and then be on VOD on September 26
Following its premiere at SXSW and screening at Fantasia Fest in Montreal, Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not a Serial Killer (IFC Midnight) will open in New York and on VOD. It stars Where the Wild Things Are star Max Records as a teenager with morbid obsessions who discovers that the man living next door (Christopher Lloyd) may be a serial killer himself.
Jon Turturro stars in Nanni (The Son’s Room) Moretti’s Mia Madre (Music Box Films) about Italian filmmaker Margherita (Margherita Buy) trying to finish a film with a tempestuous American star (Turturro) while caring for her ailing mother and raising a teen daughter with the help of her brother (Moretti). It opens in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Angelika as well as in Los Angeles.
Fans of Disney animation may want to check out Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey’s doc Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (Filmbuff) about Disney Animation’s first African-American hire in 1956, who worked on classics like Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations and The Jungle Book, as well as at Pixar on Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. At 81, Norman continues to reside at Disney Publishing doing work as a freelance animator. This doc will be in theaters, On Demand and Digital HD starting Friday.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies opening over Labor Day weekend including Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of the novel The Light Between Oceans (DreamWorks), starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, and the thriller Morgan (20th Century Fox).
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)