The Weekend Warrior 9/2/16: Morgan and The Light Between Oceans

– 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, Fede Alvarez’s thriller Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems), starring Jane Levy and Stephen Lang, won the weekend, but it did way more than we predicted, doing better than most movies released in the last weekend of August, winning the weekend with $26.4 million, pretty much double what I predicted. That’s a pretty great testament to the power of Screen Gems’ marketing campaign and that’s more than double what the movie cost to make. Jason Statham’s Mechanic: Resurrection (Summit/Lionsgate) didn’t fare as well as it opened in fifth place with $7.5 million in 2,258 theaters, about where I predicted. Of the more moderate releases, the Obama date movie Southside with You (Roadside Attractions) took in $3 million in around 800 theaters, while the Roberto Duran biopic Hands of Stone (Weinstein Co.) bombed with just $1.7 million in roughly the same number of theaters.  That’s definitely not good for the latter since the Weinstein Company plans to expand the movie into over 2,000 theaters today, hoping that word-of-mouth will help its Labor Day business.


Yes, indeed. It’s Labor Day weekend, which is either considered the final weekend of the summer or the start of the fall movie season, depending on who you ask. Either way, it’s not a known weekend for seeing a lot of new releases breaking out, and a lot of times it’s used by moviegoers to catch up on other summer movies they’ve missed. That said, we’ve seen a few prestige films do well and also genre films, and this weekend we get one of each. Let’s look at what we’re getting…

MORGAN (20th Century Fox)

Cast: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Boyd Holbrook, Toby Jones
Director:  Luke Scott (feature film directorial debut)
Genre:  Science Fiction, Thriller
Rated R
Plot:
In a secret bunker, a group of scientists have been developing an artificial human they’ve named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), but when she turns violent, they call in an expert (Kate Mara) to help figure out how to handle their out-of-control experiment.
Theater Count (est.): 2,000

Being Labor Day weekend, it makes sense for 20th Century Fox to release a lower-key genre film like this sci-fi thriller directed by Luke Scott, son of Ridley Scott (who produced the film). It’s probably no coincidence that the younger Scott is tackling a movie about artificial humans that harks back to his Dad’s classic film Blade Runner, although this one probably more in the vein of last year’s Ex Machina or The Lazarus Effect, both of which grossed about $25 million domestically. It also harks back to Vincenzo Natali’s thriller Splice, produced by Guillermo del Toro, which didn’t do as well.

The movie stars actress Kate Mara, who last year starred in Fox’s ill-fated Fantastic Four reboot, and who is starting to get her own leading roles, similar to her sister Rooney.  She’s teamed with a less-experienced actress in Anya Taylor-Joy, who blew away anyone who has seen Robert Eggers’ The Witch ever since it debuted at Sundance last year and was released domestically earlier this year. The cast is rounded out by the likes of Rose Leslie from “Game of Thrones,” and Oscar nominated actors like Paul Giamatti and Jennifer Jason Leigh (both fairly small roles) and Toby Jones (who is relatively small in height).  It’s basically an ensemble-driven thriller that’s going to be selling itself more on its premise than its cast.

What makes Morgan such a strange Labor Day entry is not that it’s a genre film, as much as the fact that it’s actually pretty good, although Fox may have bungled the marketing on this, since they didn’t really start promoting it much until a little over a week ago. The commercials and trailers have been pretty good, but the other obstacle facing the movie is the success of last week’s thriller Don’t Breathe, which is more likely to pull in word-of-mouth business over the weekend, not leaving much for this new movie.


THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (DreamWorks)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Director: Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines)
Genre:  Drama
Rated PG-13
Plot:
Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) returns home to Australia after World War I and takes a residential job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock. He’s joined by Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a pretty local who falls for him, and moves to Janus Rock with him after they get married. Unsuccessful at having a baby, the couple’s luck changes when a baby washes ashore in a rowboat with a dead body, so they decide to raise the baby on their own until years later when the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz) makes herself known and Tom’s guilt at what they had done gets the better of him.
Theater Count (est.): 1,500

Adapted from the 2012 novel by M. L. Stedman, that remained on the New York Times bestselling list for a year, this romance drama stars two Oscar-nominated actors in Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who apparently fell in love while making this movie.  It’s directed by Derek Cianfrance, who famously debuted with the powerful drama Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, then followed that with The Place Beyond the Pines, also starring Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who apparently fell in love while making THAT movie.  So yeah, clearly, Derek Cianfrance is a regular Cupid when it comes to bringing couples together.

Arguably, Fassbender is the biggest draw, especially to women, but Vikander is coming off an outstanding 2015 that culminated in her Oscar win for The Danish Girl, and she was recently seen in the Jason Bourne, so she’s clearly an actress on the rise. This is Fassbender’s own second movie of the year after playing Magneto in the summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse—which is in danger of being surpassed this weekend. It’s Fassbender’s first romantic drama since starring in Jane Eyre in 2011, and it’s probably safe to say that most women going to see this movie will be for its sexy star.

That doesn’t mean we should discount Rachel Weisz, the other Oscar winner of the cast also playing a key role in the movie, although it’s been a while since she’s been in a major studio release. Then again, she’s been getting quite a bit of attention for her role in The Lobster earlier this year, and she also appears in Complete Unknown (out in select cities) and Denial (opening in October), both lead roles compared to this one.

In the past we’ve seen adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ romance novels do very well at the box office, and considering the success of the novel, one would expect that women who have read it might have similar interest in the film, although they may not even be aware the movie is opening since the marketing doesn’t seem to be up there with some of those other Sparks films.

This being their last DreamWorks film through their deal, Walt Disney Pictures have seemingly disowned the movie, or at least they’re not giving it a very big push, releasing it into just 1,500 theaters over Labor Day, rather than saving it for the September film festivals or awards season proper.  It’s not that weird for a movie looking for awards to open over Labor Day, as Focus Features did open Fernando Meirelles’ adaptation of John Le Carré’s novel The Constant Gardener over the Labor Day weekend 2005 and not only was its star Rachel Weisz nominated for a supporting Oscar, but she actually won that Oscar!



BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

The new movies probably won’t have much of an impact on the box office as last week’s Don’t Breathe will stay #1, and returning movies like Suicide Squad, and especially family films like Kubo and the Two Strings and Pete’s Dragon, should dominate the four-day Labor Day weekend when moviegoers try to catch up on films they’ve missed. The Weinstein Company is also planning to expand their boxing movie Hands of Stone into 2,000 theaters or roughly twice as many as its opening weekend on Wednesday, although it may still have difficulty getting into the Top 10 based on its opening weekend performance.

(NOTE: All the below predictions are for the four-day Labor Day weekend. Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)

Updated 9.1.16

I've been going back and forth about The Light Between Oceans, but it probably will do a little better than predicted earlier in the week, maybe even enough to beat Morgan for fifth place. Also, CBS Films' highly-regarded Hell or High Water is adding roughly 400 theaters which should be enough to break into the Top 10. Hands of Stone also adds about 1,200 theaters but probably will remain outside the Top 10. Expect a lot of the summer's movies to expand into more theaters including Ghostbusters and Finding Dory, so if you missed them in theaters the first time...

1. Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems/Sony) - $21.5 million -20%

2. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) - $10.5 million -14%

3. Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) - $9.5 million +22%

4. Pete’s Dragon (Disney) – $8.8 million +18%

5. The Light Between Oceans (Miramax) –  $7 million N/A (up 1 million and two spots)

6. Morgan (20th Century Fox) - $6.8 million N/A (down .7 million and one spot)

7. Bad Moms (STX) - $6.3 million +13%

8. Sausage Party (Sony) - $5.9 million -22%

9. War Dogs (Warner Bros.)  - $5.7 million -21%

10. Hell or High Water (CBS FIlms)  - $4.6 million +29%  

-- No Manches Frida (Lionsgate/Pantelion) - $3.2 million N/A (down .1 million)

-- Hands of Stone (The Weinstein Company) - $3 million +70%

 LAST YEAR:

The Christian drama War Room took over the top spot at the box office over the four-day Labor Day weekend with $13.4 million, up 17.9%.  Of the new movies, the travelogue comedy A Walk in the Woods (Broad Green), starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, fared the best with $10.9 million in 1,960 theaters. As if predicting this past weekend’s failed Mechanic: Resurrection, the Jason Statham-less The Transporter Refueled (EuropaCorp) opened in fifth place with $9 million, while the Spanish comedy Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos (Pantelion/Lionsgate) opened in ninth place with $4.3 million in 395 theaters.


I didn’t feel that strongly about any of the new limited releases this week. In fact, two of them will make it to my Terrible 25, my annual list of the worst movies of the year. So no “Top Picks” this week and we go right to…

LIMITED RELEASES:

Director Alexandre Aja (High Tension) returns with the dramatic thriller The 9th Life of Louis Drax (Miramax), based on Liz Jensen’s 2004 novel about a young boy named Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) who survives a number of potentially accidents before falling off the edge of a cliff, putting him into a coma. After his the prime suspect, Louis’ father (Aaron Paul) goes on the run, the doctor on Louis’ case (Jamie Dornan) tries to figure out what happened while falling in love with the boy’s mother (Sarah Gadon).

LRM Interview: Director Alexandre Aja

The Mexican comedy No Manches Frida (Pantelion) is a remake of the 2013 German hit “Fack ju Göhte,” telling the story of recently-released bank robber Zequi (Omar Chaparro) who goes to get the money that was buried by his accomplice before being jailed only to learn that a school gymnasium has been built on top of the burial place. Zequi decides that the best way to recover the money is take a job as a substitute teacher, putting him in charge of a bunch of unruly teenagers, but he also meets a sweet teacher named Lucy (Martha Higareda). With the success of other Mexican films in recent years (including Un Gallo con Muchos Hueveos last Labor Day), this is opening in roughly 350 theaters, this could make a play for the Top 10, although it will probably fall just short.

Danish comedians Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam return with Klown Forever (Drafthouse Films) another irreverent and raunchy comedy where the best friends get into all sorts of trouble. When Casper moves to Hollywood, Frank follows him there to try and fix their friendship, leaving his wife alone with their newborn baby. It’s opening in select cities, presumably the ones where there’s an Alamo Drafthouse Theater.

Director Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers (Invincible Pictures) stars his daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose as the Colleens, two teens working as convenient store clerks (get it?) in Manitoba Canada, who happen to be into yoga, must face an ancient Nazi evil when it arrives in town, along with Montreal’s top detective Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp). If you liked their characters in Smith’s Tusk, this movie is for you; if not, this movie will make your soul crawl to sit through (in a bad way).  It will open in select theaters Friday after a Fathom Event on Tuesday, August 30.

Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville star in the action-comedy Skiptrace (Lionsgate Premiere), directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) with Chan playingHong Kong detective Benny Chan, who sets out to find the killer of his partner, which teams him with an American gambler named Connor Watts (Knoxville) who may have the evidence to get justice for the murder. It will open in select cities and On Demand Friday.

Kickboxer Vengeance (RLJ Entertainment) is a thematic reboot of the 1989 Jean Claude Van-Damme action flick, this one starring  martial artist Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane, who travels to Thailand to get revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of the fighter Tong Po (Dave Bautista). But first, he has to train under the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme). It will also get a limited theatrical release and be On Demand.

Recently-turned-90 year-old legend Jerry Lewis has his first starring role in two decades as Max Rose (Paladin), a retired jazz musician whose wife has just passed away after sixty years of marriage, after which he finds a love letter from another man.  Written and directed by Daniel Noah, it opens in New York Friday and in L.A. on September 9.

Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl (FilmRise) stars Morgan Saylor (“Homeland”) as college girl Leah who enjoys partying in NYC until she falls in love with drug dealer Blue (Brian Marc) and they start selling drugs to her boss (Justin Bartha), but things fall apart when Blue is arrested leaving Leah with a large amount of cocaine and massively in debt trying to get him out of jail. It opens in New York on Friday and in L.A. on September 9.

Gael Garcia Bernal (“Mozart in the Jungle”) and Alison Pill star in the comedy Zoom (Screen Media Films), three interlinked stories about a comic book artist, a novelist and a film director, whose paths are connected through the stories they tell basically about one another.  Again, select cities and On Demand.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online as the fall movie season kicks off with Tom Hanks as airline pilot Sully (Warner Bros.), the remake of the thriller When the Bough Breaks (Screen Gems), the animated The Wild Life (Lionsgate) and the DJ Caruso thriller The Disappointments Room (Relativity).

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

Film, Featured Morgan, The Light Between Oceans, Don't Breathe, Box Office, The Weekend Warrior