The Weekend Warrior 9/30/2016: Deepwater Horizon, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Masterminds

– 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:

 While the new movies reigned at the box office this past weekend, both Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven (Sony) and the animated Storks (Warner Bros.) didn’t fare nearly as well as our projections, both falling short by about $10 million. The Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, fared decently with $34.7million, which is about the average for Washington’s films, but the fourth highest opening for a Western after last year’s The Revenant, the animated Rango, and Cowboys and Aliens. Storks’ $21.3 million opening wasn’t great compared to other animated September releases with Sony still holding the September opening record with Hotel Transylvania 2, but it should continue to do well with no other animated movies opening for another month.


DEEPWATER HORIZON (Summit/Lionsgate)

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien
Director: Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Battleship, The Kingdom, Hancock, The Rundown)
Genre:  Drama, Action
Rated PG-13
Plot:
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, caught on fire, killing eleven of its 140-person crew, but many were saved due to the heroism of chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) who wouldn’t leave the burning rig until everyone else was safe.
Theater Count (est.): 3,400

Just like last week when Denzel Washington reteamed with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua and co-star Ethan Hawke, Deepwater Horizon marks the second collaboration with actor Mark Wahlberg with director Peter Berg following 2013’s hit Lone Survivor.  It opened in just two theaters over the Christmas holidays before expanding nationwide in early January where it grossed $37.8 million on its way to $125 million. It also set a precedent for Clint Eastwood to open his own war hero movie American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, which ended up becoming one of the biggest blockbusters of the following year.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, it's a fascinating story, since the fire on the rig led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history and besides the families of the 11 men who died on the rig during the fire, it affected just about everyone on the Louisiana and Texas coasts as the oil spill killed lots of birds and fish. This is an interesting follow-up to Lone Survivor for Berg, since he once again has the chance to explore some real-life drama based on real peoples' lives.

Mark Wahlberg has gone from being an '80s pop sensation to becoming a hot actor in-demand actor and more recently, a global superstar and an  A-lister, similar to Denzel Washington, who he appeared opposite in 2013’s Two Guns. Wahlberg is generally good for an opening weekend between the mid-$20 millions to bigger openings for the comedy hits Ted and last year’s Daddy’s Home, the latter his tenth movie to cross the $100 million mark. Of course, it probably didn’t help for Wahlberg to team with Michael Bay in 2014 for Transformers: Age of Extinction, which didn’t gross as much as previous Transformers movies, but still became Wahlberg’s biggest hit, grossing $245 million domestically. Wahlberg’s career hasn’t been flawless and he’s had a couple films that didn’t do as well like 2014’s The Gambling or his previous pairing with Michael Bay and Dwayne Johnson for Pain and Gain.

Wahlberg is joined by an impressive cast that includes the legendary Kurt Russell and his step-daughter Kate Hudson, as well as John Malkovich and Gina Rodriguez, the Golden Globe winning star of the show “Jane the Virgin.”

Even so, the main reason there’ll be interest in the movie is due to so few people knowing what really happened, and this is being sold like an old-school disaster flick. Reviews have generally been decent so far since the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, which will help it interest the older male and female moviegoers that might be interested in more real-life drama following Clint Eastwood’s Sully and Oliver Stone’s Snowden. On the other hand, it probably won’t interest many younger people that might have gone to see other Mark Wahlberg films.

LRM Interview with Director Peter Berg


MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (20th Century Fox)

Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Ella Purnell, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett
Director: Tim Burton  (Beetlejuice, Batman, Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood, Planet of the Apes, Big Eyes, Dark Shadows and many more)
Genre:  Fantasy, Adventure
Rated PG-13
Plot:
A young boy named Jacob (Asa Butterfield) discovers that his dead grandfather has connections to an island in Wales where Jacob discovers the secret mansion of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her peculiar pupils, who are living within a time loop where she teaches them how to use their powers while hiding from the malevolent Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).
Theater Count (est.): 3,000+

Based on the popular series of young adult novels by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s marks a return by director Tim Burton to the fantasy and genre realm for which he’s beloved, and once again, Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found!

In many ways, this can easily be described as “Tim Burton’s X-Men” because like the famous Marvel superhero team (whose movies have also be released by Fox), it’s about a school for kids with odd and special powers. This is Burton’s first movie since 2014’s Big Eyes, a movie about an artist starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and it’s considered more of a return to form that harks back to films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, two of his most popular films.

The biggest names in the movie are probably Eva Green as Mrs. Peregrine and Samuel L. Jackson as her nemesis. Green’s popularity has increased in recent years thanks to her role on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” but she previously appeared in Tim Burton’s poorly-received take on Dark Shadows. Jackson, somewhat surprisingly, has never worked with Burton before, although he’s done many genre films including Kingsman: The Secret Service and Jumper, both which were released by Fox.  Miss Peregrine’s is also giving young Asa Butterfield a chance to shine following his starring roles in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and the adaptation of Ender’s Game, which didn’t fare as well as some hoped, but both of those were also based on popular novels.

In the case of this one, it looks a lot like Fox is trying again to set-up their own “Harry Potter” franchise, not having had much luck with the Percy Jackson movies, the first which fared better than the second, but both grossing less than $100 million. Even their most recent young adult series, The Maze Runner, failed to deliver the type of blockbuster Lionsgate has been able to achieve with their Hunger Games movies, and there’s a good chance that young adult adaptations are starting to falter.

The good thing is that this movie is being sold like a superhero movie, so it theoretically could appeal to older teens and males who might not be as interested if they think it’s based on a children’s book or is some sort of girlie romantic film. On the other hand, it might be too dark and scary for the youngest of kids since it involves horrifying creatures that eat children’s eyeballs. Even so, Miss Peregrine’s should fare well enough to win the weekend, although it’s doubtful it will be as big as the biggest summer or holiday blockbusters andwill probably end up with an opening closer to The Maze Runner movies, both of which were also released in September.


MASTERMINDS (Relativity)

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon
Director: Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre)
Genre: Comedy
Rated PG-13
Plot:
David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), an armored car driver with a humdrum life begins to scheme with his flirtatious coworker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) to stage a heist along with a group of criminals led by Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) to steal $17 million in cash.  David’s situation gets more complicated when a hitman (Jason Sudeikis) is sent after him.
Theater Count (est.): 2,800 

It’s easy to believe that the events in Deepwater Horizon happened because we saw it happening in the news, but did you know that this new action-comedy from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess is also based on a true story? Maybe the humor has been enhanced to make it a vehicle for Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, but oddly, this comedy also stars three of the four Ghostbusters, even though this movie was made probably a year before that one.

You see, Masterminds was originally meant to be released last August, but it got caught up in the bankruptcy issues of its distributor Relativity Studios, who only worked things out and got back to releasing movies earlier this month with the disastrous bomb The Disappointments Room, which actually dropped an unheard of 95% of its theaters this past Friday.

At least Masterminds has more going for it, because it looks like the type of irreverent comedy we might see from the generally popular Farrelly Brothers, although director Jared Hess has made similar comedies himself, including Jack Black’s Nacho Libre.

It is Zach Galifianakis’ first comedy since The Hangover Part III in 2013 and the first comedy where he’s considered the lead, having mainly been paired with the likes of Will Ferrell (The Campaign) and even Robert Downey Jr. (Due Date).  The next month will give us a double helping of Galifianakis as he also stars in the upcoming comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses. As far as whether Owen Wilson is a strong enough star to add much to the film’s draw with audiences, he also hasn’t fared when not being paired with his pal Ben Stiller, and even a recent reunion with Wedding Crashers co-star Vince Vaughn for The Internship failed to find much success, grossing just $44 million. His previous comedy Hall Pass (directed by the Farrellys, no less) did about the same. Wilson’s generally been more successful with animated voice work and movies for kids like the Night at the Museum movies and Pixar’s Cars, although he does have a strong supporting cast like Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig, who should help.

Oddly, this comedy is getting released into 2,800 theaters, which is fairly wide for a movie that’s been sitting on the shelf for a year and has almost no buzz going for it, and it won’t be helped by the fact that reviews won’t be available until Thursday. Even so, the trailers and the lack of comedy in theaters currently (other than Bridget Jones’s Baby) should help this do decently among college age students that won’t be interested in some of the other movies.


THE QUEEN OF KATWE (Disney)

Cast: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, Martin Kabanza, Ivan Jacobs, Nicolas Levesque
Director: Mira Nair  (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Amelia, The Reluctant Fundamentalist)
Genre:  Chess, Drama, Biography
Rated PG
Plot:
A Ugandan girl named Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) who comes from a poor section of the country is introduced to the game of chess by a kindly teacher (David Oyelowo) and works her way to becoming a champion.
Theater Count (est.): ~1,500 

Opening last week in select cities and expanding nationwide this weekend is the latest film from Indian filmmaker Mira Nair, who takes herself out of her normal comfort zone to tell a true story set in Uganda about a girl from the slums who becomes a chess champion.

While the film stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o from the similarly Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave and last year’s mega-hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s really more of a vehicle for David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava Duvernay’s Selma. Oyelowo has yet to prove himself as a box office draw going by last year’s Captive opposite Kate Mara, which tanked with just $2.5 million when it opened last September. Other than Nyong'o and Oyelowo, the rest of the cast are newcomers, which makes the film slightly harder to sell.

Like Deepwater Horizon, this premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks back where it also received mostly rave reviews, which could help it find an audience this weekend, although films set in Africa have a hard time doing well at the box office, going by past attempts like last year’s Beast of No Nations. At least Disney has a decent track record with unconventional sports movies like McFarland USA and Million Dollar Arm, and they’re likely to give the movie a bigger push this week before its wide expansion.


BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:

This might be another tough weekend for the new movies, although having Tim Burton directing an adaptation of a popular young adult book should give Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the edge to win the weekend over Mark Wahlberg’s real-life disaster flick Deepwater Horizon. It’s hard to imagine the comedy Masterminds doing particularly well, although it is one of the few comedies in theaters, which should help. Disney’s The Queen of Katwe should be able to sneak into the Top 10 as well.

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

UPDATED 9.29.16

1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Fox) - $31.2 million N/A (up .6 million)

2. Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate) - $20.8 million N/A (up .4 million)

3. The Magnificent Seven (Sony) - $18 million -48%

4. Storks (Warner Bros.) - $14 million -35%

5. Sully (Warner Bros.) - $8.5 million -37%

6. Masterminds (Relativity) - $8.3 million N/A

7. Bridget Jones’s Baby (Universal) - $2.4 million -48% (down .2 million)

8. Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems/Sony) - $2.3 million -40% (down .2 million)

9. Snowden (Open Road) - $2.1 million -48% (down .2 million)

10. The Queen of Katwe (Disney) - $2.1 million +690%

LAST YEAR:

This is where things get confusing, because while this is, in theory, the last weekend in September, Saturday and Sunday are already October. Comparing this weekend to last year’s October opening isn’t going to help because kicking off that month was Ridley Scott’s The Martian (20th Century Fox), starring Matt Damon, which opened with $54.3 million, falling just behind Gravity’s October opening record from a few years prior. Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk (Tristar Films), starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as high-wire artist Philipe Petit who walked a cable between the towers of the World Trade Center, bombed with $1.5 million in 448 IMAX theaters, basically $3,483 per theater to open in 11th place. 


This Week’s Pick(s):

This week, we have two docs and one drama, but since the two of the movies are serious true crime films, we’ll start with something a little lighter…

DANNY SAYS (Magnolia)

Cast: Danny Fields, Iggy Pop, Tommy Ramone, John Cameron Mitchell, Alice Cooper, Lenny Kaye, Jonathan Richman, Judy Collins
Director: Brendan Toller
Genre:  Documentary, Music
Plot: Telling the story of Danny Fields, a Harvard Law dropout who became involved with some of the great rock and punk bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

The Velvet Underground. The Doors. MC5. The Stooges. The Ramones. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.   If you’ve heard of any of these legendary rock bands than you probably have a man named Danny Fields to thank.

Fields began as a music journalist but also got into publicity and management, but it’s really his amazing experiences with the likes of Lou Reed, Nico, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop and others--most of them involving drugs and alcohol--that makes him such an interesting character.  Fields has a great way of telling a story that Toller captures through an extensive series of interviews edited together with rare footage, photos and of course, the music. As someone who moved to New York to be involved in the music scene, it’s great to see a movie that shines the spotlight on Fields for his involvement in bringing some of the coolest rock bands to public attention. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t get too much into what Fields has been up to lately, which is a shame because it would be interesting to hear what he thinks of the latest music and rock scene, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining doc otherwise and a must-see for fans of rock and punk.

Rating: A-


DENIAL (Bleecker Street)

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings
Director: Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard, Volcano, L.A. Story, “Temple Grandin”)
Genre:  Drama
Rated PG-13
Plot:
 After writing a book on Holocaust deniers, college professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued by British scholar David Irving (Timothy Spall), claiming that she slandered him in her book. Because the suit was filed in England, it’s up to Deborah to prove her innocence, and a crack team of attorneys, led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) steps forward to defend her against the allegations. 

This is a movie that if I knew more about before going in to see it, I’d be worried that I wouldn’t like it nearly as much. Like many, I’m completely burnt out on movies set during the Holocaust, a time period that’s become such fodder for dramatic storytelling that it’s hard to find a different angle into it.

Ironically enough, the title of this movie based on the book by Deborah Lipstadt deals with people who deny that the Holocaust even happened and that the Nazis didn’t actually kill 6 million Jews during World War II. One of the most vocal detractors is one David Irving, a historian who is so convinced that he’s right in denying the Holocaust that he’ll sue Lipstadt for slander in order to force her to have to prove the Holocaust did happen.

It’s a tough position for her legal team to be in, because they want to prove that Lipstadt’s claims that Irving is a racist are true without putting the actual Holocaust on trial, which puts the whole case further into the public eye.

Weisz is great as always, but it’s the amazing courtroom fireworks between Wilkinson and Spall—two of England’s finest actors—that really makes Denial such a riveting drama, and it doesn’t hurt that the screenplay is by playwright David Hare, because there’s certain aspects of the film that makes it feel like it would work on stage as well. It’s more amazing that this is Mick Jackson’s first theatrical feature in 14 years, and he’s still got the same skills as he had back when he directed The Bodyguard and L.A. Story. Will be interested to see if he does more stuff this good in the coming years.

In the meantime, Denial is quite exciting if you’re into strong courtroom drama and are interested in WWII history. It opens in select cities Friday.

Rating: B+


AMANDA KNOX (Netflix)

Cast: Amanda Knox
Director(s): Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn
Genre:  Documentary, Crime
Plot: In 2007, British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found murdered in her flat in Perugia, Italy, and her roommate Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito were charged with her murder as the tabloids started to run stories about a sex game gone horribly wrong, but after they found the DNA of convicted criminal Rudy Guede on the scene, they still kept the younger lovers in jail for four years.

For whatever reason, I never paid much attention to the Amanda Knox case as it was happening years ago. I remember hearing about the murder and about her being jailed for the murder but never followed anything about it, which is why this new Netflix doc is quite welcome. It’s quite thorough in its coverage including exclusive interviews with Knox and Sollecito telling their story, but also has interviews with the Italian prosecutor and others involved with the case. Probably the most interesting thing is that it also interviews one of the reporters who broke many stories about the case, as it puts the tabloid media on trial and how the British and Italian press (and some American news networks) had a field day with this story, because Knox was such an interesting character. Either way, this is a terrific doc that covers the Amanda Knox story in a very different way that should be watched by anyone who got caught up in the story as it was happening.

Amanda Knox will open in New York and L.A. on Friday as well as launch on Netflix.  


OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:

British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) returns with American Honey (A24), starring new blood Sasha Lane as a teenager who runs away from home to join a crew of teens that drives across the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions, falling for their leader, Jake (Shia LaBeouf). It will open in select theaters following its festival run.

Following its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival where it won Best Documentary Feature, Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist (Vanish Films) looks at the militarization of the police since 9/11 between a council meeting in New Hampshire about whether they should spend $250,000 for an armored vehicle to the Department of Homeland Security’s $34 billion to arm police departments against potential terrorists. It will open at the Film Forum in New York City.

Next we have a couple of films selected by their respective countries as their Oscar selections…

From Sweden comes Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestseller A Man Called Ove (Music Box Films) with Rolf Lassgard playing the title character, known in the neighborhood as the “grumpiest man on the block” after being downsized out of his job. When a pregnant woman and her family move across the street from Ove, an unlikely friendship develops between them. After winning multiple Guldbagge Awards (Swedish Oscars), it will open in New York at the Paris and Angelika Theaters and in L.A. at Laemmle’s Royal.

Israel’s selection for the Oscars is Elite Zexer’s Sand Storm (Kino Lorber), set in a Bedouin village in Israel where a woman named Jalila sees her husband marrying a significantly younger second wife while her daughter Layla has been having a secret relationship with a boy at school, knowing that the village’s traditions will never allow it.  Having won six Ophir Awards in its native Israel, Sand Storm will open at New York’s Film Forum and at L.A.’s Laemmle Royal Theater on October 7.

From China comes I Belonged to You (China Lion), an ensemble romantic drama based on Zhang Jiajia’s short stories and directed by Zhang Yibai. Starring Deng Chaao as a DJ hoping to pursue his ex-girlfriend boss when a new intern turns his head, among other tales, it opens in select cities Friday.

Based on Daniel Halper’s novel, the doc Clinton Inc. (Freestyle Releasing) takes a look at the rise of the Clintons through the years, presumably to discredit Hilary Clinton just a few months before the Presidential Election.

Directed by Bob Nagel, the horror film Clowntown (ITN Distribution) involves a group of friends being stranded in a desert town where they’re stalked by a psychopaths dressed like clowns.

The ensemble comedy Flock of Dudes (Starz Digital Media) stars Chris D’Elia, Bryan Greenberg, Eric Andre, Jeff Ross, Melissa Rauch and Marc Maron about a thirty-year-old who decides to “break up” with his friends so that he can grow up. This raunchy comedy will open in select cities and be available on iTunes Friday.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies as we get into October proper with the thriller The Girl on the Train (Universal), Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight) and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (Lionsgate).

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

 

Box Office, LRM Exclusives, The Weekend Warrior, Featured The Weekend Warrior, Deepwater Horizon, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Queen of Katwe, Masterminds, Owen Wilson, Eva Green, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Amanda Knox, Danny Fields, Denial, Rachel Weisz