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, Labor Day weekend wasn’t good for the two new wide releases at all, although the romantic drama The Light Between Oceans (DreamWorks), starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, ended up doing far better of the two. Also as expected, Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems) won the weekend with a four-day total of $19.7 million, a little less than I predicted. The Light Between Oceans ended up with slightly over $6 million, roughly the same as my original prediction but 20th Century Fox’s thriller Morgan, starring Kate Mara, bomb-bomb-bombed with a ridiculously bad four-day opening of just $2.5 million in its first four days. The Mexican comedy No Manches Frida (Lionsgate/Pantelion) ended up faring better in just 362 theaters, grossing $4.6 million in its first four days. CBS Films’ modern-day Western Hell or High Water continued to expand nationwide, as it broke into the Top 10 at #9 with $5.6 million over the four-day holiday. Also, this weekend, STX Entertainment’s comedy Bad Moms hit the $100 million mark, making it the first movie from the fledgling distributor to do so.
The weekend after Labor Day is historically a poor time to release a movie, but at least there are two fairly major high-profile releases that might avoid the early September curse that has hit so many other movies with one of them directed by and starring Oscar winners in fact…
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Director: Clint Eastwood
Plot: On January 15, 2009, a plane carrying 155 people on board had to make an emergency landing in the middle of the Hudson River, a last minute call by Captain “Sully” Sullenberg (Tom Hanks) that was called the “Miracle on the Hudson.” At first, the airline pilot was declared a hero but then the investigation that followed nearly “sullied” (ha ha) his career.
Theater Count (est.): 3,300+
It’s hard to believe that in his 45 years as a director, Clint Eastwood has never directed Tom Hanks in a movie, but for the first time, the two Hollywood legends have come together for another movie ripped from the headlines. (We’ll have a couple this month.) This movie is based on the book co-written by Sullenberg himself, and it hopes to remind people of the incredible heroism of the airline pilots who hold so many lives in their hands on a daily basis. It’s hard to determine whether American audiences would care very much about this story if it wasn’t for the prestigious director and actor involved, but this will be a really good test to see if a movie like this can do well in early September, just as film festival season is starting.
Surprisingly, this will be Eastwood’s first film since 2014’s American Sniper, a movie (also based on a real story) that seemingly came out of nowhere with a limited release at the end of the year and the generated enough interest to make $89 million its opening weekend in wide release. That’s twice as much as each of Eastwood’s previous four movies have made in total. It would go on to gross $350 million, making it one of the biggest blockbusters of the year and getting star Bradley Cooper his third and fourth Oscar nominations. Granted, that movie was an anomaly for a director whose previous movies—Jersey Boys, J. Edgar, Hereafter and Invictus—weren’t received nearly as well, but it’s helped legitimize all the success the 86 year old (!) filmmaker has had in his sixty year career.
Tom Hanks’s career has been even more erratic, as he has gone between bigger hits like Bridge of Spies (with Steven Spielberg) and Captain Phillips (with Paul Greengrass) with lackluster films like his most recent one, Hologram for a King, which barely got a wide release. There’s also films like Cloud Atlas and Extremely Loud & Incredible Close, neither which connected with audiences. A key thing to note is that when Hanks plays real people, as he did in Captain Phillips, his fans are generally more interested, so Sully will be a really good test of his drawing power. Next month, Hanks will once again team with Ron Howard for his third movie as Robert Langdon in the adaptation of Dan Brown’s Inferno, which hopes to do as well as 2009’s Angels and Demons.
In many ways, the best comparison for Sully might be Robert Zemeckis’ 2012 movie Flight, starring Denzel Washington, which opened with nearly $25 million and grossed $93 million as well as receiving two Oscar nominations. In recent years, Denzel has been a more reliable box office draw than either Hanks or Eastwood—watch how well his Western The Magnificent Seven does later this month--so it’ll be interesting to see if Sully can fare as well without opening in early November, the start of the holiday movie and prime awards season.
The movie premiered last weekend at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival that’s attended by many Oscar voters to rumors of standing ovations. Also, reviews have generally been good so far, so clearly, Warner Bros. has high hopes for the movie’s awards chances. Even so, it is very odd for Warner Bros. to release the movie on the first weekend after Labor Day, which is rarely a very good weekend since people are returning to work/school after summer vacations. Granted, they previously had a decent-sized hit with Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion when it was released on this very weekend in 2011, so maybe they’re hoping for similar success based on the prestige of those involved.
WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS (Screen Gems/Sony)
Cast: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Romany Malco, Jaz Sinclair, Michael K. Williams, Theo Rossi
Director: Jon Cassar (Forsaken, lots of TV, including “24”)
Plot: John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall) desperately want a baby and after numerous attempts, they finally hire a surrogate named Anna (Jaz Sinclair), who becomes dangerously obsessed with John as her pregnancy develops.
Theater Count (est.): 2,200+
No, this isn’t a remake of the 1994 serial killer movie with the same name, but if the plot sounds familiar, it might be because it’s very similar to the 1992 thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, starring Rebecca De Mornay as a woman who gets a little too close to a family for whom she’s acting as a governess. This isn’t the first time that Screen Gems has created a domestic thriller specifically targeting the African-American community, but you really can’t blame them since they’ve found a formula that seemingly works.
First of all, this is a vehicle for Morris Chestnut, an actor who has proven himself to be very popular among African-American women from his starring roles in movies like The Perfect Guy, The Best Man and its sequel The Best Man Holiday. For this one, he’s re-teamed with Regina Hall, who also appeared in The Best Man as well as in other hits like Think Like A Man and Death at a Funeral. The two of them together are quite a powerful combo, especially as they’re joined by Romany Malco and Michael K. Williams. The film is also introducing the talented newcomer Jaz Sinclair as the surrogate that hits on Chestnut.
For two years in a row, Screen Gems has had a hit thriller on this weekend with No Good Deed in 2014 and The Perfect Guy last year—Chestnut starred in the last one—and both of those opened with nearly $25 million. One might expect this remake to follow suit, especially with such a strong thriller premise and having Chestnut, who clearly is a draw for African-American women. It also shouldn’t have too much crossover with the audience for Eastwood’s new movie, although Screen Gems’ other thriller Don’t Breathe continues to do well based on word-of-mouth. Normally, neither of those would hurt this movie much, but there’s plenty of other options for the women that might want to see this in theaters as well.
The next two movies in wide release, we won’t spend as much time discussing, because there really isn’t a lot to say about either one of them. They’re both getting dumped into the weekend.
THE WILD LIFE (Summit/Lionsgate)
Voice Cast: Doug Stone, Ron Allen, Colin Metzger, Michael Sorich, Yuri Lowenthal, Sandy Fox, Jay Jones, Lindsay Torrance, Dennis O'Connor, Jeff Doucette, Debi Tinsley
Director(s): Vincent Kesteloot
Genre: Animation, Family, Comedy
Plot: An island full of talking animals has to contend with the arrival of a human named Robinson Crusoe, who is stranded there.
Theater Count (est.): 2,200
This animated movie from the Belgian animation house nWave is kind of an odd movie to be getting any sort of theatrical release, because it honestly doesn’t look much better than something that might go straight to DVD. It’s being released by Lionsgate through their Summit division, but neither are studios that have had very much luck with animated and family films over the years, which may be why it’s seemingly getting dumped without much fanfare on the weekend after Labor Day when most kids are heading back to school. It’s equally odd to release an animated movie in this day and age that’s voiced by a no-name cast—literally, there isn’t a single star among the voice actors listed and even Lionsgate doesn’t list any voice credits in their production notes. Considering how so many animated movies draw in parents with voice talent, it’s not looking very good for a movie that few will know about and even fewer will remember as other studios release their own high-profile animated fare closer to the holidays.
THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (Relativity)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Lucas Till, Michael Conlin
Director: DJ Caruso (Suburbia
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Plot: A couple movie with their young son Jeremy into an old country manor where the mother Dana (Kate Beckinsale) discovers a locked door in the attic to a room not on the blueprints. The ghost of a young girl beckons her to open the door, but other more malevolent spirits want the door to remain closed.
Theater Count (est.): 1,500
By now, you might have heard of Relativity declaring bankruptcy last year and how a lot of their films had been shelved. Apparently, they’ve worked things out in a way to release some of the movies, although the company still hasn’t really figured things out completely, something that will be obvious when their first release in over a year comes out with barely a whimper. The unfortunate premise of The Disappointments Room, starring Kate Beckinsale, involves the room of the title, which is where mentally challenged kids were hidden by their parents in days of olde. When you start with that as your plot, there’s really nowhere to go but down. Relativity was originally going to release the similarly-delayed Before I Wake this weekend, but opted to go with this one instead. They’re dumping it into a bunch of theaters nationwide with very little marketing and no press, so the chance anyone who isn’t reading this is even going to know the movie even exists is close to nil. This will probably do even worse than last week’s Morgan. Yes, kids, that is possible.
Box Office Predictions:
The major gap between theater counts should give Sully a clear advantage, although going by last year (and Don’t Breathe), Screen Gems thrillers have a tendency to do better than expected, which may allow When the Bough Breaks to have a significant second place showing. The Wild Life may take fourth place even with a low opening just because all the summer movies will be dropping away, but the appropriately-named The Disappointments Room will follow last week’s Morgan and open outside the Top 10.
(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
1. Sully (Warner Bros.) - $25.8 million N/A (up 1.3 million)
2. When the Bough Breaks (Sony/Screen Gems) - $15.1 million N/A (up .3 million)
3. Don’t Breathe (Screen Gems/Sony) - $8.5 million - 47%
4. The Wild Life (Summit/Lionsgate) - $5.7 million N/A (up .5 million)
5. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) - $4.7 million -53%
6. Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) - $3.3 million -48%
7. Pete’s Dragon (Disney) – $3.0 million -52%
8. Hell or High Water (CBS Films) - $2.8 million -38%
9. Sausage Party (Sony) - $2.6 million -48% (down .1 million)
10. Bad Moms (STX) - $2.6 million -45%
-- The Disappointments Room (Relativity) - $1.5 million N/A (up .1 million)
Any thoughts that the weekend following Labor Day isn’t a great time to release a movie were probably dashed by last year’s offerings, two thrillers that fought for the #1 spot with nearly $25 million each. Following the success of No Good Deed a year earlier, Screen Gem’s The Perfect Guy, starring Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut and Michael Ealy won the weekend with $25.9 million in just 2,221 theaters. Following closely in second place with $25.4 million in 3,069 theaters was M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller The Visit. Opening in ninth place was the faith-based drama 90 Minutes in Heaven with $2 million in 878 theaters, but the previous week’s #1, War Room, held well with an 18% drop in its third weekend, as well.
This Week’s Pick(s):
KICKS (Focus World)
Cast: Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Kofi Sinboe, Christopher Meyer, Mahersala Ali
Director: Justin Tipping (debut)
Plot: Brandon aka Lil’ B (Jahking Guillory) lives in an impoverished area of Oakland, California, and all he wants is to be thought of as “cool.” He can’t play basketball, he can’t rap, but with the right sneakers or “kicks,” he wouldn’t be picked on so much. Scrounging together his savings, Brandon buys a pair of Air Jordans, but they’re spotted by a local gangster who steals them with his gang, so Lil' B and his friends Rico and Albert have to go after the very dangerous thief.
Probably one of the nicest surprises of the year is this debut by Justin Tipping that I might not have seen if not for a free morning a couple weeks back. It actually premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and I really hadn’t heard much about it which is shocking in hindsight, because it’s such an amazingly good movie. Tipping has a movie filmed on the streets of Oakland about real kids and what they’re about, and then tells a very simple story of a kid wanting to make it and be thought of as cool until someone steals his newly-bought kicks, forcing him to make some tough decisions.
Last year, a huge deal was made about Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope, as it was declared to be so innovative or different, and granted, it did try to tell a coming-of-age story of real kids living in a tough neighborhood, but it was deliberately made to be mainstream and accessible, but it was almost cartoonish in its humor. That’s not saying that Kicks is a complete dour and serious drama, and there’s certainly humor to be found here, especially in Brandon’s friends Rico and Albert (Christophers Meyer and Wallace), but it creates a more realistic scenario in Brandon trying to get his sneakers back.
The cast Tipping assembled really does a lot to create the authenticity necessary for Kicks to work as well as it does, even having Mahersala Ali (from The Hunger Games and House of Cards), playing Brandon’s uncle Marlon, who is already caught up in the area crime element, and from whom Brandon steals a gun, which leads him to some of those tougher choices mentioned earlier.
Tipping also has a way of using music not only to set up different sections of the movie but also creating the overall tone, which mixes straight-up old school hip-hop with ambient slow motion sequences used as the action picks up. The story leads Brandon to surprising places, which also makes Kicks different from other similar coming-of-age films.
This is easily one of the best debuts of the year, one that probably would appeal to a much wider audience if only there were more movie writers raving about it as I am. Tipping is a filmmaker who clearly could be one of the greats if given a chance to make more movies on par with Kicks.
AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY (Amazon Studios/Magnolia)
Cast: Laura Albert, Bruce Benderson, Dennis Cooper
Writer/Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Plot: Documenting the journey of Laura Albert, who wrote several books under the pen name of JT Leroy, presumed to be an abused teenage boy with gender issues. The identity of the author became even more confused when Albert would bring her sister in law Savannah to readings and events, pretending that she was Leroy, confusing many celebrities in the art and literary world.
I remember my first and only encounter with the work of author J.T. Leroy, which was when I saw Asia Argento’s adaptation of The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, which I had seen in early 2005, and I was about to interview her when news broke that J.T. Leroy--whose “autobiographical” work portrayed him/her as an androgynous teen from an abusive home—was actually a middle-aged house-wife who fooled many of her celebrity fans by having her younger sister-in-law appear in public as Leroy.
That was really about all I knew about Leroy, so Jeff Feurerzei’s doc does a good job filling in a lot of blanks, as it tells the story from actual author Laura Albert’s point of view, talking about why she made up J.T. and how things quickly got out of hand as expectations forced her to create what was later considered one of the greatest literary hoaxes.
As we learn in the film, Albert comes from an abusive background herself, having lived in a halfway home for a while, but once she becomes a successful author, she starts using JT Leroy’s notoriety to pursue some of her other interests, including making music with her boyfriend.
What really excites me is knowing that they’re making a narrative film about Leroy with Helena Bonham Carter playing Albert and Kristen Stewart as Savannah (aka the faux Leroy), and if they’re able capture half of Albert’s enigmatic nature in the movie, Carter is well on her way to another Oscar nomination.
Even so, Feuerzeig’s doc is a fantastic overview of the JT Leroy phenomenon and all the craziness that surrounded it, an inventive look at fame in the literary world and how people will believe whatever they want to believe.
Other Limited Release:
One of this year’s Sundance Film Festival openers, the feature debut by comedy writer Chris Kelly, Other People (Netflix/Vertical Entertainment), stars Jesse Plemons as a comedy writer who returns home to Sacramento to take care of his sick mother, played by Molly Shannon. If this sounds a lot like John Krasinski’s The Hollars from a couple weeks back… well, that’s Sundance for ya.
The late Polish director Marcin Wrona passed away shortly after his thriller Demon (The Orchard) premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year. It explores the legend of the Jewish demon known as “dybbuk” as it possesses a bridegroom on the day of his wedding at a country house in the Polish countryside. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson (Janus Pictures) is a compilation of footage that she shot for other films, edited together with little commentary, including footage from Bosnia and other parts of the world. The acclaimed cinema verité, which has won many festival awards, will open in New York Friday and in L.A. on September 23.
Come What May (Cohen Media) is the latest film from Christian Carion (Joyeux Noel), set during the occupation in France of 1940, where a group of villagers flee the country along with a German child whose father (August Diehl) lied about his nationality to oppose the Nazis. That father works together with a Scottish soldier (Matthew Rhys) trying to get back to England in order to find his son. It will open in New York at the Paris Theater and the Angelika Film Center Friday.
Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman star in London Road (BBC), a musical murder mystery based on the National Theater musical, taking the actual testimonials of people from the town of Ipswich as they’re interrogated about five local murders and setting it to music.
Matt Villines and Oz Rodriguez’s Brother Nature (Insurge Pictures) stars “SNL’s” Taran Killam as a politician who plans to propose to his girlfriend (Gillian Jacobs) at the family’s lake house until he meets his potential brother-in-law, a nut named Todd (“SNL’s” Bobby Moynihan”). It will open in select theaters as well as On Demand and on Digital HD.
Steve Mims and Bill Banowsky’s Starving the Beast (Violet Crown Films) looks at the power struggle on college campuses like the Universities of Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia and others as political and market-oriented forces that try to reframe higher education as a “value proposition” rather than something for the greater good. It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday.
From Tunis comes Leyla Bouzid’s coming-of-age drama As I Open My Eyes (Kino Lorber), starring Baya Medhaffar as Farah, a singer who has to deal with the disapproval of her mother for her decision to hang out with musicians performing rebellious songs against the government, set on the eve of the Arab Spring protests. It opens at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas Friday and then in L.A. on September 30.
From Uruguay comes The Apostate (Breaking Glass Pictures), Federico Veiroj’s film that follows a man’s attempt to abandon the Catholic Church. It will play exclusively at New York’s Anthology Film Archives before rolling out to L.A. and other cities with a VOD and DVD release planned for October 25.
Best-selling author James Patterson hosts Timothy Malloy’s documentary Murder of a Small Town (FilmBuff), which will be available On Demand starting Friday. It takes a look at the towns of Pahokee and Belle Glade in the Florida Everglades where the most impoverished residents have turned the community into a wasteland. The affluent Patterson examines the area he frequently visits to help fund educational programs.
Also, Wayne Wang’s early 1982 film Chan is Missing is receiving a one-week revival at New York’s Metrograph with its story of two Chinese cabbies searching San Francisco’s Chinatown for a man who stole their $4,000.
That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies as things pick up with Antoine Fuqua’s Western The Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, the return of Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones’s Baby, Oliver Stone’s Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the faith-based music doc Hillsong: Let Hope Rise (Also, the Weekend Warrior will be hustling at the Toronto International Film Festival, so hopefully next week's column won't be delayed.)
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2016. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2016.)