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:
Presidents’ Day weekend was an interesting one at the box office, and as with most holiday weekends, it was particularly difficult to figure out how things might fare, other than The LEGO Batman Movie, which remained at #1 with almost $45 million over the four-day weekend. Fifty Shades Darker followed with $21.3 million, about a 50% drop. Last week, I thought that the Ice Cub comedy Fist Fight would beat The Great Wall, although it seemed like it could be a close race. Nope. Matt Damonâ€™s action epic came in third place with $21.6 million, which is a couple million more than my original prediction, but The Fist Fight fell short of my prediction by almost $10 million, grossing $14.5 million in its first four days. Gore Verbinskiâ€™s thriller A Cure for Wellness bombed big time with just $5 million (about half my prediction) to the point where it almost didnâ€™t make it into the Top 10 at all. Itâ€™s something a few of this weekâ€™s releases may be looking forward toâ€¦
The shorter month of February comes to a close with three new movies, but one stronger and more high profile than the other two. This coming Sunday is also Oscar night, and one can expect that many movie buffs will be watching that rather than going to the movies Sunday night.
GET OUT (Universal)
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield, LilRel Howery.
Writer/Director: Jordan Peele (debut)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Plot: Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams) are ready to take the next step in their relationship, as she wants to introduce him to his parents, a strangely friendly couple living in a house in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that the family are having a gathering of friends that weekend, but Chris starts to get suspicious because everyone is acting suspiciously towards him, including the familyâ€™s black help.
Theater Count (est.): 2,800
For all intents and purposes, this has been a pretty good year for horror so far, starting with M. Night Shyamalanâ€™s Split and continuing with Gore Verbinskiâ€™s A Cure for Wellness last week, which sadly didnâ€™t do nearly as well as it could have. Blumhouse Productions, who produced the former, are releasing their second film of what should be another prolific year, once again teaming with Universal for comedian Jordan Peeleâ€™s first movie as a director.
Peele first became known as one of the cast members of Foxâ€™s Mad TV and when the show ended, he teamed with his castmate Keegan-Michael Key to create Comedy Centralâ€™s Key and Peele, a show that capitalized on the growth of comedy sketches transitioning to YouTube and the growth of viral videos. Some of their bits were so popular that even President Obama incorporated one such bit into the annual press lunch.
Get Out will definitely seem like a departure to most of Peeleâ€™s fans, because itâ€™s a horror film that deals directly with race relations between rich white people and African-Americans, and one presumes is something that often crosses the mind of anyone who has had a relationship with someone of a different race or religion. Itâ€™s like a scarier version of Guess Whoâ€™s Coming to Dinner? with that situation reversed.
Peele has assembled an interesting cast, not necessarily one that will be a big draw for audiences–as we know, horror films tend to do better based on premise than cast–but one that brings a lot to the characters. The least known of them is probably Daniel Kaluuya, who has the title role of Chris, and was seen both as Emily Bluntâ€™s original FBI partner in Sicario and as the star of an episode of the British thriller series, Black Mirror. Heâ€™s joined by Allison Williams, star of HBOâ€™s Girls, who also played Peter Pan in NBCâ€™s Peter Pan Live!
Lakeith Stanfield, who played Snoop Dogg in the 2005 hit Straight Outta Compton and has been seen a lot lately, from the award-winning Donald Glover show Atlanta to the Sundance films The Incredible Jessica James and Crown Heights, the latter in which he stars. He also stars in the upcoming remake of the Japanese horror anime Death Note directed by Adam Wingard (Youâ€™re Next). Catherine Keener also appears in the film as Williamsâ€™ psychiatrist mother.
Get Out is the second Blumhouse movie of the year after M. Night Shymalanâ€™s hugely successful thriller Split, which opened last month and has grossed over $100 million domestically. One would think that Peeleâ€™s involvement and having a black protagonist would help the movie do better with urban audiences than Split–and the movie certainly plays well with audiences–but the movie doesnâ€™t even seem to be tracking as well as last weekâ€™s Fist Fight with Ice Cube, so weâ€™ll have to see if another original idea–and one with a less established director than the last two thrillers–can also do decently.
The movie has already garnered great reviews from its secret screening at the Sundance Film Festival, and itâ€™s maintained good reviews since. (It’s currently at 100% on RottenTomatoes with 28 reviews, at this writing.) Because the other two new movies donâ€™t look very good, there really isnâ€™t much competition for the movie other than the returning films from last week, and Gore Verbinskiâ€™s A Cure for Wellness didnâ€™t do well enough to be taken seriously as competition.
Get Out should probably end up somewhere in the high teens this weekend, but there’s a good chance that positive word-of-mouth and those reviews can push it over $20 million, which would make it #1 for the weekend.
LRM Interview with Jordan Peele
(Honestly, Iâ€™m not sure I need to write very much about the next two movies because a.) I havenâ€™t seen either of them and b.) I donâ€™t think too many people care about either movie.
COLLIDE (Open Road)
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ben Kingsley
Director: Eran Creevy (Welcome to the Punch, Shifty)
Genre: Action, Thriller.
Plot: After a heist gone wrong, Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult) ends up on the run from ruthless mob boss Hagen (Anthony Hopkins) and his gang, so he calls upon his old boss, drug smuggler Geran (Ben Kingsley) to protect his girlfriend Juliette (Felicity Jones) as he is chased across the German Autobahn by Hagenâ€™s men.
Theater Count (est.): 2,000
While an action-thriller might seem like a good movie to bring into theaters right now, thereâ€™s a certain kind of movie that starts out as something with serious potential and then turns into a crappy movie that no one really cares much about. Formerly called â€œAutobahnâ€ and produced by the now-defunct Relativity Studios, this is the first studio movie from British filmmaker Eran Creevy, who got some attention for his previous film Welcome to the Punch.
It has a fairly impressive cast that includes Mad Max: Fury Roadâ€™s Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, whose potential as star of Rogue One has been sidelined by a number of big bombs that includes Inferno and A Monster Calls earlier this year. Honestly, Iâ€™m a little disappointed that Jones hasnâ€™t taken off after her Oscar nomination for The Theory of Everything, and I liked her other recent movies as much or more than Rogue One, to be honest. There are also two veteran actors who actually have won Oscars, Sirs Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsleyâ€”yes, both of them have been knighted by The Queen.
And yet, theyâ€™re all starring in a movie that looks like absolute crap and possibly one of the worst movies thatâ€™s being released this year, which may be why it was shelved for so long during the Relativity bankruptcy and why Open Road, the distributor who bought it for some reason, wonâ€™t screen it for critics in advance.
Frankly, I donâ€™t have much more confidence in Open Road getting this movie out there than I did with Relativity, because other than Jamie Foxxâ€™s recent Sleepless, theyâ€™ve just been releasing one bomb after another. Itâ€™s a shame since the company released the last Best Picture winner, Spotlight, but nothing since has come close to that quality. (Even the excellent doc Gleason failed to make a mark or get an Oscar nomination.) I just donâ€™t have much faith in Open Road as a company anymore and I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if they follow Relativity into obscurity the way theyâ€™re going. (Their next movie, the Y.A. drama Before I Fall was good enough to premiere at Sundance, but can it make a mark against Logan and The Shack? Weâ€™ll figure that out in next weekâ€™s column.)
With that in mind, Iâ€™d be surprised if Collide gets into the Top 10 and will probably make less than $4 million this weekend, which would still be more than many Open Road releases have grossed in total.
ROCK DOG (Summit Premiere)
Voice Cast: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliot.
Director: Ash Brannon (Surfâ€™s Up, co-director of Toy Story 2)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Plot: (Normally, I would try to write my own plot in this space, but this premise is so ridiculous, only posting the actual, official plot will do.) â€œFor the Tibetan Mastiffs living on Snow Mountain, a dogâ€™s life has a simple riff: Guard a peaceful village of wool- making sheep from the thuggish wolf Linnux (Lewis Black) and his rabid pack. To avoid distractions, Mastiff leader Khampa (J.K. Simmons) forbids all music from the mountain. But when Khampaâ€™s son Bodi (Luke Wilson) discovers a radio dropped by a passing airplane, it takes just a few guitar licks for his fate to be sealed: Bodi wants to be a rock â€˜nâ€™ roll star. Yet that means defying his fatherâ€™s wishes, heading to the city, and locating the legendary â€“ and reclusive â€“ musician Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard), who needs to write a new song and fast. If Bodi can put a band together, help Angus with his song, and defeat the wolvesâ€™ plot to take Snow Mountain, his life will be in tune. Bodi will become what heâ€™s always dreamed of being: More than a dog…more than a Rock God…heâ€™ll be a ROCK DOG!â€ (Wowâ€¦. And yet, it kind of sounds more interesting than Collide.)
Theater Count (est.): 2,050
What is there to say about another one of those poorly cobbled-together animated movies made on the cheap thatâ€™s barely getting much in terms of a marketing push and is likely to fall flat on its face even if it gets a few parents into theaters with their younger kids?
I guess itâ€™s about a dog who rocks? I knowâ€¦ maybe I should watch the trailerâ€¦
(A few minutes later…) Okay, it doesnâ€™t look so bad, kind of like Sing with dogs, but a little sillier, and that movie was quite successful over the holidays.
Directed by former Pixar animator Ash Brannon, it features the voices of Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard and the ever-present J.K. Simmons, as well as a bunch of others who couldnâ€™t headline a movie of their ownâ€”you can read about the rest of them above.
The important thing to note is that this is being released by Summit Premiere, a branch of Lionsgate that generally releases VOD movies but is trying to get a little more business for a movie that a bunch of animators probably spent a lot of time and money making. But seriously, can this movie be any more under the radar and will a movie sneaking into theaters do anything against the more dominant The LEGO Batman Movie?
Other family films released by Lionsgate (and this is the parent company) include 1990â€™s Alpha and Omega, which opened with $9.1 million and $25 million total, and last yearâ€™s long-delayed Norm of the North, which opened over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend with $6.8 million and $17 million total. That opened in slightly more theaters, but theyâ€™re both good barometers for how Rock Dog might fare if itâ€™s halfway decent. (No surprise that Lionsgate/Summit are barely screening it in advance for critics, because bad reviews wouldnâ€™t help matters.)
This seems like a movie that could probably make $5 to 6 million this weekend, but not much more.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS:
It looks like The LEGO Batman Movie will finally have some competition this weekend, as Jordan Peeleâ€™s Get Out is likely to bring in a fairly wide young audience of white and black men and women, probably skewing younger. It will be a tight race and one shouldnâ€™t be too surprised if the animated family ends up scoring a third weekend at #1. The other two movies, Rock Dog and Collide, frankly theyâ€™ll be lucky to get into the Top 10 at all but the animated family film has a slightly better chance. We just have to remember that the Oscars on Sunday are likely to hurt movie business on Sunday night.
(NOTE: The below numbers are all for the four-day weekend. Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)
1. Get Out (Universal) – $19.2 million N/A (up .5 million)
2.The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros) – $18 million -45%
3. Fifty Shades Darker (Universal) – $9.5 million -53%
4. The Great Wall (Universal) – $8.3 million -55%
5. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Lionsgate) – $7.6 million -53%
6. Fist Fight (New Line/WB) – $6.0 million -52%
7. Rock Dog (Summit Premiere) – $5.8 million N/A
8. Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) – $4.4 million -39%
9. Split (Universal) – $3.8 million -47%
10. Collide (Open Road) – $3.6 million N/A
The last weekend of February, last year, saw the release of Alex Proyasâ€™ action epic Gods of Egypt, but it didnâ€™t stand a chance against the third weekend of Deadpool, which brought in an additional $31 million, more than twice the $14 million Gods of Egypt opened with in second place. The weekendâ€™s two other movies, Triple 9 and Eddie the Eagle, both ended up in the $6 million range below Kung Fu Panda 3 and last yearâ€™s biblical epic Risen. Weâ€™re likely to see a similar showing this weekend.
THIS WEEKâ€™S PICK:
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (Saban Films/Lionsgate)
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua, Anamaria Marinca, Anthony Welsh.
Director: Colm McCarthy (Outcast, Peaky Blinders and other British television)
Plot: In the future, a small group of kids are the only ones that can help cure a virus that turns its victims into flesh-eating â€œHungries.â€ Theyâ€™re kept in a base where theyâ€™re studied and experimented on by scientists, one of the kids being the incredibly smart Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua), who escapes after the base falls, along with her teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), a soldier (Paddy Considine) and a scientist (Glenn Close).
If youâ€™re a fan of The Walking Dead, youâ€™re probably like most fans of the zombie genre, always looking for a new iteration of the classic horror sub-genre, so itâ€™s nice to see another movie coming out of the United Kingdom where we see a very different take on classic themes.
It opens with the stark sequence of a group of kids strapped to wheelchairs in a classroom before theyâ€™re wheeled into jail cells, their soldier caretakers treating them like animals, although their teacher (Gemma Arterton) tries to treat them like normal kids, which they most certainly are not. Melanie is a pleasant young girl on the surface but she has a secret that makes her potentially dangerous for anyone who comes near to her (especially her mouth which is covered with a acrylic Hannibal Lecter-like mask).
This is a really effective film from Colm McCarthy that introduces a small group of characters and then sends them on a journey into a dangerous world where this young â€œgirlâ€ Melanie is the only one that can keep them alive. McCarthy is a decent director, doing interesting things with the camera shots and music to make things more exciting visually, but thereâ€™s also all the gore thatcan be expected from a genre flick like it. There are a lot of great scenes, but especially when the group have to sneak through a huge crowd of sleeping â€œHungries,â€ standing at a stand still. (Yes, itâ€™s similar to a scene in Will Smithâ€™s I Am Legend but wisely, McCarthy uses real background actors rather than CG creatures.)
I generally love Gemma Arterton in everything she does, but Considine is also great as a tough no-nonsense soldier and Close is excellent as always. More than anything, itâ€™s a great showcase for the very talented newcomer Sennia Nanua, who carries many of the scenes as the afflicted Melanie, making us curious whether sheâ€™s a ravenous beast or a little girl with potentially redeeming qualities.
If youâ€™re a fan of genre films, especially things like Danny Boyleâ€™s 28 Days Later, then this is definitely a movie you’ll want to check out.
Following its premiere on DirecTV in January, it will open in New York, L.A. and other cities on Friday.
OTHER LIMITED RELEASES:
The animated My Life as a Zucchini (GKIDS) isnâ€™t a sequel to Sausage Party, but is actually the Oscar-nominated stop motion feature debut from Swiss filmmaker Claude Barris, about a young boy who is sent to a foster home after his mother disappears. I have to be honest that I havenâ€™t seen the English-dubbed version of the movie that features the voices of Will Forte,Nick Offerman, Ellen Page and Amy Sedaris, but GKIDS generally has good taste in animation and family fare, so it should be worth checking out when it opens in select cities.
Directed by George Mendeluk, Bitter Harvest (Roadside Attractions) is a love story set during the reign of Joseph Stalin and his policies against the Ukraine in the â€˜30s. It stars Max Irons as Yuri, who battles against famine, torture and imprisonment to save his childhood sweetheart Natalka (Samantha Barks) from the â€œHolodomor,â€ which threatened to kill millions of Ukrainians via starvation. It opens in select cities.
Chris von Hoffmanâ€™s horror film Drifter (XLRator Media) stars Aria Emory and Drew Harwood as two outlaw brothers travelling through a wasteland are held captive in a town run by cannibalistic lunatics and their sadistic mayor. (Cannibalism is definitely in chic this year.) It opens in select cities Friday and on VOD/iTunes next Tuesday.
The Karate Kidâ€™s Ralph Macchio, Gina Gershon, Paul Sorvino and more star in Anthony Tarsitanoâ€™s comedy Lost Cat Coronoa (Virgil Films). Macchio plays Dominiic, a guy living in Corona, Queens, who is forced by his wife Connie (Gershon) to go out and find their cat Leonard, along with his buddy Ponce (David Zayas from Oz and Gotham). Like Drifter, it gets a nominal theatrical release Friday before going onto VOD Tuesday.
Gregory Viensâ€™ indie comedy Punching Henry (WellGo USA), the sequel to the Slamdance Film Festival Audience Award-winner Punching the Clown, stars Henry Phillips as a journeyman comedian who is lured to L.A. by a producer (J.K. Simmons) who wants to turn him into a reality starâ€¦ hmâ€¦ sounds a bit like the recent The Comedian. Having premiered at SXSW (under the title And Punching the Clown), it opens in select cities Friday after premiering on Digital HD this past Tuesday. It also stars Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro and more.
Speaking of stand-up, Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogoodâ€™s documentary Dying Laughing (Gravitas Ventures) takes a look at the lives of stand-up comedians with interviews with some of the greats of today and yesterday, including Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld and more being interviewed. It opens in select cities.
Opening Friday at New Yorkâ€™s Village East Cinemas is Miles Joris-Peyrafitteâ€™s As You Are, a coming-of-age drama about the relationship between three teenagers thatâ€™s reconstructed through a police investigation of a crime. It won a Special Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Thatâ€™s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies as we roll into March with the brand-new Wolverine movie and potentially the last starring Hugh Jackmanâ€¦ Logan! Other movies include the young adult drama Before I Fall (Open Road) and the faith-based drama The Shack (Lionsgate). Itâ€™s also the Weekend Warriorâ€™s birthday if you want to send gifts. (Money is preferred, denominations of $100 or more, please.)
(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)