The Weekend Warrior: The Boy Next Door, Strange Magic, Mortdecai

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We had such a great weekend at the box office last weekend, it’s hard to believe that this weekend will top it… and that’s because it probably won’t. No, instead we have three movies of questionable quality which will bolster the feeling that January is a dumping ground for bad movies. It’s doubtful any movie can beat American Sniper in its second weekend even with a substantial drop-off—and I expect a big one—as it coasts over a number of movies that will be lucky to make $15 million opening weekend.

boynextdoorposterOf the three new movies opening, the big surprise may end up being the R-rated thriller The Boy Next Door (Universal), marking the return of Jennifer Lopez to movie theaters for the first time since 2013’s Parker opposite Jason Statham. That movie bombed and it’s been a while since Lopez has had any sort of hit, having had a number of strong romantic comedies in the ‘00s in the form of Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law and Shall We Dance. Things softened up in 2010 with The Back-Up Plan and What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which grossed in the $40 million range and this thriller harks back to Lopez’s earlier movie Enough, which also grossed about $40 million with its summer release.

Lopez has mostly been spending time focusing on her recording career and she upped her profile big-time in recent years by being one of the judges on “American Idol.” Her casting in this is quite brilliant for two reasons: Firstly, she has the ability to bring in the coveted Latino audience whose demographic at the box office has been growing and who are likely to be drawn to this kind of thriller. Second, she also has a lot of female fans, both young and old, who will generally be intrigued by the premise.

Produced for a reported $4 million by Blumhouse, this is a little different from some of their other horror-thrillers being more of a creepy erotic thriller, the type we used to see in the ‘80s and ‘90s – many of them starring Demi Moore, but also including the likes of Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. It’s been some time since there’s been a thriller in this vein, but they generally do well with moviegoers, especially women, which could allow this to get a nice range of young and older moviegoers this weekend.

This seems like a fairly obvious premise, but it also looks pretty bad from the commercials—don’t expect many rave reviews—but that might not matter since it looks so bad that it could be a fun and entertaining diversion for older high school and college age kids on a Thursday or Friday night. Then you add to that the women who will probably be interested in the idea of an older woman being attractive to a younger man, in this case hunky Ryan Guzman from the “Step Up” movies. This is a good weekend for Kristin Chenoweth fans as she appears in this and Strange Magic (see below), not that it will affect either movie’s box office chances in any way.

Women also probably won’t know or care that the movie is directed by Rob Cohen, who helmed the original The Fast and the Furious and Vin Diesel’s xXx, but has been in director’s jail in recent years thanks to bombs like the Tyler Perry Alex Cross three years ago.

With very little else geared specifically towards women until Fifty Shades of Grey on Valentine’s Day, this should be a pretty safe bet to do well this weekend, maybe somewhere between $16 and 18 million but not quite $20 million, and as mentioned above, its best bet is second place and probably $40 to 45 million total.


strangemagicwwThis weekend also marks the return of filmmaker George Lucas with the first Lucasfilm in many years, as well as the first since the company was bought by Disney and presumably the last with Lucas’ involvement. The animated fantasy musical Strange Magic (Disney) features a musical-friendly voice cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth (again), Maya Rudolph, Alfred Molina and Elijah Kelley from Hairspray and more. It’s an odd premise that has elves and fairies and goblins and trolls all cavorting while singing pop and rock songs from the past sixty years—kind of like Moulin Rouge!

Computer animated movies have seen better days and the oversaturation of the market has seen a lot of movies failing to find success, and Strange Magic seems more on par with weaker efforts, like the Weinstein Company’s Hoodwinked movies—the first one grossing $51 million after a MLK, Jr. weekend release but the sequel bombing a few years later, grossing just $10 million—or others like Lionsgate’s Happily N’ever After ($15 million gross) and Alpha and Omega ($25 million).

Lucas at least has the benefit of the Disney marketing team behind his movie who are going to push it through a variety of outlets–Mommy bloggers will be key–to try to convince parents that their kids might want to see this. On top of that, George Lucas’ name and involvement might help to get fathers interested in taking their kids, although a movie about singing fairies in love doesn’t exactly seem like something that young boys would care about.

While critics have been more open to animated movies in recent years, this one probably isn’t going to get great reviews even with Disney’s hopes that Lucas’ involvement will interest the fanboy crowd. (You have to figure that most of them have given up on Lucas after the “Star Wars” prequels sucked so bad.)

To be honest, this is the type of family movie that is only going to appeal to younger kids, skewing more to girls, so it’s going to be a matter of them convincing their parents to take them to see it. It’s also opening during the second weekend of the very popular Paddington, which could cut into its chances of breaking out, so I see this one opening lower in the $13 to 15 million range at most and probably shooting for $40 to 45 million total at most.

Video Interviews with George Lucas and the Cast


mortdecaiwwLast and certainly least is the new crime-comedy from Johnny Depp, an actor who was once Hollywood’s most in-demand A-list star, and who may ruin what’s left of his career by playing a character called Mortdecai (Lionsgate). It’s certainly a weird choice for an actor who has gotten to the point where Disney, who have made a lot of money based on Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, will do whatever they can to hide the fact that he’s in their musical Into the Woods, but maybe that’s because people have become skeptical about the quality of his movies. And this is just a few years since the height of Pirates of the Caribbean fame with two of the movies grossing more than a billion worldwide, as did his biggest hit with frequent collaborator Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland

We won’t go through Depp’s entire, career because it’s certainly had its highs and lows. While he’s come a long way since his days on the TV show “21 Jump Street,” the rest of the world is far more tolerant Johnny Depp’s quirky characters than Americans. Maybe it’s just that we set our expectations for our Hollywood stars a bit higher and after the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie grossed “just” $241 million, it seemed like our patience had run thin. Since then, Depp starred in two underwhelming movies in a row, Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger, again working with his long-time collaborators Tim Burton and Gore Verbinski, and they didn’t crack the $100 million mark. Last year’s Transcendence, which could have been a sci-fi home run completely tanked, grossing just $23 million, making it seem like Depp is heading towards Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis territory very soon.

And that brings us to this odd character comedy that has Depp wearing a blonde wig and moustache to play Charlie Mortdecai, some sort of master criminal? Or an art thief? Honestly, I really wouldn’t have any idea what he’s supposed to be playing from the commercials, but from reading the plot summary, Mortdecai is apparently an art dealer who gets caught between MI6 and the Russians. Even odder is that this an adaptation of a book called “The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery” by Kyril Bonfiglioli, which isn’t a much better title than just “Mortdecai.”

This one teams Depp with the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow, who hasn’t been seen much on screen other than her appearance in the three “Iron Man” movies and 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers, and it also co-stars Ewan McGregor, a great actor who has yet to prove himself as a box office draw despite a prolific career. (McGregor’s fans will probably be better off seeing him in the limited release Son of a Gun this weekend.)

The movie is directed by screenwriter David Koepp, who previously directed Depp in Secret Window, a thriller based on a Stephen King short story, which opened with $18 million and grossed $48 million total in March 2004, not long after Depp achieved his first $300 million blockbuster with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This one looks more in the vein of movies Depp did based on the work of his friend, the late Hunter Thompson, the first being Terry Gilliam’s 1998 movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which bombed, and the second being 2011’s The Rum Diary, which didn’t do much better even with 13 years of inflation and Depp’s heightened popularity 

Who knows if Lionsgate will bother to screen this for critics—the Magic 8 ball isn’t particularly optimistic—but this doesn’t seem like it can sell itself solely based on the silliness in the trailers and commercials… unless people really are that desperate for laughs with few comedies in theaters. Personally I’d be surprised if this one makes much than $10 million this weekend and $30 million total, because it just doesn’t look very good. At least Depp has the more serious Whitey Bulger biopic later this year, which will hopefully allow audiences to remember what a great actor he is when he isn’t playing goofy characters like this one.


frankensteinwwThis weekend last year, there was only one new movie and you would think with that one offering it would do well. After all, I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate), starring Aaron Eckhart, was following in the footsteps of schlock horror-action movies like the “Underworld” series and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It didn’t open in first place. No, that was Ride Along, starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, in its second weekend with $21.3 million. It didn’t come in second place. No, that was Mark Wahlberg’s Lone Survivor with $13 million and then the animated The Nut Job with $12 million. It didn’t even open in fourth or fifth place, but instead I, Frankenstein opened in SIXTH place (!) with a measly $8.6 million in 2,753 theaters or $3,124 per location. The top 10 grossed $93.5 million, which shouldn’t be hard to beat with American Sniper still doing a ton of business.

This Week’s Updated Predictions:

UPDATE: I’m having a bad feeling about Strange Magic that I may be overestimating it even with my fairly low ball prediction, so I’m lowering how much it will make even with it opening in more theaters than originally estimated.  It just seems like Paddington is going to be too strong a contender even in its second weekend, especially with that adding theaters, as is American Sniper and The Imitation Game, so that’s being taken into account in the updated predictions below. (Note: The gallery has not been updated this week)

1. American Sniper (Warner Bros.) – $40.0 million -55% (up 1.5 million)
2. The Boy Next Door (Universal) – $16.8 million N/A (up .1 million)
4. Paddington (TWC-Dimension) – $12.0 million -38% (up .5 million and one spot)
4. Strange Magic (Disney) – $11 million N/A (down 2.8 million and one spot)
5. The Wedding Ringer (Sony/Screen Gems) – $11.0 million -47% (down .1 million)
6. Mortdecai (Lionsgate) – $9.5 million N/A (down .9 million)
7. Taken 3 (20th Century Fox) – $6.5 million -54% (same)
8. Selma (Paramount) – $5.5 million -35% (up .1 million)
9. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) – $5.0 million -30% (up .1 million)
10. Into the Woods (Disney) – $4 million -40% (same)

Next Week:

It’s Super Bowl weekend! In the meantime, I’ll be at Sundance seeing a lot of movies, but if I have time, I’ll try to write a column covering the found footage time travel movie Project Almanac (Paramount), the ensemble suspense thriller The Loft (Open Road Films) and Mike Binder’s drama Black or White (Relativity), starring Kevin Costner, Anthony Mackie and Octavia Spencer.


This Week’s Must-Sees

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Thursday night–and I’ll be posting updates over the next two weeks–but if you can’t make it out to Park City, Utah, there’s plenty of great movies opening in limited release this weekend.

blackseawwBlack Sea (Focus Features)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Stars: Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Scott McNairy
Of Note: The Last King of Scotland and State of Play director Kevin Macdonald returns with a submarine thriller that stars Jude Law who has been commissioned to captain a submarine to the bottom of Russia’s Black Sea with a mixed crew of Brits and Russians trying to retrieve a lost Nazi sub that’s full of gold bars. As the dangerous mission runs into troubles, the men of the crew start turning on each other, realizing that the fewer men, the bigger payday for those left alive.

Interview with Kevin Macdonald

Video Interviews (Coming Soon!)

Black Sea Review (Coming Soon!)

Son of a Gun (A24)
Writer/Director: Julius Avery
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander
Of Note: This Australian crime-thriller deals with the relationship between a young criminal named JR (Brenton Thwaites from Oculus and The Signal) and a veteran thief named Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) who reconnect when the latter escapes from prison and work together to pull off a gold heist for a local crime boss named Sam. Things get conflicted when JR falls for Tasha (Alicia Vikander), Sam’s trophy girlfriend, and they find themselves at odds with the man who ordered the heist.

My Thoughts… (Coming Soon!)

The Duke of Burgundy (Sundance Selects)
Director: Peter Strickland
Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna
Of Note: The director of the creepy Berberian Sound Studio returns with this relationship drama about a wealthy entomologist (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who begins a sado-masochistic relationship with her maid Evelyn which becomes more and more disturbing as their roles are reversed and the master becomes the servant.

Interview with Peter Strickland (Coming Soon!)

Cake (Cinelou)
Director: Daniel Barnz
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Berraza, Anna Kendrick, Felicity Huffman, Chris Messina, William H. Macy, Britt Robertson, Sam Worthington, Camille Mana, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Lucy Walters, Manuel Garcia Rulfo
Of Note: Jennifer Aniston takes a more dramatic turn in this dark comedic drama in which she plays Claire Simmons, a woman in constant pain after a car accident that killed her daughter, who is addicted to prescription pills. When one of the members of her chronic pain group commits suicide, Claire begins to investigate the cause of her death with the help of her put-upon housekeeper (Adriana Barraza). While Aniston did not get the expected Oscar nomination she deserved, this is a great role for the actress, not necessarily playing a particularly likeable character but creating a real person that’s different from some of the lighter roles we know her for.

Review (Coming Soon)

Mommy (Roadside Attractions)
Writer/Director: Xavier Dolan
Stars: Patrick Huard, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Alexandre Goyette
Of Note: The young French-Canadian auteur who has made waves with his earlier movies returns with a drama about a troubled 15 year old suffering from ADHD who is kicked out of boarding school, forcing his widowed single mother to watch over him with the help of the woman from across the street. The film follows their relationship and the delicate balance of each of them trying to find themselves within that relationship.

Red Army (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Gabe Polsky
Of Note: This documentary looks at the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team that famously lost to the U.S. in the 1980 Olympics but went on to greater glory as they started to be courted by the NHL, forcing some of them to defect before the fall of communism in 1989. (This received a one-week Oscar run last November in case it sounds familiar, but it’s rereleased in New York and L.A. on Friday.)

Other Limited Releases of Note:

Drama:

The Humbling (Alchemy)
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Al Pacino, Kyra Sedgwick, Dylan Baker, Dianne Wiest, Charles Grodin, Greta Gerwig, Nina Arianda
Of Note: Barry Levinson and Al Pacino reunite for this adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel about a stage actor named Simon Axler, who has a nervous breakdown and retires to live in an upstate New York farmhouse with a younger woman. The film team Pacino with the likes of Kyra Sedgwick, Dianne Wiest, Greta Gerwig and more in a film that might remind some of the recent Oscar-nominated film Birdman.

Song One (Cinedigm, Film Arcade)
Writer/Director: Kate Barker-Froyland
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Mary Steenburgen, Ben Rosenfield, Johnny Flynn, Li Jun Li, Stefano Villabona
Of Note: Anne Hathaway stars in Kate Barker-Froyland’s debut, playing Franny, a singing/songwriter in the bustling Brooklyn folk music scene whose brother Henry ends up in a coma after a car accident forcing her to return home and try to piece together what she’d missed while connecting with her brother’s favorite musician.

Against the Sun (The American Film Company)
Director: Brian Falk
Stars: Tom Felton, Jake Abel, Garrett Dillahunt
Of Note: In case you missed Unbroken, here is another story about three Navy airmen who crash into the Pacific Ocean and end up on a life raft with no food or water. Who knows if they’re saved by a bunch of friendly Japanese soldiers who put them up for free in their lovely prison camp as they do in Unbroken? Either way, this is just going to continue to confuse me when trying to differentiate between Garrett Dillahunt and Unbroken star Garrett Hedlund.

Americons (Archstone Distribution)
Director: Theo Avgerinos
Stars: Jon Gries, Sam McMurray, Beau Martin Williams, Matt Funke, Tim Griffin, Trai Byers, Alyshia Ochse, Marlana Carter
Of Note: A former college football star gets into the real estate business during the height of the sub-prime mortgage boom. 

Documentary:

Manny (Gravitas Ventures)
Director: Leon Gast, Ryan Moore
Stars: Manny Pacquiao, Jinkee Pacquiao, Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Piven, Freddie Roach, Alex Ariza, Jimmy Kimmel, Larry Merchant, Bert Sugar
Of Note: A portrait of ten-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines who first came to this country in order to earn enough money to feed his family, and who now is more involved in the politics of the sport. Features many celebrities talking about Pacquiao and his career.

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas