The Weekend Warrior looks at the releases for Friday, September 18, including Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Black Mass and Captive
I’m still super-busy with the Toronto International Film Festival going on for the rest of the week, but that doesn’t keep Hollywood from releasing movies to the rest of the country and it’s another typically busy week with three wide releases and a couple of smaller releases, including ones that will expand wide in the weeks to come.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Director: Wes Ball (The Maze Runner)
Writer: T.S. Nowlin
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazar, Will Poulter, Aidan Gillen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Tudyk, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
What It’s About: After getting out of the Glade in last year’s The Maze Runner, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the other Gladers end up at the barracks of a mysterious man named Janson (Aidan Gillen) who claims to want to help them. Once Thomas learns the truth, he leads the group out into the Scorch where they need to face new challenges.
Due to the success of young adult movies like The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games, every even slightly popular genre book series for teens has been optioned for a movie and James Dashner’s 2009 book The Maze Runner is no exception. Director Wes Ball made his feature film debut with the adaptation released this weekend last year with a respectable $32.5 million on its way to $102.5 million domestic and $340.7 million worldwide. Granted, that’s not quite on par with either of those other franchises I mentioned, but it’s a start, and the first movie received better reviews than these young adult movies normally do with 64% on Rotten Tomatoes–the sequel so far is slightly lower with 62%–and a decent 6.8 out of 10 on IMDb.
Most of the original cast members are back joined by Aidan Gillen from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Giancarlo Esposito from “Breaking Bad,” but as is normally the case with these movies, they’re primarily targeting teen girls and slightly older women who’ve read the books and find the likes of Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster to be quite dreamy. Unlike some of those other young adult movies, The Maze Runner does appeal to guys (maybe because the protagonist is male) and that should allow The Scorch Trials to bring in a larger audience than the original movie, since the original movie is likely to have found more fans after its theatrical release via download and home entertainment releases. That should help The Scorch Trials open significantly higher, although it could also be more frontloaded than The Maze Runner.
The Scorch Trials might lose some teen and older males to the gangster flick Black Mass (see below), but there should still be a large audience of moviegoers that liked The Maze Runner and want to find out what happens next, so it should be good for an opening in the low-to-mid $40 million on its way to closer to $115 to 120 million domestic.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace, Crazy Heart)
Writer: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth
Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, W. Earl Brown, David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Juno Temple
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama
What It’s About: During the ‘70s and ‘80s, crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) ran rampant over the South Boston underworld as he acted as an informant for childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), now an FBI agent, who helps “Whitey” take down his competition, as he continues to literally get away with murder.
Any doubt that we’re into the fall festival and awards season should be put aside as we’re given our first major (attempted) awards contender with a film that follows in the footsteps of movies like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and his Oscar-winning Best Picture The Departed, which was hugely influenced by the myth of Boston crime boss “Whitey” Bulger. Before winning its Oscars, The Departed opened in early October 2006 to the tune of $26.9 million, grossing $132 million domestically and more than that overseas, helped by the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson.
This crime drama is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) and it stars Johnny Depp in a performance as Bulger that’s had everyone talking about the strong potential for him receiving a fourth Oscar nomination.
There’s no denying that Depp’s career has been on a downwards spiral in recent years with his recent comedy Mortdecai bombing with a total domestic gross of less than $10 million and that was the low of a long run of flops, including 2014’s Transcendence, 2013’s The Lone Ranger, 2012’s Dark Shadows and 2010’s The Tourist opposite Angelina Jolie. Depp did appear in the Disney musical Into the Woods last year, which grossed $128 million, but few would attribute that success to Depp’s small role. The biggest thing in favor for Depp in Black Mass is that he’s doing something very different by playing a criminal, something he’s only done twice before in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies ($97.1 million gross in 2009) and Blow ($53 million in 2001). The thing is that unlike many of Depp’s recent movies and roles, critics are praising his performance highly as one of his best in many years. That alone should pique the curiosity of Depp’s substantial fanbase to see him doing something different.
Although there’s an impressive cast around Depp, it’s not quite on par with that of The Departed, although Joel Edgerton is already getting buzz from his performance and his recent directorial debut The Gift, and there’s plenty of other actors that could help with the film’s prestige if not its box office such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson and Sienna Miller… no, wait, she was cut from the movie.
Another big factor is the movie’s location and the mythic nature of Bulger’s relationship to the city. Boston was also the main location for Ben Affleck’s The Town, which opened this same weekend five years ago after playing at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals similar to Black Mass, and that ended up doing huge business in the Boston area, which helped it open to $23.8 million on its way to $92.2 million. That was only nominated for one Oscar for Affleck’s co-star Jeremy Renner, but it paved the way for Affleck to return a few years later with his own Best Picture winner, Argo.
With tons of buzz out of the early September festivals, the movie should do huge business among mostly male moviegoers who have flocked to other crime thrillers including The Departed, but Depp’s popularity among women should allow it to do well among older women who won’t be as interested in some of the weekend’s other offerings, which should help the movie open between $25 and 30 million on its way to close to $100 million.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Jerry Jameson
Writer: Brian Bird
Cast: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Leonor Varela, Mimi Rogers, Michael K. Williams, Jessica Oyelowo
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: When Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) is taken hostage in her own apartment by escaped prisoner Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), she turns to Rick Warren’s inspirational “The Purpose Driven Life” to find her own purpose as well as to bond with her captor to end her hostage situation peacefully.
I’m not sure what I did wrong that God wants to punish me with the third faith-based movie in less than a month, but honestly, I just don’t have a handle on these things, especially when I literally haven’t seen any marketing whatsoever. Apparently, the book that has such a great effect on the lives of the characters, “The Purpose Driven Life,” has sold 30 million copies worldwide and is the most translated book after the Bible. I’ve never read or heard of it personally, but the makers of this movie obviously are hoping those who have been drawn to the book and affected by it will realize that a movie called “Captive” involves it. Honestly, I haven’t even heard of this story from 2005 about an escaped prisoner who was talked into surrendering after taking a hostage, but apparently someone felt it was worth turning into a movie.
Unlike the recent hit War Room, this movie at least has two fairly recognizable stars with David Oyelowo getting a lot of attention (but not the deserved Oscar nomination) last year for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava Duvernay’s Selma (also released by Paramount), and Kate Mara from “House of Cards” and the ill-fated Fantastic Four playing Ashley Smith, but at this point neither of them has much of a track record at the box office. 83-year-old director Jerry Jameson’s career goes all the way back to television shows from the ‘60s and ‘70s including “Mod Squad” and “The Six Million Dollar Man,” although he hasn’t directed many movies in recent years and nothing of major significance either.
Captive is only opening in around 800 theaters and there hasn’t been much of a marketing campaign, although Paramount could be focusing it in the Southern States particularly Georgia where the story took place and where there could be a groundswell of moviegoers similar to Black Mass in Boston.
Basically, this is another one of those big question marks although the lack of theaters and marketing doesn’t bode well that anyone who might be interested in the subject matter will even realize this movie exists. An opening somewhere in the $3 to 5 million range is likely and probably less than $15 million total even if it’s helped by word-of-mouth.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband, 2 Guns, 101 Reykjavik, The Deep, Jar City)
Writer: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Jake Gyllenhaal
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: In 1996, Australian mountain climber Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) was leading a diverse group of climbers up the side of Mount Everest along with a number of other groups also trying to reach the peak. When a sudden storm hit, Hall and others became stranded showing why climbing Everest is considered such a perilous endeavor.
Due to time constraints, I’m not going to write too much about this new drama from the Icelandic director of the hit thriller Contraband just now, because the movie is getting an IMAX 3D-only release this weekend (plus other large format 3D screens) before expanding nationwide on Friday, September 25. It’s not the only movie to get a limited release and then expanding as that’s going to be the norm for the next few weeks including this week’s Sicario (see below), next week’s The Walk and October’s Steve Jobs, which shows that more studios are fine slowly rolling things out and giving them more time to figure out the marketing before their wide release. This is actually something normal for Universal during this time of year, although Everest probably seems like a movie that should be getting a wide release straight away—although this weekend would be bad since its primarily male audience is going to get a lot of competition from both The Scorch Trials and Black Mass.
This weekend, Everest should be good for about $3 to 5 million over the weekend, thanks to the higher ticket prices and per-theater averages normally seen by IMAX theaters and many will probably choose to see the larger scale movie in that format. Again, I’ll have more to say about this in next week’s column when Everest expands wide.
Baltasar Komarkur Interview (Coming Soon!)
This Weekend Last Year
As mentioned above, The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox) opened at #1 with $32.5 million in 3,604 theaters or $9,000 per location, followed in a distant second place by Liam Neeson’s crime thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones (Universal) with $12.8 million. Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and an ensemble cast teamed for the dysfunctional family comedy This is Where I Leave You (Warner Bros.), directed by Shawn Levy, which tried to capitalize on buzz from its Toronto International Film Festival premiere but had to settle for third place with $11.6 million. Despite its release into 602 theaters, Kevin Smith’s horror flick Tusk (A24) bombed with just $890,000 or $1,472 per theater as it ended up outside the Top 10, which brought in $90 million over the weekend. That amount should be bested by the one-two punch of The Scorch Trials and Black Mass.
This Week’s Predictions
1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox) – $43 million N/A
2. Black Mass (Warner Bros.) – $27 million N/A
3. The Perfect Guy (Sony/Screen Gems) – $12.5 million -52%
4. The Visit (Universal) – $12 million -53%
5. War Room (Sony/Tristar) – $5.5 million -29%
6. Everest (Universal) – $4 million N/A
7. Captive (Paramount) – $3.8 million N/A
8. A Walk in the Woods (Broad Green) – $3 million -42%
9. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) – $2.3 million -44%
10. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $2 million -48%
September will be almost over next week. Where did it go? Still, a number of high profile movies will open including Adam Sandler’s animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Pictures Animation), Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro team for the comedy The Intern (Warner Bros.), while the mountain climbing drama Everest (Universal) will expand nationwide and Eli Roth’s South American horror film The Green Inferno (Lionsgate/BH Impact) will finally be released nearly two years after its Toronto International Film Festival premiere.
This Week’s Must-Sees
Director: Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies, Enemy)
Stars: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal
Genre: Action, Drama
What It’s About: Stationed in Arizona, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted into a government task force meant to take down the Mexican cartel forcing her to team with a number of individuals including the team leader (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who use questionable tactics as they travel to Juarez, Mexico to accomplish their objective.
Sicario will open in New York and L.A. on Friday and then will expand nationwide on October 2, but right now, it’s the best thing I’ve seen at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Denis Villeneuve Interview (Coming Soon!)
Video Interview with the Cast (Coming Soon!)
Cooties (Lionsgate Premiere)
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Stars: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Ian Brennan, Jorge Garcia
Genre: Horror, Comedy
What It’s About: Co-written by Saw and Insidious co-creator (and Insidious 3 director) Leigh Whannell with Ian Brennan, co-creator of “Glee” and the upcoming “Scream Queens,” this is a horror comedy about a virus spread through the cafeteria food that turns the kids of an elementary school into deadly zombies that are set on killing and eating all the teachers who are trying to stop them.
My (Brief) Thoughts…
This may be one of my favorite horror-comedies since maybe Black Sheep or Severance, and fans of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead should enjoy this combination of humor and gore. It’s another great production from Elijah Wood’s production company Spectrevision, who managed to assemble quite a strong comedic cast including Jack McBrayer and Rainn Wilson, playing off all sorts of high school archetypes. It will open in select cities and On Demand this Friday.
Interview with Elijah Wood (Coming Soon!)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Pawn Sacrifice (Bleecker Street)
Director: Edward Zwick
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Michael Stuhlbarg
What It’s About: Tobey Maguire plays chessmaster Bobby Fischer in this drama about his rivalry with the Russian champion Borris Spasky (played by Liev Shreiber) that led to a 12-game tournament held in Iceland televised to the rest of the world as Fischer began to fray at the edges from the pressure. It opens on Wednesday in select cities and will expand nationwide next Friday.
The Cut (Strand Releasing)
Writer/Director: Fatih Akin
Stars: Tahar Rahim
What It’s About: Fatih Akin’s latest follows the journey of Nazareth (Tahar Ramin) who leaves his home after surviving the 1915 Armenian genocide to become a forced labor when he travels to America in hopes of finding his twin daughters who may still be alive. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
The New Girlfriend (Cohen Media Group)
Director: Francois Ozon
Stars: Romain Duris, Anais Demoustier, Isild Le Besco, Raphaël Personnaz
What It’s About: After the death of her childhood friend, Claire (Anais Demoustier) tries to console her husband David (Romain Duris) only to discover his secret that he likes dressing up as women, but instead of being shocked, Claire becomes friends with “Virginia” but their relationship starts turning into something else which has Claire spending more time with Virginia and less time with her actual husband.
Hellions (IFC Midnight)
Director: Bruce McDonald
Stars: Chloe Rose, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Peter DaCunha, Luke Bilyk, Robert Patrick
Genre: Horror, Thriller
What It’s About: The Canadian director of Pontypool returns to the horror genre with a Halloween night thriller about a 17-year-old (Chloe Rose) who has decided to stay in for Halloween after discovering that she’s pregnant only to be terrorized by a group of “trick-or-treaters from Hell” who want her unborn baby.
Forsaken (Momentum Pictures)
Director: Jon Cassar
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott
What It’s About: Kiefer and Donald Sutherland star as gunslinger John Henry, who is trying to reconnect with his father while fighting off a gang of greedy land thieves.
And then we have a bunch of highly-regarded docs…
Songs from the North (Kino Lorber)
Director: Soon Mi-Yoo
What It’s About: A portrait of North Korea by a filmmaker who travelled there three times to shoot footage, which is combined with music and archival footage.
Racing Extinction (Discovery)
Director: Louie Psihoyos
What It’s About: The Oscar-winning director of The Cove that looks at the loss of various species on this planet to extinction and how we’re looking at the first possible major extinction event since the one that took out the dinosaurs due to things that man is doing. It receives a limited release to quality it for Oscars and then it will air on the Discovery Channel on December 2.
Prophet’s Prey (Showtime)
Director: Amy Berg
Stars: Sam Brower, Nick Cave, Andrew Chatwin, Lori Chatwin, Warren Jeffs
What It’s About: Amy Berg, the Oscar-nominated director of Deliver Us from Evil, shines a spotlight on the controversial religious leader Warren Jeffs, the most powerful man within the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints with tens of thousands of the devout worshiping him since he became the order’s Prophet, as he continued to push the practices of polygamy, underage marriage as well as the rape of younger female members
Peace Officer (Gravitas Ventures)
Director: Scott Christopherson, Brad Barber
Stars: “Dub” Lawrence.
What It’s About: This documentary looks at how the American police forces are becoming militarized through the eyes of “Dub” Lawrence, a sheriff who created his state’s first SWAT team only for the unit to kill his son-in-law thirty years later, which he decides to investigate. It opens in select cities on Wednesday.
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas