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The Weekend Warrior: Man of Steel & This is The End

Source:   Edward Douglas
June 12, 2013


There's not much to say in terms of introductions this week except that we see the release of maybe one of the most important movies of the summer at least in terms of the continuation of the DC Entertainment Universe at Warner Bros. After the huge success of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, they really need to keep the flow going with Man of Steel (Warner Bros.), Zack Snyder's take on Superman, if they have any hopes of keeping up with Marvel Studios.

Everybody is going to be watching closely this weekend to see if the movie can open over $80 million or $90 million or even $100 million, which unfortunately means that the only other new movie this weekend, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's directorial debut, the R-rated apocalypse comedy This is the End (Sony), may get lost in the shuffle. Either that or we'll have another strong weekend at the box office and who could ask for anything more than that?

Man of Steel (Warner Bros.)
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe, Michael Kelly, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, Sucker Punch); Written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated PG-13

Interview with Zack Snyder (Later this week!)

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

This is it. One of the most anticipated movies of the summer and we almost find ourselves at a loss of words for what to say about it, because it seems like we've already been talking about it more than a few times even before the summer even began.

This is clearly going to be one of the summer's biggest movies, and a lot of that comes down to two big names associated with it, including producer Christopher Nolan, whose work on the "Dark Knight Trilogy" and the interim Inception has made him one of the top names in Hollywood as well as among the coveted male moviegoing audience. After his success reinventing Batman, Nolan was given carte blanche to pick the director for the Superman franchise and he hand-picked Zack Snyder, who blew moviegoers and comic fans away with his adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300 and Alan Moore and David Gibbons' more difficult Watchmen. He then went off page and made two movies not based on comics, adapting the children's book The Guardians of Ga'hoole and making Sucker Punch, a movie based on an original idea, neither of which did nearly as well but both of them making back their production budgets at the domestic box office.

With that in mind, Snyder may have seemed like an odd choice to take over a high profile franchise like Superman but he definitely promised to bring the action that was missing from the previous incarnation directed by Bryan Singer. That movie, Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, opened in late June seven years ago, opening on a Wednesday with $21 million but then trickling down over the course of the week because the movie just didn't live up to the Superman movie fans were hoping for. It ended up grossing $84.5 million in its first five days, which is still quite impressive, although it topped out at $200 million, just slightly less than Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins grossed the year before. Unlike Batman Begins, Warner Bros. didn't bother greenlighting a sequel.

Things have changed drastically since then thanks to the 2008 one-two punch of Marvel Studios' Iron Man and Nolan's sequel The Dark Knight, which have made superhero movies a much more viable genre and one that often leads to huge event films like last year's The Avengers and this year's Iron Man 3. Clearly, moviegoing audiences are much more open to big budget blockbuster superhero movies now than they were back in 2005 and 2006 which gives Man of Steel a much better chance at achieving the opening of at least an Iron Man, but the question is whether audiences are ready for another Superman movie at this point. After 80 years of comics, TV shows and movies, is Superman considered hip enough for modern, younger audiences? That's really the question that Nolan, Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer (also of "Dark Knight" fame) have to prove this weekend.

Granted, Superman Return didn't have nearly as many big names in supporting roles, which is definitely an advantage that Snyder's movie has, although the casting has been hugely unconventional starting with a fairly unknown in the lead role, British actor Henry Cavill, which follows suit with the previous Superman movies and television shows over the years, but he's surrounded by a lot of familiar names and faces that have gotten the fans more excited.

The first unconventional casting was that of redhead Amy Adams as classically-brunette Lois Lane, Superman's girlfriend and Daily Planet nemesis, but that was followed by some of the most exciting casting when character actor Michael Shannon ("Boardwalk Empire") signed on to play classic Superman villain General Zod. There was also the casting of Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe as Superman's Kryptonian father Jor-El, adding some big name bang to the package, but the biggest surprises had to come in the casting of Jonathan and Martha Kent, Superman's adoptive parents, as they got Kevin Costner, another Oscar winner (and another actor who has played Robin Hood) to play his father, and the significantly younger Diane Lane to play his wife.

This is clearly not the Richard Donner Superman and taking a cue from Batman Begins and Iron Man, the filmmakers have grounded this Superman movie in our own reality by casting aside some of the typical traditions like calling the character "Superman" for instance or introducing Kryptonite.

The question is how much the Nolan name will bring to the mix vs. Snyder who has already burnt the fanboy crowd with his last couple movies? We think the Nolan name may bring a lot, but the impeccable Warner Bros. marketing of the movie will bring even more because they've done a good job slowly building from the simplest of trailers and commercials to ones that prove that there's a lot of action to be had when you have two Kryptonians duking it out.

The only problem with a movie like this is that there's so much excitement among the fanboy crowd that they might not realize that there will be plenty of normal moviegoers who may not even realize that "Man of Steel" is another name for Superman. That didn't pose a problem for "The Dark Knight" and Warner Bros.' marketing has been working overtime letting people know that the movie exists with Snyder and the cast appearing everywhere.

Earlier this week, we were dubious whether Man of Steel could open over $100 million and thought it might open slightly below that amount, but right now the movie seems to have become the latest big event movie of the summer, and with movies like The Purge and Now You See Me exceeding expectations, we think this movie will follow suit especially with an oversaturation of 4,200 theaters that Warner Bros. were able to get for the movie, not to mention the higher prices for 3D and IMAX tickets, the latter likely being a first choice. We expect that the movie will have an opening day in the $40 million range, nearly double Superman Returns's first day, although it also will sustain that business better over the weekend, allowing Man of Steel to do similar business as the first Iron Man, which would make Warner Bros. very happy as it kicks off the first of two huge weekends, although it will probably drop below Pixar's equally anticipated Monsters University in its second weekend.

Weekend Est.: $102 to 105 million opening weekend; Est. Total Gross: $325 million

This is the End (Sony)
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Emma Watson
Written and Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Writers of Superbad, Pineapple Express, Green Hornet and The Watch; producers of 50/50 and some of those others)
Genre: Comedy
Rated R

Review

Offered as optimistic counter-programming to Man of Steel is the latest movie from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who have become kings of R-rated stoner comedy with the help of producer Judd Apatow and Sony Pictures, first with Superbad ($33 opening; $121.5 million total) and then Pineapple Express the following year ($23.2 million; $87.3 million) and then The Green Hornet a couple years later ($33.5 million; $98.8) million. Clearly that's a great track record for the writing/producing duo although they may have tackled a bit more than they can chew this time around, not only by directing their very first movie but also having it open against the highly anticipated blockbuster Man of Steel.

Fortunately, for their directorial debut they literally brought together all their friends and colleagues including Jonah Hill and Michael Cera from Superbad and James Franco, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride from Pineapple Express, plus more cameos than you can shake a stick at. This has helped to keep the costs of the movie down despite it being a giant end of the world movie, the kind we might normally see from say Roland Emmerich, only on a much tighter budget.

Rogen himself hasn't really been making big waves with his recent work like The Guilt Trip, which teamed him with Barbra Streisand, but he has great support in Jonah Hill, who has had some big hits with last year's comedy remake of 21 Jump Street and his Oscar-nominated turn in Moneyball. Of all of the cast, James Franco certainly has been having the best year with his enormous blockbuster hit Oz The Great and Powerful for Disney, as well as his unforgettable turn as a gangster rapper in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, although in many ways, it's Danny McBride who steals the movie even though he hasn't really been seen on screen since the disappointing 30 Minutes or Less nearly two years ago. Going by the number of movies he's been appearing lately, you'd think the show belongs to Craig Robinson, yet oddly, Jay Baruchel, who is the heart of the movie, probably gets the least amount of screen time in the commercials.

Like Pineapple Express, Rogen and Goldberg's latest is opening on Wednesday and it may perform similarly since high school and college-age students are out of school already and they'll go to see it based on the overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth from early screenings - something Sony wisely took advantage having had success by doing so going all the way back to Superbad. This should help it see a fairly major surge on Wednesday to as much as $7 or 8 million though it's likely to start sliding after that and Man of Steel is still the first choice for the weekend and once it opens, This is the End is going to fall to a distant second place and might even end up making less over the weekend than it does its first few days as it's overshadowed by the high-profile blockbuster.

The good news for This is the End is that there's likely to be certain college-age kids who won't have much interest in Superman at all and for them, a raunchy comedy they can see with their friends throughout the week will be a viable option, especially having heard how crazy/funny it is. With that sort of word-of-mouth, it should still find an audience in the weeks to come, since it's going up against very different types of movies, and we could see this ending up doing around the same as Pineapple Express or slightly less. Either way, having not cost a lot to make compared to other summer comedies, it should do very well for Sony and keep the Rogen-Goldberg streak going.

Wednesday and Thursday: $15.5 million; Weekend Est.: $17 to 19 million; Est. Total Gross: $75 million


(Note: This is the End made $2.2 million on Tuesday night at midnight which is in line with our prediction above.)

Also, Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, starring The Purge's Ethan Hawke with Julie Delpy, will expand into over 650 theaters nationwide this Friday, which should allow it a spot at the bottom of the Top 10 with roughly $3 to 4 million.

This Week's UPDATED Predictions -

1. Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) - $102.6 million N/A (Down 1.1 million)

2. This is the End (Sony) - $18.6 million N/A

3. The Purge (Universal Pictures) - $13.3 million -61 (Down 1.9 million)

4. Now You See Me (Summit) - $10.3 million -46% (down .1 million)

5. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) - $9.5 million -52%

6. The Internship (20th Century Fox) - $8.8 million -49% (down .3 million)

7. Epic (20th Century Fox) - $7.0 million -41% (down .1 million)

8. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) - $5.1 million -53% (same)

9. After Earth (Sony) - $4.5 million -56% (down .5 million)

10. Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics) - $3.8 million (up .5 million)

Heads and shoulders above the rest of the movies this week—and in fact, one of the best movies of the year - is Morgan Neville's documentary 20 Feet From Stardom (RADiUS-TWC) takes a look at the role of the backup singer throughout the years going back to the '50 and '60s and right through today. If you're a fan of music, I would say that this is the must-see movie of the year by far.

Personally, I missed it when it premiered on the Opening Night of Sundance but I caught it at SXSW a few months later and I was suitably impressed with how director Morgan Neville assembled an amazing group of singers from all different eras of music, brought them together in the studio, got them to tell their stories and … more than anything else… SING! These (mostly) women are absolutely amazing, hugely talented in their own right, and yet for whatever reason, they choose to remain behind the spotlight and the big name stars, creating a beautiful blend of voices behind them.

As with any movie about back-up singers, this one begins and ends with Darlene Love, the voice of so many great Phil Spector hits of the '60s and one of the few back-up singers who was able to eventually break out and have a solo career later in life. Then there's the likes of Merry Clayton who has sung on some of the biggest rock 'n' roll hits of the '60s yet struggled to get her own solo career going during the '70s.

Possibly the most amazing story is that of Lisa Fischer, who started out as part of Luther Vandross' group of back-up singers and literally sang with everyone, having a brief solo career in the '80s before joining the Rolling Stones as their regularly featured back-up singer even touring today. And then there's the youngest and newest of the singers that Neville chose to focus on, Judith Hill, who is desperately trying to get her own solo career going (and who recently appeared on the hit NBC show "The Voice" only to be eliminated, something that's quite shocking when you see the talent she displays in Neville's film.)

Some of the best scenes have all of the singers performing together, singing hymnals, performing solo pieces, just pure and unadulterated singing. It's impressive how much Neville is able to fit into one movie without it ever getting tedious, because he's found an amazing group of women with stories that need to be heard and seen to be believed.

This is just a fantastic film and a must-see if you're a fan of classic rock and roll and R 'n' B and since it's playing in select cities AND on VOD on Friday, you really have no excuse not to see what I personally feel should already be short-listed for the Oscar doc category. You can learn even more about the movie in my interview below.

Interview with Morgan Neville

Toby Jones (The Hunger Games, Captain America) plays British sound engineer Gilderoy in Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio (IFC Midnight) in which he travels to an Italian recording studio in order to do sound FX and voice-overs for what turns out to be a grisly Italian Giallo film, a project that starts infiltrating his attempts to put the job aside when he goes home.

Filmmaker Peter Strickland's attention to detail and creating authenticity in a studio environment, everything from voice over work to Foley sound effects, makes this loving tribute to the Giallo films of the '70s something special but the best thing about the movie is Toby Jones as the neurotic sound engineer trying to navigate this world in a movie that just gets stranger and stranger as it goes along as working on the movie starts to seep into Giulderoy's dreams during his time outside the studio. The movie may not pay off in ways that horror fans might want i.e. there's no real gore in the movie despite us hearing the sound FX used to embellish it, but it is definitely a unique look at horror that took me a second viewing to embrace if more fully.

Berberian Sound Studio opens on Friday, June 14 in New York City at the IFC Center and Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema as well as on VOD.

Interview with Toby Jones

Oscar winning filmmaker Sofia Coppola returns with The Bling Ring (A24), based on the true story of Los Angeles teenagers who went on a crime spree targeting celebrities and stealing more than 3 million dollars of goods from the homes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Rachel Bilson, and the gang became known in the media as "The Bling Ring." It opens in select cities on Friday and then nationwide on June 21.

Review (Sometime next week, hopefully)

Paul Walker stars in Mukunda Michael Dewil's Vehicle 19 (Ketchup Entertainment), a slightly lower budget and lower profile movie than Fast & Furious 6 but far more high concept as he plays a recently paroled man who gets the wrong rental vehicle after a long flight to Jamaica and becomes a target for the police force that wants what's in the car--a tied-up female "passenger" in the trunk who is going to testify against the city's corrupt police system. It opens in select cities.

I haven't seen the third chapter in Adam Green's slasher flick Hatchet III (MPI/Dark Sky Films), which once again pits Danielle Harris' Marybeth against the unstoppable sociopath serial killer Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) in the bayous of New Orleans, this time teaming with a local policeman (Zach Galligan of "Gremlins") and his wife (Caroline Williams).

Premiering on HBO this past Monday night, June 10 is Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin's Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (HBO Films), which takes a look at Russia's controversial feminist punk collective who were arrested for performing in an Orthodox church on February 21, 2012. Formed as a protest against the reappointment of Vladimir Putin, these girls make random appearances wearing short dresses and balaclava masks miming their low-fie punk tunes. The film follows them in the rehearsals leading up to the performance and has unprecedented access to the four arrested members of Pussy Riot, as they're literally arrested and caged after the incident at the church. The film also includes testimonial footage from their parents talking about the personalities of the young women and why they're doing all the things they do. If you've been following this story since it broke last year, this doc fills in a lot of details that didn't make it into the mainstream Western press.

One of Hong Kong's most prolific filmmakers Andrew Lau returns with The Guillotines (Well Go USA) about a secret brotherhood of assassins who are exiled to a remote village by a new Emperor where they're hunted by a squad of gunned men who they must outfight. It opens in select cities Friday.

Clément Michel's French comedy The Stroller Strategy (Rialto Pictures) is being compared to "Three Men and a Baby" (which was itself based on a French movie). It starts "French heartthrob" Raphaël Personnaz as the guy put in charge of a baby by his ex-girlfriend. Had the opportunity but not the time to watch it. Sorry.

I also haven't seen Storm Surfers 3D (XLRator Media), which follows surfing legends Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones who I've never heard of as they look for giant storms that create big waves in the Pacific.

Next week, the month of June rolls along with two big releases, the animated prequel Monsters University (Disney•Pixar) featuring the return of Billy Crystal's Mike Wazowski and John Goodman's James T. Sullivan, while Brad Pitt takes on zombies in the (very loose) adaptation of Max Brooks' World War Z (Paramount).



You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas


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