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The Weekend Warrior: That Awkward Moment, Labor Day

Source:   Edward Douglas
January 28, 2014


It's hard to believe that the month of January is already over and we've already hit Super Bowl weekend, when most movies will do their business on Friday and Saturday night and then tail off by Sunday as millions of Americans sit around their big screen TV sets watching the commercials and movie trailers and who knows? Maybe even some of them will watch the football game. (But seriously, with the New England Patriots out of it as well as both New York teams, who really cares about football?) This weekend sees two romance films of sorts, movies that will be of interest to women of different ages with no one really trying too hard to have any sort of Super Bowl weekend box office blockbuster. In fact, it will be surprising if anything makes more than $15 million this weekend.

The movie with the most potential is Tom Gornican's romantic comedy (of sorts) That Awkward Moment (Focus Features), starring Zac Efron from "High School Musical" with Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, who both broke out with big Sundance movies in 2013, Fruitvale Station and The Spectacular Now. Originally called "Are We Officially Dating?" the movie deliberately looks a lot like one of those dating advice movies except that it's raunchier and it's from the male perspective, but because of Efron's presence, the movie's target audience is really only going to be women and girls under 25. Efron's mainly been doing smaller indie films in the last few years, things like Parkland and Liberal Arts, and it's been two years since he starred in Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Lucky One, which opened with $22 million and grossed nearly $91 million worldwide. Efron's still going to be the primary draw of the movie.

While there are aspects of the movie that make it look like a typical relationship advice movie ala He's Just Not That Into You, the movie's mostly male perspective makes it somewhat unique, and the movie's raunchy humor actually plays pretty well with audiences, many of whom come away pleasantly surprised by the chemistry between Jordan and Teller, both of whom have appeared in high profile films like Chronicle and the Footloose remake. They're both so close to breaking out as well. (Interesting coincidence: Jordan was the star of last year's big Sundance winner Fruitvale Station, and this month, Teller starred in this year's big breakout Whiplash, which was received just as well.)

Guys probably won't have much interest in the movie nor will many over the age 25 - most of those demos will be focused on watching the Super Bowl Sunday anyway. Even so, there's a really good chance that young female moviegoers can help this one break out and do enough business Friday and Saturday to take the top spot… although there's just as likely a chance that Ride Along will just coast into a third week at #1 before next week's more anticipated movies.

Review

January 2014 also comes to a close with the release of Jason Reitman's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's Labor Day (Paramount), starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, a romantic drama for adults that's very different from Reitman's previous four films, including Juno and Up in the Air, both which were somewhat cynical and snarky.

Kate Winslet hasn't appeared in a movie in quite some time. Oh, wait, she was in last year's comedy anthology bomb Movie 43. Correction: Kate Winslet WISHES she hasn't been in a movie in quite some time, but then Brolin is coming off the huge bomb that was the Oldboy remake from director Spike Lee, which didn't even get a nationwide release. This is more of a serious movie for both actors and for Reitman, clearly geared towards grown-ups rather than the teen Juno crowd. Winslet probably would be the bigger draw of the two since she still has a lot of fans from her days starring with Leonardo DiCaprio in James Cameron's Titanic, but she's also earned a lot of respect with her body of work in recent years, making her popular among women of all ages.

Labor Day had its premiere in Reitman's hometown of Toronto at last year's Toronto International Film Festival to lukewarm reviews and though Paramount did give the movie a nominal 2013 week-long release in L.A. for awards consideration—and Kate Winslet did get a Golden Globe nomination for her performance—the movie's pretty much been written out of awards season months ago.

It's also somewhat interesting how Paramount has changed the message and marketing on this movie, from a poster with Josh Brolin with his arm around Winslet's throat (as if it was a thriller) to one where they're in a loving embrace. And they're also putting a lot of focus on the pie-making plot device in the movie. And yet, without much awards attention, this one's pretty much being dumped into Super Bowl weekend probably into way more theaters than it should be opening in, rather than doing the wiser move by giving it a limited release with hope to build word-of-mouth through the holidays.

Labor Day will be lucky if it brings in $7 to 8 million this weekend, going up against all the strong returning and Oscar-buzzy movies and with Valentine's Day in three weeks, there are going to be a lot more romantic choices, so this probably will end up with roughly $20 million and not much more.

Interview with Jason Reitman

Review (Coming Soon!)

A couple other releases of note this weekend: Disney is releasing a sing-a-long version of Frozen into about 1,000 theaters in hopes that fans of the movie might go out and see it one more time with the option to sing along. The movie's already been in the Top 10 for ten weeks and grossed over $300 million, so who knows who might actually pay to see it again with the lyrics on the screen, but it might get a little bump from that. Also, Warner Bros. is re-releasing Gravity into IMAX theaters this weekend hoping to get whoever is left who hasn't seen that movie in the best format to see it.

This weekend last year was also Super Bowl weekend and the big movie was the adaptation of Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies (Summit), starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, which took in $20.3 million in 3,009 theaters to open at #1 with nearly double the weekend gross of the previous week's #1 movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters which dropped to #2. Sylvester Stallone's action-comedy Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros.) bombed big time with just $4.5 million to open in sixth place, but it fared better than the crime-comedy Stand Up Guys (Roadside Attractions), starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, which brought in just $1.5 million in 659 theaters and ended up outside the Top 10. The Top 10 grossed a staggeringly bad $65 million, but again, it was Super Bowl weekend and I wouldn't expect that much better this week.

This Week's Predictions -

No changes or updates this week--we're just gonna let it ride!

1. That Awkward Moment (Focus Features) - $13.7 million N/A

2. Ride Along (Universal) - $11.7 million -46%

3. The Nut Job (Open Road Films) - $7.5 million -39%

4. Labor Day (Paramount) - $7.3 million N/A

5. Lone Survivor (Universal) - $7.1 million -45%

6. Frozen (Walt Disney) - $6.5 million -28%

7. American Hustle (Sony) - $4.6 million -34%

8. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) - $4.6 million -48%

9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) - $3.4 million -38%

10. I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate) - $2.9 million -65%

There's some good stuff in limited release this weekend…. And some bad stuff.

One of the best movies of the weekend and probably worthy of being dubbed "CHOSEN ONE" is Tim's Vermeer (Sony Pictures Classics), a documentary from the magic-making duo of Penn and Teller--the former producing and narrating, the latter directing--as they document the efforts of Penn's friend Tim Jennison, a computer graphics inventor from California, who becomes obsessed with figuring out how Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer was able to create such photo-realistic paintings during his time, then decided to recreate one of Vermeer's most famous paintings from scratch.

It's an amazing thing to watch as Jennison uses various techniques (and simple items like a dentist's mirror) to try to figure out how Vermeer might have been able to paint such realistic images, and it gets to the point where he meticulously recreates Vermeer's studio in order to have the best environment to tackle the job ahead of him. Jennison isn't an artist though, so he uses his skills as an inventor and a technician to devise a way to match Vermeer's colors even going to great troubles to make paints from scratch, because he really wants every part of his experiment to be done exactly with the elements Vermeer had to use himself.

A lot of British art scholars don't believe that a non-artist like Jennison would be able to recreate Vermeer's classic "The Music Lesson"--the original which hangs in Buckingham Palace, of all places--but Tim manages to impress each and every one of them with his discoveries.

The actual process of creating a Vermeer is a long and excruciating process as Jennison first needs to build everything that's seen in the painting from scratch, including musical instruments and the people, then has to sit down and do the meticulous and time-consuming work of recreating it on canvas, something that takes Jennison 1825 days capturing the diorama he built. It's certainly impressive to watch unfold but slightly laborious as well.

Penn and Teller make for a strong filmmaking team, making this doc feel more like a personal and intimate film than it might have been if it had been made by someone who didn't already know the film's subject personally. All in all, "Tim's Vermeer" is a decent doc, though a little dry and you'll definitely have to be an art lover to appreciate what Jennison is doing, because it doesn't have any sort of splashy twist or revelation that makes it something that needs to be seen more than once.

Rating: 8/10

As in past years, ShortsHD will be releasing all the animated, live action and documentary short features theatrically so that discerning Oscar predictors can check them all out before entering their office pools with some sort of informed knowledge. Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2014 will open in roughly 250 theatres nationwide on Friday. I'm hoping to find some time to watch all of them and write something in February before the Oscars, but if you really want to be informed before Oscar night, this is a great series of short films that includes the likes of Walt Disney Animation's "Get a Horse" (and they also will be screening the oddly ineligible Pixar short "Blue Umbrella") but for now, you can see the full list of the nominated shorts that will shown in separate animated, live action and two documentary programs, right here.

Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the filmmaking team behind some of the worst movie spoofs ever made such as last year's The Starving Games and the classic Vampires Suck give a go at making a "real movie" with Best Night Ever (Magnet), which is basically just a low-budget, found-footage movie that has four women traveling to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party for their friend Claire. So basically it's "The Hangover" with a bunch of women shooting everything on hand-held cameras. It's been playing on demand and for some reason, it opens in a single theater in Vancouver, Washington on Friday.

Mini-Review: For anyone wondering when the directors of some of the worst spoof comedies of the past ten years might try something different, prepare for the disappointment of learning that "trying something different" probably won't do much for their careers. In fact, "quit making movies altogether" would probably be a better start.

"Best Night Ever" is basically a found footage comedy following four women on a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. It opens with one of the soon-to-be-bride getting slapped in the face by a male stripper's sock-covered appendage… and well, it doesn't get much better from there.

There isn't much of a plot to speak of, as we basically follow soon-to-be-bride Claire, her sister and two friends around Vegas basically doing the same thing we see pretty much everyone do in Vegas. Who knows what made Friedberg and Selter think they could do a female version of "The Hangover," which had already been done before with "Bachelorette" - that movie wasn't great but at least it had a script, a better cast and an actual attempt at a plot. Everything about this movie is just so generic right down to the stereotypes being played by the four women.

All four actresses are pretty terrible, doing nothing to make it feel as if we're watching real Vegas bachelorette videos, instead basically running around screaming in high-pitched voices, sometimes punctuated by awful lines like "Holy sh*t, I think I just squirted." And yeah, there's an actual scene where the four women are sitting in a smelly dumpster singing 4 Non Blondes' "What's Going On?" with one camera filming them ala "Blair Witch," a lame moment they stretch out by singing the whole song then throwing in a kicker that was just used on "2 Broke Girls." Yes, that's how inane this movie is, as it always goes for the most obvious and lowest hanging fruit.

One of the movie's few fun moments is when the women start playing these crazy bachelorette games, and we get a montage that actually looks like it was fun to make, but after that, things go from bad to worse… and then they LITERALLY end the movie by ripping off "The Hangover"!

There's just nothing original or even funny anywhere present in this movie and while it does go by pretty fast--who knows how they had enough material to fill 72 minutes?--it basically looks like it was made on the fly for a couple thousand bucks just to kill time before Friedberg and Seltzer come up with another idea for a bad spoof movie. But like I've probably said before, these quote-unquote filmmakers have nothing to offer the world of comedy or film and I've given up trying to figure out why people keep giving them money.

Rating: 2/10

Lofty Nathan's doc 12 O'Clock Boys (Oscilloscope Labs) takes a look at the Baltimore dirt biker gangs who pull off amazing stunts on the streets causing troubles with the local police who are not allowed to chase after them. Much of the film focuses through the eyes of a young local named Pug who wants nothing more than to join the biker gangs, and who gets into constant trouble in trying to achieve that goal. It's not a terrible movie and you have to be impressed by the way Nathan has his cameras everywhere they need to be, getting a lot of these guys to talk about their lifestyle. Even so, it's hard to feel much for the characters because they're essentially thugs, and the movie generally has a similar vibe to Steve James' "The Interrupters" without that film's more positive message. Rating: 7/10

Two indie movies about college open this weekend with Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia starring in Adam Rodger‘s At Middleton (Anchor Bay Films) playing two strangers who meet while bringing their teen children on a campus tour of a college named Middleton, which spoofs college life as much as it pits the two very different parents against each other.

On the other hand, Maggie Kiley's Brightest Star (Gravitas Ventures) stars Chris Lowell as a young man who is dumped by his girlfriend right out of college, but instead of moving on, he tries to change himself into the man of her dreams, but then falls for a singer (Jessica Szohr) who likes him as is. Also starring Clark Gregg and Allison Janney, it opens in select cities on Friday.

Opening at the Film Forum in New York on Wednesday is the 3D documentary Charlie Victor Romeo from directors Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Irving Gregory, based on the theatrical production which has them creating dramatizations of actual black box recordings of six airline emergencies.

Ludivine Sagnier stars in Alexandre Castagnetti's romantic comedy Love is in the Air (Focus World) playing a soon-to-be-married woman who finds herself sitting next to a playboy who once broke her heart (Nicolas Bedos) on a first class flight to Paris.

Other movies out this week include Luke Massey's psychological thriller Armistice (XLRator Media), Jeremy O'Keefe's Somewhere Slow (Screen Media Films) and M. Blash's thriller The Wait (Monterey Media) starring Jena Malone and Chloë Sevigny.

Next week, we're past the Super Bowl and into the month of February for real and there are three movies vying for moviegoers' buckaroos including The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros.)--I think that one's pretty self-explanatory--George Clooney's star-studded WWII heist movie The Monuments Men (Sony) and a little something we like to call Vampire Academy (The Weinstein Company). Well, we don't call it that, but the author of the books did.



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 2014 Edward Douglas


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