The Weekend Warrior

Box Office Preview: What to Expect When You Base a Movie on a Board Game

Source: Edward Douglas
May 16, 2012

The Avengers has been running rampant over every movie that tried to open and even with three very different movies opening this weekend, we don't think any of them have a chance at dethroning its third weekend at #1 but at least one of them certainly will give it the old college try.

The $200 million plus budgeted alien invasion action movie Battleship (Universal), from director Peter Berg, comes into the weekend with quite a bit of curiosity from those wanting to know how they've managed to turn a fairly boring old Hasbro board game into a movie that looks like Michael Bay's Transformers. This one stars Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard and pop singer Rihanna, and there are lots of younger male action fans looking for something to follow The Avengers in their summer viewing and Universal has wisely changed the marketing in the last few weeks to make it look more like typical summer fare that will appeal to them.

Battleship opened internationally a month ago and has earned $215 million, but this may have been a strategy by Universal to make some money before opening in the States and potentially tanking. The biggest problem is that it's very hard to take a movie seriously when it's based on a board game and it also may be losing some of the older teen and 20-something audience to Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie opening today (see below).

While Battleship probably won't bomb as bad as last week's Dark Shadows, it will be settling for second place with somewhere in the mid-$30 million range, which isn't that great for a movie that cost over $200 million. (Just ask Taylor Kitsch's last movie, John Carter.) With the help of Memorial Day weekend and Fleet week, it should be able to cross $100 million, but it's taking on too many stronger movies in early June, which won't help it make much of a mark this summer.

Review

Heidi Murkoff and Saron Mazell's bestselling maternity book What to Expect When You're Expecting (Lionsgate) is brought to screen as an ensemble comedy with an impressive cast that includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Brooklyn Decker (again!), Chace Crawford and more, many of whom have been on the talk show circuit plugging the movie. Diaz has been on quite a roll with hits like What Happens in Vegas and last year's Bad Teacher and this is J-Lo's first movie in quite some time, plus Banks has become better known following her stint in the blockbuster hit The Hunger Games, so you have three reasons right there why women in their 20s, 30s and older will make this their first choice for the weekend. Turning popular non-fiction books into ensemble movies has proven popular, as seen by He's Just Not That Into You and the recent Think Like a Man, and the mix of ethnicities in this cast is another plus, though they sort of missed an opportunity by not opening this last week when they could have had a huge bump from Mother's Day. Without having much competition from the other two guys' movies, this should make somewhere between $22 and 25 million over the weekend and could theoretically have decent legs, at least through Memorial Day with few other female-friendly movies in theaters.

Opening on Wednesday (today!) is the new movie from Sacha Baron Cohen, The Dictator (Paramount), once again teaming him with Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles as well as actors like Sir Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris and Jason Matzoukas for a comedy that's more scripted and more in line with a movie like Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Cohen has his fans and he's been everywhere as the film's lead character Admiral General Aladeen, although the character may have already worn out his welcome and the one or two good jokes from the movie. Originally, The Dictator was supposed to open last week but it was moved back to avoid being trampled by Johnny Depp and the second week of The Avengers, but it's not going to help matters since many of Cohen's fans will probably go out to see the movie Wednesday or Thursday, taking away from the business for the weekend, especially since Battleship may be a more viable choice for some. Paramount also doesn't have a great track record selling comedies and because of those things, we think this will probably end up making $8 to 9 million on Wednesday and Thursday and between $17 and 19 million over the weekend.

This weekend last year, Johnny Depp was back as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures), which did quite a bit better than last week's Dark Shadows, but not as much as the previous two chapters. Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), the fourth installment brought in $90.1 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $241 million domestically, which is less than the previous installments. That said, it did gross over a billion worldwide, just slightly less than "Dead Man's Chest," which means we're likely to see another one someday. Bridesmaids took second place with $20.8 million, down just 20%, followed by Thor with $15.5 million for third place. The Top 10 grossed $157 million and though The Avengers will still be going strong, we don't think the other new movies will make enough money between them to push this weekend too far above that amount.

This Week's Predictions -

1. Marvel's The Avengers (Disney) - $53.2 million -48%

2. Battleship (Universal) - $34.0 million N/A

3. What to Expect When You're Expecting (Lionsgate) - $23.7 million N/A

4. The Dictator (Paramount) - $17.4 million N/A

5. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $14.5 million -52%

6. Think Like a Man (Screen Gems) - $3.2 million -44%

7. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $2.9 million 38%

8. The Lucky One (New Line/WB) - $2.8 million – 48%

9. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) - $2.1 million -23%

10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Sony) - $1.9 million -38%

This week's "Chosen One" is Panos Cosmatos' Beyond the Black Rainbow (Magnet Releasing), a trippy homage to the midnight movies and video store nasties of the early ‘80s that we first at last year's Tribeca Film Festival and it left quite a lasting impression. We think it will have genre fans drooling for more.

The film mostly takes place inside a New Age institute where the mysterious Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Collins) is paying a lot of attention to one patient in particular, a young woman named Elena (Eva Allan), who seems to have telekinetic powers. As time passes, we learn more about the physician who is more than meets the eye, but that's really all we want to say about this movie which combines the visuals of Kubrick with the sensibilities of John Carpenter to create something truly unforgettable.

It's a strange premise that moves at a gruelingly slow pace at times, particularly Collins' delivery of the minimal dialogue, but in doing so, creates a very distinctive mood that's almost hypnotic at times. Genre fans should enjoy the gory violence as well as some of the cooler sci-fi aspects that hark back to Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth." It's not a movie for everyone but certainly those looking for something that really stands out from the pack (similar to Nicolas Refn's Drive last year) should appreciate what second-generation filmmaker Panos Cosmatos brings to the table in creating a film that's shockingly disturbing at times but also quite beautiful in its artistry. That's certainly a difficult combination to pull off but "Black Rainbow" manages to create something that offers more layers of intrigue on multiple viewings.

Beyond the Black Rainbow opens in New York City at the Cinema Village on Friday and in other cities in the coming weeks.

Interview with director Panos Cosmatos

Two really good docs opening this weekend are Morgan Spurlock's Mansome (Paladin) and Indie Game: The Movie (BlinkWorks Media). Executive produced by Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, Spurlock's new movie Mansome, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, deals with male-grooming and how men perceive their look, dealing with things like bears and moustaches and bodyshaving and grooming products. Indie Game: The Movie from directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky follows four video game developers as they try to finish their games and get them out to the marketplace, and we discover how personal games like "Super Meat Boy" and the long-delayed "Fez" are to these programmers working independently to do all of it themselves.

"Mansome" Mini-Review: When you have executive producers like Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, your movie’s gotta be funny, which is good news for Morgan Spurlock’s second movie of 2012, a documentary about male grooming that seems to prove irrevocably than men may be more vain than their female counterparts. Exploring all different aspects of male grooming, from moustaches and beards to bodyshaving and all the grooming products needed for men to feel like themselves, the movie is far more light-hearted than the normal Spurlock exposé.

In between the various segments, Bateman and Arnett do a bit of schtick while spending a day in the spa, and Spurlock has some great comedy ringers in Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis, but the most memorable takeaway is beardsman John Passion, who brings to Spurlock’s movie what Billy Mitchell did for The King of Kong. He’s just a hilarious character who you can’t believe is for real because he’s so full of bluster, and if nothing else, people watching the movie will feel better about their own facial hair.

Then there’s other hilarious bits that make you think like one section on the maker of something called "Fresh Balls"--and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like--which gives you a better idea of the scope of what men will do in order to feel like they’re at their best. The section following a former Sikh who has decided to reinvent himself using style and reconstructive surgery isn’t quite as interesting.
Spurlock is only in the movie a little bit, talking about his own distinctive facial hair and how he grew it as a joke with friends and then it kind of stuck, as well as his decision to shave it off as a fundraiser. I personally like Spurlock in his movies but there are lots of people who don’t like his docs due to his presence and those who feel that way will find that the scarcity of his presence in "Mansome" may make it more acceptable.

The results are a very funny doc done for the sake of entertainment rather than something particularly deep or poignant. Fans of Bateman and Arnett as well as Spurlock’s tongue-in-cheek approach to documentary filmmaking should be able to enjoy it. Rating: 8/10

Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in Tanya Wexler's period comedy Hysteria (Sony Pictures Classics), a look at the invention of the vibrator by Dr. Mortimer Granville (Dancy) at a time when women's infidelities and nymphomania was credited to a diagnosis of "hysteria" and the cure was sexual stimulation. Gyllenhaal plays the rebellious daughter of Granville's boss (Jonathan Pryce), and the cast also includes Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) and Rupert Everett. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Interview with Hugh Dancy & Jonathan Pryce

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black makes his directorial debut with Virginia (EOne Entertainment) starring Jennifer Connelly as the title character, a single mother trying to raise her son Emmett (Harrison Gilbertson) who dreams of escaping their small Southern town, although her long-time affair with the town's Mormon sherriff (Ed Harris) complicates his attempt to run for office, while Emmett has been seeing the sheriff's daughter (Emma Roberts).

The Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez has a new movie called Lovely Molly (Image Entertainment) starring Gretchen Lodge as Molly Reynolds, a newlywed who returns to her old family home and is reminded of the nightmares she had as a child. After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, it opens in select cities Friday.

Review

This week sees the release of two winners from last year's Cannes Film Festival, staring with the release of the Russian film Elena (Zeitgeist Films) on Wednesday at New York's Film Forum. The new movie from Andrey (The Return) Zvangintsev's "Un Certain Regard" Jury Prize winner is a noir thriller about a couple in their 60s who shares a large Moscow apartment, she his former nurse who married him and brought her son and his family to live with them. When her inheritance is threatened, she plots a plan that would make Hitchcock proud (as would the score by Philip Glass).

French filmmaker Maïwenn's crime-drama Polisse (IFC Films), winner of the Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, looks at the Child Protection Unit in Paris, a group of men and women fighting against pedophiles and others who would abuse children. The ensemble drama opens in New York at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas On Friday.

Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) stars in Steve Rash's underdog lacrosse comedy Crooked Arrows (Freestyle Releasing), leading a Native American high school team on a journey to the championships.

Matt D'Elia wrote, directed and stars in American Animal (Screen Media Films) as a man who learns his best friend and roommate is moving out, so over the course of a night full of drinking, drugs and women, they engage in one final battle of wills.

Jonathan Gruber's documentary Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story (International Film Circuit) is the story of the leader of the Israeli commandos who saved 103 hostages on an Israeli-bound airplane leaving the 30-year-old soldier dead. The doc explores Netanyahu's life leading up to the raid to save the hostages that would end it, leaving a nation in mourning. It opens in New York at Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Quad Cinema as well as in select cities in Florida.

Next week, it's Memorial Day weekend and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reteam for Men in Black 3 (Sony) while Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli visits a formerly Communist but still radioactive (and haunted) Russia in Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros.)

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

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas




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