It’s Memorial Day weekend!
It’s arguably one of the busiest moviegoing weekends of the year (most of the time) and also the bane of the Weekend Warrior’s existence, because it’s almost impossible to figure out what will happen, since the weekend tends to bring many people out to the movies that don’t go very often.
And it’s with that in mind that two studios decided, “Hey, we’re doing okay. We can afford to take a couple risks this weekend” rather than going for sure-things that would have done huge business over the weekend normally. Maybe they were just scared of the possibility of Avengers: Age of Ultron having longer legs or the two movies opening last weekend, Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2, dominating for a second weekend in a row. That may still happen as those three movies certainly will continue to bring in business for those taking advantage of the long weekend to catch up on movies they may have missed.
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille)
Writer: Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Robinson
What It’s About: No one knows ’cause it’s a SECRET!!! Just kidding. After finding a mysterious pin, Casey (Britt Robertson) is transported to a futuristic world when touching it, so she seeks out inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney), the one man who knows how she can get back to “Tomorrowland.”
Ever since this project bringing together The Incredibles director Brad Bird and “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof was announced, there was a lot of excitement and interest about the project, mainly due to the amount of secrecy surrounding what it was about. Although the name Tomorrowland was clearly taken from the name of one section of Disney’s popular theme parks, the movie doesn’t really have much to do with that except for maybe the idea for why Walt Disney originally created it. That said, probably one of the biggest things working for the movie is its title, because “Tomorrowland” is a huge trademark for the Disney Corporation that anyone who has gone to Disneyland and Disney World over the past sixty years (and that’s millions and millions of people) will know.
The movie stars George Clooney, who is a bonafide A-lister although you probably couldn’t tell from how his movies do at the box office, unless for some reason you credit his small appearance in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity for it grossing $274 million rather than his co-star Sandra Bullock. Otherwise, his biggest movies came out in 2000 and 2001, The Perfect Storm, followed by Ocean’s Eleven, which itself spawned too sequels that also grossed over $100 million each. Since then, Clooney has been doing a lot of awards-worthy prestige films like Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air and Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, both which did quite well and added two more Oscar nominations for Clooney.
The film’s PG rating means that families might go see this together over some of the other offerings, and having such a family-friendly movie opening over Memorial Day weekend is good since most of the current PG movies in theaters like Home and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 have been playing for weeks and parents with kids will be looking for something new. There haven’t been a ton of huge PG hits over Memorial Day, but The Flintstones is one and Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda 2 were both helped by opening over the holiday. In fact, the biggest movie to open over Memorial Day was Disney’s own Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the finale of the original trilogy.
This isn’t the first time that Disney has turned one of their theme park rides or attractions into a movie and though Pirates of the Caribbean ended up being a huge boon for the company, other attempts like 2003’s Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy weren’t received as well. Others like Jungle Cruise (I’m not making that up!) have never happened. Now granted, Tomorrowland isn’t really based on the section of Disneyworld that was probably more amazing when people actually thought the future would look like that and not like it does, but those familiar with the theme park will assume it is.
George Clooney’s biggest audience tends to be older men and women. While older men might have some interest in the movie due to the involvement of Bird and Lindelof, women without kids that may enjoy watching the charming Clooney on screen won’t be as interested in the subject matter. (The fact he recently got married doesn’t help either.) The fact is that Clooney doesn’t appear in the whole movie and is missing for almost the first hour of the movie, which will definitely hurt it for those going to see the movie for him.
The movie’s secrecy and the lengths that Disney and the filmmakers have gone to hide even what the movie is about is also something that may prove to be a hindrance to the movie once those who’ve been anticipating the movie finally see it, which won’t help word-of-mouth. In some ways, this is very much like J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, his follow-up to Star Trek, which opened with just $35 million after a lot of built-up advance hype.
Reviews are probably going to be mixed at best, especially having to follow the likes of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which received almost unanimous praise, and it’s kind of funny that a dark R-rated post-apocalyptic movie based on a 30-year-old franchise might be favored over a bright and optimistic original film like Tomorrowland, but hey, that’s the way things go.
It’s unclear whether the moviegoers that choose to see this over the weekend will like it enough to tell their friends, and a movie like this really needs that sort of boost to survive in such a busy summer even one without another family movie until the release of Pixar’s Inside Out in June.
The marketing of this movie seems like a rare misstep from Disney, mainly because they’ve tried so hard to keep everything a secret, especially from the older fanboys that might be interested in the movie due to Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof’s previous efforts. This might be the film’s undoing ultimately since there’s little about the marketing to get people excited in a weekend where it’s competing against much stronger returning movies. Even after seeing the movie, I’m not really feeling that the marketing for Tomorrowland has worked, and middling reviews and the stronger franchise/sequel competition seems like it might hurt the movie even if it should be one of the first choices for families this weekend.
With everything taken into consideration, it seems like Tomorrowland could do well mainly due to the lack of family competition, but it’s going to have a harder time getting other audiences away from the known quantities in theaters. It probably should be able to do $35 million over the three-day weekend and around $47 million including Monday but that’s going to put it in a pretty big fight for first place with Pitch Perfect 2, which should end up around the same place in its second weekend.
Distributor: MGM/20th Century Fox
Director: Gil Kenan (Monster House)
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Jane Adams
What It’s About: When the Bowen family moves into their new suburban home in a development complex, they discover that their house is haunted by evil forces known as “poltergeists” that capture their daughter forcing them to turn to a paranormal investigator (Jared Harris) to rescure her.
Back in 1982, Steven Spielberg was still at the height of his fame following a number of huge hits both as a director and producer, when he decided to write and produce a horror movie called Poltergeist, which helped get moviegoers excited for the horror genre in a way that hadn’t been seen maybe since 1979’s Alien in that it attracted many moviegoers who wouldn’t normally go see a horror movie. Directed by Tobe Hooper who helmed the 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it made it into the Top 10 that year with a domestic gross of $76.6 million, although it was kind of overshadowed by the $359 million grossed by Spielberg’s other movie E.T. the Extraterrestrial. It led to two sequels that weren’t nearly as good.
Even three decades later, the original Poltergeist is responsible for inspiring some of the biggest horror franchises of the past decade including the “Paranormal Activity” movies, Insidious and its sequels and many more, because it really was the first haunted house movie to break into the mainstream. The movie’s studio MGM has been trying to get a remake out of development hell for almost a decade and it finally came together when Sam Raimi came on board to produce.
Raimi is well respected among diehard horror fans, and his two previous remakes, The Grudge and Evil Dead, were decent sized hits, the first grossing $110 million in 2004, the other grossing $54 million a couple years back. Sam Raimi’s involvement should at least get older moviegoers interested if they’re cynical about the classic horror movie being remade.
20th Century Fox had a moderate hit in 2006 with their remake of The Omen, which had the benefit of opening on 6/6/06 which gave it a huge opening day of $12.6 million. It quickly tailed off after that, making $16 million its opening weekend and $54.6 million total.
You have to figure that between its initial theatrical release and its success on home video and cable in the thirty years since then have helped build up the audience for the original movie even further. Memorial Day tends to bring in a lot of casual moviegoers that don’t often go to theaters and having a known commodity brandname like “Poltergeist” makes this a much easier movie to sell, because anyone who has seen or knows the original movie will know exactly what to expect.
The film’s PG-13 rating will help the movie bring in a teen audience that might want to go see a scary movie with their friends over the long weekend who’ve already seen everything else in theaters. They’re not likely to be as interested in a Disney movie.
Horror fans have started to become less open to some of their favorite horror movies being remade, usually poorly, and while there was a period when horror remakes were huge, that was almost a decade ago. The last semi-successful horror remake was 2013’s Evil Dead, which only grossed $54 million, and that’s a far cry from the success of J-horror remakes The Grudge and The Ring, the latter which is being revived later this year.
While the movie has a cool cast that includes indie darlings Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, neither of them have proven themselves as box office draws in any way. Heck, “Mad Men” star Jared Harris’ last horror movie, 2014’s The Quiet Ones, grossed a whopping $8.5 million, although granted, that didn’t have the namebrand value of Poltergeist.
Similarly, Fox is not exactly known for being at the forefront when it comes to horror, although they certainly have tried their hand at the genre in the past with a few successes but just as many absolute bombs like last year’s The Pyramid.
It’s an odd decision to open this movie over Memorial Day weekend—it was only decided to move it forward from its June release a few months back—mainly because it’s not a weekend where horror has thrived (that is, if you don’t include Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which set and held a box office record on this weekend for years). Maybe Fox is hoping that it will offer something different from everything else in theaters. Unfortunately those other movies are fairly encompassing on the audiences they’ll attract to theaters including those who might have given this a look. Poltergeist has direct competition from both of last week’s movies as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron.
At the time of this writing, it doesn’t look like Fox is going to screen the movie in advance for critics, at least not until Thursday night (basically when the movie opens) which basically says, “Yeah, we know that critics are going to hate this movie so why bother showing it to them?” or more likely, “Boy, do we have a bad movie. Good thing we’re confident in our marketing and young moviegoers’ lack of good taste!” (Hey, don’t yell at me. That’s a fictitious Fox executive talking!)
There’s probably room for a horror movie this weekend, especially for some of the reason mentioned above, and when you combine that with the younger moviegoers who have already seen the other movies, you could end up with a four-day weekend of $28 to 30 million or more which wouldn’t be bad for a horror remake, although I’m dubious this will end up with much more than $60 million in theaters since the movie’s quality is to be determined.
This Weekend Last Year
Last Memorial Day, Bryan Singer’s return to the “X-Men” franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox), the sequel to the hit prequel that was also a sequel… oh, I give up. The new movie brought back old X-Men like Ian McKellen’s Magneto and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, as well as putting Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine back in with the team, and it scored big with $110.6 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, the fifth-biggest opening on the holiday. And woe to Adam Sandler who reunited with Drew Barrymore for the comedy Blended (Warner Bros.), which bombed with just $17.7 million over the four-day weekend compared to the $45.1 million opening of their previous movie together, 50 First Dates, and Sandler’s last Memorial Day opening, The Longest Yard remake, with $58.6 million. The Top 10 grossed $216 million over the four-day weekend but since the #1 movie probably won’t make half as much as Days of Future Past’s opening, expect another down weekend, but maybe by not that much.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
It’s definitely going to be a close race for #1 although Pitch Perfect 2 is likely to do a lot of its business in the week leading up to the weekend and Tomorrowland should get a bump from schools being out on Monday. George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road should hold up well considering the positive word-of-mouth as well as bringing in some of the casual male moviegoers who will go to the movies this weekend for the first time all year.
(All of the predictions below are for the four-day box office.)
1. Tomorrowland (Disney) – $47.5 million N/A
2. Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) – $45.0 million -35% (down .5 million)
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) – $34.5 million -24%
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $28.5 million -27%
5. Poltergeist (20th Century Fox) – $27.8 million N/A (down .2 million)
6. Hot Pursuit (New Line/MGM/WB) – $4 million -30%
7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Sony) – $2.9 million -18% (down .2 million)
8. Furious 7 (Universal) – $2.8 million -23% (down .2 million)
9. Far from the Madding Crowd (Fox Searchlight) – $2.6 million -10%
10. Home (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $2.5 million +92%
This Week’s Must-Sees
When Marnie Was There (GKIDS)
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Stars: (American Voice Cast) Ellen Burstyn, John C. Reilly, Catherine O’Hara, Kathy Bates, Vanessa Williams, Hailee Steinfeld, Geena Davis, Kiernan Shipka
Genre: Animation, Drama
What It’s About: Based on the novel by Joan G. Robinson, the latest animated film from Studio Ghibli and Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arriety), tells the story of a young girl named Anna who is set to the seaside town of Hokkaido where she discovers a seemingly abandoned house on the marshes where she eventually meets a mysterious girl named Marnie. The two of them form a friendship until Anna starts thinking that something isn’t quite right about Marnie and starts to look into what she’s really about.
It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday. Note: I watched the subtitled version and it was terrific, although many of the screenings may be dubbed by the Western cast listed above depending on where/when you see the movie. Check before buying tickets.
Sunshine Superman (Magnolia)
Director: Marah Strauch
Stars: Carl Boenisch
What It’s About: This film which premiered at Toronto last year look at the achievements of Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement of the ‘80s who achieved many milestones including setting the world-record BASE jump in 1984 from a Norwegian mountain top.
Writer/Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Stars: Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Ilse Salas, Sebastián Aguirre
What It’s About: A couple of friends in Mexico City, Sombra and Santos, look for ways to kill time when a strike hits their university in 1999. When Sombra’s kid brother Tomas shows up, they go on a road trip looking for legendary Mexican folk-rock hero Emigmenio Cruz who has recently been hospitalized. After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 where it won awards for its cinematography and for Ruiz Palacios as a first-time narrative director, as well as being nominated for over a dozen Mexican Ariel Awards (which have yet to be announced), the film will open exclusively at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday.
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Love at First Fight (Strand Releasing)
Director: Thomas Cailley
Stars: Adele Haenel, Kevin Azaïs
Genre: Romance, Drama
What It’s About: A quirky French love story about Arnaud and Madeleine, who fall in love as they both decide to join a boot camp to learn military and survival skills.
The Farewell Party (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Writers/Directors: Sharon Maymon, Tal Granit
Stars: Ze’ev Revach, Levana Finkelshtein, Aliza Rozen, Ilan Dar, Rafael Tabor
Genre: Drama, Comedy
What It’s About: This Israeli film is about a group of aging friends at a Jerusalem retirement home who build a self-euthanasia machine for a terminally ill friend that leads to them being asked for help ending it by other people. Sounds delightful
Aloft (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Claudia Llosa
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Jennifer Connelly, Melanie Laurent
What It’s About: Having been estranged from his mother (Jennifer Connelly) after an accident, a man who trains falcons (Cillian Murphy) meets and falls for a journalist (Melanie Laurent) ends up reconnecting with his mother who has since become a famed artist and healer.
The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) (IFC Midnight)
Director: Tom Six
Stars: Eric Roberts, Dieter Laser, Laurence R. Harvey, “Tiny” Lister, Tom Six
Genre: Horror, Thriller
What It’s About: The finale of Tom Six’s gross-out horror trilogy teams Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey (from the first two movies) as a demented prison warden and his accountant who decide to create a human centipede out of the prison inmates to make them never want to return after they’re released.
Bearing in mind that I was entertained by Tom Six’s original The Human Centipede (First Sequence) because it felt original and was pretty entertaining mainly due to the performance by Dieter Laser as the crazy Nazi surgeon who comes up with the demented idea of attaching three people by their digestive system, it saddens me that it’s mostly Laser’s out-of-control performance that makes this finale so unbearable.
Just like the last movie, this one opens with someone watching the previous movie, and we can already guess why Laser’s William Boss, warden of the George H.W. State Prison, is being forced to sit through such “crap” by his accountant Dwight (played by “Human Centipede II” star Laurence Harvey). The prison’s unruly criminal element have gotten out of control, most of them wanting the warden’s head, or more aptly, his ass, as one prisoner is constantly threatening to rape the warden. Eric Roberts shows up as the governor ready to fire Boss and his stooge if they can’t gain control. Dwight’s answer is to turn to Six’s films to keep the prisoners in line… um… literally.
After two previous movies, the human centipede is still a pretty disgusting premise but not particularly disturbing compared to what we’re forced to endure before it’s introduced, as we watch Laser’s warden waterboard one inmate with boiling hot water and graphically castrate another to show them who is boss. And that’s not even the worst of it! No, the warden (and Six’s) treatment of his busty secretary Daisy (Bree Olson), physically and verbally abusing her at ever turn, is so horrifying and unforgivable that I’m not sure I could be friends with anyone who finds it even remotely funny.
Like the prison warden with his inmates, Six seems to have no control over his star, who goes so far beyond chewing the scenery into maniacal raving spouting all sorts of offensive dialogue, only some of which is understandable through his heavy accent. I’m not even convinced that Laser had a script or was given any sort of direction, more that he was just let loose on set.
Sure, there will be some who will be amused or even enthused by such a character, presumably the type of element that will one day end up in prison for committing violent atrocities themselves. It’s hard to imagine anyone else deriving any sort pleasure from this movie that has absolutely zero entertainment value. You have to wonder why any actor, let alone Roberts or Tommy “Tiny” Lister (who both appeared in The Dark Knight!) would ever agree to do one of Six’s movies, but at least Lister gets to be the head of the centipede. Lucky him.
Any doubt Tom Six’s obsession with his concept has driven him mad is confirmed when Six shows up in his own movie playing himself as a consultant for the warden and his accountant’s matser plan. If Six’s obvious hatred for America wasn’t already obvious from every disparaging remark made by his “protagonist,” putting himself into a movie that constantly mentions his earlier movies is just that one extra thing that makes it clear that he should be taken no more seriously as a filmmaker than we do Uwe Boll. (In one of the film’s most crazed scenes, an eagle flies over the warden’s head and I half expected Laser to shoot it to further Six’s message, but it’s the one time in the entire movie where either of them shows any restraint.)
The sad fact is that there are bigger problems in the world than the American judicial system… like for instance, the evil twisted f*ckers that keep giving Six money to finance these movies! I like to think of myself as a supporter of independent film as an artform, but movies this deplorable and gruelingly awful in every possible way should have every print and DCP taken to the incinerator and destroyed. We can only hope and pray and thank every God possible that this is indeed Tom Six’s last foray into this idea, because no one should be forced to endure such garbage—not Six’s actors or his crew and certainly not moviegoers (or even critics, for that matter).
Rating: 1 out of 10
Drunk Wedding (Paramount Insurge)
Director: Nick Weiss
Stars: Christian Cooke, Dan Gill, Victoria Gold, Anne Gregory, Genevieve Jones, Nate Lang, Diana Newton, J.R. Ramirez, Nick Ross, Bethany Dwyer
What It’s About: In case anyone saw last year’s dog Best Night Ever and thought, “Man, I wish I could see a low-brow comedy with an even lower budget,” this movie is about a destination wedding crashed by college friends whose drunken antics threaten to derail the whole wedding. Like last week’s Area 51, it will only play at Alamo Drafthouse theaters, one screening per day over the weekend.
Chocolate City (Strand Releasing)
Writer/Director: Jean-Claude La Marre
Stars: Robert Ri’chard, Vivica A. Fox, DeRay Davis, Michael Jai White, Carmen Electra, Tyson Beckford, Darrin Dewitt Henson
What It’s About: No, it’s not a sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but more like an urban version of Magic Mike, set in the titular strip club where women go to see male strippers. One such “exotic dancer” (Robert Ri’chard) is an inner city college student who dances to help his mother (Fox) make ends meet.
You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.
Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas