The Weekend Warrior previews M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit and the thriller The Perfect Guy, kicking off the fall movie season
The summer’s done and we’re onto the fall in the weekend following Labor Day which is normally one of the worst weekends of the year, but considering how bad the last weekends have been, how could this weekend get much worse? And actually, there’s a lot of room at the box office to allow a number of new movies to find business, because the last few weekends have been so weak in terms of new releases. In this case, we have two strong thrillers, both with good premises and marketing campaigns that should bring in hungry moviegoers while another faith-based film will try to take on the beast that is War Room.
Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Lady in the Water)
Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Olivia DeJonge
Genre: Horror, Thriller
What It’s About: A brother and sister are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a week where they discover that the elderly couple’s strange behavior could be something even more disturbing and deadly.
It’s been two years since M. Night Shyamalan directed the Razzie-worthy After Earth, starring Will and Jaden Smith, so he’s returning to darker territory that hopes to get moviegoers to forgive him for movies like The Lady in the Water (a personal favorite of mine), The Happening and The Last Airbender, the latter two which actually didn’t do that badly compared to the first. In some ways, 2013’s After Earth could have put Shyamalan in director’s jail after bombing so badly, but Sony decided not to market the movie as being from Shyamalan, which is not the case with The Visit. That may be since Shyamalan is having somewhat of a comeback thanks to his television show “Wayward Pines.”
The Visit is more of a low-budget horror movie than many of Shymalan’s previous ventures, which may be why he teamed with Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions for this one and it’s being released through their deal with Universal, which has proven their ability to market these movies with the success of The Purge and its sequel in 2013 and 2014.
While the only known actor in The Visit is Kathryn Hahn, who has appeared in comedies like We’re the Millers, movies like this do better more based on their premise than the star power (although this year, there’s yet to be any breakout horror films regardless of known actors or not.)
Shyamalan previously teamed with Universal’s genre spin-off Rogue Pictures for the first of his planned “The Night Chronicles” series, Devil, directed by No Escape team The Dowdles, and even though his name got booed when the trailer was shown at Comic-Con, the movie grossed $33 million with a similar September release in 2010.
Enough time has passed that Shyamalan’s name might not keep people away, especially teens who were merely toddlers when The Sixth Sense came out. The marketing has really been on point for this one with some really creepy trailers and TV spots that are actually kind of memorable because they’re kind of funny. (“Yahtzee!”)
With strong marketing that promises scares and a fairly empty market without a ton of competition, The Visit may lose some of its potential older female audience to Screen Gems’ The Perfect Guy, but there should be enough others to allow it to gross somewhere in the $15 to 20 million, which would be decent considering its lower budget. How it fares post-opening will probably depend on whether word-of-mouth is strong enough to hold up against a slew of September releases, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up somewhere in the $40 to 50 million range.
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Director: David M. Rosenthal (A Single Shot, Janie Jones)
Writer: Tyger Williams
Cast: Morris Chestnut, Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Kathryn Morris, Charles S. Dutton, Rutina Wesley
What It’s About: Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan) meets a charming stranger (Michael Ealy) who she gets into a passionate relationship with her until her ex-boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) shows up and she’s not sure who she should trust.
These sorts of urban thrillers have generally done quite well in the past which is why we’re getting more and more of them with producer Will Packer and filmmaker Tyler Perry having quite a bit of luck with the genre.
Last year, Screen Gems released the Packer-produced No Good Deed starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, which opened with $24 million and grossed $52.5 million domestic. Elba also starred in Packer’s 2009 thriller Obsessed opposite Beyonce Knowles and that did even better, showing that there’s a market for this kind of film. Tyler Perry, no stranger to dramas that appeal to African-American women, had his own relative hit with Tyler Perry’s Temptation, which opened and grossed slightly less than No Good Deed.
It’s pretty obvious why these movies appeal to women because they cater to the well-regarded fact that all men suck, so while the title might make the film sound romantic, it’s actually a sarcastic title because “the perfect guy” is an oxymoron, which is where part of the appeal of this movie comes into play.
Unlike the movies mentioned above, this one doesn’t have the power of a Will Packer or Tyler Perry behind it, although it does have some of the top names as far as actors with Sanaa Lathan being quite popular among African-American women due to her roles in The Best Man and its hit sequel, and popular romance films like Love and Basketball, Brown Sugar and Something New. The Perfect Guy reunites her with The Best Man star Morris Chestnut taking on a darker role, but Michael Ealy has also become more popular due to his role in Think Like a Man and its sequel. All three actors have been in enough movies that appeal to the same female audience as The Perfect Guy that one could see them being as big a draw as the premise.
The movie is directed by indie filmmaker David M. Rosenthal, who may be working outside his comfort zone, but the movie actually has a decent title that should help it bring in women and their friends due to the premise and the idea of what a “perfect guy” actually is.
Without a ton of movies geared towards women, let alone black women, The Perfect Guy should be able to hold its own against the direct competition of The Visit, and though it’s opening in fewer theaters, it should be good for around $15 million opening weekend or more, especially if it breaks out like some of the other movies mentioned above.
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn
Writer/Director: Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, The Astronaut Farmer, Northfork, Stay Cool, Amnesiac)
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, Dwight Yoakam, Michael W. Smith, Fred Dalton Thompson, Jason Kennedy, Elizabeth Hunter
What It’s About: After a semi-tractor truck crushed his car in 1989, Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) was declared dead for 90 minutes… but no, he wasn’t dead… he was in heaven!!! For 90 minutes!! And then he came back to life due to the miracle of prayer… and they made a movie about it!
I’m not going to spend too much time on this one, since I blew it so badly on War Room a few weeks back, because and we can say this all together now: “Ed doesn’t know d*ck about faith-based movies.” Heck, I’ve prayed to try to be better with my predictions on these movies and all I get is complete silence, which might not disprove the existence of God as much as it proves that he finds me as annoying as everyone else. Waugh Waugh.
Anyway, at least 90 Minutes in Heaven has a fairly reputable filmmaker in Michael Polish, who has his second movie with wife Kate Bosworth in the last month after the little seen Amnesiac, and it stars an actor who is fairly well known in Hayden Christensen, AKA Anakin Skywalker.
While it doesn’t have the Sony/TriStar marketing machine behind it like War Room and the similar-sounding Heaven is for Real, Samuel Goldwyn also has experience with faith-based films, having had success with War Room filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s earlier film Fireproof in 2008, which opened with $6.8 million in just 839 theaters.
90 Minutes in Heaven is being released in a similar amount of theaters, and presumably they want to get the same audience that flocked to see War Room the past few weeks to shift to this movie, although it might be harder to be released so soon, especially as that movie just moved into the #1 spot at the box office and will probably be getting more theaters. At least this movie has a strong title and a familiar cast, including former senator Fred Thompson who has appeared in a number of movies, so that should help it.
No matter what I say here, I’m probably going to be wrong so if I say that this will make $3.5 million this weekend, it probably will make twice that amount and if I say it will open with $7 million, then it will open with half that amount. I can’t win. So if you’re making any wagers this weekend based on how well 90 Minutes in Heaven might fare, you should make your own decisions and don’t blame me, ’cause I am probably wrong!
This Weekend Last Year
Last year, the #1 movie was also an urban thriller as No Good Deed (Sony/Screen Gems), starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, continued producer Will Packer’s run at the box office with a $24.2 million opening in 2,175 theaters, or $11,000 per theater. Second place went to the family sequel Dolphin Tale 2 (Warner Bros.) with $15.9 million in 3,656 theaters. The third wide release of the weekend was the moderate release of the crime-thriller The Drop (Fox Searchlight), starring Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini, which opened with $4.1 million for sixth place. The Top 10 grossed $73.3 million, which may be hard to beat this weekend as we continue the box office slump we seem to have been having.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
It could be a tight race between the two wide releases this weekend, although there should be enough business to go around so that both movies end up in the $15 to 20 million range with The Visit taking a slight advantage by appealing to a wider audience than The Perfect Guy.
Update: Still no final theater count for 90 Minutes in Heaven but I honestly have no idea how much it will make so I’ll stick with $4 million.
1. The Visit (Universal) – $18.4 million N/A (up 1.1 million)
2. The Perfect Guy (Sony/Screen Gems) – $15.8 million N/A
3. War Room (Sony/TriStar) – $6 million -37% (up .2 million)
4. A Walk in the Woods (Broad Green) – $4.9 million -42%
5. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $4.8 million
6. 90 Minutes in Heaven (Samuel Goldwyn) – $4 million N/A
7. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) – $3.8 million -47%
8. The Transporter Refueled (EuropaCorp) – $3.3 million -54%
9. No Escape (Dimension Films) – $2.9 million -47%
10. Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos (Liongate/Pantelion) – 2.2 million -35% (up .2 million)
September starts to get real as we start getting a number of new movies with serious potential, including the young-adult sci-fi action adventure sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox), the crime-thriller Black Mass (Warner Bros.), starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, another real life crime-drama in Captive (Paramount), and the mountain-climbing drama Everest (Universal), starring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley and more. (Note: Since I’ll be spending most of the coming weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival seeing movies and gathering interviews for the next few months, the next Weekend Warrior may be somewhat stripped-down and/or late.)
This Week’s Must-Sees
Coming Home (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Zhang Yimou
Stars: Gong Li, Chen Daoming
Genre: Drama, Romance
What It’s About: This brilliant Chinese drama from the country’s top auteurs involves a man (Chen Daoming) sent to prison for decades due for political reasons who is finally released and has to contend with a wife (Gong Li) suffering from amnesia after a blow to the head who is no longer able to retain memories, including those of him.
Note: While I haven’t had a chance to write a review just yet, this is one of the best films I saw during festival season LAST year and frankly, I’m quite disconcerted with the fact that a.) Sony Classics waited a year to release the movie and b.) That they chose to release it the same weekend as Wolf Totem (see below), a far far inferior film that is China’s film submission for Oscar consideration THIS year. Coming Home is an excellent drama and up there with some of Zhang’s best and that wasn’t considered worthy for Oscar consideration last year probably due to the fact it involves a political dissident and that may not have sat well with the government. To make matters worse, Wolf Totem is also being released by Sony, so it just compounds the issue.
Goodnight Mommy (RADiUS)
Director: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Stars: Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz, Susanne Wuest
Genre: Horror, Thriller
What It’s About: In this Austrian thriller, a mother (Susanne Wuest) returns home to her twin sons (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) with her face bandaged, but her strange behavior makes them wonder if she is indeed the mother they remembered.
Breathe (Film Movement)
Director: Melanie Laurent
Stars: Joséphine Japy, LouDe Laage, Isabelle Caree
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: Actress Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) makes her directorial debut with this adaptation of Anne-Sophie Brasme’s young adult novel about the friendship between two French teenage girls whose relationship eventually leads to jealousy and bullying.
Time Out of Mind (IFC Films)
Writer/Director: Oren Moverman
Stars: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Yul Vazquez, Colman Domingo, Danielle Brooks, Steve Buscemi
What It’s About: Richard Gere plays George, a homeless New Yorker who travels from one shelter to the other trying to survive on the streets with the hope of reconnecting with his estranged daughter (Jena Malone).
Other Limited Releases of Note:
A Brilliant Young Mind (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Director: Morgan Matthews
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann
Genre: Drama, Comedy
What It’s About: Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Ender’s Game) plays a young math genius who has trouble dealing with other people including his troubled mother (Sally Hawkins), but after working with his teacher Mr. Humphries (Rafe Spall), Nathan gets onto the UK National team of the International Mathematics Olympiads and travels to Taiwan with the team leader (Eddie Marsan) where he falls for one of the Chinese team members, Zhang Mei (Jo Yang).
Sleeping with Other People (IFC Films)
Writer/Director: Leslye Headland
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Katherine Waterston, Adam Brody, Amanda Peet, Marc Blucas, Andrea Savage
Genre: Comedy, Romance
What It’s About: Lesley Headland, the filmmaker behind Bachelorette, returns with a new comedy starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as a couple who lost their virginity to each other in college and have spent their lives since then going in and out of bad relationships, until they meet again via happenstance and well, I’m not going to spoil the obvious rom-com clichés that ultimately kill the film’s chance of being original and unique.
The Moving Creatures (Cinema Slate)
Writer/Director: Caetano Gotardo
Stars: Cida Moreira, Andréa Marquee, Fernanda Vianna
What It’s About: The Brazilian drama takes a look at three mothers who are confronted by trials by ordeal.
Wolf Totem (Sony)
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Stars: Feng Shaofeng, Shawn Dou, Ankhnyam Ragchaa, Yin Zhuseng, Basen Zhabu
Genre: Drama, Adventure
What It’s About: Adapted from Jiang Rong’s novel about two Beijing students sent to live with nomadic herdsmen in Inner Mongolia, in order to teach them Mandarin, but in order to try to learn more about their bitter enemies—the brutal wolves that rove the plains—one of the students decides to raise a wolf cub, which causes problems for them among the tribe. Wolf Totem is opening Friday in roughly 100 IMAX 3D theaters across the country.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (WWE Studios/Lionsgate)
Director: Stephen Reynolds
Stars: Dean Ambrose, Roger Cross, Daniel Cudmore, Lochlyn Munro, Ty Olsson, Sarah Smyth
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
What It’s About: WWE superstar Dean Ambrose plays detective John Shaw who returns to duty after recovering from a gun shot wound only to discover that there’s a great deal of corruption in the force and he has to go up against the crooked cops that are trying to find the evidence against them.
Interview with Dean Ambrose (Coming Soon!)
Listening (Amplify Releasing)
Writer/Director: Khalil Sullins
Stars: Thomas Stroppel, Artie Ahr, Amber Marie Bollinger, Christine Haeberman, Steve Hanks, Arn Chorn-Pond
Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi, Suspense
What It’s About: A group of broke grad students invent technology that can literally read minds, which causes troubles and tension among them when a covert government agency steals that technology. It will open in select cities and On Demand Friday.
Meet the Patels (Alchemy)
Director: Geeta V. and Ravi V. Patel
Stars: Ravi V. Patel, Geeta V. Patel, Champa V. Patel, Vasant K. Patel, Audrey Alison Wauchope
Genre: Comedy, Romance
What It’s About: A new comedy from television actor Ravi Patel in which he plays a version of himself, a 30-year-old Indian American who travels with his family to India after breaking up with his girlfriend, and starts to think that maybe his family’s tradition of arranged marriages isn’t such a bad idea.
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas