October grinds along with another new wide release and another expansion of a movie previously released limited—get used to it, we’ll be seeing a lot of that this month—but it seems like Ridley Scott’s The Martian will hold onto the top spot and Hotel Transylvania 2 probably isn’t going anywhere either.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
J.M. Barrie’s early 20th Century creation Peter Pan has been the fodder for many films, books and musicals, especially since it became public domain and after Walt Disney’s 1953 animated film, which turned Pan and his supporting cast into mainstays for children of all ages. There’ve been lots of attempts to bring the character back to theaters with Steven Spielberg’s 1991 Hook being one of the more inventive attempts and it in turn became a worldwide blockbuster. P.J. Hogan’s 2003 version didn’t fare as well, unable to make back its $100 million budget even with it grossing twice as much overseas as domestically. (A few years earlier, the J.M. Barrie biopic Finding Neverland, starring Johnny Depp, fared much better.) Most recently, “Peter Pan” was on the small screen as a live musical as well.
So along comes Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Joe Wright, working from an acclaimed spec script by Jason Fuchs, to reinvent Peter Pan with an origin prequel that explains how he got to Neverland even if it leaves a lot of questions open. Newcomer Levi Miller plays Pan, but he has some formidable box office help from Hugh Jackman, playing the villainous Blackbeard—his second attempt at a baddie following his role in the recent Chappie. It also stars Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) as a very different younger version of Captain Hook from when he was just known as “James,” and Rooney Mara (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) as Tiger Lilly. That last casting has caused some controversy among the PC crowd who felt that she should have been Asian or Native American or someone more ethnic than Mara.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a full-on fantasy epic, which might work in the movie’s advantage especially since it’s a family film that can bring in younger boys and girls, although releasing it in October isn’t a good sign of confidence. The first sign of trouble was when Warner Bros. moved this from a plum summer release to this rather weak October date, because it’s basically ended up in the middle of the Hotel Transylvania 2 juggernaut and next week’s Goosebumps, both which will have more appeal with family audiences.
I’m guessing that reviews aren’t going to be very good, even though I personally probably won’t review it, and that could hurt the movie for anyone who might not be sure if it’s for them from the marketing. It’s certainly not a particularly accessible or mainstream version of “Pan” with Joe Wright, who tends to be more of an auteur, throwing in musical numbers and other things that make it seem more like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! That’s a great film, mind you, but I don’t think anyone going into Pan will be expecting a musical even for only a couple of scenes.
It just seems like bad timing for this movie with Hotel Transylvania 2 still doing well with the kiddies and Goosebumps coming out next week, but it should be good for $17 to 20 million this weekend, which wouldn’t be great since it probably has a pretty big budget. It should make up for it overseas, but I think grossing $50 to 60 million domestically is all it can expect.
Garrett Hedlund Interview (Coming Soon!)
Distributor: Sony/TriStar Pictures
While in the past, October would be the month mostly made up of cheap horror movies and other stuff that doesn’t rate a summer or holiday release, it’s now becoming a month for high-profile prestige films from the top directors. Last week we got a new movie from Ridley Scott and this week we also have a new movie from Danny Boyle, while later this month we get the latest from Steven Spielberg. Equal among them is Robert Zemeckis, who like them has had a number of huge blockbuster hits, beloved classics and Oscar-winning films. He’s back with a film that tries to be as inspirational as Foreest Gump or his most recent film Flight by telling the true story of French high wire artist Philippe Petit and his high wire walk at the World Trade Center in 1974.
Most will remember that the story was previously told in the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, but Zemeckis actually bought the rights to Petit’s book “To Reach the Clouds” even before that doc came out and he’s been developing it ever since.
Playing Petit is the popular Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose biggest hits Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Spielberg’s Lincoln were all part of an ensemble cast, although he had minor hits with Looper, and has been in popular films like 50/50 and (500) Days of Summer. He’s also been in quite a few bombs, including Premium Rush and 2014’s Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and a couple of indie films that barely made a dent. (JGL’s directorial debut Don Jon grossed less than $25 million after killing on the festival circuit.) Because of this, it’s hard to gauge whether he’s able to sell a movie like this on his own, especially playing someone less famous than others who have gotten biopics.
Of course, having a filmmaker like Zemeckis at the helm is going to be a big seller because he has directed many beloved classics, including Forrest Gump and Back to the Future and even Cast Away. By comparison, this doesn’t seem like a premise that’s as easy to sell especially with Gordon-Levitt sporting a goofy French accent. It’s the kind of movie that might play well in places like New York (where it opened the NY Film Festival recently) but maybe not so much in smaller towns.
The movie opened last week in 450 IMAX theaters but it didn’t fare nearly as well as Everest two weeks earlier, grossing just $2.1 million in its first five days compared to Everest’s $7.5 million opening weekend. That’s not a good start at all, especially with the higher ticket prices for IMAX 3D and maybe it just didn’t seem like something people thought was worth seeing in the premium format (even though many of the film’s reviews rave about the visuals), so one wonders whether that’s indicative of how it might do nationwide.
The reviews actually weren’t that bad either—86% on Rotten Tomatoes—but it also opened against the much stronger The Martian and the expanding Sicario, both which would take business away from it due to the raves they had been getting for even longer. That probably did more damage and there’s a chance that The Walk can gain some ground with people having seen those already.
The sad truth is that The Walk just has a terrible uninspired title and you wonder who would have thought that “The Walk” would have been better than “To Reach the Clouds” or even “A Walk in the Clouds.” (Sony, you know where to reach me if you want to hire me to run your future marketing campaigns.)
Although it really chocked this past weekend, The Walk might actually play better in the suburbs and other cities that didn’t have nearby IMAX, so it should be good for roughly $4 to 6 million this weekend with its nationwide expansion, which wouldn’t be a particularly good per-theater average, but it probably could end up with $25 million or more with good word-of-mouth, although it has a ton of competition for the adult moviegoing market.
This Weekend Last Year
Last year was very similar to this year where the #1 movie pulled a repeat as David Fincher’s Gone Girl was #1 again with $26.4 million, down just 29% from its opening weekend. The monster prequel Dracula Untold (Universal), which probably has a lot in common with this week’s Pan, grossed an impressive $23.5 million for second place. The popular children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney) came to the screen with Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner starring, and that took third with $18.4 million. Robert Downey Jr. produced and co-starred in The Judge (Warner Bros.) with Robert Duvall (who would receive an Oscar nomination for his performance), but it opened with a fairly disappointing $13 million. The dramatic thriller Addicted (Lionsgate), based on the novel by Zane, opened in seventh place with $7.5 million. The Top 10 grossed $131.2 million and it feels very much like this weekend will be down significantly with only one new movie and not a particularly strong one.
This Week’s Predictions
Ridley Scott’s The Martian shouldn’t have any problem retaining the #1 spot for a second weekend and Hotel Transylvania 2 could very well best Warner Bros.’ Pan. Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk might make a little more ground in wide release, but it’s probably settling for the bottom half of the Top 10 with so many popular returning movies.
1. The Martian (20th Century Fox) – $30 million -45%
October grooves along with four new movies, including one based on R.L. Stine’s children’s book series Goosebumps (Sony), Guillermo del Toro’s latest horror flick Crimson Peak (Universal) and Spielberg and Hanks reunite for the political thriller Bridge of Spies (Dreamworks). There’s also another spiritual film called Woodlawn (Pure Flix Entertainment).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Steve Jobs (Universal Pictures)
Interview with Danny Boyle (Coming Soon!)
The Final Girls (Stage 6)
2015 is turning out to be a great year for horror comedy with the recent Cooties and now this, a really funny and clever use of the slasher genre we haven’t really seen before, but also a movie with quite a bit more heart than we normally get to see in anything horror-related.
The film opens on Taissa Farmiga’s Max driving in a car with her mother Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) after another bad audition because Amanda is still trying to get past her scream-queen status from appearing in an ‘80s slasher called “Camp Bloodbath.” They end up in a car accident killing Max’s mother and three years later, she’s still trying to recover when she’s roped into attending a fan screening of “Bloodbath” at a theater that catches on fire, and as Max and her friends try to escape, they end up in the actual movie.
This is where “The Final Girls” really gets fun, because we get to see the silly ‘80s characters interacting with teens from the real world, and it uses what is obviously and intentionally a “Friday the 13th” rip-off to show what modern-day teens who are aware of the slasher genre might do if they end up in one themselves.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson just has a great cast of characters, including Alia Shawkat as Max’s brainy bestfriend, Thomas Middleditch as the dork, and Nina Dobrev as the mean girl, but the characters of “Camp Bloodbath” are equally funny stereotype, particularly Adam DeVine as the oversexed counselor, constantly making passes at everyone. Really though it’s Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman who make the film so special, and I actually got a bit weapy-eyed during some of the later scenes between them, which is a testament to Strauss-Schulson as a filmmaker and storyteller in knowing that if you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care what happens to them.
The Final Girls is sometimes limited by its budget, which often doesn’t seem to be more than the ‘80s slasher flick at its core, but the talented cast and the neverending supply of humor inherent in the premise and the genre its spoofing makes The Final Girls a winner.
Knock Knock (Lionsgate Premiere)
Knock Knock seems like such a different movie from Eli Roth maybe because it’s not a horror movie that relies on excessive amounts of blood and gore to be entertaining, instead being more of a psychological thriller, only one that still has as much of a sense of humor as it does one of film history.
Roth doesn’t need to spend as much time introducing Keanu Reeve’s architect Evans Webber as he has previous protagonists, because he’s pretty cut-and-dried as a loving husband and father who just needs some quiet time to do some work. It doesn’t take long before the two young women show up and while things start innocently enough, their sexual innuendo and flirtation becomes too much for Evan as they do whatever it takes to seduce him and eventually he breaks.
Roth’s choice of leading man helps Knock Knock a lot, because it’s surprisingly fun watching Keanu Reeves being tortured by two hot young actresses, and the movie also benefits from the bratty brilliance of Roth’s wife Lorenza Izzo, who is playing such a different role here than she did in The Green Inferno and Aftershock and the equally lovely Ana de Armas, who are so hilarious as the two young women who turn Evan’s life upside down. It’s just as much fun watching them get crazier and crazier, literally trashing the entire set as the film goes on.
Knock Knock acts like a cautionary tale that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is, and it’s probably as close as we’ll ever get to see what it would be like if Alfred Hitchcock directed a Penthouse Forum story, which probably puts it more in line with the work of Brian De Palma. It’s a fun departure for Roth from his norm for sure.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Ladrones (Lionsgate/Pantelion Films)
Victoria (Adopt Films)
Yakuza Apocalypse (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
The Forbidden Room (Kino Lorber)
Trash (Focus World)
A Faster Horse
Big Stone Gap (Picturehouse)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas