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
Director: Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina)
Writer: Jason Fuchs
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Nonso Anozie, Amanda Seyfried, Rooney Mara, Adeel Akhtar, Levi Miller, Jack Charles, Taejoo Na, Kathy Burke, Kurt Egyiawan, Lewis MacDougall, Leni Zieglmeier
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
What It’s About: Telling the story of how Peter Pan (Levi Miller) ended up in Neverland where he teamed with James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lilly (Rooney Mara) to take on the oppressive Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).
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
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Robert Zemeckis, Christopher Browne
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz
What It’s About: In 1974, French high wire artist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) strived for a seemingly impossible dream to string a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center and walk across them.
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%
2. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Pictures) – $21.5 million -35%
3. Pan (Warner Bros.) – $17.5 million N/A
4. The Intern (Warner Bros.) – $8 million -32%
5. Sicario (Lionsgate) – $6.7 million -45%
6. The Walk (Sony/TriStar) – $5.8 million 258%
7. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox) – $4.3 million -45%
8. Black Mass (Warner Bros.) – $3.2 million – 46%
9. Everest (Universal) – $2.9 million -48%
10. The Visit (Universal) – $2.3 million -42%
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)
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg
What It’s About: A look at the life and relationships of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) during three important points in his career, when he’s about to launch the Macintosh in 1984, the NEXT Blackbox four years later and the iMac in 1998. It opens in New York, L.A. and Toronto on Friday and then expands into more cities on October 16 and then will be worldwide on October 23.
Interview with Danny Boyle (Coming Soon!)
The Final Girls (Stage 6)
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Stars: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson
Genre: Comedy, Horror
What It’s About: Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of ‘80s scream queen Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman), who starred in the cult slasher flick “Camp Bloodbath,” but years after her mother’s tragic death, Max and her friends attend an anniversary screening of “Bloodbath” and find themselves trapped inside the movie trying to escape from the maniacal killer along with the cast including Amanda’s character Nancy.
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)
Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Colleen Camp, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns
What It’s About: Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is an architect and a loving husband and father who is left home alone one weekend when he’s visited by two young women (Lorenza Izzo, Anda de Armas) stranded in the rain and so begins a weekend in hell for Webber, who is forced into a situation out of his control.
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)
Director: Joe Menendez
Stars: Fernando Colunga, Miguel Varoni, Eduardo Yanez, Jessica Lindsey, Christina Rodlo, Oscar Torre
Genre: Action, Comedy
What It’s About: The sequel to Ladron Que Roba A Ladron, which grossed $4 million in the summer of 2007, once again follows modern-day Robin Hoods Alejandro Toledo (Colunga) and Emilio Sanchez (Varoni) who are reunited after their big heist, as the former, now a businessman, decides to return to his robbing roots causing the latter (now an FBI agent) to not be able to help him, so he instead introduces him to the skilled thief Santiago Guzman (Eduardo Yanez). It will open in roughly 350 theaters this weekend which should be good for around $2 million in its opening weekend
Victoria (Adopt Films)
Writer/Director: Sebastian Schipper
Stars: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Crime
What It’s About: During a night out partying in Berlin, Victoria, a young woman from Madrid, gets involved with a group of young men including the handsome Sonne, who get her caught up in their criminal endeavors which get more dangerous as the night progresses. Shot in one take over the course of two hours, it opens in select cities Friday.
Yakuza Apocalypse (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian, Lily Franky
Genre: Action, Crime
What It’s About: Japan’s craziest genre filmmaker Takashi Miike returns with another crazy genre film, this one about a Yakuza boss who also happens to be a vampire who is torn limb from limb but passes on his vampire powers to his lieutenant Kageyama, who swears to get revenge on his boss’ killer.
The Forbidden Room (Kino Lorber)
Director: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson
Stars: Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Gerladine Chapling, Roy Dupuis
What It’s About: The crew of a doomed submarine are visited by a lost woodsman who tells his story of escaping from a clan of cave dwellers… actually sounds like an interesting plot for a movie that makes some sense, which The Forbidden Room most definitely is not. (While I’m generally a fan of Maddin, I found this film to be almost unwatchable.) It opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday.
Trash (Focus World)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Wagner Moura, Selton Mello
Genre: Crime, Drama
What It’s About: Based on the novel by Andy Mulliga, this Brazilian-based thriller involves three boys who live in poverty in the slums of Rio who make money by picking through garbage, but when they find the wallet of a man wanted by the police, they’re sent on an adventure to try to uncover its secrets before they’re caught themselves. It opens in select cities and On Demand, and it probably owes more to Danny Boyle’s earlier film Millions than it does to his Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Not surprisingly, Daldry gets great performances out of the three young inexperienced actors, but there’s little explanation for the awful performance by Martin Sheen as a local priest they confide in although Rooney Mara is quite good in the role as his daughter who also gets drawn into the boys’ adventure.
A Faster Horse
Director: David Gelb
What It’s About: A documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang from the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Writer/Director: Jose Nestor Marquez
Stars: Aja Naomi King, Colm Feore, Gary Dourdan, Jeanette Samano
Genre: Science Fiction”
What It’s About: Sophie, the daughter of the inventor of a piece of high-tech jewelry called Oubli, which uses neuroscience to give the user joyful memories, is kidnapped on the eve of the Oubli’s worldwide launch causing a chain reaction. It opens in New York, L.A. and Chicago.
Big Stone Gap (Picturehouse)
Writer/Director: Adriana Trigiani
Stars: Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski, John Benjamin Hickey, Judith Ivey, Anthony LaPaglia, Chris Sarandon, James Hampton, Paul Wilson, Mary Pat Gleason, Dagmara Domincyzk, Mary Testa
What It’s About: Adriana Trigiani brings her own novel about the people of an Appalachian Mountain coalmining town to the big screen with Ashley Judd playing a spinster who works in her family pharmacy who learns about her family’s long-buried secret. It probably involves Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg or some of the other amazing cast Trigiani managed to assemble, and this might actually get a moderate release into a few hundred theaters.
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas