The Weekend Warrior on Our Brand is Crisis, Burnt and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

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The Weekend Warrior really crapped the bed last week, but don’t blame me, you’re the ones who decided not to go see the movies I thought were going to win the weekend, so this is all your fault!

Not that this weekend looks much better with three more movies that seem to have been dumped on Halloween weekend hoping some people might rather go see a movie than go out partying. At least this week we have one or two movies with big name stars, so maybe this weekend won’t be as bad? Nope, it will be.

The interesting thing to watch this weekend is how Halloween on Saturday night might affect the new and returning movies, because presumably teens and older will be going to Halloween parties Friday and Saturday although some kids might go trick or treating on Thursday. (Don’t ask me. Apparently this is a suburban thing these days. When I was a kid, we went trick or treating ON Halloween.) Also offering competition this weekend is the World Series games 3 through 5, which will likely cut into New York business for sure.

The Weekend Warrior on Our Brand is Crisis, Burnt and Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.Our Brand is Crisis

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, The Sitter, All the Real Girls, Prince Avalanche, Your Highness, Snow Angels and more)
Writer: Peter Straughn (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Debt, Frank)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy, Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan, Reynaldo Pacheco, Dominic Flores, Louis Arcella
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Rating: R
What It’s About: Political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) is called in to help a Bolivian presidential candidate in the election but she soon learns that her arch-rival Pat Candy (Thornton) is working with the opposition, so the two face off once again to get their candidate to win by any means necessary.

After such a lousy weekend at the box office, you would think that a new movie starring Sandra Bullock might be just what’s needed to save it, because after all, she has become one of the most reliable box office stars, not only in the ‘80s and ‘90s but also in recent years. Bullock’s big comeback probably came with 2009’s The Blind Side, for which she won an Oscar after it grossed $255 million domestic. After taking some time off, she returned for 2013’s The Heat opposite Melissa McCarthy, which was a huge comedy hit with $160 million domestic and then she received another Oscar nomination for her role in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which grossed $274 million domestic. This past summer, Bullock voiced a prominent character in Universal’s hit Minions as well. That’s pretty good.

Then again, Bullock’s had a couple movies in recent years not do so well including All About Steve, which oddly enough, paired her with a pre-The Hangover Bradley Cooper (who stars in one of the other wide releases this weekend), just months before The Blind Side. That still grossed $33 million despite terrible reviews and a Razzie win for Bullock, and she also had a small role opposite Tom Hanks in the drama Extremely Loud and Incredible Close and that grossed about the same. In fact, it would seem like $30 million is the low end for a Bullock movie, although she hasn’t done something quite as political as Our Brand is Crisis.

Based loosely on a documentary of the same name by Rachel Boynton, the movie is produced by George Clooney who changed Bullock’s character into a woman to cater it to her, and it’s directed by David Gordon Green, who is returning to studio films for the first time since The Sitter in 2011—he’s done a number of little seen indies since then.

Bullock is joined by a cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton, who is getting the most airtime in commercials due to his character being so funny, which can’t be said about the rest of the cast that includes Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan, Scott McNairy and more.

The movie may as well have been called “Our Title is Garbage” because it is, I mean, really awful, although they obviously wanted to keep the connection to the doc. Warner Bros. brought it to the Toronto Film Festival where it was met by mostly tepid reviews, and they don’t have a ton of confidence in the movie which may be why they’re giving it a moderate release into less than 2,500 theaters, which also shows a lack of confidence from theater owners.

Honestly, I have no idea who thought making this movie was a good idea, and it seems like we’ve learned nothing from Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah, which bombed awfully last weekend due to its mix of humor and politics. Generally, dark political comedies haven’t fared well at the box office, as was the case with American Dreamz (which will end up doing better than Rock the Kasbah), and even with Sandra Bullock, this is facing the same issue. This probably would have done better if they held it until next year when we’re further into the Presidential election and this could thrive similar to Jay Roach’s The Campaign, which grossed $87 million during an election year.

Prediction:

While Our Brand is Crisis isn’t good (see my review below), nor does it look very good, the absence of Bullock from theaters for two years may help get her fans into seats, but more than likely, they’re not going to be very interested in what this movie is selling, so it probably will be opening under $10 million, maybe even under $8 million, although it could end up with around $25 million total. 

Our Brand is Crisis Review


Burntfile_612291_burnt-poster-640x949

Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Wells (August Osage County, Company Men)
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Rating: R
What It’s About: Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) has arrived in London after cleaning up his act with hopes to take over a restaurant and earn his third Michelin star, but he still has to contend with his past issues and the trouble he caused while drunk and on drugs as those around him try to cope with his temper. It will open in select cities on Friday and expand wide on October 30, so we’ll have more about this in next week’s column. 

Also trying to appeal to the same mature moviegoing audience as Our Brand is Crisis, while also being a vehicle for a box office star is this new original film that puts Bradley Cooper in the chef’s whites trying to allow moviegoers to get more into the mindset of a celebrity chef and the workings of the high-end culinary world.

Bradley Cooper has already had a crazy year, beginning with the blockbuster military drama American Sniper (which also co-starred Sienna Miller), which became one of the biggest movies of 2014 (because it opened in December) with $350 million while gaining Cooper his third Oscar nomination. That was followed by the long-delayed Serena, which reteamed Cooper with Jennifer Lawrence but barely got a limited theatrical release. In May, Cooper starred opposite Emma Stone in the romantic comedy Aloha, which also failed to make a mark with $21 million total.

Burnt has been in development hell for years and like last week’s Steve Jobs, David Fincher was meant to direct this at one point with a number of different actors slated for the lead role. The Weinstein Company eventually set it up for director John Wells and Cooper that helped it line up an impressive supporting cast that includes Sienna Miller, Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl and even a cameo by Uma Thurman. At that time, the movie was called “Chef” but was changed to avoid confusion with other similar projects, including Jon Favreau’s own Chef and a French film called “Le Chef.” After changing the title to the generic “Adam Jones” for a while, the Weinstein Company decided instead to go with the terrible title… Burnt. Ugh.

There is something to be said about movies involving cooking and how they can appeal to the same people who watch cooking shows, but this one also feels somewhat dated, because that trend may have already peaked. Last year, the Jon Favreau-directed Chef, which he also starred in, grossed $31.4 million after a limited release, building on its word-of-mouth from playing at various film festivals. It never grossed more than $3 million in a single weekend but it also never played in more than 1,300 theaters either. Burnt is opening in twice as many theaters as that, but it might not make much of a difference. 

Originally, the Weinstein Company was going to release this last weekend (which probably would have been a disaster), and then they decided to give it a limited release first, and then they just moved it to this weekend altogether. Besides the competition from Halloween and the World Series, the movie also has to compete with some of the other movies that are receiving far better reviews than Burnt will, and it’s just become very obvious that the studio has no idea what to do with this movie, which is odd since on paper, this should do better than Chef.

Prediction: 

It’s hard to imagine this movie will appeal to that wide an audience but it should be good for $6 to 7 million due to Bradley Cooper’s older female fans, which should have a good crossover with the cooking enthusiasts that will enjoy the film’s culinary setting. This probably won’t gross more than $15 to 20 million regardless because in November, it’s going to get chewed up by the competition.

Burnt Review


scoutsguidewwScouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones)
Writer: Etan Cohen, Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Evans, Lona Williams
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, Halston Sage, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Cloris Leachman, David Koechner
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Rating: R
What It’s About: When a zombie invasion breaks out in a peaceful town, three scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan) and a cocktail waitress (Sarah Dumont) need to team together to use their scouting skills to fight off the undead. 

While normally a horror-comedy would be the strongest movie of the Halloween weekend, this one ends up being a bit of an underdog for a number of reasons, but mainly because it just doesn’t look like a very good or funny movie in a genre that’s had difficulty achieving any sort of significant success. Of course, one of the exceptions was Sony’s Zombieland back in 2009 and 2013’s Warm Bodies did okay, but obviously, the success of “The Walking Dead” has made every Tom, Dick and Paramount want to get in on the zombie game and this seems like one that’s coming in as the trend starts to peter out.

The movie stars Tye Sheridan, the young up ‘n’ coming actor from Mud and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, who will also play Cyclops in next summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and a couple others of note, including comedy mainstay David Koechner and the always-excellent Cloris Leachman, an Oscar-winning actress no less.

Originally called Scouts vs. Zombies, the movie’s title was changed to the equally descriptive but not quite as good title of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse earlier this year. (My, that’s a mouthful!) It’s going with the same deal Paramount made with AMC and Cineplex as last week’s release Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, where it will be available on VOD once it’s out of most theaters, which may be sooner than expected since so many theater chains balked at playing it at all. Unlike “Paranormal Activity” it doesn’t have the name brand value of that horror franchise which still bombed with just $8 million last weekend although that might have done better with a wider release, who knows?

Paramount probably won’t be screening the movie for critics, which usually isn’t a good sign of a movie being any good, but maybe they’re hoping the trailers and commercials will do enough to convince younger people to go see it either before or after their Halloween fun.

Prediction: 

Without getting a very wide release and without a ton of promotion, this one is probably going to suffer from its moderate release and there being a lot more high-profile offerings cutting into its business (not to mention the other alternatives like Halloween parties, the World Series, etc.) It’s probably looking at an opening weekend of $5 million tops with $10 to 12 million grossed in theaters and probably more on VOD.


This Weekend Last Year

Only one new movie opened wide over the Halloween weekend, that being Jake Gyllenhaal’s thriller Nightcrawler (Open Road), which ended up in second place with $10.4 million behind the second weekend of Oujia, which was able to capitalize on Halloween to win the weekend with $10.7 million, a respectable 46% drop-off. The Top 10 scored $74.8 million, which isn’t great but it’s likely to beat this weekend’s box office just cause everything is doing so poorly.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

This is going to be another dismal weekend, which won’t be helped by the competition from Halloween and the World Series, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Martian wins again with less than $12 million. At least next weekend, we have a couple movies that are more promising (see below).

UPDATE: With Bradley Cooper’s Burnt getting way more theaters than projected–over 3,000!!–there’s a good chance it will fare better than Sandra Bullock’s Our Brand is Crisis, which is opening in just 2,200 theaters. I’m probably too bullish on Scouts Guide, but it could get a Halloween bump on the weekend it being the only R-rated horror offering other than “Paranormal Activity”–which is losing theaters in its second weekend. Also, Sony Pictures Classics’ Truth, starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, will expand nationwide into 1,100 theaters but probably won’t make more than $1.5 million and probably less.

1. The Martian (20th Century Fox) – $10.7 million -32%
2. Goosebumps (Sony) – $9.5 million -39%
3. Bridge of Spies (DreamWorks) – $8.5 million -25%
4. Burnt (The Weinstein Company) – $8.5 million N/A (up 2 million and one spot)
5. Our Brand is Crisis (Warner Bros.) – $7.2 million N/A (down .6 million and one spot)
6. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony) – $5.3 million -41%
7. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (Paramount) – $5 million N/A
8. The Last Witch Hunter (Lionsgate) – $4.8 million -56%
9. Steve Jobs (Universal) – $4.2 million -42%
10. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Paramount) – $4.1 million -49% 

(Apparently there’s a dance movie called Dancin’ – It’s On (previously to be called “East Side Story”) opening in 700 theaters this weekend, but I don’t expect that to pull in more than a million and probably less.)

Next Week:

Daniel Craig is back for his fourth movie as James Bond 007, SPECTRE (Sony), while Charles Schultz’s beloved cartoon and comic strip characters come to the big screen in The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox).


This Week’s Limited Releases

While there were some good movies this weekend, there was nothing that really blew me away enough to be considered a “Must See,” but the best of what I’ve seen was…

Flowers (Music Box Films)
Director: Jon Garano, Jose Mari Goenaga
Stars: Nagore Aranburu, Itziar Aizpuru, Josean Bengoetxea, Itziar Ituño
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: From Spain (who selected this as their movie to compete at the Oscars) comes this drama involving a woman named Ane (Nagore Aranburu) who has been receiving flowers from a secret admirer, who turns out to be her married co-worker at the construction site, Beñat. When he dies in a car accident, the relationship reverses as Beñat’s widow Lourdes and mother Tere wonder why a mysterious woman is leaving flowers for him. It opens in New York on Friday.

Love (Alchemy)
Writer/Director: Gaspar Noe
Stars: Karl Glusman, Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin, 
Genre: Romance, Drama
What It’s About: Murphy (Karl Glusman) is an American film student living in Paris who gets into an emotionally charged sexual relationship with the unstable Electra (Aomi Muyock), but when they decide to bring their pretty neighbor Omi (Klara Kristin) into the mix, things start to fall apart. This 3D erotic from the controversial filmmaker behind Enter the Void will open in select cities Friday.

My Thoughts…

The Armor of Light (Fork Films)
Director: Abigail E. Disney, Kathleen Hughes
Stars: Rob Schenck, Lucy McBath
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: Evangelical minister Reverent Rob Schenck, an anti-abortion activist, teams with the mother of a teenage shooting victim to speak out about the toll of gun violence in America despite their political and ideological differences. (She’s Christian but pro-choice.) See how easy it is to work together again something as horrible as gun violence even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything? 

The Wonders (Oscilloscope Labs)
Writer/Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Stars: Alba Rohrwacher, Monica Bellucci, Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Sabine Timoteo, Agenes Graziani
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: In this new film from the writer/director of Corpo Celeste, a family of beekeepers living in the Tuscan countryside is disrupted by the arrival of a troubled teenage boy who comes on board as a farmhand and a reality show (hosted by Monica Bellucci) that focuses on the family, both which are of interest to the family’s eldest daughter Gelsomina (Lungu). It premiered at Cannes in 2014 (where it won the Grand Prix) and played at the recent New York Film Festival before finally opening at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

Freaks of Nature (Sony)
Director: Robbie Pickering
Stars: Nicholas Braun, Mackenzie Davis, Josh Fadem, Joan Cusack, Bob Odenkirk, Keegan-Michael Key, Ed Westwick, Patton Oswalt, Vanessa Hudgens, Denis Leary
Genre: Horror, Comedy
What It’s About: Originally called “Kitchen Sink,” this horror-comedy (yes, another one) is set in the small town of Dilford, Ohio where zombies and vampires are competing for the remaining humans when aliens show up to kill everyone. This forces three teens (who apparently aren’t boy scouts) to team together—one’s a human, one’s a vampire and one’s a zombie, and they’re going to fight the aliens. Wisely, Sony are dumping this into select theaters over Halloween weekend with very little advance warning because they know that even with the likes of Patton Oswalt, Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cuscak, this is a straight-to-VOD movie at best, so maybe it can make a few bucks as a double feature with Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which has an equally terrible title… but at least one more descriptive than this one.

Hard Labor (Cinema Slate)
Director: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra
Stars: Helena Albergaria, Marat Descartes
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: A Brazilian film about a couple, Helena and Otavio, who are having financial troubles as he loses his stable job and she’s about to start up her own retail store, as it explores the “horrors” of the job market.

Bare (Sundance Selects)
Writer/Director: Natalia Leite
Stars: Dianna Agron, Chris Zylka, Louisa Krause, Paz de la Huerta
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Dianna Agron from “Glee” plays Sarah, a young woman who hopes to escape from her sheltered life in a small town when she meets a drifter named Pepper (Paz De La Huerta) who convinces her to take a job at a strip club where the woman’s friendship becomes romantic. It opens at the IFC Center in New York Friday. 

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas