After a huge weekend where the box office rebounded thanks to the slam dunk hit of Oz The Great and Powerful from Walt Disney Pictures and Sam Raimi, we’re back to another slower week with two high concept movies that could theoretically bring in some business despite going up against a juggernaut that’s likely to hold the #1 spot quite firmly. It might be a close race for second place, although one of the movies definitely has the advantage in terms of the number of theaters. Since we’ve spent most of our time in recent days at the South by Southwest Film Festival, this is going to have to be another slightly trimmed down column.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (New Line/WB)
Starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, Jim Carrey, Jay Mohr, Michael Bully Herbig
Directed by Don Scardino (“30 Rock”); Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses)
Tagline: “Abracatastic!” (Yes, that is the tagline and not a critic’s quote, but give it a couple days.)
So far, it’s hard to tell if 2013 is going to be a good year for comedy or not. We have one bonafide hit in the R-rated Identity Thief but not a lot of strong comedies on the horizon other than the end to Todd Phillips’ comedy trilogy, The Hangover Part III.
This one certainly holds some promise being from the writers of the 2011 comedy hit Horrible Bosses and starring Steve Carell, an actor who has elevated to the status of an A-list comedy star in recent years, having first gotten attention in Jim Carrey’s Bruce Almighty followed by an equally memorably comic role in Will Ferrell’s comedy classic Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Carell would appear with Ferrell a number of times after that, but by 2005, Carell was starting to get his own attention thanks to his starring role in the NBC sitcom “The Office” and his breakout role before starring in Judd Apatow’s directorial debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Carell’s career has certainly exploded since then with a number of huge animated hits including Despicable Me, which gets a sequel this year, and he also did decently by pairing with Tina Fey for Date Night and Paul Rudd for Dinner With Schmucks in 2010. Since leaving “The Office,” Carell has branched out into production with the hit Stupid, Crazy, Love, but playing magician Burt Wonderstone returns him to the wacky character comedy that first got him attention.
Even more importantly, the movie reunites Carell with Jim Carrey for the first time since their voices were heard together in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who almost exactly five years ago. The film co-stars HBO vets Steve Buscemi and James Gandolfini, super sexy Olivia Wilde and two-time Oscar nominee Alan Arkin, but it’s really going to be up to Carell and Carrey to bring audiences in and a lot of that will depend on whether moviegoers care much for a movie about magicians.
Even though the movie just kicked off the SXSW Film Festival this past weekend, we don’t expect there to be that many good reviews, firstly because it’s a comedy but also because it’s a wacky comedy with Jim Carrey whose relationship with critics is spotty at best especially once he’s gotten away from doing more dramatic work.
What the movie does have is the Warner Bros. marketing clout and their ability to get the movie into over 3,000 theaters, which will make it more present for casual moviegoers than its main competition The Call, starring Halle Berry, which will likely skew more female. Either way, the best this can do is #2 well behind Oz The Great and Powerful in its second weekend and we think that it will be lucky if it makes more than $15 million.
Weekend Est.: $15 to 17 million; Est. Total Gross: $45 million total
The Call (TriStar Pictures)
Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Michael Imperioli
Directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist, Vanishing on 7th Street, Transsiberian and lots of TV); Written by Rich D’Ovidio (Exit Wounds, Thir13en Ghosts)
Tagline: “There Are a Million 911 Calls a Year; This One Made It Personal”
Another movie genre that tends to do well in the slower spring and winter months is the high concept thriller and this one starring Halle Berry as a 911 operator who discovers that a young woman, played by Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine, is about as high concept as they come. In fact, anyone who has seen thrillers like Cellular and Phone Booth might think that this is by the same writer(s) since it has a similar idea of someone being in danger and reaching out to strangers for help using whatever means necessary.
It’s been a while since the film’s star Halle Berry has had a significant hit, but it’s also been thirteen years since she last played Ororo aka Storm in X-Men: The Last Stand. She followed that in 2007 with the high concept thriller Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis but that bombed with just $27 million and nothing after that has done that well including the rom-com anthology New Year’s Eve ($54.5 million) and last year’s Wachowskis sci-fi film Cloud Atlas. And she followed those two with a THIRD anthology with the comedy bomb Movie 43 earlier this year, so clearly Ms. Berry could desperately use a hit that’s not an anthology. It’s not likely that The Call will be it.
The film marks a definite change of pace for Breslin who also stars in the upcoming ghost story Haunter, which was just picked up for distribution at South by Southwest. Also, it’s directed by Brad Anderson, who has done more than his share of smaller budget thrillers as well as lots of television, but The Call marks his major studio debut in terms of being a movie director for hire, although it’s doubtful fans of his moody earlier classics Session 9 or The Machinist (starring Christian Bale) will check it out for his involvement.
It’s somewhat surprising that the movie is R-rated since usually high concept thrillers like this are kept at PG-13 to bring in the widest audience possible including teenagers, but that rating will hurt it, just as it will help its main competition The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Like last week’s Dead Man Down, the movie is produced by WWE Films, but doesn’t feature any of the company’s wrestling roster, although one wonders if they’re going to try to cross-promote it on their highly-rated cable shows leading up to Friday. The movie is being released by Sony’s TriStar Pictures, which doesn’t have the marketing clout of its big brother Screen Gems, although they’re still putting a good amount of money to get the word out to the audience of mostly women that will be interested in it.
Even so, the thriller genre has its fans and they’re easy movies to market, so we could see it bringing in a decent amount of business even if it’s not going to make a huge amount due to its fairly moderate release into roughly 2,500 theaters this weekend.
Weekend Est.: $11 to 13 million; Est. Total Gross: $32 million
This weekend last year, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill made the unlikely pair of undercover cops in the comedy 21 Jump Street (Sony), a remake of the popular 90s television show, a combination that proved successful with an opening of $36.3 million in 3,120 theaters despite its R-rating. It was the second of three movies for Tatum to open over $35 million last year, solidifying his A-list status, while also a coup for Hill who had been developing the project for five years. Although it didn’t open in wide release, Will Ferrell’s Spanish language comedy Casa de mi Padre (Pantelion Films) was still able to break into the Top 10, opening in ninth place with $2.3 million in 382 theaters, which is quite impressive considering its comedy competition. The Top 10 grossed $93.6 million and this weekend may still be ahead of that amount unless one or both movies completely tanks.
This Week’s Updated Predictions -
1. Oz The Great and Powerful (Walt Disney Pictures) – $43 million -46%
2. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (New Line/WB) – $15.2 million N/A (down .1 million)
3. The Call (TriStar Pictures) – $13.0 million N/A (up 1.3 million)
4. Jack the Giant Slayer (New Line/WB) – $5.5 million -45%
5. Identity Thief (Universal) – $4 million -37%
6. Snitch (Summer Entertainment) – $3.3 million -35%
7. 21 and Over (Relativity Media) – $4.3 million -51%
8. Dead Man Down (FilmDistrict) – $2.8 million -48%
9. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $2.3 million -25%
10. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $2 million -38%
There are way too many limited releases again this weekend, but the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is the latest animated film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, From Up on Poppy Hill (GKIDS), which is our bonafide CHOSEN ONE although we won’t be able to write too much more about it until later this week. Written by Hayao Miyazaka (Spirited Away) and directed by his son Goro, the film features the voices of Sarah Bolger and Anton Yelchin as Umi and Shun, two students who begin a budding romance as they work on rebuilding their high school’s run-down clubhouse in the time in between World War II and the 1964 Olympics. It opens in select cities including the IFC Center in New York on Friday.
Harmony Korine writes and directs Spring Breakers (A24), starring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and his wife Rachel as four co-eds who travel down to Florida for spring break, only to get caught up with a gangster rapper (who is actually a gangster) named Alien, played by James Franco. The unconventional R-rated crime thriller opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and then expands nationwide on Friday, March 22.
Matteo Garrone, the filmmaker behind the award-winning Gomorrah, returns with the Cannes Film Festival award-winning Reality (Oscilloscope), a comedy starring Aniello Arena as Luciano, a Naples fishmonger who desperately wants to get on to the Italian version of “Big Brother,” inspired after meeting the show’s famous contestant Enzo.
British filmmaker Sally Potter (Orlando) returns with the period coming-of-age drama Ginger & Rosa (A24), starring Elle Fanning and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) as teenage friends in 1962 London who start to rebel against their mothers as they discover boys and sex. Also starring Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt, it opens in select cities after a festival run in 2012.
Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess star in Juan Solanas’ Upside Down (Millennium Entertainment), a romance story set in a world where there are two earths, one right side up and one upside down, one prosperous and wealthy, the other poor and destitute. (And no, I’m not making this up.) Sturgess and Dunst play Adam and Eden, two people from the very different earths, who meet and fall in love forcing him into a situation where he’ll do anything to be with her, except that she fell and hit her head so she doesn’t remember him. I’m not sure if I’m going to write a review, but this is seriously one of the most obnoxiously awful and silly movies I’ve seen this year. It’s opening in select cities if you want to see it anyway.
Eric Walter’s doc My Amityville Horror (IFC Midnight) puts the camera on Daniel Lutz, the kid who used to live in the famous house in Amityville reported to be haunted, who talks for the first time in 35 years about living in the house that inspired The Amityville Horror and its various sequels and remakes. It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday.
Spain’s submission for the Academy Awards foreign language category is Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves (Cohen Media Group) which is a retelling of “Snow White” set in 1920′s Seville, Spain, as Carmen, the daughter of a bullfighter deals with a monstrous stepmother, so she escapes to join a troupe of bullfighting dwarves. Surprised this one hasn’t been remade in Hollywood yet.
The following films I haven’t seen:
Opening at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday is William Karel and Livia Manera’s doc Philip Roth: Unmasked, released to commemorate the 80th birthday of the author of Portnoy’s Complaint and other literary classics.
You can read more about the other movies I haven’t seen by clicking on the titles below include:
The doc Reincarnated (VICE Films/Snoopadelic Films) about the transformation of Snoop Dogg into Snoop Lion.
Somebody Up There Likes Me (Tribeca Film) starring Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation”
Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother (Kino Lorber)
K-11 (Breaking Glass Pictures)
Mindless Behavior: All Over the World (AwesomenessTV, Conjunction Films)
If I Were You (Gravitas Ventures)
Next week, we get three new wide releases including the animated The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox), the Gerard Butler action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) and the Tina Fey-Paul Rudd collegiate rom-com Admission (Focus Features).
Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas