The Weekend Warrior: Fast & Furious 6, The Hangover Part III & Epic

Anyone who’s been reading this column since its inception knows the significance of Memorial Day weekend as a holiday that not only represents for many the real kick-off of summer–a time for family fun and parades and picnics and such–but also a three-day weekend to go to the movies to see some of the big blockbuster sequels everyone’s been waiting for. This weekend, we get two big sequels to two big movies that are certainly going to split some audiences although one is going to have a clear advantage with young males, as well as African-American and Latino audiences who’ve proven themselves able to bring big business to the box office. We also get our first new family movie in nearly two months, and we’ll just have to see if there are enough people willing and able to pay to see two or three movies this weekend. While the showing for Star Trek Into Darkness is somewhat worrying for two more sequels, this has the potential to be one of the biggest Memorial Days in a very long time.

Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans, Gina Carano
Directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five, Fast and Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Annapolis); Written by Chris Morgan
Genre: Racing, Action
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “We made a lot of money with the last two movies…”

There are many more successful franchises than the street racing action series began by producer Neal Moritz and Universal Pictures back in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious, but few have built up an audience over the years to the point where they achieved one of their best received movies five movies in. That’s certainly the case with this one since 2011′s Fast Five not only was its highest grosser, both domestically ($209 million) and worldwide ($628 million–$265 million more than the previous installment) but it got the best reviews of the series and left the fans excited to see all the characters reunited for a sixth installment. And other than maybe the “Harry Potter” series, there are very few franchise that hit their stride that far into their run.

But 2009′s Fast & Furious was a significant step for the franchise since it brought back Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as Dominic Toretto and undercover cop Brian O’Connor along with Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, all who appeared in the very first The Fast and the Furious… and this was at a point where many thought that the series was going to be joining some of Universal’s other movie franchises (like “American Pie” and “Bring It On”) in the DVD bins.

But now we’re back for the sixth movie and it’s the first one to really get a prominent release date on Memorial Day weekend, which is usually reserved for the biggest and the best of the summer blockbusters. (The first three movies were released in June, the last two in April.) Fast Five ended with the revelation that Rodriguez’s character Letty may not be dead so that’s a pretty big deal that will be bringing people back to theaters, but essentially this is another international caper the gang’s involved with, this time in London. Pretty much everyone’s back from the previous movie with Luke Evans being the primary new player as the film’s British bad guy.

But there is the question of crossover with fans of “The Hangover” movies, which are also quite popular due to the laughs those movies offer, and one might wonder if they’re going to have to decide to see one of the movies first over the other. Since that movie’s last installment wasn’t as well received as its predecessor compared to Fast 5, we think “FF6″ will be the first choice for many people to the point where it could win Friday with at least $10 million or more even as The Hangover picks up some ground over the weekend. The good thing is that both movies offer a fun alternative to the dark nature of current blockbusters Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness so they’ll both be big draws. (It’s actually somewhat ironic that this installment is playing against the latest installment of “The Hangover” because both of these franchises began with early June releases that far exceeded expectations and were considered the big sleeper hits of their respective summers. They’ve both gone onto be big moneymaking franchises for their respective studios as well.)

Needless to say, we think this is going to be the big movie of the weekend as guys of all ages, especially in urban areas, rush out to see the latest adventure of the street racing Robin Hoods and with Universal already underway for a seventh installment, to be directed by Saw‘s James Wan, there’s a good sign that Universal already knows they have a hit. This is going to be making a play to become one of the Top 5 or 6 biggest movies of Memorial Day weekend thought it might not oust The Hangover Part II‘s current fourth place position with $103.4 million.

Four-day Weekend Est.: $96 to 102 million; Est. Total Gross: $225 million.

The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha, John Goodman, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Jamie Chung
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, Old School, Due Date, Starsky and Hutch and many more); Written by Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II, Identity Thief, Scary Movie 3 and 4, Senseless)
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “We made money the first two times…”

There are times when sequels are necessary since there are stories that absolutely need to be told or finished and then there are times when a movie made so much frickin’ money that not making another installment just doesn’t make sound financial business sense. Welcome to the world of Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover” series. I gotta say that I’m a fan of Phillips’ work and have been for quite some time, going back to Road Trip, Old School and I still regularly quote his Starsky & Hutch starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

The original “Hangover” was something that probably took the world by surprise and I first knew that it was going to be big when the trailer premiered at ShoWest in Vegas and it KILLED. It was given an early June release which is not a time when there are a lot of big summer hits, but it opened to an astounding $45 million and that was just the tip of the iceberg as it went on to gross $277 million. It was a great concept for a movie and an unlikely hit considering that it didn’t have any big name stars, at least at the time, but it definitely helped Bradley Cooper’s career but also made Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong into household names while giving “The Office” star Ed Helms a nice bit of visibility beyond the TV show.

The inevitable sequel opened over Memorial Day weekend two years ago, opening on Thursday with $31.6 million and then grossed $103.4 million over the four-day weekend, making it the fourth-biggest opening over the holiday weekend. In between the first two movies, Phillips directed Due Date, teaming Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, which grossed $100 million over the holidays of 2011.

The thing is that people like to laugh and there hasn’t been a strong R-rated comedy in quite some time which definitely gives The Hangover Part III an advantage over Memorial Day weekend where there’s a lot of big budget action movies but nothing quite like it. They’re clearly not going to reinvent the wheel for the third part and in fact they’re going back to Vegas for this one, with exactly the same cast as before—Bradley Cooper, Zach G, Ed Helms and Ken Jeong—and the only main addition being John Goodman.

Wisely, Warner Bros. were the first to blink and they moved their movie forward a day so that people who are really looking forward to seeing the final adventures of the Wolf Pack can go out Thursday night and see it. As we saw with Star Trek last week, opening on Thursday doesn’t necessarily mean people will rush out although they certainly did with The Hangover Part II since its Thursday opening of $31.6 was its biggest day. We think Part III will probably have a softer opening day, bounce up a bit on Friday and then remain steady through the weekend and probably end up with close to $100 million over the five days, similar to what Fast & Furious 6 does in four.

Thursday Est: $23 million; Four-Day Weekend Est.: $75 to 78 million; Est. Total Gross: $178 million.

Epic (20th Century Fox)
Starring (the voices of) Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Aziz Ansari, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Blake Anderson, Judah Friedlander
Directed by Chris Wedge (Robots, Ice Age); Written by Tom J. Astle, Tom Ember, James V. Hart
Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure, Family
Rated PG
Tagline: “Discover a World from the Creators of Ice Age and Rio…” that you can bring your kids to, unlike the other two movies.

The third new movie of Memorial Day weekend is the eighth movie from Greenwich, CT’s Blue Sky Studios, the animation production studio which first made a mark with 2002′s Ice Age, which has become a huge worldwide franchise for their distributor 20th Century Fox. This one is a little different because it’s an action-adventure loosely based on “The Leafmen” book by William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians) and it’s directed by Chris Wedge, one of the original Ice Age directors who also provided the voice of Scrat in the “Ice Age” movies.

Normally opening a family movie over Memorial Day is a great idea as seen by the success of DreamWorks Animation’s original Madagascar movie, and Epic has the advantage of being the first family movie since DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods, which has been a decent-sized hit for Fox.

Even though there are a lot of big names in there, the voice cast just doesn’t seem that impressive and it seems all over the place from pop singers like Beyonce, Steven Tyler and Pitbull, to young guns like Josh Hutcherson and Amanda Seyfried, comedians Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd as well as Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz voicing the brave hero and evil villain, respectively.

It’s like someone had a dartboard with every single person in the world and they ended up with this cast. Normally kids don’t care about stuff like this but adults do and it’s kind of hard to have a big hit with a CG animated movie unless you’re able to bring in other audiences than parents and kids. It’s hard to think that this cast will be able to do that. There’s a chance that no one over 15 that’s not a parent will care about seeing this over one of the other movies and not being able to branch away from being a “kids’” or “family film” really is going to hurt Epic, because it’s only going to be bringing in parents and small kids… and even they’re probably going to be nervous about spending money on a movie that only looks so-so.

Blue Sky Studios has always been in third place when it comes to animation behind Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, which is odd considering the success of the “Ice Age” movies worldwide, but that’s just the way it’s been with only one movie, 2006′s Ice Age: The Meltdown opening over $50 million. 20th Century Fox have definitely done a good job marketing family films as seen by the success of the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, but they’re definitely opening in a weekend against too many other strong choices for teens and older which means this will likely fall by the wayside.

This may be the movie of the weekend we grossly underestimate, but we think it’s going to open a bit softer than most family movies over Memorial Day. Regardless of how it does this weekend, it should be able to pick up some business over the next couple of weeks with no other family movies until Monsters University.

Four-Day Weekend Est.: $36 to 40 million; Est. Total Gross: $130 million.

Last Memorial Day weekend, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunited for the threequel Men in Black 3 (Sony Pictures), which opened at #1 with $70 million over the four-day weekend, followed in 2nd place with The Avengers with $47 million. Opening a day earlier on Thursday, Brad Parkers found footage horror movie Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros. Pictures) opened in fifth place with just $9.3 million over the four-day weekend. The Top 10 grossed $182 million but since we think the #2 movie of the weekend will make as much as Men in Black 3 and there’s a lot stronger movies in theaters, we think this weekend will kick last year’s butt and we’ll be up from last year for the first time in a while.

This Week’s Predictions -

(All predictions are for the four-day weekend)

1. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) – $98.6 million N/A

2. The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.) – $77.5 million N/A

3. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) – $42.3 million -40%

4. Epic (20th Century Fox) – $37.8 million N/A

5. Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $23.3 million -35%

6. The Great Gatbsy (Warner Bros.) – $14.5 million -39%

7. Pain & Gain (Paramount) – $2 million -38%

8. 42 (Warner Bros.) – $1.9 million -33%

9. The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) – $1.8 million -40%

10. Oblivion (Universal) – $1.3 million -41%

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void (Sony Pictures Classics), which was Israel’s entry into the Oscars, and frankly, the fact this movie wasn’t among the five Oscar nominees kind of angers me because I feel that it’s better than at least three of the other nominees including Michael Haneke’s Amour. I don’t want to pull out the “sexism” card here, but the fact this is from a woman director and it deals very directly with one of the aspects of Judaism that directly affects women makes me wonder whether that came into play.

A teen girl named Shira has been set up her marriage to a nerdy Jewish boy, but she’s thrilled to finally become a wife until something happens to her pregnant older sister leaving her brother alone with their baby. He has other prospects and may take the baby away, something that Shira’s mother can’t bear since that baby is the last piece of her elder daughter. The solution? Shira must take one for the team and marry her significantly older brother in law to keep the baby in Israel. Therein lies the dilemma about doing this duty for her family or marrying someone she might be happy with.

Despite being Jewish (and not a practicing one), one thing I really detest about my religion, especially among the more Orthodox levels, is the way that women are treated like possessions, like people who exist only to serve men, and Burshtein’s film deals with that in a very blunt, direct and potentially even controversial way.

The actress who plays Shira, Hadas Yaron, is pretty amazing as she goes through so many
different emotions trying to decide what to do, having to make such a tough decision and feeling at times as if she’s unmarriable. Yiftach Klein’s performance as Yochay is similarly effective although he’s someone who is extremely difficult to like since he plays games with Shira and her family knowing he has all the power in the decisions. Those two are just amazing in their scenes together, though some of the performances around them just aren’t as strong and feel a bit over the top.

Burshtein is an amazing filmmaker who gives the film a glossy look and makes the film a riveting experience even though it’s mainly made up of dialogue and you spend the entire movie wondering which way things will go, but it’s not all serious drama because she understands there are other aspects of living including humor and music and those things a lot to keep it from being a drab and dull affair.

Fill the Void opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in the Jewish faith and the place of women in it. It’s just a terrifically layered film that really leaves you thinking and wanting to talk about what you’ve just watched afterwards, similar to last year’s Oscar winner, the Iranian film A Separation.

The only other movie I’ve seen in limited release is Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau’s Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC, which is a very entertaining look at the game of basketball on the street level as played in the parks all around New York City. Garcia, a New York radio legend, comes from the street pick-up ball scene himself, which allows him unprecedented access to get a lot of the legends of the game to talk frankly about what it’s like to be on the courts and how that has become their family. You probably haven’t heard of many of the players but if you ever walked by some of the legendary New York B-ball parks like Rucker Park and West Fourth Street you’re likely to have been impressed with their skills. The doc is filled with all sorts of amazing stories about some of the legends of pick-up basketball, including that of Corey “Homicide” Williams who came out of the street ball scene and turned it into a successful career as a basketball player. In terms of documentary filmmaking, it’s a bit formulaic and talking heads but the personalities of the players are so infection it really grows on you, and overall, it ends up being a fun and entertaining movie that covers a lot of ground including the women who play in the parks. You gotta give credit to Garcia for being able to explore aspects of the pick-up game scene that few other filmmakers would have been able to catch if they weren’t considered an insider.

Doin’ It in the Park has its New York premiere at Harlem’s illustrious Maysles Cinema on Wednesday. It then will roll out slowly nationwide so if you’re into basketball played at its roots, then you can find out when it will play in your city over at the Official Site.

We’re pretty big Alex Gibney fans here at the Weekend Warrior and we know that anything he decides to make a documentary about is going to make for fascinating viewing so when he looks into the information age and the search for truth via Julian Assange’s controversial website in We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (Focus World), you know that you’re in for a movie as strong as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer or the recent Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

I haven’t had a chance to see Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics) reuniting Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy from Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, but Josh Starnes loved it.

Next week, the month of May comes to a close with a new movie from the father and son team of Will and Jaden Smith, the futuristic action movie After Earth (Sony), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, as well as the magical heist movie Now You See Me (Summit), starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and more. They’ll be trying to make a mark against the second weekend of the two Memorial Day blockbusters.


You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas

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